by Stephen Breyer

Vintage, $26.95, 270 pages

The US Constitution has held steady over the years, a model of simplicity and brevity. Seven articles and now close to thirty amendments reflect changes that have occurred since it was drawn up. The document provides the mandate – and mission – of the US Supreme Court, to judge cases by searching for permanent values underlying particular constitutional changes.

Stephen Breyer, one of the Court’s nine appointed judges, launches the book by outlining controversial early cases heard by the Court. Despite judgments deemed wrong today, the Court has become an essential resort for wide-ranging conflicts passed along by lower courts and torn apart by the media. Subsequent chapters discuss the Court’s relationship with Congress, the executive branch, the states and other courts, and its essential role in protecting the public’s confidence by interpreting the Constitution with traditional legal tools.

In an age when we treat tomorrow as yesterday in our haste to absorb information, Making Our Democracy Work reveals how respect and admiration for the Supreme Court’s often contentious decisions has been earned rather than endowed.

Jane Manaster