U.S. Supreme Court

New book by O'Connor is full of 'anodyne anecdotes and bar-association bromides,' reviewer says


Cover courtesy of Random House.

In a March 4 review, a New York Times critic saw some merit in retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s latest book, Out of Order: Stories from the History of the Supreme Court.

But a new review published last weekend by the newspaper’s Supreme Court journalist Adam Liptak wasn’t as kind. O’Connor “has delivered a disjointed collection of anodyne anecdotes and bar-association bromides about the history of the Supreme Court,” Liptak writes for the New York Times. “Out of Order is a gift shop bauble, and its title might as well refer to how disorganized and meandering it is.”

The prior Times review said the book provides a “succinct, snappy account” of the Supreme Court’s history. But Liptak sees “a very skimpy effort” in the “short and padded” book.

“O’Connor is fond of the stock phrase and profligate with the exclamation point,” Liptak says. “She will tell you the same story twice.”

At one point, O’Connor writes, the court works “in an atmosphere insulated as far as possible from political pressures.” Sixty pages later, she writes that the court works “in an atmosphere insulated, as far as possible, from political pressures.” Says Liptak: “Same phrase—but now with commas.”

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