Review

Supreme Courtship

by Christopher Buckley

The American fascination with the law and all it encompasses is
amazing. Surf your cable system on any weekday afternoon and you
will find countless courtroom soap operas, where judges both real
and pseudo preside over disputes that must be factual because no
one can make up those tales. More Americans recognize Judge Judy
and the now-retired Judge Wapner than John Roberts, the Chief
Justice of the United States. Our national obsession with legal
matters serves as the backdrop for SUPREME COURTSHIP, Christopher
Buckley’s wry and occasionally humorous take on national
politics viewed through the prism of the U.S. Supreme Court.

President Donald Vanderdamp is the most unpopular national
leader since the Articles of Confederation. Things are so bad that
a national effort has been undertaken to amend the Constitution to
limit the President to one term. As the movement grows, Vanderdamp
is confronted with a vacancy on the Supreme Court. The Senate, led
by Vanderdamp’s arch nemesis Dexter Mitchell, rejects two
qualified nominees using any reason they can find. One fails to
clear the Judiciary Committee because in grade school he did not
appreciate the genius of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.

The President plots his revenge and chooses Pepper Cartwright,
the star of America’s favorite courtroom drama,
“Courtroom Six.” Buckley’s portrayal of
Cartwright is clear to anyone with eyes and ears; she is a
glamorous version of Judge Judy, who, by the way, served as a trial
court judge in New York before becoming America’s best-known
judge. Senator Mitchell and his fellow solons are flummoxed. The
nation will not tolerate denying a seat on the Supreme Court to the
host of its favorite courtroom show. Democracy often works in very
strange ways.

Buckley spends a great part of SUPREME COURTSHIP in the august
chambers of the Supreme Court. His humor is anything but subtle;
indeed his favorite comedians certainly must include The Three
Stooges. The participants in Justice Cartwright’s first oral
argument throw around legal maxims and phony legal precedents in
the same fashion as the Stooges threw around malapropisms. At least
none of the Justices slap the attorneys and holler “nyuk,
nyuk, nyuk.”

Buckley certainly loves to skewer the Washington political
scene, and he has the background for the task. He wrote speeches
for the first President Bush and is the son of conservative icon
William F. Buckley Jr. Readers would need to be brain dead not to
recognize Justice Silvio Santamaria as anyone but Justice Antonin
Scalia. While most of the other characters are not so easily
recognizable, it is because they are more of a mix of the media and
political types that populate our nation’s capital.

Two parallel plots move SUPREME COURTSHIP through its satirical
view of national politics. On one hand, we find Justice Cartwright
and her work on the Supreme Court. With the exception of the
aforementioned Justice Santamaria, none of the other members of the
Court are easily identifiable. They do, however, share some similar
foibles to Clarence Thomas, Warren Burger and other well-known
justices. The second plot involves the re-election campaign of the
unpopular President Vanderdamp, who, because he does not want to be
President, becomes quite popular with the American electorate. Go
figure!

All in all, SUPREME COURTSHIP has some funny and prescient
moments. It’s not drop-dead, laugh-out-loud satire, but
it’s entertaining and the kind of book political and legal
junkies may well enjoy. In this time of bitter partisanship, maybe
we should all just enjoy a little levity about our politics.
Perhaps, like Christopher Buckley, we should not take things too
seriously.

Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman on January 23, 2011

Supreme Courtship
by Christopher Buckley

  • Publication Date: September 3, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 285 pages
  • Publisher: Twelve
  • ISBN-10: 0446579823
  • ISBN-13: 9780446579827