This list was updated on April 2, 2019. Quoted content was excerpted from book listings on Amazon.com.
- Joan Biskupic, American Original: The Life and Constitution of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009)
Veteran Washington journalist Joan Biskupic presents a detailed portrait of Justice Scalia and provides a comprehensive narrative that will engage Scalia’s adherents and critics alike. Drawing on her long tenure covering the Court and on her unprecedented access to the justice, Biskupic delves into the circumstances of Justice Scalia’s rise and the formation of his rigorous approach on the bench. This book shows us the man in power: his world, his journey, and the far-reaching consequences of a transformed legal landscape.
- Joan Biskupic, The Chief: The Life and Turbulent Times of Chief Justice John Roberts (Basic Books, 2019)
“In The Chief, award-winning journalist Joan Biskupic contends that Roberts is torn between two, often divergent, priorities: to carry out a conservative agenda, and to protect the Court's image and his place in history. Biskupic shows how Roberts's dual commitments have fostered distrust among his colleagues, with major consequences for the law. Trenchant and authoritative, The Chief reveals the making of a justice and the drama on this nation's highest court.”
- Joan Biskupic, Sandra Day O’Connor: How the First Woman on the Supreme Court Became Its Most Influential Justice (HarperCollins, 2005)
USA Today’s Supreme Court correspondent (and frequent participant in our summer institute) wrote this engaging portrait of the retired justice.
- Stephen Breyer, The Court and the World: American Law and the New Global Realities (Knopf, 2015)
“In this original, far-reaching, and timely book, Justice Stephen Breyer examines the work of the Supreme Court of the United States in an increasingly interconnected world, a world in which all sorts of activity, both public and private—from the conduct of national security policy to the conduct of international trade—obliges the Court to understand and consider circumstances beyond America’s borders.”
- Stephen G. Breyer, Making Our Democracy Work: A Judge's View (Knopf, 2010)
Justice Breyer looks at how the Supreme Court evolved historically and defined its role largely in relation to the willingness of the public to embrace its decisions. He tells the story of President Jackson's grudging acceptance of a Court decision protecting the treaty rights of the Cherokee nation, only to seize their land using Federal troops. In the Dred Scott decision, the pro-slavery Court violated the right of free states to outlaw slavery. And in Brown vs. the Kansas Board of Education, President Eisenhower used the Army to back up Court decisions against segregated education. Breyer discusses recent Court decisions in favor of rights for Guantanamo detainees and examines the limitations of a President's power as Commander-in-Chief, even in wartime, contrasting this to the failure of the Court, Congress, and President Roosevelt over internment camps during WWII. Justice Breyer's absorbing stories offer insight into how a democracy works, and sometimes fails.
- Richard Brookhiser, John Marshall: the Man Who Made the Supreme Court (Basic Books, 2018)
“In 1801, a genial and brilliant Revolutionary War veteran and politician became the fourth chief justice of the United States. He would hold the post for 34 years (still a record), expounding the Constitution he loved. Before he joined the Supreme Court, it was the weakling of the federal government, lacking in dignity and clout. After he died, it could never be ignored again. Through three decades of dramatic cases involving businessmen, scoundrels, Native Americans, and slaves, Marshall defended the federal government against unruly states, established the Supreme Court's right to rebuke Congress or the president, and unleashed the power of American commerce. For better and for worse, he made the Supreme Court a pillar of American life. In John Marshall, award-winning biographer Richard Brookhiser vividly chronicles America's greatest judge and the world he made.”
- Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik, Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Dey Street Books, 2015)
“Notorious RBG, inspired by the Tumblr that amused the Justice herself and brought to you by its founder and an award-winning feminist journalist, is more than just a love letter. It draws on intimate access to Ginsburg's family members, close friends, colleagues, and clerks, as well an interview with the Justice herself. An original hybrid of reported narrative, annotated dissents, rare archival photos and documents, and illustrations, the book tells a never-before-told story of an unusual and transformative woman who transcends generational divides. As the country struggles with the unfinished business of gender equality and civil rights, Ginsburg stands as a testament to how far we can come with a little chutzpah.”
- Clare Cushman, Courtwatchers: Eyewitness Accounts in Supreme Court History (Supreme Court Historical Society, 2011)
In the first Supreme Court history told primarily through eyewitness accounts from Court insiders, Clare Cushman provides readers with a behind-the-scenes look at the people, practices, and traditions that have shaped an American institution for more than 200 years. Each chapter covers one general thematic topic and weaves a narrative from memoirs, letters, diaries, and newspaper accounts by the Justices, their spouses and children, court reporters, clerks, oral advocates, court staff, journalists, and other eyewitnesses. These accounts allow readers to feel as if they are squeezed into the packed courtroom in 1844 as silver-tongued orator Daniel Webster addresses the court; eavesdropping on an exasperated Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., in 1930 as he snaps at a clerk’s critique of his draft opinion; or sharing a taxi with future Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., in 2005 as he rushes home from the airport in anticipation of a phone call from President Bush offering him the nomination to the Supreme Court. This entertaining and enlightening tour of the Supreme Court’s colorful personalities and inner workings will be of interest to all readers of American political and legal history.
- Clare Cushman, Ed. Supreme Court Justices Illustrated Biographies 1789-2012 (Congressional Quarterly 1995)
The Supreme Court Justices: Illustrated Biographies 1789-2012, Third Edition provides a single-volume reference profiling every Supreme Court justice from John Jay through Elena Kagan. An original essay on each justice paints a vivid picture of his or her individuality as shaped by family, education, pre-Court career, and the times in which he or she lived. Each biographical essay also presents the major issues on which the justice presided. Essays are arranged in the order of the justices' appointments. Lively anecdotes along with portraits, photographs, and political cartoons enrich the text and deepen readers' understanding of the justices and of the Court. The volume includes an extensive bibliography and is indexed for easy research access.
- C-SPAN, Brian Lamb, Susan Swain, and Mark Farkas, The Supreme Court: A C-SPAN Book, Featuring the Justices in their Own Words (PublicAffairs Books, 2010)
The Supreme Court grew out of a unique opportunity to interview all nine sitting Supreme Court Justices plus retired Justice O'Connor for a documentary on the Supreme Court. Transcripts from those interviews provide insight into the daily operations and history of the nation's highest court; facts about the building it occupies, trivia, and numerous personal recollections are also included, as are interviews with experts on the Court's history and daily operation. An appendix presents short biographies of the justices, a list of everyone who has ever served on the Court, and a section noting petitions and arguments heard each year, from 1980 to 2008.
- Neal Devins and Davison M Douglas, A Year at the Supreme Court (Duke University Press, 2004)
This collection of essays by Supreme Court journalists looks at the remarkable 2002-03 Term when the Court decided cases dealing with affirmative action, gay rights, hate speech, federal-state relations and criminal law. Often criticized by liberals as a court of conservative judicial activists, the decisions from this term surprised and disappointed many. These essays try to make sense of these rulings and help us understand the Rehnquist Court’s identity and role in the political life of the country.
- Noah Feldman, Scorpions: The Battles and Triumphs of FDR's Great Supreme Court Justices (Twelve, 2010)
The book tells the story of the four FDR Supreme Court appointees who had the most lasting influence on the court: Hugo Black, Felix Frankfurter, Robert Jackson, and William O. Douglas. It traces the path each justice took to get to the Court, as well as the relationship each had with FDR. It examines the justices’ different approaches to constitutional interpretation, while discussing the important cases of the 1940's and 1950's throughout, culminating in the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education.
- Antonia Felix, The Unstoppable Ruth Bader Ginsburg: American Icon (Sterling, 2018)
“The Unstoppable Ruth Bader Ginsburg covers her formative years growing up in Brooklyn; her time at Cornell University and at Harvard and Columbia Law Schools; her marriage and partnership with husband, Marty; her landmark cases; and the prejudice she overcame to reach the pinnacle of her field as the second woman to ascend to the country’s highest court. It also highlights the many “firsts” she achieved—including her becoming the first female tenured professor at Columbia Law School and cofounding the first Women’s Rights Project for the ACLU—while becoming a true American icon and pop culture sensation celebrated in the award-winning documentary RBG and the 2018 feature film about her origins, On the Basis of Sex.”
- Ruth Bader Ginsburg, My Own Words (Simon & Schuster, 2016)
“My Own Words “showcases Ruth Ginsburg’s astonishing intellectual range” (The New Republic). In this collection Justice Ginsburg discusses gender equality, the workings of the Supreme Court, being Jewish, law and lawyers in opera, and the value of looking beyond US shores when interpreting the US Constitution. Throughout her life Justice Ginsburg has been (and continues to be) a prolific writer and public speaker. This book’s sampling is selected by Justice Ginsburg and her authorized biographers Mary Hartnett and Wendy W. Williams, who introduce each chapter and provide biographical context and quotes gleaned from hundreds of interviews they have conducted.”
- Jan Crawford Greenburg, Supreme Conflict (Penguin Press, 2007)
Greenburg’s book is full of details about the Court and the justices, particularly focusing on the nominations process and how the past three Republican presidents have worked to shift the Court philosophically to the right. Greenburg interviewed nine of the 11 justices who have served on the Court in the past three years, and the bulk of the book describes Justice O’Connor’s retirement, Chief Justice Rehnquist’s death, and the nominations of John Roberts, Samuel Alito and Harriet Miers.
- Linda Greenhouse, Becoming Justice Blackmun (Thomson Gale, 2005)
This book – subtitled “Harry Blackmun’s Supreme Court Journey” – is a fascinating look at the life and judicial career of the author of one of the Court’s most controversial opinions (Roe v. Wade). It is based on meticulous research from the recently released Blackmun papers.
- John Greenya, Gorsuch: The Judge Who Speaks for Himself (Threshold Editions, 2018)
“Learn all about Neil Gorsuch, the youngest judge to be nominated to the Supreme Court in twenty-five years, with this comprehensive and fascinating biography.”
- David Kaplan, The Most Dangerous Branch (Crown, 2018)
“Based on exclusive interviews with the justices and dozens of their law clerks, Kaplan provides fresh details about life behind the scenes at the Court – Clarence Thomas’s simmering rage, Antonin Scalia’s death, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s celebrity, Breyer Bingo, the petty feuding between Gorsuch and the chief justice, and what John Roberts thinks of his critics.”
- John Anthony Maltese, The Selling of Supreme Court Nominees (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995)
This short, readable study traces the evolution of the contentious and controversial confirmation process awaiting today's Supreme Court nominees. The story begins with the quick and nearly secret consideration of nominees that characterized the Senate until the second half of the last century, when social and technological changes led to the rise of organized interest groups and presidents became more active as policy leaders.
- Nancy Maveety, Glass and Gavel: The U.S. Supreme Court and Alcohol (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2018)
“This swift-moving, thoroughly-researched, and useful (it contains recipes!) analysis of the often-tempestuous relationship between alcohol and constitutional law is a useful addition to the canon, not only because its history is unique–to my knowledge this the first extensive history of the Supreme Court’s alcohol rulings–but its format is unique as well. By combining a summary of the Court’s rulings with insightful drinking biographies of the justices themselves, Maveety has crafted a story that shows how America’s alcohol laws have shifted over time, alongside revealing portraits of how our country’s drinking culture has evolved along with, or in spite of, the legal landscape. . . . By emphasizing a token cocktail or liquor for each era, Glass and Gavel is part history and part pairing-guide.”
- David O'Brien, Storm Center: The Supreme Court in American Politics (W.W. Norton, 1996, 4th edition)
Professor O'Brien initially wrote this while serving as a judicial fellow at the Court. Some reviewers believed this book, first published in 1986, to be a much-needed antidote to The Brethren because of its meticulous documentation. Later editions include material on the Thomas Hearings and the impact of the newer members of the Rehnquist Court.
- Sandra Day O'Connor, The Majesty of the Law: Reflections of a Supreme Court Justice (Random House, 2003)
This book includes talks Justice O'Connor gave in the 20 years she served on the high court. It covers a wide range of topics from the Magna Carta to the struggle for women to get the right to vote. While providing interesting materials and legal history, the book avoids in-depth discussions of controversial topics before the Court today.
- Joel Richard Paul, Without Precedent: Chief Justice John Marshall and His Times (Riverhead Books, 2018)
“This is the astonishing true story of how a rough-cut frontiersman - born in Virginia in 1755 and with little formal education - invented himself as one of the nation's preeminent lawyers and politicians who then reinvented the Constitution to forge a stronger nation. Without Precedent is the engrossing account of the life and times of this exceptional man, who with cunning, imagination, and grace shaped America's future as he held together the Supreme Court, the Constitution, and the country itself.”
- Barbara A. Perry, The Priestly Tribe: the Supreme Court's Image in the American Mind (Praeger, 1999)
In this detailed examination of the Court, its justices, decisions, facilities, and programs – as well as its place in modern American culture – Professor Perry illustrates that the Court has consciously (and successfully) endeavored to preserve its exalted standing. Barbara Perry is one featured former presenters at this institute, and we particularly recommend this book to participants. We also recommend another of her books, "Representative" Supreme Court? The Impact of Race, Religion, and Gender on Appointments (Greenwood Press, 1991).
- H.W. Perry, Jr., Deciding to Decide: Agenda Setting in the United States Supreme Court (Harvard University Press, 1991)
Of these books, this one is not the best for providing an overview of the court; rather, it provides a thorough, somewhat academic analysis of the certiorari process.
- William Rehnquist, The Supreme Court (Vintage Books, 2002)
This book written by the late chief justice is for lay readers to give them a better understanding of the role of the US Supreme Court in American government. The best material focuses on how the Court goes about its business ... oral arguments, conference, opinion writing, and the like.
- Ralph A. Rossum, Antonin Scalia’s Jurisprudence: Text and Traditions (University of Kansas Press, 2006)
This book is the first comprehensive, reasoned, and sympathetic analysis of how Justice Scalia decided cases during his twenty year Supreme Court tenure.
- David G. Savage, Turning Right: The Making of the Rehnquist Supreme Court (John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 1993)
David Savage covers the Court for the Los Angeles Times. This is a behind the scenes, anecdotal account of the changes in the Court's direction and operation between 1986 (the year William Rehnquist became chief) and 1992. It contains an interesting chapter on the Thomas Hearings with a focus on the activities of Nan Aron, executive director of the Alliance for Justice.
- Antonin Scalia, A Matter of Interpretation: Federal Courts and the Law – New Edition (Princeton University Press, 2018)
“We are all familiar with the image of the immensely clever judge who discerns the best rule of common law for the case at hand. According to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a judge like this can maneuver through earlier cases to achieve the desired aim--"distinguishing one prior case on his left, straight-arming another one on his right, high-stepping away from another precedent about to tackle him from the rear, until (bravo!) he reaches the goal--good law." But is this common-law mindset, which is appropriate in its place, suitable also in statutory and constitutional interpretation? In a witty and trenchant essay, Justice Scalia answers this question with a resounding negative.”
- Antonin Scalia and Bryan A. Garner, Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges (Thomson West, 2008)
This book systematically presents every important idea about judicial persuasion in a fresh, entertaining way. It covers the essentials of sound legal reasoning, including how to develop the syllogism that underlies any argument. From there the authors explain the art of brief-writing, especially what to include and what to omit, so that you can induce the judge to focus closely on your arguments. Finally, they show what it takes to succeed in oral argument.
- Bernard Schwartz, A History of the Supreme Court (Oxford Press, 1993)
Constitution scholar Bernard Schwartz provides a thoroughly researched and readable chronological overview of the Supreme Court. He mixes biographical sketches of justices like John Marshall with insightful analyses of major decisions, offering also a close look at four watershed cases: Dred Scott v. Sandford, Lochner v. New York, Brown v. Board of Education, and Roe v. Wade. This book is considered to be the best single volume history of the Court.
- James F. Simon, The Center Holds: The Power Struggle Inside the Rehnquist Court (Simon and Schuster, 1995)
Looking at opinions of the Rehnquist Court in the areas of race, crime, abortion and the First Amendment, Professor Simon concludes that the extreme right has failed to overturn long-established fundamental rights.
- James F. Simon, Eisenhower vs. Warren: The Battle for Civil Rights and Liberties (Liveright, 2018)
“In Eisenhower vs. Warren, two-time New York Times Notable Book author James F. Simon examines the years of strife between them that led Eisenhower to say that his biggest mistake as president was appointing that “dumb son of a bitch Earl Warren.” This momentous, poisonous relationship is presented here at last in one volume. Compellingly written, Eisenhower vs. Warren brings to vivid life the clash that continues to reverberate in political and constitutional debates today.”
- Rodney A. Smolla, ed. A Year in the Life of the Supreme Court (Duke University Press, 1995)
This profile of the 1992-93 term is a collection of essays by many of the nation's premier Court-watchers, including David Savage, Aaron Epstein, Tony Mauro, and Lyle Denniston.
- Kenneth Starr, First Among Equals: The Supreme Court in American Life (Warner Books, 2002)
Written in a non-technical style by this former clerk to Chief Justice Burger, former US Court of Appeals judge, former US Solicitor General, and former professor of constitutional law—who is best known for none of those jobs—this book profiles several major decisions of the Rehnquist Court and also focuses on the leadership role played by certain justices in devising rationales that command a majority of the court.
- John Paul Stevens, Five Chiefs: A Supreme Court Memoir (Little, Brown and Company, 2012)
“In Five Chiefs, Justice Stevens captures the inner workings of the Supreme Court via his personal experiences with the five Chief Justices—Fred Vinson, Earl Warren, Warren Burger, William Rehnquist, and John Roberts—that he interacted with. He reminisces of being a law clerk during Vinson's tenure; a practicing lawyer for Warren; a circuit judge and junior justice for Burger; a contemporary colleague of Rehnquist; and a colleague of current Chief Justice John Roberts. Along the way, he will discuss his views of some the most significant cases that have been decided by the Court from Vinson, who became Chief Justice in 1946 when Truman was President, to Roberts, who became Chief Justice in 2005.”
- John Paul Stevens, The Making of a Justice: Reflections on My First 94 Years (Little, Brown and Company, Coming May 14, 2019)
“When Justice John Paul Stevens retired from the Supreme Court of the United States in 2010, he left a legacy of service unequaled in the history of the Court. During his thirty-four-year tenure, Justice Stevens was a prolific writer, authoring in total more than 1000 opinions. In THE MAKING OF A JUSTICE, John Paul Stevens recounts the first ninety-four years of his extraordinary life, offering an intimate and illuminating account of his service on the nation's highest court.”
- Tinsley E. Tarborough, David Hackett Souter: Traditional Republican on the Rehnquist Court (Oxford University Press, 2005)
The is the first biography of Justice Souter and it includes information about his family background and pre-Court career, as well as interesting chapters on his confirmation process, Bush v. Gore, and the Casey decision.
- Evan Thomas, First: Sandra Day O’Connor (Random House, 2019)
“The intimate, inspiring, and authoritative biography of Sandra Day O’Connor, America’s first female Supreme Court justice, drawing on exclusive interviews and first-time access to Justice O’Connor’s archives.”
- Mel Urofsky, Dissent and the Supreme Court: Its Role in the Court's History and the Nation's Constitutional Dialogue (Vintage, 2015)
Historian and judicial authority Melvin Urofsky examines the great dissents throughout the Court’s long history.
- Lawrence Wrightsman, The Psychology of the Supreme Court (Oxford University Press, 2006)
Wrightsman examines how the court functions from a psychological perspective. His work focuses on how the Court makes its decisions in the context of how the justices interact with each other and with their clerks. The book is not overly technical in terms of psychological concepts and helps illuminate the Court and its operation for a lay audience. This book covers much of the terrain from the Supreme Court Summer Institute and is therefore useful as either preparation for or as a review of that program.
Interesting books about specific cases decided by the U.S. Supreme Court:
- Anthony Lewis, Gideon's Trumpet (Vintage Books, 1966)
- Richard Kluger, Simple Justice (Vintage Books, 1975) (The story of Brown v. Board of Education)
- James T. Patterson, Brown v. Board of Education: A Civil Rights Milestone and its Troubled Legacy (Oxford University Press, 2001)
- Brad Snyder, A Well-Paid Slave: Curt Flood's Fight for Free Agency in Professional Sports (Plume, 2007)