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SUPREME COURT HISTORY
Law, Power & Personality
Supreme Inspiration
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Seeking Insight In The Great Books
The Great Books
Where do the Supreme Court justices seek instruction and insight when preparing their decisions? We expect them to ground their arguments in legal precedent. Naturally, the Constitution serves as their guide, as do the Federalist Papers and the writings and sayings of the Founding Fathers: Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, and Benjamin Franklin. The Bible
Poetry
Greeks & Romans
Literature
The Great Books
Philosophy
Shakespeare
Scientists, Futurists & Economists
Observations of foreign visitors such as the much-quoted Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville offer an outside-looking-in perspective, while the writings of 17th-century British philosopher John Locke explore the rights of the individual and the social contract. Here, we examine some of the more fanciful muses of the justices. Works ranging from the satirical plays of Aristophanes to Lord Byron's "Don Juan" to the futuristic ruminations of George Orwell's 1984, offer a peek into the mind and personality of the Court, from its inception in 1790 to the present day. -- by Christine McKenna

INSTRUCTIONS: Click on a category to read how the justices use the texts when writing their decisions and dissents.

Photo of a Gavel
"How can my muse want subject to invent,
While thou dost breathe, that pour'st into my verse
Thine own sweet argument, too excellent
For every vulgar paper to rehearse?" — Shakespeare, Sonnet 38