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’The Most Dangerous Branch’ looks at the Supreme Court

“The Most Dangerous Branch: Inside the Supreme Court’s Assault on the Constitution” (Crown), by David A. Kaplan

If Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings have inspired you to dig deeper into the intricacies of the nation’s highest court, look no further than a new book devoted to the subject.

David A. Kaplan’s “The Most Dangerous Branch: Inside the Supreme Court’s Assault on the Constitution” couldn’t be better.

As an ideal, the Supreme Court aims to be above the political fray. But nine humans comprise the bench and therefore objectivity remains an aspiration. Justices are liberal or conservative and mostly vote aligned the same way.

The politicization of the court as we know it, Kaplan writes, stems from Justice Antonin Scalia’s 2016 death at the Cibolo Creek Ranch in West Texas, a lavish resort popular among elite hunters. Kaplan opens the book with Scalia’s final moments at the resort.

What followed is a narrative still playing out in the national headlines: the Republican Party blocked President Barack Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland from a court hearing, holding the seat open for the last 11 months of Obama’s term. Donald Trump wins the presidency and picks conservative Neil Gorsuch for Scalia’s spot. Now, Anthony Kennedy’s resignation gave Trump a shot at filling another seat and replacing the lone swing vote on the court.

“Judicial activism is what the other guy does,” Kaplan writes. “But in truth, everybody’s an activist now.”

Kaplan writes in an engaging fashion throughout this detailed book.

Other highlights include some gossipy, behind-the-scenes tidbits on the justices. For example, John Roberts doesn’t allow photos from behind, which might show his bald spot. Roberts doesn’t want too many tall people to stand next to him in photographs.

Another example: Justice Elena Kagan, former dean of Harvard Law School, is supposedly the toughest justice to work with and has been described by some as a “yeller.”

Kaplan touches on Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s rise to cultural phenomenon.

“She started writing more aggressively, in defense of freedoms she thought were being jeopardized by the Court’s conservative majority,” Kaplan writes. In 2013, a law student created a Notorious R.B.G. Tumblr online. She’s the only justice known by her initials, and the Ruth Bader Ginsburg bobblehead doll is the hardest to find on the resale market, according to the book.