Today’s United States Supreme Court consists of nine intriguingly varied justices and one overwhelming contradiction: Compared to its revolutionary predecessor, the Rehnquist Court appears deceptively passive, yet it stands as dramatically ready to defy convention as the Warren Court of the 1950s and 60s. Now Kenneth W. Starr-who served as clerk for one chief justice, argued twenty-five cases as solicitor general before the Supreme Court, and is widely regarded as one of the nation’s most distinguished practitioners of constitutional law-offers us an incisive and unprecedented look at the paradoxes, the power, and the people of the highest court in the land.
In First Among Equals Ken Starr traces the evolution of the Supreme Court from its beginnings, examines major Court decisions of the past three decades, and uncovers the sometimes surprising continuity between the precedent-shattering Warren Court and its successors under Burger and Rehnquist. He shows us, as no other author ever has, the very human justices who shape our law, from Sandra Day O’Connor, the Court’s most pivotal-and perhaps most powerful-player, to Clarence Thomas, its most original thinker. And he explores the present Court’s evolution into a lawyerly tribunal dedicated to balance and consensus on the one hand, and zealous debate on hotly contested issues of social policy on the other.
On race, the Court overturned affirmative action and held firm to an undeviating color-blind standard.
On executive privilege, the Court rebuffed three presidents, both Republican and Democrat, who fought to increase their power at the expense of rival branches of government.
On the 2000 presidential election, the Court prevented what it deemed a runaway Florida court from riding roughshod over state law-illustrating how in our system of government, the Supreme Court is truly the first among equals. Compelling and supremely readable, First Among Equals sheds new light on the most frequently misunderstood legal pillar of American life.