Learning about the Supreme Court

Barry Friedman, "Online Alexander Bickel Symposium," SCOTUSblog (August 20, 2012).


What enduring value does Alexander Bickel’s now-classic The Least Dangerous Branch have today? In what ways does it or should it speak to us? One is tempted to answer: Virtually not at all. The Least Dangerous Branch was a profoundly conflicted book at the time it was written, and by the end of his career Bickel himself had disowned its core argument. That answer would be a touch too hasty, however. There is one part of Bickel’s overarching thesis that gets little attention today, yet holds the key to “understanding” the Supreme Court – or at least beginning to understand it.