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The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court.

In Democracy in America, de Tocqueville observed that there is hardly a political question in the United States which does not sooner or later turn into a judicial one. Two hundred years of American history have certainly born out the truth of this remark. Whether a controversy is political, economic, or social, whether it focuses on child labour, prayer in public schools, war powers, busing, abortion, business monopolies, or capital punishment eventually the battle is taken to court. And the ultimate venue for these struggles is the Supreme Court. Indeed, the Supreme Court is a prism through which the entire life of the nation is magnified and illuminated, and through which Americans have defined themselves as a people.

Now, in The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States, readers have a rich source of information about one of the central institutions of American life. Everything one would want to know about the Supreme Court is here, in more than a thousand alphabetically arranged entries. There are biographies of every justice who ever sat on the Supreme Court (with pictures of each) as well as entries on rejected nominees and prominent judges (such as Learned Hand), on presidents who had an important impact on - or conflict with - the Court (including Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt), and on other influential figures (from Alexander Hamilton to Cass Gilbert, the architect of the Supreme Court Building). More than four hundred entries examine every major case that the court has decided, from Marbury v. Madison (which established the Court's power to declare federal laws unconstitutional) and Scott v. Sandford (the Dred Scott Case) to Brown v. Board of Education and Roe v. Wade. In addition, there are extended essays on the major issues that have confronted the Court (from slavery to national security, capital punishment to religion, affirmative action to the Vietnam War), entries on judicial matters and legal terms, articles on all Amendments to the Constitution, and an extensive, four-part history of the Court. And as in all Oxford Companions, the contributions combine scholarship with engaging insight, giving us a sense of the personality and the inner workings of the Court.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Wright, Esmond
Publication:Contemporary Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jul 1, 1993
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