Book Reviews -- Freedom of the Press: Constitutional Issues by Bernard Schwartz

Article excerpt

In Freedom of the Press: Constitutional Issues, Bernard Schwartz, a professor of law at New York University, examines the U.S. Supreme Court's positions on freedom of the press as a legal and hybrid sociopolitical, economic, and cultural institution--"one that speaks through the law but whose decisions shape and at the same time are shaped by the social order of which it is a part.'

Published as the first book in a series on significant constitutional issues, Freedom of the Press is intended to illuminate the Supreme Court's jurisprudence on freedom of the press as guaranteed by the First Amendment. In illustrating the Court's crucial role in shaping a free press as the foundation of American democracy, Schwartz's approach is not limited to the written Court opinions and to lawyers' arguments of cases. He often relies on the Justices' decision-making process, utilizing numerous sources including their conference discussions, memoranda and correspondence as well as draft opinions .

How did the author manage to obtain the least accessible materials from the most closed branch of ourgovernment? "These were obtained from various Justices, law clerks, libraries, and others," he explains. "The conference scenarios are based upon the notes of at least one Justice who was present. The other documents used are identified, except where doing so would violate the confidentiality of a source."

Schwartz's heavy emphasis on the process of the Supreme Court opinions pervades the book and is effective in humanizing the Court. As a consequence, the Justices and their decisions are nicely placed within the general framework of American society, both political and legal. Among the major court decisions examined are New York Times Co. v. U.S., Houchins v. KQED, Gannett Co. v. DePasquale, New York Times Co. …