Fresh Air looks at how political tides have shaped the history of America's highest court.
Listen as writers, journalists, and legal scholars look at the politics behind the selection and confirmation process, as well as the way that polarization has influenced the direction of the Supreme Court in recent decades. In this collection, you'll also hear from several present or former justices, including Sonia Sotomayor, Sandra Day O'Connor, and John Paul Stevens, who offer an inside look at how the Supreme Court makes decisions that define our democracy.
In 1937, frustrated by a conservative Supreme Court that struck down a series of his New Deal programs, President Franklin Roosevelt set about to reform the court — by expanding it and adding as many as six liberal justices. The controversial proposition is examined in writer Jeff Shesol's new book, Supreme Power: Franklin Roosevelt vs. the Supreme Court.
President Bush's three recent Supreme Court nominations reveal the complications and motives involved when politicians choose the nation's top judges, legal observers say. Political science professor David Yalof is an expert on the history and evolution of the Supreme Court nomination process.
The U.S. Senate begins debate today on confirmation of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court; and Senator Biden has called for hearings examining the confirmation process. Duke University Law Professor Walter Dellinger gives his critique of the confirmation process.
Legal correspondent for ABC News, Jan Crawford Greenberg writes about the Rehnquist Court in her new book Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States Supreme Court.
David Savage is the Supreme Court reporter for the Los Angeles Times. He's just written a book called "Turning Right: The Making of the Rehnquist Supreme Court," (John Wiley and Sons) about how the Supreme court turned conservative in the 80s, and what future decisions the court will make.
After the Civil War, the United States seemed poised to grant equal rights to blacks. But the Supreme Court's rulings in the late 19th century kept blacks segregated for decades, says constitutional scholar Lawrence Goldstone.
In a profile of Ginsburg for this week's New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin describes how the incremental philosophy of litigation that helped her win many precedent-setting women's rights cases as a lawyer is reflected in her career as a Supreme Court justice.
The Supreme Court justice tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross, "In every position that I've been in, there have been naysayers who don't believe I'm qualified or who don't believe I can do the work." She has committed herself to proving those people wrong.
Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, discusses her new book about the history of the court, and why she doesn't like the term "swing vote." O'Connor served for 24 years, retiring in 2006 to care for her ailing husband.
After 35 years as a Supreme Court justice, John Paul Stevens retired last year. His newly released memoir is about his time on the bench and the five Supreme Court chief justices he personally knew. He details his views of those justices and how his viewpoints on various issues evolved over the years.
In Making Our Democracy Work: A Judge's View, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer outlines his ideas about the Constitution and about the way the United States legal system works. Breyer explains how the justices debate each case on their docket, why he interprets the Constitution as a living document, and details what he thinks is the worst decision the high court has ever made.