Judicial Power in the Rehnquist Era
As frequent swing vote and centrist voice, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor helped shape many of the Supreme Court's landmark decisions and opinions under the leadership of William Rehnquist. Indeed, many argue that her overall impact and influence was greater than that of the Chief Justice himself.
Nancy Maveety now takes a closer look at what might justifiably be known as the O'Connor Court, in which the voices of individual justices came to the fore. She describes how policy leadership was subdivided among these eminent jurists in a way that fostered an individualist conception of judicial power. And she explains how this distribution of power contributed to a proliferation of concurring opinions—and, in polarizing issues like Planned Parenthood v. Casey or the Michigan affirmative action cases, decisions that sidestepped precedent-setting principles.
“An excellent, timely, well-researched, and elegantly written book.”
“A thoughtful and illuminating book; and it accomplishes what it set out to do, exploring the ways in which the Rehnquist Court—and its most famous swing justice—shaped the Court’s internal norms of judicial behavior. Maveety has identified important changes in the Court’s norms and practices, thoughtfully challenged the claim that OConnor represents a judicial ‘gold standard,’ and illuminated from a new perspective the fundamental jurisprudential problem that lies at the heart of modern American constitutionalism.”
—Reviews in American HistorySee all reviews...
“A consistently smart commentary on O’Connor and Rehnquist’s judicial legacy.”
—Journal of American History
“Maveety has accomplished no easy task in this book. Using the tools of social science, she manages to assess the dynamics of judicial decision making in a fashion that is both eminently readable and easy to follow.”
“This book offers much of value and I highly recommend it. It will draw the attention of those interested in the Rehnquist Court era; decisional practices involving opinion writing, coalition building, and policy leadership; and the impact of Rehnquist-era developments for constitutional doctrine, judicial scholarship, and the Court itself. It is an interesting and thoughtful book. . . . Thought-provoking and makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of the Rehnquist Court and the growth of dissensus and separate opinion-writing over the last two decades. It also offers a fine example for scholars to follow in assessing judicial behavioral change through doctrinal analysis, empirical assessment, institutional development, and normative evaluation.”
—Law and Politics Book Review
“An excellent and incisive account of how Sandra Day O’Connor became the least predictable and most influential judge on the Rehnquist Court.”
—Judith A. Baer, author of Our Lives before the Law
“Makes a convincing case that ‘rule-of-thumb pragmatism’ was the defining feature of the Rehnquist Court.”
—Thomas M. Keck, author of The Most Activist Supreme Court in History
“A major work that for many years will shape the way we understand the decision making of the modern Supreme Court.”
—Mark Silverstein, author of Judicious ChoicesSee fewer reviews...
Maveety's book is the first to look beyond the conventional wisdom that O'Connor's centrism gave her de facto control over a court notorious for its disunity, providing instead a more precise and systematic analysis of her influence. Maveety seeks not only to assign a definitive meaning to "the Rehnquist Court" but also to identify its historical importance for the constitutional order and the conception of judicial power within it—situating O'Connor squarely at its center.
Maveety describes the attributes that distinguish this Court from its predecessors and suggests how O'Connor's five years on the Burger Court foreshadowed her emergence as an accommodationist. Then, as the Court became more polarized under Rehnquist, there evolved the individualized behavior and rule-of-thumb jurisprudence that came to characterize O'Connor's decision making. What resulted were carefully circumscribed decisions like Bush v. Gore or Hamdi v. Rumsfeld that provide fewer precedents for lower courts.
Queen's Court ultimately reveals that the importance of the Rehnquist years extends from the substance of constitutional law to the institutional operation of Court decision-making—and that O'Connor was vital to those changes.