Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
May 20, 2005
LAW: Blackmun's Arguments

From a review of Linda Greenhouse's new book on Harry Blackmun:

Blackmun's legacy as a justice is uncertain at best. Although one would not know it from Greenhouse's book, he possessed neither the persuasive skills of a William Brennan nor the analytical skills of a John Paul Stevens. (Full disclosure: I clerked for Stevens.) Such skills are necessary to have a far-reaching impact on the court. Of course, every justice possesses significant power with his or her vote. But Blackmun lacked the additional firepower to forge an influential jurisprudence, one that would reach beyond the power of his vote. Greenhouse never tackles this question or offers her readers the tools for making or disputing such a judgment.

I think that's right, and of course it was never more in evidence than in the sloppy, poorly-reasoned and intellectually dishonest opinion in Roe v. Wade that defined Blackmun's career. There's simply nothing in the man's career to suggest that he was particularly smart.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:10 AM | Law 2005 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

One of the things that I find interesting is that Blackmun, at the time of his nomination, was perceived as a "strict constructionist."

Posted by: Gerry at May 20, 2005 10:17 AM

Blackmun was the original Souter, although at least Souter is a sharp guy. Nixon picked him after his first two choices were defeated, a huge triumph for the Democrats, although they denounced him at the time. Part of Greenhouse's book is, I gather, an effort to trace - as Bob Woodward did in The Brethren - Blackmun's journey from weak-minded moderate to strident liberal. That's a key part of the current battle and why conservatives want judges who have a clear philosophical framework; they're less likely to switch sides once confirmed. Blackmun's conservative instincts dried up and blew away like leaves in the wind against the pressures of liberal Washington.

Posted by: The Crank at May 20, 2005 10:34 AM
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