Dorf on “the story behind the story behind the case”

May 19th, 2014

Mike Dorf offers some insightful thoughts on the stories behind the stories of famous Supreme Court cases. Read the entire thing. Here is a snippet:

The story behind a case will typically be the story of individuals who, deliberately or not, come to stand in for a larger set of concerns–either accurately, as in Windsor and Perry, or somewhat fictionally, as in Lawrence.  Knowing the story behind the case will provide insight into how the lawyers and judges framed an abstract issue out of concrete circumstances.

But to understand the larger forces that shape the law, one needs to know more than the story of the particular litigants and lawyers. One needs to know the story behind the story behind the case. If one thinks, as I do, that in the long run, social and political movements and trends play a larger role in shaping the law than do three-part doctrinal tests or the fortuity of which case wins the race to the courthouse, then one wants to know about how those larger forces interact with the legal system. That’s why the stories I collected in Constitutional Law Stories mostly aim to tell the latter sort of tale, using the stories of the particular litigants as illustrative or exemplary.