Cal. Litig. 2018, Volume 31 Number 2

Book Review – The Judge: 26 Machiavellian Lessons By Ronald K.L. Collins & David M. Skover

Reviewed By Lawrence LaPorte

Immediately after President Donald Trump’s July 9, 2018, nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to be an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court, millions of dollars of television advertising began to run in swing states across the nation in an attempt to sway public support—and by extension vulnerable senators up for re-election—for or against the nominee. According to both political parties, the stakes are high, as the next Justice will replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, the current "swing vote" on the Court. Presaging a potential raucous political battle, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer promised to "oppose Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination with everything I have." The confirmation hearings before the Judiciary Committee and sunsequent Senate vote could quickly become the most politically polarizing since the 1987 Robert Bork hearings. The current political theater could easily, if not inevitably, devolve into an all-out circus, as the confirmation hearings are scheduled to occur in September, before the November midterm elections.

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While committee hearings are nominally designed to discern a nominee’s judicial philosophy as it relates to important legal issues, there are no doubt committee members, especially those up for re-election, who will find it difficult to stay focused on mundane issues like the role of stare decisis. The opportunity to score points on political issues that spill over into the federal courts may prove too enticing. But Kavanaugh’s testimony will no doubt provide some indication of how he would likely vote on the important legal issues of our time. For citizens and senators alike seeking to divine how the nominee may decide future cases, one recent book, The Judge, 26 Machiavellian Lessons, is insightful and informs the reader, perhaps more deeply than any other source, on how a future Justice Kavanaugh might vote on key cases and therefore tilt the balance of the current Supreme Court.

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