We took time out this past weekend to peruse the book section of the Sunday New York Times, and in the process came across a doozy in the form of Adam Liptak’s review of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s new book Out of Order. Wow!
Adam Liptak, as you may recall, is the NY Times SCOTUS reporter and Justice O’connor is the lady who wrote the ferociously pro-government opinion in Hawaii Housing Authority v. Midkiff, leaving virtually nothing of the “public use” limitation on the eminent domain power to take private property. She is also the lady who wrote the ferociously pro-property-owner dissenting opinion in Kelo v. New London, contradicting almost everything she had to say in Midkiff, without disavowing it. Oh well, as the Italians say, La donna e mobile.
Anyway, Mr. Liptak doesn’t think much of Justice O’Connor’s exertions as an author, and slams her book good and proper. See Adam Liptak, Summary Judgment, N.Y. Times Book Review, March 31, 2013, at p. 8. Click here. We could go on, but let’s let Mr. Liptak give you the essence of his book review in his own words:
“[O’Connor] has a lot to say. But . . . she is not saying it here. Instead, she has delivered a disjointed collection of anodyne anecdotes and bar-association bromides about the history of the Supreme Court. ‘Out of Order’ is a gift shop bauble, and its title might as well refer to how disorganized and meandering it is.”
Anything else? You bet. Liptak concludes:
“The larger problem is not that Justice O’Connor’s little sketches and lessons are wrong. Quite the contrary. The problem is that they are empty. She writes correctly that ‘the court’s only weapon is moral authority.’ But she refuses to give this and similar sentiments substance.”
Well, we don’t know about that last sentiment as applied here, because — though Liptak fails to deal with it — the Supreme Court’s biggest pratfall in modern times (as acknowledged by such diverse personages as Justices Stevens and Scalia) is Kelo v. New London which — surprise, surprise — is not even mentioned by Liptak. It seems to us that when the Supreme Court hands down a 5 to 4 decision that is despised by some 90% of the population, and the redevelopment project which it approved as examplary of “good planning” is a total and complete failure (after wasting some $100 million in public funds), it behooves their Lordships to take another look at it in an effort to ascertain whether it possesses that “moral authority” that according to Liptak (and to Justice O’Connor) lies at the heart of public respect for judicial handiwork, and presumably enables courts to speak with authority.
At least Justice O’Connor was on the morally and civically right side of that issue in the Kelo debacle. The New York Times, on the other hand, was on the wrong side, and we have no reason to believe that Liptak ever deviated from the Times’ editorially embraced but morally deformed “party line.”