Bench Memos

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Bruce Allen Murphy’s Scalia: A Court of One—Part 8


See Parts 1234, 5, 6, and 7

Over a month ago, I wrote the first seven posts in my series on Lafayette College professor Bruce Allen Murphy’s forthcoming biography of Justice Scalia, Scalia: A Court of One. As I noted at the time, I was commenting on the “uncorrected proof” version of the book.

I’ve now received and reviewed the supposedly corrected final book that will be released on June 10. I’m in part relieved and in part very surprised that the book is in all significant respects identical to the “uncorrected proof” version.

I’m relieved because I’ve already drafted a freestanding review of the book for National Review and I won’t have to make any significant changes to my draft.

I’m very surprised because I made Murphy and his publisher, Simon & Schuster, aware of Murphy’s stunningly incompetent account of Hamdi v. Rumsfeld (see Part 2) some seven weeks before the book’s release date, yet they didn’t bother to make a fix of this extended botch.

Skimming through the book and the “uncorrected proof” reminded me of just what a god-awful stupid mess this book is. I could write dozens of more posts about its idiocies.

There have, I will note, been some minor changes to the book. Here is my quick overview of them as they relate to my earlier posts:

1. The body of the book runs 13 pages (well, just a bit over 12) shorter than the body of the uncorrected proof. That means that the pages I cite in my posts correspond to somewhat earlier-numbered pages in the book.

2. There have been no changes that materially affect any of my posts, except for two points in my Part 4 litany of comic errors. No, Murphy hasn’t yet sorted out his confusion between Chief Justice Roberts and Mrs. Roberts on an important matter (point 1 of that post), nor has he retracted his baseless charges that Scalia was “particularly unsettled” by a Time magazine article on religion (point 2) or that he felt overshadowed when Bill Kristol proposed Justice Thomas as a VP candidate for John McCain (point 3).

Murphy has tweaked his mistaken description of Roe’s holding (point 4) in a way that arguably fixes it, and he has dropped his remarkably obtuse assertion about House Republicans (point 6).

3. As one indication of how poorly written this book is, consider this change that Murphy made to his discussion of Bill Kristol’s proposal of Thomas as a VP candidate. Here’s a passage from the “uncorrected proof” (p. 382):

At seventy-two, he [Scalia] was the same age as McCain, but was not mentioned, even in passing, by Kristol. It seemed that the mantle of “conservative leader on the Court” was passing to Thomas.

And here is the new, supposedly improved version (p. 370):

Then seventy-two, the same age as McCain, by not being mentioned, even in passing, by Kristol, it seemed that the mantle of “conservative leader on the Court” was passing to Thomas.

You’d have to work hard to write a worse sentence.

You’d have to work hard to write a worse book.


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