The Supreme Court

Greenwood. (Student Guides to American Government and Politics). Mar. 2021. 163p. ISBN 9781440873003. $40. REF
The inaugural volume of this series is a concise, authoritative primer on the U.S. Supreme Court. Silverstein (government and law, Lafayette Coll.; Unleashing Rights) clarifies, without simplifying, the court’s complex situation, evolution, and impact. Seven coherently scaffolded chapters cover judicial review, multiple theories of constitutional interpretation, court structures and procedures, the selection of justices, factors that affect SCOTUS decision-making, the court’s relations with media and the public, and (in a key chapter) the impact of decisions. Silverstein concludes by mulling the future; readers should note that the book went to print before the 2020 election and the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, so Justice Amy Coney Barrett isn’t covered, but the author does consider the court’s “conservative shift.” A chronology (1787–2019), a bibliography, and an index assist researchers. Among the work’s most valuable features is an introduction outlining the history of the institution and the development of its powers and place in government, through key chief justices, cases, and reversals. Silverstein’s evenhanded and well-grounded exposition of controversies and differing viewpoints is admirable. Specific case examples, well-chosen quotations, succinct chapter conclusions, and relevant scholarly references explain the nature, scope, and import of the court’s functions. It’s regrettable that the book doesn’t analyze the implications of the so-called “shadow docket” that’s increasingly important in the court’s ideological battles.
VERDICT Silverstein’s insightful, thorough, well-organized, lucidly expressed guide to both basic and abstruse aspects of the court will be essential for students of U.S. history and government.
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