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About the Author

Bruce Allen Murphy is the Fred Morgan Kirby Professor of Civil Rights at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania.

Includes the name: Bruce Murphy Allen

Obras de Bruce Allen Murphy


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Murphy, Bruce Allen
Data de nascimento



5254. Scalia A Court of One, by Bruce Allen Murphy (read 13 Mar 2015) This is a 2014 biography of Scalia, who was born in 1936, an only child. He went to public grade school. a Jesuit-run high school, and to college at Georgetown and to law school at Harvard. He practiced law in Cleveland, worked for the Ford Administration, taught law at Virginia and Chicago, and was appointed to the D. C. Circuit court. Most of the book is devoted to his time on the Supreme Court, where his personality has not made him as influential as his intellectual ability might suggest he would be. Much time is devoted to his insistence that the Constitution must be interpreted as the words used had the meaning when adopted, though there are exceptions. Mainly, the Scalia doctrine is that the way Scalia sees it is the right way. It is a super-interesting book, but we can be grateful that his influence on the Court is not greater than it is, since his views are decidedly retrogressive in most things--though he was right about flag burning and some of his views on the Fourth Amendment.… (mais)
1 vote
Schmerguls | 1 outra resenha | Mar 13, 2015 |
The Rob Ford of SCOTUS

For about 150 pages of this intense, revealing and quite excellent book, Antonin “Nino” Scalia is a brilliant student, a hard worker, an unbeatable debater and an all around great guy, “very kind hearted and low key.” Scalia was the golden one. As the only child of Italian immigrants, he was spoiled. That none of his aunts and uncles living nearby had any children at all only made it worse. At school, his sterling academic record allowed him the unrestrained praise of everyone. Unfortunately, his Catholic school also instilled in him the rule that it is not possible to separate religious life from intellectual life, which colored his thinking very prejudicially. Still, as a young judge, his digging led to insights and clarity deeper than the average judge’s decisions.

But when he got to the Supreme Court at age 50, that all changed overnight. Now the junior justice, he was frustrated at not being the star, not being the leader, not being the pacesetter. This could not be allowed to stand.
In a pathological effort to have the last word in any legal argument, Scalia scoured legal concordances and when that was unsatisfactory, he went to the history books and even fiction – quoting Shakespeare or Orwell as his source – to make a point either different than the other justices, or just differently. He was on a one man crusade to be right, and those who would not join him were criminally wrong. That would often be the entire rest of the court. The result was total polarization, zero co-operation, and Scalia issuing a dissenting opinion, even when he agreed on the result. According to Murphy, those dissents (called Ninograms or Ninofits) would often be ad hominem attacks on other justices, whose opinions he did not share. This brought the court down to a new, undignified and uncomfortable level of one sided street fighting. Eventually, other judges responded and retorted. But Scalia always insisted on having the last word, so it was pointless.

When it suited his purposes, Scalia abandoned the law and the Constitution in favor of arguments based on “everybody does it”. His dissents sometimes read like editorials rather than judicial logic. He became a Court of One, writing decisions for himself. In order to cement his different approach he championed a theory that put him in conflict with everyone else: “What was the most plausible meaning of the words of the Constitution to the society that adopted it (as decided by Scalia alone) –regardless of the Framers might secretly have intended it?” This made him attempt to put 21st century America’s reality back to 1787’s, while at the same ignoring the actual intent of the men who wrote the rules. This is the judicial equivalent of Einstein’s fruitless search for one simple rule to explain the universe. Scalia’s “textualism and originalism” theory can only cause grief.

Fellow conservative Judge Richard Posner described it most succinctly: “The range of historical references … is breathtaking, but it not evidence of disinterested historical inquiry. It is evidence of the ability of well-staffed courts to produce snow jobs.”

I found it frustrating that Murphy did not provide a scorecard. While he did show that other conservative justices voted along with Scalia less every year, he never showed how many dissents Scalia wrote, and what percentage of the total cases heard that represented every year. Because Murphy could just be obsessing on the numerous outrageous acts by Scalia. And though I doubt they are merely exceptions to suit this book, I would have liked to know the overall depth of the disaster. Murphy also spends too much ink on setups and repetition, reintroducing people and events several times. Nonetheless, he does a magnificent job showing how Scalia “evolved” from decade to decade, and what that meant for jurisprudence in those years.

The obvious irony of it all is that Scalia made an absolute conservative majority when he took his seat in 1986. He aggravated, insulted, divided and split the conservatives, pushing them to the center, and so obviated any possibility of achieving his conservative goals. All by himself. And was bitter about it!

Scalia’s antics on the bench and in public served to polarize and politicize the Supreme Court, most notably in Gore v. Bush, where the five Republican appointees outvoted the four Democrats to decide the federal election by themselves. That politicization is shameful, demeaning and belittling to an important, impartial institution, and a horrible legacy Scalia does not for a moment acknowledge. He brooks no criticism from any quarter. In his words, he doesn’t care; he has “tenure.”

Another low blow was his overt plan for the Chief Justice’s spot. Even as Rehnquist was ailing, Scalia, under the watchful eye of his declared fan GW Bush, began openly campaigning for Rehnquist’s job, further debasing the currency of the court. His decisions and dissents that year were colored by it, confusing his declining number of admirers. It was so embarrassing he wasn’t even shortlisted.

Scalia is clearly working to become the most famous Supreme Court Justice in history. Unfortunately, that fame will be due to his lack of co-operation, his need to be the leader regardless of how he got there, and the resulting torture for the American people with the often incomprehensible decisions. He will not be remembered kindly or grandly.
… (mais)
1 vote
DavidWineberg | 1 outra resenha | Apr 18, 2014 |
Every president, during the last year or so of his term of office, tries to leave his mark on the Supreme Court if opportunity presents. Bush II was certainly provided with ample opportunity and in Alito and Roberts, he picked someone of strong ideological bent. The confirmation battle becomes in such circumstances becomes prolonged and vicious. The aspirant fails in his nomination bid and retires bitterly to the lecture circuit. Such is the story of both Bork and Abe Fortas, Lyndon Johnson’s controversial nominee for Chief Justice (who, ironically, was already serving on the court as an associate justice.) The battle, even more bitter than the one over Bork, is detailed in fascinating detail by Bruce Allen Murphy

Although questions about his integrity played a part in his downfall (he eventually withdrew his nomination and retired from the court,) Murphy argues persuasively that as in Bork’s case the rejection was primarily ideological. The struggle over Fortas raised the acceptable political temperature well beyond the norm, paving the way for fierce debates over Nixon appointees. (Thank goodness, or we might have had that great proponent of mediocrity G. Harold Carswell trying to figure out which way to hold a book, while sitting on the bench.) By the time of the Bork nomination all restraint was gone. Ironically Fortas was an unlikely candidate for an ideological firestorm. Inside and out of government he was the deal maker not the ideologue: the kind of man that friends like Lyndon Johnson turned to when they wanted to get things done. According to Murphy, this was precisely his undoing. Like Bork, Fortas became a symbol of an embattled white House who was eventually sacrificed in a struggle over the President's beliefs. The ultimate question is whether it serves the Republic by breaking with tradition and answering questions about how a nominee vote on a given issue, thus making a mockery of the idea that judges are independent of Congress and the executive. Presidents will come under increasing pressure to pick candidates who adhere to their own beliefs. What Murphy failed to predict was rather than increasingly bitter battles, the result was the bland non-answer hearings that have become the standard as defined by Roberts.
… (mais)
ecw0647 | outras 2 resenhas | Sep 30, 2013 |
Through intelligence, hard work and luck, the son of Jewish immigrants rose from the slums of Memphis to become a professor at Yale Law School, and a star among FDR's New Dealers. A confidante of President Johnson, he was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1965, joining the revolutionary Warren court. In 1968 he was nominated Chief Justice.

Yet within days of his nomination, the White House ordered the destruction of files relating to him, and within the year, he became the first person to resign from the Supreme Court in disgrace. We also read of LBJ, Strom Thurmand, Sam Ervin, Nixon, and other Justices.

Fortas played a role in securing a disputed Senate seat for LBJ, and in the Viet Nam tragedy. The Nixon administration claimed to have incriminating evidence, and hounded Fortas from his seat on the court. The contending political forces can still be seen in the present day.

Fortas lived to see his old enemies -- Nixon and John Mitchell -- also resign in disgrace. He also put the GOP theory of government into perspective:

"Watergate was more than a series of incredible assaults upon our political process; it was more than a series of patently lawless acts of a base, criminal nature. Watergate was the ugly excrescence of a theory of government which asserts the supremacy of the Presidency over the Congress and the law of the land...This is an intolerable theory for a democratic society...".[581]

Woodward quoted the Republicans decrying the delays and inquiries into the qualifications of Justice Bork -- saying that such scrutiny was "unprecedented". Actually, it was not. It was NOTHING compared to what the Nixonian GOP did to Fortas.
… (mais)
keylawk | outras 2 resenhas | Sep 4, 2013 |

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