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Supreme Disorder: Judicial Nominations and the Politics of America's Highest Court

By Ilya Shapiro
Regnery Gateway 2020 ISBN: 1684510562

A must-read for anyone interested in the Supreme Court.

Mike Lee, Republican senator from Utah

About the Book


Politics have always intruded on Supreme Court appointments. But although the Framers would recognize the way justices are nominated and confirmed today, something is different. Why have appointments to the high court become one of the most explosive features of our system of government?

As Ilya Shapiro makes clear in Supreme Disorder, this problem is part of a larger phenomenon. As government has grown, its laws reaching even further into our lives, the courts that interpret those laws have become enormously powerful. If we fight over each new appointment as though everything were at stake, it’s because it is.

When decades of constitutional corruption have left us subject to an all-powerful tribunal, passions are sure to flare on the infrequent occasions when the political system has an opportunity to shape it. And so we find the process of judicial appointments verging on dysfunction.

Shapiro weighs the many proposals for reform, from the modest (term limits) to the radical (court-packing), but shows that there can be no quick fix for a judicial system suffering a crisis of legitimacy. And in the end, the only measure of the Court’s legitimacy that matters is the extent to which it maintains, or rebalances, our constitutional order.


"Supreme Disorder is a strikingly original work by one of the country's sharpest legal minds on our manifestly broken judicial appointment process. Ilya doesn't just diagnose the problem and prescribe solutions; he offers a refreshingly balanced history of our nation's most august institution. A must read for anyone interested in the Supreme Court."
—MIKE LEE, Republican senator from Utah

"A remarkably concise, even-handed, highly accessible, well-researched, deftly written account of every Supreme Court nominee of every president from George Washington to today. An indispensable resource for understanding our constitutional history and how we got to where we are with judicial nominations. Anyone with any interest in constitutional law needs to read this book. I will be recommending it to my students.”
—RANDY E. BARNETT, professor, Georgetown University Law Center, and author of Our Republican Constitution: Securing the Liberty and Sovereignty of We the People

"With aging justices, the membership of the Supreme Court is certain to soon change, possibly along with its ideological balance-setting the stage for confirmation fights every bit as heated as our most recent ones. Ilya Shapiro has written the essential guide for these times, helping us understand how we got here and offering solutions for a better way. Mandatory reading now, and a comprehensive reference you will want to keep nearby to consult in real-time as the battles over the shape and future of our most prestigious institution unfold."
—JAN CRAWFORD, chief legal correspondent, CBS News, and author of Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States

"In this engaging and insightful history of the pitched battles over Supreme Court nominations since America's earliest days, Ilya Shapiro shows how the confirmation process went awry-and why only the Court itself, by checking the other branches and issuing rulings that will be perceived as legitimate, can fix it."
—ADAM WINKLER, law professor, UCLA, and member of the board of directors of the American Constitution Society and the Brennan Center for Justice

About the Author

Ilya Shapiro is a senior fellow and director of constitutional studies at the Manhattan Institute. Previously he was executive director and senior lecturer at the Georgetown Center for the Constitution, and before that a vice president of the Cato Institute, director of Cato’s Robert A. Levy Center for Constitutional Studies, and publisher of the Cato Supreme Court Review.