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Dissent and the Supreme Court: Its Role in the Court's History and the Nation's Constitutional Dialogue (Paperback)
In his major work, acclaimed historian and judicial authority Melvin Urofsky examines the great dissents throughout the Court’s long history. Constitutional dialogue is one of the ways in which we as a people reinvent and reinvigorate our democratic society. The Supreme Court has interpreted the meaning of the Constitution, acknowledged that the Court’s majority opinions have not always been right, and initiated a critical discourse about what a particular decision should mean and fashioning subsequent decisions—largely through the power of dissent.
Urofsky shows how the practice grew slowly but steadily, beginning with the infamous & now overturned case of Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857) during which Chief Justice Roger Taney’s opinion upheld slaver and ending with the present age of incivility, in which reasoned dialogue seems less and less possible. Dissent on the court and off, Urofsky argues in this major work, has been a crucial ingredient in keeping the Constitution alive and must continue to be so.
About the Author
MELVIN I. UROFSKY is a professor emeritus of history at Virginia Commonwealth University and was the chair of its history department. He is the editor (with David W. Levy) of the five-volume collection of Louis Brandeis’s letters, as well as the author of American Zionism from Herzl to the Holocaust and Louis D. Brandeis. He lives in Gaithersburg, Maryland.
“Ambitious . . . Urofsky’s extraordinarily careful analysis and sense of historical depth make ‘Dissent and the Supreme Court’ an important book, one that explores some of the most significant dissents in the history of that institution . . .riveting . . . Indeed, his book can serve as a guide, a way of determining what constitutes a really fine and compelling dissent.” —Dahlia Lithwick, New York Times Book Review
“One of the nation’s great legal historians . . . masterfully recounts the history of dissent on the court, from its early days, when dissents were rare and strongly discouraged, to the modern era, when they often outnumbered majority opinions." —David Cole, The Washington Post
“Balanced, and highly illuminating . . . For anyone interested in the Constitution, the Supreme Court, and the American democracy, lawyer and layperson alike . . . An intriguing account . . . A significant contribution to our understanding of the Supreme Court and the Constitution.” —Stephen Rohde, The Los Angeles Review of Books
“A wide-ranging and intriguing study of how the justices of the United States Supreme Court have dissented from majority opinions and how we should think about them . . . Invaluable . . . Creative and well-researched.” —Linda Przybyszewski, American Journal of Legal History
“Brilliant . . . Urofsky’s expertise as a historian and student of the Supreme Court brings depth and richness to his treatment of this fascinating subject . . . A good read for those who find the workings of the Court of special interest.” —Ronald Goldfarb, Washington Lawyer
“Incisive . . . Dissent and the Supreme Court traces the dissent’s noble history and shows how many of the most important protections of American society – free speech, racial equality, individual liberty – began their lives as dissents pushing back against a court that was not yet ready to hear them.” —Joshua J. Friedman, Columbia Magazine
“A welcome perspective on a vibrant, ongoing constitutional dialogue.” —Publishers Weekly