Men in Black by Mark R. Levin

July 30, 2009

men-in-black Summary: Conservative talk show host and lawyer Mark R. Levin published Men in Black in 2005. The subtitle of the book is: How the Supreme Court is Destroying America, and that’s pretty much what Levin sets out to prove throughout the piece.

He begins by introducing a number of the worst justices ever, including men who were insane, senile, incompetent, womanizers, and inveterate gamblers, and then goes on to denounce the fact that these unelected officials are in no way, shape, or form accountable for their actions after they’ve been appointed.

Next, Levin talks about a number of Supreme Court decisions that he considers the absolute worst of the worst. These include Roe v. Wade (legalized abortion); Plessy v. Ferguson (“separate but equal” accommodations for blacks and whites); Dred Scott v. Sanford (slaves, as non-citizens, had no standing to file suit and slaves were property); University of California Regents v. Bakke (allowed for reverse discrimination in college admissions decisions); and Bush v. Gore (on the basis that the Court should never have gotten involved in the election process in the first place). There were a whole host of others, but these are the ones I remember off the top of my head.

In addition to these terrible decisions, Levin asserts that the real danger the Supreme Court poses to America is the incessant “power grab” that the institution seems to be involved in. Levin says that the Court is inserting itself into legislative and political processes that it has no business getting involved in, and that there is no longer any limit on the Court’s reach or power. Forget about checks and balances. None exist when it comes to the Supreme Court. Constitutional amendments to override a Supreme Court decision are rare, and impeachments are even rarer. And, as mentioned above, there’s no accountability once justices are confirmed to the bench.

Finally, Levin also talks about the justices themselves, and how most of them make rulings based on their political leanings rather than interpretation of the Constitution *cough* Ruth Bader Ginsberg *cough*. This of course was not how the Founding Fathers envisioned the Court’s role, and Levin thinks we need to seriously overhaul the way the judiciary works.

Liked:

  • I liked the way Levin clearly explained his various arguments against the Court. As a lawyer, I’m sure he could have used confusing terms and a bunch of legalese, but I was surprisingly able to follow what he was saying most of the time.
  • I think Levin makes a number of valid points regarding the Court. Isn’t it amazing how many cases make their way to the Supreme Court these days? Issues that should be decided at the ballot box (gay marriage, abortion) are no longer done so because the Court agrees to hear cases for the losing party. How many times does Proposition 8 have to be defeated in California before the law sticks? Well, a lot, because the losing group will just appeal to the Supreme Court on one technicality or another. This is not what the Court is supposed to do.
  • I also agreed with Levin’s distaste for judges who clearly vote according to personal beliefs instead of adhering to the letter of the law and the original intent of the framers of the Constitution. This is a real problem — one that will get even bigger once Sotomayor is confirmed.

Disliked:

  • Maybe this wasn’t the appropriate medium (since the book was, after all, called How the Supreme Court is Destroying America), but I would have liked to get an idea of which decisions Levin thinks are the best the Court has made. This would have provided a nice balance and given me a way to contrast what separates a good decision from a bad one.
  • Obviously, the problems with the Supreme Court can’t be as simplistic as Levin makes it sound, and I didn’t agree with absolutely everything he said. Sometimes the Court does have to step in to prevent injustice, so it would have been good for him to admit this and give examples.

Rating:

Men in Black: How the Supreme Court is Destroying America by Mark R. Levin was a surprisingly interesting read. I admit that I haven’t been paying much attention to what’s been happening with the Court recently, but having read this book, I’m definitely going to be reading the Court’s decisions much more closely. Is all the real political power in America concentrated in these 9 justices? Read the book for yourself and decide! I give it 4 stars out of 5.

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