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Inside the Supreme Court – A Great Book

Picture_4I just finished Jeffrey Toobin’s book about the Supreme Court, called The Nine. Wow! What an unexpected treat. If you’re a lawyer you have to read this book, and if you’re not a lawyer but just interested in government then you should read the book too. But, for now let me speak to the lawyers in the audience.

The book follows the shift of the court from the Reagan era forward, showing how it is now on the verge of completing a shift to ultra-conservatism. But the presentation is made interesting by its discussion of key cases that were decided in the past decade—e.g Bush v. Gore and other important constitutional cases. Toobin weaves in, at appropriate points, detailed profiles of each of the Justices. And his examination of the Justices is very personal and touching, or at least for most part. He explains how Sandra Day O’Connor became more centrist than conservative, and how Anthony Kennedy developed an interest in international law (and how that influenced his judicial outlook). David Souter is a quiet man who eschews all use of technology (doesn’t use computers or TVs, and doesn’t have a cellphone) and yet he was the author of the Grokster opinion on file-sharing.

Reading this book is like taking a CLE course in Constitutional Law, except that it’s presented in a highly engaging way. Toobin went to Harvard Law School, so it’s no surprise that he’s adept at explaining the nuances of the law. If you want to see an interview he did recently at Google check this out.

P.S. If you're a practicing lawyer, check out this Law Practice Assessment . After answering a few questions, you'll get detailed recommendations for improving five key areas of your practice.


  • I just finished reading The Nine and agree with your review. I also recently read Justice for All;Earl Warren. This biography shows how Warren became a champion of constitutional rights. Earlier in his legal career Warren was a very conservative prosecutor. One of his parents had been brutally murdered. His approach to the law prior to taking the bench was very different from his judicial legacy. The book shows the process he went through to become Chief Justice of the “Warren Court”. The book also reveals the real political process involved in US Supreme Court appointments.

  • Tom O'Connor says:

    What I found interesting is that there is little sign of some of the more conservative justices becoming centrist as has happened in the past. (if you listened on CSPan to the oral arguments in the DC gun case, you would have heard Scalia moving even more to the right if that is possible) Kennedy seems to be drifting mid-ward (he spoke at the ABA Annual meeting a year ago and in his comments said the Bush v Gore case was decided in part because the court felt it would be bad for the country to let the dispute linger then said “we were wrong”) and will clearly be the swing vote for quite some time but the conservative justices are young enough that any change in their postion is likely to be years away.

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