American Original: The Life and Constitution of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia by Joan Biskupic
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
When I first started reading American Original, I hadn't really realized that it was written prior to Scalia's death. I had expected a biography of the man, which it is in part. What Biskupic really focuses on is Scalia's theory of Originalism; that is, interpreting the law the way the constitution was written. Each chapter focuses on a different topic and the cases about them such as civil, human, and women's rights, the Bush v. Gore election, religion, and cases where the justices should recuse themselves from certain cases. Biskupic's aim is to show that Scalia played the originalism card when it suited him. For the most part, he did follow his own theory. What did come across in the book is that Scalia was a likable person, whether or not you agreed with his politics and rulings. That is evident in the way he spoke and captivated his audience, and his strong friendships with people on both sides of the political coin. Although he stayed far to the right on his politics, he had a strong bond and friendship with Ruth Bader Ginsberg, his almost polar opposite on the bench.
Where the book was interesting and I learned a lot about Scalia, it didn't wow me. I did like how each chapter focused on the cases around noted topics, but I didn't feel the author was driving a particular point, other than "this is Scalia, he's an originalist, and this is how he ruled, and oh, by the way, he was a "character". I am curious, now, about his later years, just prior to and including his death. All in all, if you are interested in Scalia and his decisions in cases, it's worth reading. It is well written but it is not a page turner.
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