The Conscientious Justice

Are Supreme Court justices single-minded policy makers or an amalgamation of reputation, experience, and personality?

The Conscientious justice : how Supreme Court justices’ personalities influence the law, the high court, and the Constitution

by Ryan C. Black et al Cambridge, 2020
358p bibl index, 9781107168718 $110.00, 9781316731833 $88.00

To say that this work is comprehensive would be an understatement, because in fact it takes a very deep dive into conscientiousness and the justices of the US Supreme Court. The result is a tome that upsets traditional political scientific theories that justices are either single-minded policy makers or strategic thinkers using their positions to ensure their desired policy choices. Black (Michigan State Univ.) and his fellow authors, all scholars of government and political science, suggest that factors such as law, reputation, and personality affect the actions of the justices. The authors begin quite logically with a review of the evolution of political science scholarship on judicial behavior and then thoroughly discuss their methodological approach. In subsequent chapters they apply their approach to the concerns and actions of justices, for example selection of cases (agenda setting); legal briefs and oral arguments; opinion assignment, bargaining, and content; treatment of precedent; and so on. This pathbreaking book should be read by anyone interested in the workings of the Supreme Court and its justices.

Summing Up: Essential. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty; professionals.
Reviewer: M. W. Bowers, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Subject: Social & Behavioral Sciences – Political Science – U.S. Politics
Choice Issue: Dec 2020