The Will of the People

The Will of the People

How Public Opinion Has Influenced the Supreme Court and Shaped the Meaning of the Consitution

Book - 2009
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Baker & Taylor
An account of the relationship between the public and the Supreme Court challenges complaints about the legitimacy of an appointed judicial authority, citing historical precedents that demonstrate how and why the rulings of justices have not overly strayed from public opinion. 15,000 first printing.

McMillan Palgrave

In recent years, the justices of the Supreme Court have ruled definitively on such issues as abortion, school prayer, and military tribunals in the war on terror. They decided one of American history’s most contested presidential elections. Yet for all their power, the justices never face election and hold their offices for life. This combination of influence and apparent unaccountability has led many to complain that there is something illegitimate—even undemocratic—about judicial authority.

In The Will of the People, Barry Friedman challenges that claim by showing that the Court has always been subject to a higher power: the American public. Judicial positions have been abolished, the justices’ jurisdiction has been stripped, the Court has been packed, and unpopular decisions have been defied. For at least the past sixty years, the justices have made sure that their decisions do not stray too far from public opinion.

Friedman’s pathbreaking account of the relationship between popular opinion and the Supreme Court—from the Declaration of Independence to the end of the Rehnquist court in 2005—details how the American people came to accept their most controversial institution and shaped the meaning of the Constitution.

Book News
Conventional thinking, whether conservative or liberal, is that Supreme Court justices are beyond the influence of the will of "The People" and are therefore subject to unchecked and sometimes abusive power. In both scholarly and entertaining prose, Friedman, a legal scholar at the New York University School of Law, refutes this notion. Providing an historical analysis covering the history of the US up through the Rehnquist Court of 2005, Friedman contends that the Court is highly influenced by popular opinion. Two hundred pages of detailed notes supplement the narrative of the book, making this an ideal read for both the interested citizen and the serious researcher. Annotation ©2010 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

& Taylor

Examines the relationship between the public and the Supreme Court, challenging complaints about the legitimacy of appointed judges and citing historical precedents showing that justices have not overly strayed from public opinion.

Publisher: New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780374220341
Branch Call Number: 347.7312 FRIED
Characteristics: 614 pages ; 24 cm


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