The Great Justices, 1941-54

Black, Douglas, Frankfurter, and Jackson in Chambers
William Domnarski
An illuminating look at how the egos and ambitions of four celebrated Supreme Court justices affected their thinking on issues that still resonate today


The Great Justices offers a revealing glimpse of a judicial universe in which titanic egos often clash, and comes as close as any book ever has to getting inside the minds of Supreme Court jurists.

This is rare and little-examined territory: in the public consciousness the Supreme Court is usually seen as an establishment whose main actors, the justices, remain above emotion, vitriol, and gossip, the better to interpret our nation of laws. Yet the Court's work is always an interchange of ideas and individuals, and the men and women who make up the Court, despite or because of their best intentions, are as human as the rest of us. Appreciating that human dimension helps us to discover some of the Court's secrets, and a new way to understand the Court and its role.

Comparing four brilliant but very different jurists of the Roosevelt Court—Hugo Black, William O. Douglas, Felix Frankfurter, and Robert Jackson— William Domnarski paints a startling picture of the often deeply ambiguous relationship between ideas and reality, between the law and the justices who interpret and create it. By pulling aside the veil of decorous tradition, Domnarski brings to light the personalities that shaped one of the greatest Courts of our time—one whose decisions continue to affect judicial thinking today.

William Domnarski is the author of In the Opinion of the Court (1996), a study of the history and nature of federal court judicial opinions. He holds a J.D. from the University of Connecticut and a Ph.D. in English from the University of California. Domnarski currently practices law in California, where he is also working on a forthcoming biography of legendary Hollywood lawyer Bert Fields.

Praise / Awards

  • "Pithy, provocative profiles of giants whose memorable personalities burst through the written page. Would that their kind come again."
    —Roger Newman, Columbia University

  • "A stimulating, fascinating look at a timely topic. A must-read for anyone who cares about the Supreme Court and its history."
    —Susan Estrich, University of Southern California Law School

  • "By pulling aside the veil of decorous tradition, Domnarski brings to light the personalities that shaped one of the greatest courts of our time--one whose decisions continue to affect judicial thinking today."
    Detroit Legal News

  • "In a timely book, Domnarski examines how four men appointed to the Supreme Court by Franklin D. Roosevelt worked through their personal battles and Constitutional issues. It offers insight into why court appointments remain a political minefield today."
    —Kenneth Best, UConn Traditions

  • ". . . in addition to his frank appraisals of Black, Douglas, Frankfurter, and Jackson, Domnarski has presented an informative and well-researched book about an important period in the nation's history."
    Federal Lawyer

  • "This book's basic idea is that a public figure's genuine personality is the one expressed in private. The author applies to this idea to four famous justices in American constitutional history: Hugo L. Black, Felix Frankfurter, William O. Douglas, and Robert Jackson. Domnarski illustrates the 'private personalities' with evidence such as interviews, oral histories, and select secondary works."
    —Tony A. Freyer, The American Journal of Legal History

Look Inside

Copyright © 2006, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 224pp.
  • 8 Tables.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2006
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11536-5

Add to Cart
  • $49.95 U.S.

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