Published by Random House on March 5, 2013
Genres/Lists: Non-Fiction, Political
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There’s no argument that the Supreme Court is a vital American institution. It serves as the third branch of government and keeps the others in check. But for the most part, it is pretty boring. Most people don’t pay much attention to the goings-on of the Court unless they are hearing arguments about a major social policy, such as gay marriage or abortion. I admit, I’m one of these people. Even though I love the law and politics and public policy, I don’t follow the Supreme Court as diligently as I should. But that may change now that I’ve read Sandra Day O’Connor’s book about her experiences on the bench.
The first female Supreme Court Justice, O’Connor served for 25 years. But unlike most ‘memoirs’ this one is less about O’Connor than about the history of the Supreme Court. When I first started reading, I was expecting her life story – her upbringing, the obstacles she overcame, and her thoughts about her life – so I was a caught off guard when it read more like a history book. But once I readjusted my frame of mind, I loved it.
From the early days to the current system we have in place, O’Connor gives the reader a broad overview of how the Supreme Court arrived at its current destination. She talks about some of the most important justices (beloved like Holmes and hated like McReynolds, whose funeral was not attended by any Justices because he was so horribly racist). She also discusses, at length, the early practice of circuit-riding, when Supreme Court Justices traveled the country to preside over the lower courts (something that maybe some of the current Justices should do in an effort to see all sides of society…)
Filled with fun facts and personal anecdotes, Out of Order is a pleasant and informative read. I recommend it for anyone who has a slight interest in the courts or our government because, despite its history lessons, it’s written informally and is much more enjoyable. I will definitely be whipping out some of these fun facts over the next few years.