Scorpions: The Battles and Triumphs of FDR's Great Supreme Court Justices (Paperback)
December 2010 Indie Next List
“Franklin Roosevelt appointed the most Supreme Court justices of any president, but four -- Hugo Black, William Douglas, Felix Frankfurter, and Robert Jackson -- towered above the rest. The history of the judges and the development of their constitutional philosophies is also the story of social change in the United States during the middle of the 20th century, which culminated in the monumental Brown vs. Board of Education decision.”
— Bill Cusumano, Nicola's Books, Ann Arbor, MI
Four more different men could hardly be imagined. Yet they had certain things in common. Each was a self-made man who came from humble beginnings on the edge of poverty. Each had driving ambition and a will to succeed. Each was, in his own way, a genius.
They began as close allies and friends of FDR, but the quest to shape a new Constitution led them to competition and sometimes outright warfare. Scorpians tells the story of these four great justices: their relationship with Roosevelt, with each other, and with the turbulent world of the Great Depression, World War II, and the Cold War. It also serves as a history of the modern Constitution itself.
About the Author
Noah Feldman is the author of four previous books: The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State (Princeton University Press, 2008), Divided By God (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2005); What We Owe Iraq (Princeton University Press, 2004); and After Jihad (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2003).
"Of Franklin Roosevelt's nine Supreme Court appointments, four have had lasting influence ... Feldman neatly demonstrates how their careers and personal histories accounted for their mutual resentments and shaped their distinctive approaches to constitutional interpretation. Frankfurter's judicial restraint, Black's originalism, Jackson's pragmatism and Douglas's realism-four interpretive doctrines that continue to reverberate-are fleshed out in accessible discussions of important cases dealing with presidential power and civil rights. The process of how they put aside personal differences and individual philosophies to reach agreement in the historic Brown v. Board of Education is only part of the author's revealing exploration.
An immensely readable history that goes behind the façade of our most august institution to reveal the flesh-and-blood characters who make our laws."
—Kirkus (Starred Review)
"In this splendid biography, Noah Feldman sets out to tell the story of the making of the modern Constitution-and thus of modern America itself-through the lives of Franklin Roosevelt and four of his Supreme Court justices. The result is a terrific tale of politics and principle, personality and vision. The battles of these four 'scorpions' gave us our world, and Feldman's excellent book is a powerful and original contribution to our understanding of the 20th century-and of our own."
—Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize winning author of American Lion
"FDR appointed larger-than-life characters to the Supreme Court, and SCORPIONS brings them vividly to life - and reminds us why, strangely enough, they matter today more than ever."—Jeffrey Toobin, author of The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court