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Scalia: A Court of One by [Murphy, Bruce Allen]
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Scalia: A Court of One Kindle Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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"[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 "

"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 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 "

[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 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 ""

About the Author

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

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 21703 KB
  • Print Length: 657 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0743296508
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (10 Jun. 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00GEEYZAC
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #699,601 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Format: Hardcover
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, minimal 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.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars 53 reviews
30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Valuable But One-Sided Biography 5 Oct. 2014
By Greg Bassham - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
There are currently two biographies of Justice Scalia, each with its distinctive strengths and weaknesses. The first was Joan Biskupic's "American Original: The Life and Constitution of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia" (Sarah Crichton Books, 2009). Biskupic's book is well-written, balanced, and based on extensive personal interviews with Justice Scalia himself, his family, and colleagues. It is not particularly strong, however, on Scalia's early life, his judicial philosophy, and his intellectual contribution.

Murphy's biography is longer, more in-depth, and more extensively researched than Biskupic's, but is less readable and makes no pretense to be even-handed. Murphy, a political science professor at Lafayette College, specializes in hard-hitting exposes of Supreme Court Justices. His earlier biographies of Abe Fortas and William O. Douglas, though useful and well-researched, spared readers no tawdry details of their subjects' flawed characters. This book adopts a similar kind of "gotcha" approach.

Unlike Biskupic, Murphy conducted few personal interviews. Instead, he draws heavily on public sources and archival records. The result is a scholarly but somewhat plodding and relentlessly critical biography. It is really the tale of two Scalias. The first is Scalia the Golden Boy: the gregarious, straight-laced Italian immigrant's son, who finished first in his class in high school and Georgetown, graduated Summa Cum Laude from Harvard Law School, rose quickly in his early career as a corporate lawyer, law professor, and government official, raised a model family, stayed true to his faith and his principles, and seemed to do everything right. The second Scalia is of the Golden-Boy-Corrupted. As Murphy tells it, a far less attractive Scalia emerges when he gets a seat on the federal bench. He becomes nastier and more combative. His love of fame and money leads him to give provocative speeches, teach legal seminars in posh settings, and engage in other conduct that Murphy considers unbecoming of federal judges. He increasingly allows his conservative religious beliefs to influence his judicial decisions. His vitriolic personal attacks and rigid refusal to compromise make it impossible for him to build effective coalitions with his conservative judicial colleagues. As power goes to his head, his ethical standards loosen, and he refuses to recuse himself from cases in which his impartiality is clearly in question. Though he professes to practice judicial restraint and fidelity to the Constitution's original meaning, Scalia's decisions become increasingly political and result-driven. Finally, the ultimate low point: Bush v. Gore: Consumed by a desire to become Chief Justice and appalled at the prospect of a Gore presidency with all that would mean for the future of the country and the Court, Scalia betrays all of his professed judicial principles and hands the presidency to Bush in a brazen act of politics that was nothing short of a judicial coup d'etat.

Readers will of course differ on how much of this latter tale they want to buy in to. Having read Biskupic's more balanced account, I found Murphy's narrative to be selective, one-sided, and far too often based on speculation rather than hard evidence. Peering into Scalia's mind with his psychic X-ray powers, Murphy sees little but ambition, hypocrisy, duplicity, and conceit.

Besides being one-sided, Murphy's book is too long. Readers hoping above all to get a feel for Scalia the man (and his family) will be disappointed by Murphy's heavy focus on Scalia's public life, his constant preoccupation with controversy, and by his slow-paced year-by-year rundown of Supreme Court decisions.

Murphy's book is also surprisingly thin on Scalia's intellectual contributions. There is very little on the origins of Scalia's textualist approach to reading statutes and constitutional texts; how Scalia elaborates and defends that approach; and the impact of his textualist approach on legal scholarship and the nation's courts.

To his credit, Murphy's extensive research does bring out many new and interesting details about Scalia's life, particularly in his childhood, his career as a corporate lawyer in Cleveland, and his work in the Nixon and Ford administrations. This scholarly legwork gives the book real value despite the relentless and often unfair negativism.
25 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Remarkable Study of Justice Scalia: perceptive; incisive; comprehensive 6 July 2014
By Ronald H. Clark - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the fourth judicial study by Professor Murphy I have read. The three previous volumes I felt excessively focused on sensational dimensions of their subjects, especially the volumes on Justices Fortas and William O. Douglas (" Wild Bill"). Not to say these were not substantial studies, but the sensational elements detracted attention from Murphy's solid scholarship. I am delighted to say that I have no such qualms about this substantial (500 pages plus notes and bibliography) and extremely valuable bio of Justice Antonin Scalia. It is outstanding in a number of ways.

For me, the book's greatest asset is its meticulous analysis of how Justice Scalia developed his various interpretive theories--probably his most lasting achievement. One can read long articles on this topic, but what Murphy has done is to trace this development over time, context by context, as the bio unfolds. I found myself having a much more comprehensive understanding of Scalia's approaches (yes, he does "evolve" over time) than before. For Scalia and judicial conservatives generally, methodology is everything. Murphy also carefully differentiates Scalia's positions from those of Judge Bork and Justice Thomas, as well as others.

Murphy also tackles the toughest issue about Scalia--could he have been a more influential figure? On the one hand, clearly his originalist theory has had a substantial impact on how the Constitution is interpreted by judges, scholars, and others. Yet, on the other, his explosive personality relative to his Court colleagues has cost him the ability to become the conservative leader of the Court. Justice Kennedy and (Murphy suggests after the Obamacare decision) the Chief Justice may now rightly claim that title. Yet, although Scalia can charm many birds out of their trees, Murphy suggests that his attacks on colleagues and controversial speeches cost him whatever little chance he had of succeeding Rehnquist as Chief in 2005. A very interesting issue.

One measure of solid judicial biography is whether you feel you have a solid grasp on the personality of the subject. Murphy scores in this category as well. He carefully follows Scalia through his youth, legal education, early practice career, academic teaching, and eventually into government service. His chapters on Scalia's service in the Office of Legal Counsel at DOJ during the Ford Administrative afforded me helpful insights into his undying dedication to the expansion of presidential power--which still pops up from time to time. His views on regulation developed during his stay at the Administrative Conference and the American Enterprise Institute are important to understanding his views as a Justice. The only thing missing from Murphy's analysis is much about Scalia's family/private life, with the exception of Murphy's diligent examination of the role of Scalia's Roman Catholicism in impacting his character and judicial behavior. With now six Catholic justices, five of whom are generally quite conservative, this is a crucial topic which Murphy treats with scholarly professionalism.

There are many other pluses to the book as well. Murphy selects the cases he discusses carefully, and integrates them into his narrative so smoothly that general readers will grasp his points. Murphy certainly includes some critics of Scalia as well, especially Judge Posner who continues to wield a highly critical pen regarding Scalia, and pretty much deconstructed Scalia's major book, "Reading Law.". Murphy also takes on several crucial issues relating to Scalia's conduct on and off the Court. Especially the issue of what standards govern judicial recusals by Justices becomes important given the calls for Scalia to recuse himself after his famous hunting trip with Vice President Cheney. A related topic is what limits should Justices follow in making public statements that relate to the Court. An avid maker of speeches and public comments, Scalia has been repeatedly criticized for discussing his views on issues that might come before the Court.

This is a book where you need to read the end notes as you go along. Murphy discusses some of his most important insights in the notes (e.g., judicial recusals); since there are 75 pages of notes, there is much buried treasure found therein. His extensive bibliography, covering books, interviews, oral histories, speeches and public appearances, archive collections, and internet sources is enormously helpful. So we now have two fine book-length studies of Scalia, Murphy's and Joan Biskupic's "American Original." While many such as myself will remain critical of Scalia and his interpretive theories, we are now at least in a much better position to understand this most perplexing Justice as he approaches 80.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Well-Written but Highly Biased Book About Antonin Scalia 13 Aug. 2014
By Frank L. Urbano - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm not ashamed to say that I am a huge fan of the work of the Supreme Court and an admirer of Antonin Scalia. For this reason, I eagerly anticipated Bruce Allen Murphy's book "Scalia: A Court of One" when I learned it was going to be released. After reading it, I have to say that the book is thoroughly researched and very well written. It is easily readable and keeps your interest through the entire book. It's one downfall (and why I didn't give it 5 stars) is that it is simply unbalanced, biased, and designed to malign Antonin Scalia in every way possible. This book makes this brilliant man sound like a petty, callous and cold individual who takes any opportunity he can to advance his agenda. While Mr. Murphy may have done scrupulous research to come to this conclusion, I, for one, refuse to accept his characterization of Justice Scalia.

The book describes Justice Scalia's beginnings, including his earlier years, upbringing and early education. The focus, however, is upon his time on the Supreme Court. It reviews his service on the court from the beginning and through the most recent terms. Throughout the book, Murphy takes the attack approach about Scalia's opinions, dissents, speeches, and public comments, highlighting the negative elements of all of these. He then goes on to make value judgements about why Scalia says what he says and acts how he does, and therefore brands the man as volatile and childish man, which I refuse to accept as true. One thing that is lacking in Murphy's character assassination is the attribution of his sources when he makes a specific claim. While I appreciate that he may have obtained his materials under confidence, it seems hardly possible that he is unable to tell us who told him ANY of the things he shares in the book. It makes one wonder just how true they all are.

Now, let me be clear, I will admit that Antonin Scalia is a sometimes controversial figure who freely shares his controversial approach and opinions. He does not sugar coat things and I can see how others might be offended by him. But I believe all of this is in the spirit of his approach to the law and being a judge. Put simply, his originalism approach is very clear in its scope and characterization of how he renders his decisions. Murphy's claims that he fits his originalism approach to his personal decisions is not clearly supported by the examples he writes about in the book.

Antonin Scalia is a man with a strong faith who takes job very seriously. It's clear that he likes to debate topics, and he may 'step on toes' when he renders an opinion. But the characterization that Mr. Murphy puts forth in this book is so biased that is approaches character assassination.
Now I don't know Justice Scalia, and so I cannot speak to how he 'really' is. But I think that one of the most telling things is the close friendship that Justice and Mrs. Scalia have with Justice Ginsburg (and her late husband). Does it seem possible that the man in Mr. Murphy's book could be so friendly with someone on the court who is his polar opposite? I don't think so.

In this end, this is a very good book as long as you don't believe all the characterizations that Mr. Murphy puts forth about Antonin Scalia. Sadly, Mr. Murphy appears to have written biographies of other notable Supreme Court justices, but after reading this one, I am not sure I would read them.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterful insight into a complex Justice 20 Dec. 2014
By Loco-Moco - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Anyone looking to get a peek into Nino Scalia's head owes it to himself to read this book. Murphy digs into Scalia's record in depth and ties Scalia's concurrences, and -- especially -- his dissents, back to Scalia's evolving legal philosophy. In doing so, he sheds considerable light on that philosophy's positive and negative aspects.

Murphy terms it a biography, and it fits that description in a very broad sense. However, most pure biographies likely wouldn't dispense in two sentences with the deaths of both Scalia's parents within two weeks of each other, as this book does. It's probably more accurate to describe it as a deep analysis of what makes Scalia, the jurist, tick. And in that respect it succeeds admirably. The fact that, as one reviewer states, "he didn't even do any interviews" misses the point completely, given the nature and intent of this book. There are 75 pages of endnotes and an 18-page selected bibliography, amply demonstrating the research that went into this volume.

Scalia is a deeply polarizing figure, and this is reflected in both the book and the reviews here on Amazon. It would be difficult, therefore, for any author to approach Scalia's corpus of writings entirely without bias. Murphy isn't immune, and his fundamental differences with Scalia's judicial philosophy are evident. This has led some reviewers to criticize it as, e.g., a "hack job". Those complaints do it no justice, for Murphy downplays his criticism for the most part. And even when he does voice disagreements, he nevertheless does an exemplary job of explaining Scalia's own positions in objective and neutral language -- while reserving his own right to dissent from time to time.

Reading this book will provide considerable insight into Scalia's philosophical flaws. To mention one particularly egregious example, he alternates between arguing that the absence of specific language in the Constitution (say, for womens' rights, marriage equality or affirmative action) means that these were matters that the Framers had no intention of addressing; therefore these rights don't exist.* In other circumstances (states' rights, Executive powers) he takes the diametrically opposite position that since the Framers didn't enumerate these in the Constitution, they intended a broad interpretation favoring the extension of said powers. That is, sometimes Scalia argues that whatever isn't permitted is forbidden; at others that whatever isn't specified is allowable. And he makes these determinations not on the basis of the Constitution, but his own personal philosophy -- while trying to dress it up in "Originalist" togs. Murphy cuts him no slack for this.

Murphy also elucidates Scalia's character in a way that clearly shows its internal dissonances. Scalia has an overweeningly high opinion of himself and a universally low opinion of his fellow Justices (not to mention appeals-court judges, law professors, etc.) Murphy provides countless examples of Scalia's indisputable intelligence on the one hand -- and his hubris and utter lack of humility on the other. In doing so, he characterizes Scalia more accurately than any Scalia-approved traditional biographer ever will.

You may not approve of Murphy's conclusions, but you'll have a difficult time finding points of disagreement with his insight into Scalia himself and the unique judicial philosophy that drives his decisions. This book is a "must read" for those who wish to understand more deeply the man who'll never be Chief Justice.

*Addendum, 12/21: In an interview with a Swiss broadcast network on 12/12, Scalia had this to say re torture: "...While there are U.S. laws against torture, nothing in the Constitution appears to prohibit harsh treatment of suspected terrorists." "I don't know what article of the Constitution that would contravene," he said. QED.
18 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars well researched and well written 24 Jun. 2014
By Publius - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I will admit I have not finished the book. I am a little over a hundred pages into it. In fact, I am at the point of his appointment to SCOTUS. I am also a liberal, and came into this endeavor not a big fan of Scalia's. However, as a result of reading this biography I find myself liking the man. Don't get me wrong, I am not a convert, however, it is hard not to respect and admire his intellect and sharp legal mind. I am not an originalist either, but I do find myself fascinated by his approach to constitutional interpretation, an approach that has to be taken seriously. It may be premature to write this, but I felt compelled based on some of the reviews that I think are just unfair. One reviewer made the assertion that the book is not well researched. I respectfully disagree. The endnotes are extensive and Murphy used a wide range of sources, both primary and secondary. He spent 8 years researching the book. Keep in mind this is an intellectual biography focusing in on Scalia's jurisprudence. The author looked at the dozens of public interviews with Scalia, the dozens of speeches and public appearances, and the endless number of opinions he wrote as a justice and circuit court judge. Most of this material is open source material and part of the public record. Not sure a personal interview with the author would shed any more light on his judicial philosophy. Anyway, for what its worth, that's my take thus far.
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