Bench Memos

Seth Stern’s and Stephen Wermiel’s Biography of Justice Brennan

In the course of highlighting two of its many nuggets—one on Justice Brennan’s disappointment with Justice Thurgood Marshall’s performance on the Court, one on Brennan’s surprising opposition to female law clerks and justices—I’ve mentioned Seth Stern’s and Stephen Wermiel’s excellent new biography of Justice Brennan, which bears the easy-to-remember title of Justice Brennan (and the subtitle Liberal Champion).  Justice Brennan’s official publication date is, fittingly, this coming Monday, the opening day of the Court’s new term.

I hope to find time to say more about the biography (which I read in galleys).  For now, I’ll limit myself to two observations:  The book offers an intelligent and interesting account both of Brennan’s decades on the Court and of the broader developments in American life that intertwined with the Court’s work.  And, with the understandable exception of a celebratory final chapter, the biography is impressively evenhanded and down the-middle—no easy achievement for a controversial figure.


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