Out of Order by Sandra Day O'Connor

Out of Order

By Sandra Day O'Connor

  • Release Date: 2013-03-05
  • Genre: Law
Score: 3
From 24 Ratings
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“I called this book Out of Order because it reflects my goal, which is to share a different side of the Supreme Court. Most people know the Court only as it exists between bangs of the gavel, when the Court comes to order to hear arguments or give opinions. But the stories of the Court and the Justices that come from the ‘out of order’ moments add to the richness of the Court as both a branch of our government and a human institution.”—Justice Sandra Day O’Connor

From Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to sit on the United States Supreme Court, comes this fascinating book about the history and evolution of the highest court in the land.
Out of Order sheds light on the centuries of change and upheaval that transformed the Supreme Court from its uncertain beginnings into the remarkable institution that thrives and endures today. From the early days of circuit-riding, when justices who also served as trial judges traveled thousands of miles per year on horseback to hear cases, to the changes in civil rights ushered in by Earl Warren and Thurgood Marshall; from foundational decisions such as Marbury v. Madison to modern-day cases such as Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, Justice O’Connor weaves together stories and lessons from the history of the Court, charting turning points and pivotal moments that have helped define our nation’s progress.
With unparalleled insight and her unique perspective as a history-making figure, Justice O’Connor takes us on a personal exploration, painting vivid pictures of Justices in history, including Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., one of the greatest jurists of all time; Thurgood Marshall, whose understated and succinct style would come to transform oral argument; William O. Douglas, called “The Lone Ranger” because of his impassioned and frequent dissents; and John Roberts, whom Justice O’Connor considers to be the finest practitioner of oral argument she has ever witnessed in Court. We get a rare glimpse into the Supreme Court’s inner workings: how cases are chosen for hearing; the personal relationships that exist among the Justices; and the customs and traditions, both public and private, that bind one generation of jurists to the next—from the seating arrangements at Court lunches to the fiercely competitive basketball games played in the Court Building’s top-floor gymnasium, the so-called “highest court in the land.”
Wise, candid, and assured, Out of Order is a rich offering of inspiring stories of one of our country’s most important institutions, from one of our country’s most respected pioneers.

Praise for Out of Order
“[A] succinct, snappy account of how today’s court—so powerful, so controversial and so frequently dissected by the media—evolved from such startlingly humble and uncertain beginnings.”The New York Times
“A brief and accessible history of the nation’s highest court, narrated by a true historical figure and a jurisprudential giant.”—The Boston Globe
“A vibrantly personal book [that] displays O’Connor’s uncommon common sense, her dry wit and her reverence for the nation’s institutions.”Richmond Times-Dispatch
“Full of riveting anecdotes . . . a compact history . . . albeit a more lighthearted, personality-filled one than you might find in a high school classroom.”—Associated Press

From the Hardcover edition.


  • Great for History Fans

    By mzspaztastic
    There’s no argument that the Supreme Court is a vital American institution. It serves as the third branch of government and keeps the others in check. But for the most part, it is pretty boring. Most people don’t pay much attention to the goings-on of the Court unless they are hearing arguments about a major social policy, such as gay marriage or abortion. I admit, I’m one of these people. Even though I love the law and politics and public policy, I don’t follow the Supreme Court as diligently as I should. But that may change now that I’ve read Sandra Day O’Connor’s book about her experiences on the bench. The first female Supreme Court Justice, O’Connor served for 25 years. But unlike most ‘memoirs’ this one is less about O’Connor than about the history of the Supreme Court. When I first started reading, I was expecting her life story – her upbringing, the obstacles she overcame, and her thoughts about her life – so I was a caught off guard when it read more like a history book. But once I readjusted my frame of mind, I loved it. 

From the early days to the current system we have in place, O’Connor gives the reader a broad overview of how the Supreme Court arrived at its current destination. She talks about some of the most important justices (beloved like Holmes and hated like McReynolds, whose funeral was not attended by any Justices because he was so horribly racist). She also discusses, at length, the early practice of circuit-riding, when Supreme Court Justices traveled the country to preside over the lower courts (something that maybe some of the current Justices should do in an effort to see all sides of society…) Filled with fun facts and personal anecdotes, Out of Order is a pleasant and informative read. I recommend it for anyone who has a slight interest in the courts or our government because, despite its history lessons, it’s written informally and is much more enjoyable. I will definitely be whipping out some of these fun facts over the next few years.
  • Light- weight but insightful

    By Mzhenya
    I gave it more stars than the book probably deserves because as a lawyer I still found a number of stories and information that I simply didn't know of before. A lot of repeated info., copied and pasted. I think she must've written this book over the course of a single weekend (once she got her research in order).
  • Should have read the reviews first

    By tennex
    So disappointed. This read like a bunch of short stories loosely connected, and then repeated much of the information. It did provide some history of how the Court came to be, but I expected much more from a history-making, great legal mind. I should have read the reviews before purchasing...
  • Out of Order

    By College educated scientist
    Former Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O'Connor's book focuses on court history, individual justices and court traditions. It's certainly historically informative relative to the court, but does not focus on many individual cases. Certainly a great way to learn about present and former justices though
  • Out of Order

    By Baby430
    A very light weight read - extremely disappointing considering the intellect and experience of the author. I found the stories shared often to be of no interest and in all cases they were short and lacked detail. The book is un-engaging.
  • Out of Order

    By Ksrm
    Wonderfully entertaining and educational.