The Supreme Court
by Helena Silverstein
March 2021, 163pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Greenwood

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-7300-3
$40, £30, 35€, A55
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-7301-0
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

This book offers an accessible introduction to the United States Supreme Court, the most powerful and important court in the country.

This accessible guide to the U.S. Supreme Court explains the Court's history and authority, its structure and processes, its most important and enduring legal decisions, and its place in the U.S. political system.

A 2018 Pew Research Center poll found that while 78 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents believed that the Supreme Court should base its decisions on the “modern” meaning of the Constitution, 67 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents asserted that Justices should rely on the Constitution’s “original meaning.”

The Court often is the final arbiter of polarizing battles that originate in other branches of government. At the same time, however, its structural insulation from Congress, the Presidency, and electoral politics make the Supreme Court—at least in theory—well positioned to rise above the rough-and-tumble of politics.

This book examines the power of the Supreme Court in America’s system of democratic governance in several ways. These include: reviewing debates over whether justices should interpret the Constitution in line with its “original meaning” or in accordance with present-day understandings; exploring the processes and factors that shape how cases are chosen and decided; considering contentious battles over the selection of justices; and examining the impact of the Court on American culture and society.


  • Offers a primer on the U.S. Supreme Court, an intriguing, complicated, and often-controversial piece of the U.S. legal and political system
  • Identifies the sources of the Supreme Court's authority, the constraints to that authority, and ongoing debates about how the Court should exercise that authority
  • Highlights the uniqueness of the Supreme Court, an institution central to U.S. democracy but designed to be insulated from the public and a check against majority rule
  • Explores legal, political, and social factors that influence the Supreme Court and, in turn, how the Court shapes law, politics, and society
  • Covers key areas of Court decision-making, such as separation of powers between the President and Congress, civil rights (e.g., affirmative action and same-sex marriage), and civil liberties (e.g., freedom of speech and free exercise of religion)
  • Promotes literacy in the workings of democracy in the United States
Helena Silverstein, PhD, is professor and department head of government and law at Lafayette College. She is author of Girls on the Stand: How Courts Fail Pregnant Minors and Unleashing Rights: Law, Meaning, and the Animal Rights Movement and has published research in several journals including Law & Social Inquiry, Law & Policy, Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy, and Law and Inequality. From 2014 to 2016 she served as director of the law and social sciences program at the National Science Foundation. She received her PhD and MA in political science from the University of Washington.
By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts.
Accept All Cookies | Decline.