Supreme Inequality:
The Supreme Court’s Fifty-Year Battle for a More Unjust America

by Adam Cohen

I imagine you thought we had a Supreme Court in this country. Well, we don’t. Rather, we have a supreme political forum that is mostly populated by right-wing men and operates behind closed doors. When it reaches its conclusions, the club sits on the highest bench in the land and issues pronouncements.

Chief Justice Warren Burger at the center of the so-called “Nixon Court”

The pronouncements are supposedly adjudications on matters of law, but in fact they mostly adjudicate policy. In fact, according to Cohen, the Court goes out of its way to avoid decisions involving the U.S. Constitution. They’d rather just have their way. In other words, the Court has become a panel of activist judges who make laws instead of adjudicating them.

It wasn’t always that way, although it has been from time to time. The modern era of the Court began with the transition from the very liberal, constitutionally driven one led by Earl Warren as Chief Justice to the very conservative, policy-driven one led by Warren Burger which created the so-called “Nixon Court,” a story well documented in Cohen’s book.

Cohen goes through the key cases that prove his thesis that the Court has increased injustices to minorities, poor people, workers, criminals and women, and interfered harmfully in our election processes as well as our democracy itself. His writing is generally quite good and moves the book along, but it can get a bit turgid in his presentation of the many and several cases he exposes. Worth slogging through, however.

Burger’s reign was followed by Justices Rehnquist and now Roberts, and the activist pattern of adjudicating policy rather than constitutional law has become more solidified.

There are exceptions, most notably Roe v. Wade which legalized abortion based on privacy implied in the Constitution. If you read the news, you’ll know how fragile that decision has become as policy matters have continued to dominate Court decisions.

The book is very interesting, well written and very important. Well worth the time I spent reading it.

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