Focuses on Chief Justice John Marshall, who scored a coup for a previously impotent Supreme Court when he seized the power of judicial review in the case of Marbury v. Madison, and his ideological and political conflicts with Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson. Also briefly highlights the disastrous opinion in Dred Scott v. Sandford, in which Chief Justice Taney's court declared that African-Americans have no rights under the Constitution.
Justice Stephen Field fights alone to protect private contracts from government interference under the rubric of "liberty of contract" in the late 1800's. When the Court begins to side with Field after his death in the early 1900's, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes tries to roll back what he sees as judicial activism by the court until FDR ends the "liberty of contract" era by threatening to "pack" the Court with his supporters.
Tracks the Supreme Court's leading role in the civil rights era of the 1950's and 60's, with controversial Justice Hugo Black leading the way. The Court outlaws segregation beginning with Brown v. Board of Education, and protects criminal suspects' rights in Miranda v. Arizona.
The efforts of conservative presidents to roll back the civil rights decisions of the 1950's and 60's by appointing conservative justices accomplish little at first, with many appointees thought to be conservative siding with the liberal justices for decisions like Roe v. Wade. A stronger conservative presence emerges when William Rehnquist becomes Chief Justice and Antonin Scalia is appointed to replace Warren Burger. Yet even under Rehnquist, the Court does not overrule Roe v. Wade in Casey v. Planned Parenthood, and strengthens the constitutional status of Miranda ...