Two centuries ago, Alexander Hamilton described the Supreme Court as "the least dangerous branch." That's no longer true, argues David A. Kaplan, former legal affairs editor of Newsweek, especially in the wake of Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement. Time and again, the justices arrogantly intervene simply because they can, subverting democracy in the process. It's not that they're rank partisans-it's that we've foolishly come to accept their dominion over American life. Whatever one thinks on this social issue or that-from abortion and gun control to campaign finance and voting rights-that's bad for the country.
The Court's ascendance does not only give too much authority to nine unelected, unaccountable justices. It enfeebles Congress, diminishes the value of politics, and corrupts confirmation hearings. Yet few question the Court's astonishing power. Kaplan does in THE MOST DANGEROUS BRANCH: Inside the Supreme Court's Assault on the Constitution, (Crown; on sale September 4, 2018), a richly reported narrative that will rile conservatives and liberals alike. Set to publish in the throes of the confirmation hearing, the book will be the most recent assessment of the current Court, and will include content on Justice Kennedy's retirement and what it means for the Court.
When Justice Antonin Scalia died in 2016, supporters on both sides of the aisle agreed the next justice could "reshape" American life "for a generation." Is that really what we want to invest in a single individual? In the Trump-Clinton presidential election, many voters said they made their choice based on who they thought would be nominated to the Court. THE MOST DANGEROUS BRANCH insists that is not how self-government is supposed to work.
The retirement of Justice Kennedy only raises the stakes. With his newest nominee, Trump can transform the Court into a conservative juggernaut that will reign supreme over national policy for decades. Year after year, Democrats and Republicans fight for control of the Court-as if it's just an electoral prize. But neither side bothers to ask if entrusting the Court with such vast power is wise. Combining behind-the-scenes interviews and keen analysis, THE MOST DANGEROUS BRANCH takes us deep inside the Court to learn who the justices really are. We find out what happened in the first Obamacare ruling and what John Roberts thinks about his conservative critics. We see Neil Gorsuch's discordant ways, Sonia Sotomayor's frustrations, Ruth Bader Ginsburg's celebrity, and Clarence Thomas's fury. We see the justices as more than distant deities.
At a key moment for the country, THE MOST DANGEROUS BRANCH challenges conventional wisdom about the Supreme Court's transcendent power.