Glass and Gavel - The U.S. Supreme Court and Alcohol


By Nancy Maveety

In Glass and Gavel, noted legal expert Nancy Maveety has written the first book devoted to alcohol in the nation’s highest court of law, the United States Supreme Court.

Combining an examination of the justices’ participation in the social use of alcohol across the Court’s history with a survey of the Court’s decisions on alcohol regulation, Maveety illustrates the ways in which the Court has helped to construct the changing culture of alcohol. “Intoxicating liquor” is one of the few things so plainly material to explicitly merit mention, not once, but twice, in the amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Maveety shows how much of our constitutional law—Supreme Court rulings on the powers of government and the rights of individuals—has been shaped by our American love/hate relationship with the bottle and the barroom.

From the tavern as a judicial meeting space, to the bootlegger as both pariah and patriot, to the individual freedom issue of the sobriety checkpoint—there is the Supreme Court, adjudicating but also partaking in the temper(ance) of the times. In an entertaining and accessible style, Maveety shows that what the justices say and do with respect to alcohol provides important lessons about their times, our times, and our “constitutional cocktail” of limited governmental power and individual rights.
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