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A Good Quarrel

America's Top Legal Reporters Share Stories from Inside the Supreme Court

Timothy R. Johnson and Jerry Goldman, Editors

Publication Year: 2009

Courtroom proceedings offer the thrill of a sporting event and the drama of a stage production as lawyers match wits, grill witnesses, and introduce eleventh-hour elements that may upend the course of a trial. The most decisive contests play out in the U.S. Supreme Court, where lawyers debate the meaning of the highest law—the Constitution—before the highest legal authorities—the nine justices. In A Good Quarrel, the nation's best court reporters discuss the most memorable cases of the past fifty years. These journalists not only recreate the key moments of the oral arguments, they analyze the attorneys' and justices' strategic use of rhetoric, logic, and emotional displays. In addition to a ringside account of each case, this volume provides web links to complete audio recordings of each oral argument and individual clips so that the reader can listen in on the debates that resolved a disputed presidential election, reconsidered women's rights, reassessed affirmative action, and decided many other pressing issues in the United States. Contributors: Charles Bierbauer Lyle Denniston Fred Graham Brent Kendall Steve Lash Richard Lazarus Dahlia Lithwick Tony Mauro Tim O'Brien David Savage Greg Stohr Nina Totenberg Timothy R. Johnson teaches in the political science department and the law school at the University of Minnesota. Jerry Goldman teaches political science at Northwestern University and directs the OYEZ Project, a multimedia archive devoted to the Supreme Court.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Front Matter

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pp. vii-x

An oral argument before the Supreme Court may well be the most fascinating, almost mystical, aspect of our nation’s lawmaking process. Private citizens cannot join the president and the cabinet in the White House when they debate urgent policy matters. Private citizens cannot appear in the well of Congress, admonishing lawmakers to pass needed legislation. ...


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pp. xi-xii

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pp. xiii-xvi

A Good Quarrel offers eleven firsthand accounts of arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court. While reading the following analyses of landmark Supreme Court cases, provided by some of the best court reporters in the nation, you—the reader—can listen to audio files of these same Supreme Court arguments in one of two ways. ...

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Introduction: The Role of Oral Arguments in the Supreme Court

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pp. 1-10

The federal government puts on many impressive displays in Washington, D.C. Every four years, the nation inaugurates a president, and hundreds of thousands of people attend various celebratory events. Once a year, Congress invites the president to give an appraisal of the state of the union in front of all senators and representatives, the cabinet, ...

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Elk Grove Uni‹ed School District v. Newdow: Ten Commandments of Oral Arguments

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pp. 11-19

Michael Newdow’s daughter attended public school in the Elk Grove Unified School District in California. Elk Grove teachers began school days by leading students in a voluntary recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, including the words under God, added by a 1954 congressional act. Newdow sued in federal district court in California, arguing that making students listen ...

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Forsyth County, Georgia v. the Nationalist Movement: A Workman-like Performance

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pp. 20-41

Forsyth County’s Ordinance 34 mandated that all persons seeking to engage in private demonstrations must obtain a permit. It also declared that participants in demonstrations should bear the cost of protection because such activities often go beyond the normal cost of law enforcement. Third, the ordinance required permit applicants to pay a fee up to one thousand dollars. ...

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Planned Parenthood of S.E. Pennsylvania v. Casey: The Rhetorical Battle over Roe

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pp. 42-60

The Pennsylvania legislature amended its abortion control law in 1988 and 1989. Among the new provisions, the law required informed consent and a twenty-four-hour waiting period prior to the procedure. A minor seeking an abortion required the consent of one parent, although the law included a procedure for judicial bypass. ...

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Bush v. Gore: Preparing for Oral Combat—the Fight for the Presidency

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pp. 61-73

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Bush v. Palm Beach County Canvassing Board (2000)1 and concurrent with Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore’s contest of the certification of Florida presidential election results, the Florida Supreme Court ordered on December 8, 2000, that the circuit court in Leon County tabulate by hand nine thousand contested ballots from Miami–Dade County. ...

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Glickman v. Wileman Brothers and Elliott Inc.: How Oral Arguments Led to a Lawsuit

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pp. 74-97

In 1937, Congress passed the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act (AMAA) to promote fair pricing and uniform marketing conditions in the agriculture business. Exempted from antitrust laws, the AMAA mandated uniform prices, product standards, and other conditions, all of which had to be approved by at least two-thirds of the affected producers and implemented by producer ...

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Grutter v. Bollinger: An Argument for the Ages

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pp. 98-109

In 1997, Barbara Grutter, a white resident of Michigan, applied for admission to the University of Michigan Law School. Grutter applied with a 3.8 undergraduate GPA and an LSAT score of 161. She was denied admission. The law school admits that it uses race as a factor in making admissions decisions because it serves a “compelling interest in achieving diversity among its student body.” ...

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Chandler v. Miller: Double Indemnity

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pp. 110-124

Under a Georgia statute, all candidates for elected state office must pass a urinalysis drug test within thirty days prior to qualifying for nomination or election. Walker Chandler, on behalf of several state office nominees from the Libertarian Party, challenged the statute’s constitutionality, naming Georgia’s governor (Zell D. Miller) and two other regulatory officials as defendants. ...

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Rapanos v. United States: Wading into the Wetlands

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pp. 125-144

John Rapanos sought to ‹ll in three wetland areas on his property to build a shopping center. Rapanos ignored warnings from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality that the area was protected wetlands under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The CWA allows the government to regulate the discharge of any pollutant (including dirt or sand) into “navigable waters,” ...

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Randall v. Sorrell: Arguing over Campaign Finance in Vermont

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pp. 145-157

In 1997, Vermont passed a campaign finance law, Act 64, that imposed strict limits both on expenditures by candidates for office during the election cycle and on the contributions of individuals, political groups, and parties. Neil Randall, a state legislator, sued Vermont attorney general William Sorrell, arguing that the limits unconstitutionally infringed ...

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UAAAIWA v. Johnson Controls Inc.: Fighting for Women’s Rights in the Workplace

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pp. 158-168

Johnson Controls Inc. manufactures batteries whose assembly process entails exposure to high levels of lead. After discovering that eight of its female employees had become pregnant while maintaining blood lead levels in excess of those thought safe by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), ...

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Time Inc. v. Hill: A Future President Makes His Case

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pp. 169-178

In 1952, three escaped convicts took James Hill, his wife, and their five children hostage in their Whitemarsh, Pennsylvania, home. After nineteen hours, the family was released unharmed. The convicts were later apprehended in a violent clash with police during which two of them were killed. In 1953, Joseph Hays published a novel based on the Hill family’s ordeal. ...

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pp. 179-180

This book could not have been written without the help of many people. Authors often thank their editors last. Here we do just the opposite. We give our warmest thanks to Jim Reische at the University of Michigan Press, because without his enthusiasm for our project, Michigan would not have taken it on, and without his unrelenting desire to see this project through, we would not have completed it. ...

Works Cited

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pp. 181-184


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pp. 185-188


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pp. 189-195

E-ISBN-13: 9780472022007
E-ISBN-10: 0472022008
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472033263
Print-ISBN-10: 0472033263

Page Count: 216
Publication Year: 2009

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • United States. Supreme Court -- History -- Sources.
  • Forensic orations -- United States.
  • Constitutional history -- United States -- Sources.
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