Scalia

A Court of One

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About The Book

“[Murphy’s] biography of Justice Scalia is patient and thorough, alive both intellectually and morally….Functions as an MRI scan of one of the most influential conservative thinkers of the twentieth century.” (The New York Times): An authoritative, incisive and deeply researched book about of the most controversial Supreme Court justice of our time.

Scalia: A Court of One is the compelling story of one of the most polarizing figures to serve on the nation’s highest court. Bruce Allen Murphy shows how Scalia changed the legal landscape through his controversial theories of textualism and originalism, interpreting the meaning of the Constitution’s words as he claimed they were understood during the nation’s Founding period. But Scalia’s judicial conservatism is informed as much by his highly traditional Catholicism and political partisanship as by his reading of the Constitution; his opinionated speeches, contentious public appearances, and newsworthy interviews have made him a lightning rod for controversy. Scalia is “an intellectual biography of one of [the Supreme Court’s] most colorful members” (Chicago Tribune), combined with an insightful analysis of the Supreme Court and its influence on American life over the past quarter century.

Scalia began his career practicing law in Cleveland, Ohio, and rose to become the president’s lawyer as the head of the Office of Legal Counsel for President Gerald R. Ford. His sterling academic and legal credentials led to his nomination by President Ronald Reagan to the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit in 1982. In 1986, he successfully outmaneuvered the more senior Robert Bork to be appointed to the Supreme Court.

Scalia’s evident legal brilliance, ambition and personal magnetism led everyone to predict he would unite a new conservative majority under Chief Justice William Rehnquist and change American law in the process. Instead he became a Court of One. Rather than bringing the conservatives together, Scalia drove them apart. He attacked and alienated his more moderate colleagues Sandra Day O’Connor, David Souter, and Anthony Kennedy. Scalia prevented the conservative majority from coalescing for nearly two decades.

About The Author

Photograph by Craig M. Lampa

Bruce Allen Murphy is the Fred Morgan Kirby Professor of Civil Rights at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, where he teaches American constitutional law and civil rights and liberties, American politics, and biographical writing. He is the author of Scalia; The Brandeis-Frankfurter Connection: The Secret Political Activities of Two Supreme Court Justices; Fortas: The Rise and Ruin of a Supreme Court Justice; and Wild Bill: The Legend and Life of William O. Douglas. Murphy lives with his wife in the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (June 2015)
  • Length: 672 pages
  • ISBN13: 9780743296502

Raves and Reviews

“[A] fair-minded biography. . . . Murphy's deeper and more scholarly focus on Scalia offers . . . an opportunity to study one justice's progress from the Reagan administration's great right hope to the more problematic character he's become.”

– Paul M. Barrett, The San Francisco Chronicle

“May be the most exhaustive treatment of a sitting justice ever written. . . . Scalia is a skeptical, often critical look at its subject, but free of snark; it does its readers the service of taking Scalia’s ideas seriously.”

– Jeff Shesol, The New York Times Book Review

“An intellectual biography of one of [the Supreme Court’s] most colorful members. . . . A lucid account of a wide variety of topics through the lens of judicial biography.”

– Alexander Tsesis, The Chicago Tribune

“Thoroughly researched and accessible . . . a lively and informative account of Scalia’s upbringing; his education at Georgetown University, where he excelled in debate; his academic career at the University of Virginia and the University of Chicago; his work in the Nixon administration in the offices of telecommunication policy and legal counsel (in the Department of Justice); and his years on the bench.”

– Glenn C. Altschuler, The Boston Globe

"In Bruce Allen Murphy, Scalia has met a timely and unintimidated biographer ready to probe. . . . In his view, understanding one of the most dazzling and polarizing jurists on the Supreme Court entails, above all, examining the inevitably murky relationship between judicial decision making and religious devotion. . . . Murphy does not shrink from adjudicating Scalia’s dueling public claims: that separating faith from public life is impossible and, at the same time, that he himself has done just that on the Court."

– Dahlia Lithwick, The Atlantic

“Murphy does Scalia the unwarranted honor of treating originalism seriously but does not flinch when he gets to the bottom line: At least in Scalia's hands, originalism is not a method of judicial interpretation, it is a device to import his values into the Constitution.”

– Jim Newton, The Los Angeles Times

“A deeply probing biography of the controversial Supreme Court justice. . . . Murphy moves case by case in an evenhanded, thoroughgoing study.”

– Kirkus Reviews

“A highly engaged, well-researched analysis of a brash justice whose single-mindedness may ultimately reduce his legacy.”

– Booklist (starred review)

“A compelling biography of one of the most conservative, combative, and bombastic Supreme Court Justices in our nation’s history. . . . A terrific start to understanding Justice Scalia and his impact on American constitutional law.”

– Kevin J. Hamilton, The Seattle Times

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