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Swann's Way: The School Busing Case and the Supreme Court


Never has what goes on behind the red velour curtain--the give-and-take between the Supreme Court Justices in an important case--been described in such detail. Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education was the first case to decree extensive busing as part of a school desegregation plan; it established the framework for all future busing decisions. This behind-the-scenes account traces the Swann case from its origins in Charlotte, North Carolina, to the decision announced by Chief Justice Warren Burger in a packed Supreme Court Chamber. Bernard Schwartz, a leading legal scholar, draws on confidential papers and extensive interviews with justices, law clerks and others involved in the case to provide the first detailed presentation of the decision process in the Court. When Chief Justice Burger undertook to write the Swann opinion himself, Schawrtz notes, he departed from more than a century of Court tradition, for he held the minority view, leaning toward overturning the district court's pro-busing position. The book reconstructs the secret conferences and discussions in which the majority of the Justices ultimately induced the Chief Justice to give way. Schwartz traces the revisions in the opinion through six drafts and redrafts and shows how even at the last minute a strong dissent from Justice Black almost frustrated the effort. A fascinating work of microhistory, the book will be of compelling interest not only to Court-watchers but also to anyone interested in the history of civil rights. Hide synopsis

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