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The Nine : Inside the Secret World of the…

The Nine : Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court (2007)

by Jeffrey Toobin

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Make no mistake, this book is not an objective or non-partisan look at the Supreme Court. Don't expect it to be. Toobin has a very liberal bias. This, however, does not bother me in the least, as it's my personal opinion that truth has a liberal bias. I'm just stating the bias of this book up front, so nobody is caught by surprise if they read it on my recommendation.

This is a fascinating book that looks closely at the political breakdown of the recent Supreme Court, and how politics have affected their decisions on issues from abortion, to affirmative action, to executive power. Toobin's point seems to be that the Court is far from independent and is, like the rest of the United States, polarized by political opinion. I think he makes a very good case for that. ( )
1 vote sammii507 | Aug 19, 2014 |
This is a fascinating look at the inner workings and friendships on the Court from the Reagan administration through 2007. It is as close to an insider's look as one can get. Toobin is one of the most respected experts on the Supreme Court in the country. Interviews with insiders reveal colorful anecdotes and insights into the friendships among the Justices. This is a highly readable critical resource for those interested in understanding the most powerful court in our land. ( )
1 vote HollyHerndon | Apr 6, 2014 |
Left-ist leaning, but still enjoyable and enlightening on some of the quirks and personalities of some of the more recent justices. ( )
1 vote steadfastreader | Mar 18, 2014 |
very interesting ( )
  njcur | Feb 19, 2014 |
some editing and additions 7/22/10

Toobin does a great job in detailing the personalities of the justices and how they shape the court. Thomas is the most interesting, perhaps. A man obviously bitter about the cards he has been dealt, he holds grudges seemingly forever, even disdaining Yale Law School, his alma mater; yet, he is very well liked and has lots of friends on and off the court. (Scalia, asked once for the difference between himself and Thomas, replied, "I am an originalist; he's a nut.) Thomas would overturn piles of precedent on principle -- he's a huge fan of Ayn Rand -- and a proponent of limiting the power of federal law, but contradictorily sponsoring law clerks who went on to provide legal justification for presidential power expansion under Bush. Go figure.

One concern I had about Thomas was the large number of gifts he accepted from very conservative organizations and people. He got the largest book deal of any justice, 1.5 million from book he wrote from Rupert Murdoch and he makes huge amounts of money in speaking engagements before conservative audiences (he refuses to speak to any audience that might be remotely unfriendly.) Breyer, on the other hand, accepts no gifts or travel from anyone. You can't tell me that getting all that money and travel from a particular political spectrum has no effect.

One of my favorite anecdotes was the inside look at the nomination of Harriet Miers in 2005 for the O'Connor seat. Bush had laid down the law against any kind of leaks. Unfortunately, as Toobin points out, leaks can often serve as a very useful way to flush out any likely problems that might arise from a decision before a commitment is made to that decision. Bush and his primary advisors, Rove, Cheney, and Card, had little idea what a Supreme Court Justice does every day. (Steven Breyer once told his son that justices spend their days reading and writing. "If you like and are good at doing homework, you'll enjoy the Supreme Cour because you'll be doing homework the rest of your life." [paraphrased quote, listened to this as an audiobook:] So they didn't expect nor look for any kind of written trail from Meiers. (Rove can be excused if he seemed a little distracted as there was a very real possibility he might be indicted in the Valerie Plume case.) Rove's first call to get approval was to James Dobson since they knew that mainstream media approval was irrelevant. It was the evangelical constituency that might make troub le. Ironically, it had been Harry Reid who had suggested Meiers and noted that her nomination would breeze through with little chance of a filibuster. Meiers had been a long friend of Bush as well as his personal attorney, she was a strong evangelical, and in any case the Bush team was looking for someone with good judgment and instincts; analysis was less important.

So they were all totally taken by surprise when the vicious attacks from the right began as soon as she had finished her acceptance of the nomination. "The president has made perhaps the most unqualified choice since Abe Fortas," was the response of one conservative. She was dismissed as a "taut, anxious, personality," wrote David Frumm. She had no judicial experience. Despite pressure from the right-wing "pro-family" groups arguing her conservative bona fides and that she would overturn Roe v Wade, and her ex-boyfriend Judge Heck's rambling denials of anything more than friendship, it soon became clear she had no ideas at all with regard to constitutional law. Her total experience had been as personal lawyers to Bush and others. Bush assumed that the Senate would fall into line behind his nomination, not realizing that by 2005 Katrina and Iraq had crippled his influence. "Trust me," was no longer enough. Conservatives wanted appellate judges with a proven written agenda. White, Powell, Warren, and Rehnquist, to name but a few, ad little judicial experience, so her lack thereof should not have been a disqualifier. As with the torrent of abuse against Gonzales a few months earlier, facts became irrelevant and some conservatives even charged she and Gonzales were closet liberals despite all evidence to the contrary. The Democrats loved every minute of it.

Meiers seemed to be on the way to confirmation even as conservative antipathy grew, when Charles Krauthammer came up with a "breathtakingly cynical" mechanism to have her exit. The Senate should demand to see privileged documents from her White House tenure. The Senate could refuse to begin confirmation hearings until they received them; the White House could refuse to produce the documents based on its privilege and Meiers could withdraw claiming she did not want to cause a violation of either the White House or Senate's privileges. Meiers, putting her client's (the president) interests first as any good lawyer would, withdrew claiming precisely what Krauthammer had suggested, that she could not afford to let Senators ask her about her work at the White House which might have viollated executive privilege. The seat went to Alito, who, ironically, had been Meiers first choice to replace O'Connor. (O'Connor herself considered the Alito choice as a direct affront.)

Fascinating. ( )
1 vote ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
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Prologue, The Steps - The architect Cass Gilbert had grand ambitions for his design of a new home for the Supreme court - what he called "the greatest tribunal in the world, one of the three great elements of our national government."
Chapter 1, The Federalist War of Ideas - For a long time, during the middle of the twentieth century, it wasn't even clear what it meant to be a judicial conservative.
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Nice fluid style, imminently readable. Sheds a lot of light on an institution that we don't hear much about, aside from their decisions.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385516401, Hardcover)

Bestselling author Jeffrey Toobin takes you into the chambers of the most important—and secret—legal body in our country, the Supreme Court, and reveals the complex dynamic among the nine people who decide the law of the land.

Just in time for the 2008 presidential election—where the future of the Court will be at stake—Toobin reveals an institution at a moment of transition, when decades of conservative disgust with the Court have finally produced a conservative majority, with major changes in store on such issues as abortion, civil rights, presidential power, and church-state relations.

Based on exclusive interviews with justices themselves, The Nine tells the story of the Court through personalities—from Anthony Kennedy's overwhelming sense of self-importance to Clarence Thomas's well-tended grievances against his critics to David Souter's odd nineteenth-century lifestyle. There is also, for the first time, the full behind-the-scenes story of Bush v. Gore—and Sandra Day O'Connor's fateful breach with George W. Bush, the president she helped place in office.

The Nine is the book bestselling author Jeffrey Toobin was born to write. A CNN senior legal analyst and New Yorker staff writer, no one is more superbly qualified to profile the nine justices.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:29:14 -0400)

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As the Supreme Court continues to rule on important issues, it is essential to understand how it operates. Based on exclusive interviews with the justices themselves and other insiders, this is a timely "state of the union" about America's most elite legal institution. From Anthony Kennedy's self-importance, to Antonin Scalia's combativeness, to David Souter's eccentricity, and even Sandra Day O'Connor's fateful breach with President George W. Bush, this book offers a rare personal look at how the individual style of each justice affects the way in which they wield their considerable power. Toobin shows how--since Reagan--conservatives were long thwarted in their attempts to control the Court by some of the very justices they pressured Presidents to appoint. That struggle ended with the recent appointments of John Roberts and Samuel Alito, and Toobin relays the behind-the-scenes drama in detail, as well as the ensuing 2007 Court term.… (more)

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