In the first comprehensive account of the Supreme Court's race-related jurisprudence, a distinguished historian and a renowned civil rights lawyer scrutinize a legacy too often blighted by racial injustice. Discussing nearly 200 cases in historical context, the authors show the Court can still help fulfill the nation's promise of equality for all.
In an encyclopedic examination of judicial racism that distills over 200 legal cases (an exasperating majority of which make the reader want to scream Foul!), Burton and Derfner are as comprehensible in style as they are comprehensive in scope, delivering as much about race generally as about racial justice. Alert to the civil rights history of all racial groups, the authors focus primarily on African Americans. There is not much new here for constitutional scholars or legal historians (though they will certainly learn some social history), yet this is an extremely important and timely story very well told ... a gracefully composed and compelling read that cleanly and clearly synthesizes vast amounts of information. Yet, given all the wonderful historical context Burton and Derfner provide, it is curious how little backstory they offer about the justices themselves ... There is also very little about the process or qualifications by which justices ascend to the bench ... Many of the stories and cases considered in Justice Deferred are utterly heart wrenching.
... a learned and thoughtful portrayal of the history of race relations in America 'through the lens of the Supreme Court' ... In a feat of graceful compression, Burton and Derfner survey the whole of the Supreme Court’s encounters with race ... They infuse their text with a buoyant, humane, and steadfast liberalism that seems practically immune to discouragement ... however, they show with heartbreaking clarity how the Supreme Court has typically been more a foe than a friend to the pursuit of racial equality ... Burton and Derfner’s discussion of recent Supreme Court jurisprudence offers high levels of insight, and they provide reliable guidance on controversies involving affirmative action, capital punishment, regulation of police, and other vexing subjects. But they do overlook certain knotty complications that ought to be acknowledged ... the racial politics of crime policy are more complex than many people realize.
... the authors systematically examine key decisions of the Court that, in large measure, reflect rather than shape the nation’s attitudes on race, with a very uneven progression full of historical missteps that offer caveats going forward ... Justice Deferred offers a needed refresher course for faded memories on the Supreme Court’s unequal history with one of the key issues not only of our day, but one that has always been key in this country’s development—one that still requires more work.