CRF Blog

Opening the Door to a Conservative Court

by Bill Hayes

In Opening the Door to a Conservative Court for the New York Times Book Review, Jeff Shesol reviews The Burger Court and the Rise of the Judicial Right by Michael J. Graetz and Linda Greenhouse.

In “The Burger Court and the Rise of the Judicial Right,” Graetz, a professor at Columbia Law School, and Greenhouse, the former Supreme Court correspondent for The New York Times, characterize the Burger court as more conservative than is generally understood. Its jurisprudence, they acknowledge, is complex and often contradictory, but on the whole they see a clear, even dramatic, shift from the preceding era. If the “theme” of the Warren court was equality before the law, they contend, then under Burger, “equality took a back seat to other values: to the prerogatives of states and localities, . . . to the efficiency of the criminal justice system, to the interests of business and, above all, to rolling back the rights” that the court, in the 1950s and 1960s, had granted to the poor and the powerless. This is the case the authors make — with clarity, authority and evident passion — identifying the principles at stake and the costs, as they see it, of the Burger retrenchment. The book provides a powerful corrective to the standard narrative of the Burger court — and should change the way that period is perceived. [more]