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Monday, April 01, 2013

Out of Order: Stories from the History of the Supreme Court

Justice Stephen J. Field once presided over a trial concerning rights over a mining claim.  It was held in a local California saloon.  The jury decided for the plaintiff, so the lawyer for the defendants said that he would advise his clients to resist that verdict 'at the point of the knife'.  The jury foreman then threatened him with a pistol, but, according to legend, Field took a bowie knife from his pocket and put it in his teeth.  Then he held a pistol near the lawyer's head, and told him to eat his words, or he'd send him to hell.  The lawyer said that he'd eat!

Sandra Day O' Connor, the first female justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, tells many interesting anecdotes such as these in this book about the Supreme Court.  She provides a history of the court from its beginnings, tells tales about frontier justice, relates stories about the relationships between the judges and the presidents, and gives short biographies of distinguished judges.  This is not by any means a dry history, and I found it extremely enjoyable.

This book is enhanced by O'Connor's stories of her own time on the court, and her emphasis of how important the court is.  I also liked her history of the actual court building.

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