THE U.S. SUPREME COURT convened for the first time in 1790. Since then, various plaintiffs and defendants in the United States have tested the boundaries of law--and society. The following scholars recommend the best fiction and nonfiction books on landmark court cases.
Kevin Boyle HISTORIAN
Kevin Boyle teaches American history at Ohio State. His most recent book, Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age (**** Nov/Dec 2004) received the 2004 National Book Award for Nonfiction. It was also a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize in history.
STORIES OF SCOTTSBORO By James E. Goodman (1994)
Goodman's kaleidoscopic examination of the infamous Scottsboro case--nine young African Americans accused of rape in 1930s Alabama--is at once a literary tour de force and a reminder of racism's fierce power. In a series of brief, brilliantly conceived chapters, Goodman explores the case from the perspectives of the accusers, the judge, the prosecutor, the defense attorneys, and a variety of politicians and activists. But it's the terrifying story of the Scottsboro boys themselves, the youngest all of 13 years old, that's truly haunting.
The History of Brown v. Board of Education and Black America's Struggle for Equality By Richard Kluger (1975)
If Stories of Scottsboro captures the horrors of racial injustice, Simple Justice stands as a testament of hope. A riveting recreation of the Supreme Court case that shattered segregation's legal foundation, Simple Justice carries readers from the battered black schools of the Jim Crow South, where Brown began, to the marble halls of the Supreme Court, where the case's resolution changed the course of the nation.
A CIVIL ACTION By Jonathan Harr (1995)
Harr is one of the finest nonfiction writers working today, and A Civil Action is his masterwork. The civil suit that eight Massachusetts families brought against W. R. Grace and Beatrice Foods may not be a legal landmark. But in Harr's hands it comes to symbolize the profound imperfections and possibilities of the American legal system.
Roy Mersky PROFESSOR OF LAW
Roy M. Mersky is Harry Reasoner Regents Chair in Law and director of the Tarlton Law Library at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law. He is the author of numerous books and is currently working on a three-volume work summarizing significant decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court. This work will be an expansion of his earlier book, Landmark Cases of the...