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Monday, May 09, 2005

A Pivotal Justice Less Than Supremely Confident - New York Times: "

May 6, 2005

A Pivotal Justice Less Than Supremely Confident


Harry Blackmun's Supreme Court Journey.
By Linda Greenhouse.
Illustrated. 268 pp. Times Books/Henry Holt & Company. $25.

Linda Greenhouse, the Supreme Court correspondent for The New York Times, is widely respected not only for her scrupulous translations of complicated opinions and traditions but also for her care in avoiding gossip and preserving the justices' privacy. In her first book, 'Becoming Justice Blackmun,' she has produced something unexpected: one of the most intimate and revealing portraits of the relationship between two justices ever achieved.

Justice Harry A. Blackmun, who served on the court from 1970 to 1994, will always be remembered as the author of the most controversial decision of his era, Roe v. Wade. A compulsive list maker and organizer, he died in 1999 and left to the Library of Congress his vast collection of public and private papers: more than half a million items, ranging from childhood diaries to honeymoon receipts. The Blackmun family gave Ms. Greenhouse access to the papers two months before they were open to the public last year, resulting in a series of articles for The Times that inspired this book.
Based on her immersion in the Blackmun papers, Ms. Greenhouse offers a narrative that is often riveting in its raw glimpses of the insecurities and emotions of Justice Blackmun and his childhood friend, Chief Justice Warren E. Burger. Ms. Greenhouse is characteristically fair-minded in her determination to present Justice Blackmun, Chief Justice Burger and the other justices in context and in their own words. But the . . ."

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