"Mark Joseph Stern weaves a gripping account of a hugely important Supreme Court term. Stern's deft analysis, combined with the additional context he provides to all of the cases, tell us much about the court that has emerged since Brett Kavanaugh's polarizing confirmation hearings. American Justice 2019 informs readers about the future direction of the court, the kinds of cases that might lead the Chief Justice to break from his fellow conservatives, and other emerging fissures among the Justices. It's an illuminating book."—Leah Litman, University of Michigan Law SchoolFollowing the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy and the controversial confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court plunged into a contentious term that featured divisive cases involving abortion, immigration, capital punishment, and voting rights on the court's docket. In American Justice 2019, Mark Joseph Stern examines the term's most controversial opinions and highlights the consequences of Chief Justice John Roberts stepping into a new role as the court's swing vote.
"In incisive and accessible prose, Mark Joseph Stern guides readers through the rollercoaster that was the Supreme Court's October 2018 Term—from the turmoil surrounding the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Court's high-profile and controversial decisions on partisan gerrymandering and the 2020 Census. Though the term started with the spotlight on Kavanaugh, it ended with Chief Justice John Roberts taking center stage. As Stern's volume shows, although Roberts is no moderate, he has clearly emerged as the new median vote in most of the Court's hot-button, headline-grabbing cases. By Stern's persuasive reckoning, the 2018 Term revealed a Court seemingly on the brink of moving sharply to the right. But it also revealed a Chief Justice whose concerns about the Court's public perception and institutional legitimacy will figure prominently in the ultimate speed and intensity of such a shift. Stern tells a story from which anyone interested in the Supreme Court will benefit."—Stephen Vladeck, University of Texas at Austin School of Law
No longer bound by Kennedy's erratic moderation, Roberts has begun doling out victories to both Democrats and Republicans, albeit with a clear rightward tilt. Early in the term, Roberts delivered a public rebuke to Trump's attacks on the judiciary, foreshadowing his refusal to tolerate some of the president's most extreme contortions of the law. Stern tracks the chief justice's evolution from staunch conservative to part-time centrist. Along the way, he details the term's blockbusters and surprises, including an unlikely alliance between Justices Neil Gorsuch and Sonia Sotomayor on criminal justice, and an especially radical ruling on the death penalty that overturned decades of precedent. Stern's account depicts a court sharply divided over its role in American democracy, with the man at its center striving to stay above the political fray without abandoning his conservative instincts.
Mark Joseph Stern is a legal analyst and Supreme Court Correspondent for Slate magazine.