A New York Times Notable Book
From 1970 to 1994, Justice Harry A. Blackmun (1908-1999) wrote numerous landmark Supreme Court decisions, including Roe vs. Wade, and participated in the most contentious debates of his era—all behind closed doors. In Becoming Justice Blackmun, Linda Greenhouse of The New York Times draws back the curtain on America's most private branch of government and reveals the backstage story of the Supreme Court through the eyes and writing of this extraordinary justice.
Greenhouse was the first print reporter to have access to Harry Blackmun's extensive archive and private and public papers, and from this trove she has crafted a compelling narrative of Blackmun's life and of his years on the Court, showing how he never lost sight of the human beings behind the legal cases and how he was not afraid to question his own views in such controversial issues as abortion, affirmative action, the death penalty, and sex discrimination. She shows us the Court as a human institution, where nine very smart and very opinionated lawyers seek to make decisions and bring others around to their point of view, especially during Blackmun's twenty-four years on the bench, as the justices repeatedly tussled with one another over the contentious cases—the Pentagon Papers, Roe v. Wade, the Nixon tapes, Bakke v. Regents of the University of California, Planned Parenthood v. Casey—that came their way. And most affectingly of all, Greenhouse recounts the story of how Harry Blackmun's lifelong friendship with Chief Justice Warren E. Burger withered in the crucible of life on the high court, revealing how political differences became personal, even for the country's most respected jurists.
Becoming Justice Blackmun, written by America's preeminent Supreme Court reporter, offers a rare and wonderfully vivid portrait of the nation's highest court, including insights into many of the current justices. It is a must-read for everyone who cares about the Court and its impact on our lives.