In particular, Feldman was fascinated by the court’s complete reversal from the early 1940s, when Japanese internment was upheld, to 1953, when segregation was overturned.
“Here you have just under 10 years apart, probably the most humiliating decision of the modern Supreme Court and the most inspiring, and the personnel is heavily overlapping,” he said.
Feldman describes each of those cases and many others in engaging detail, and he deserves credit for making a text that could have been a dry legal history into an emotional story of the interaction between people and the laws that govern them.
The author described one interview with a Harvard colleague, Andrew Kaufman, who had clerked for Frankfurter many years ago. As the two walked together, Kaufman described the way Frankfurter would grab the arm of the person he was speaking with. At that moment, Kaufman grabbed Feldman’s arm, giving the author a small insight into Frankfurter’s character and personality.
In addition, because of his range of professional experiences and interest in Constitutional law, Feldman felt he was able to build a connection with each of the justices as he wrote about them.
“When Frankfurter was a law professor, I could see it from his perspective, and when Jackson was in Nuremberg, I could make analogies to when I had been in Iraq,” said Feldman, who was an adviser to the authority developing Iraq’s new constitution. But he joked, “I had no analogy with Black because I had never been in the Senate or the Ku Klux Klan.”
During a 1951 case, Jackson wrote a particularly articulate opinion, and in Feldman’s words, “It transcended the politics of the moment to say something of lasting value.” In this era of the Supreme Court’s relative obscurity, the same goes for “Scorpions.”