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The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court

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In The Nine, acclaimed journalist Jeffrey Toobin takes us into the chambers of the most important—and secret—legal body in our country, the Supreme Court, revealing the complex dynamic among the nine people who decide the law of the land. An institution at a moment of transition, the Court now stands at a crucial point, with major changes in store on such issues as abortio In The Nine, acclaimed journalist Jeffrey Toobin takes us into the chambers of the most important—and secret—legal body in our country, the Supreme Court, revealing the complex dynamic among the nine people who decide the law of the land. An institution at a moment of transition, the Court now stands at a crucial point, with major changes in store on such issues as abortion, civil rights, and church-state relations. Based on exclusive interviews with the justices and with a keen sense of the Court’s history and the trajectory of its future, Jeffrey Toobin creates in The Nine a riveting story of one of the most important forces in American life today.


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In The Nine, acclaimed journalist Jeffrey Toobin takes us into the chambers of the most important—and secret—legal body in our country, the Supreme Court, revealing the complex dynamic among the nine people who decide the law of the land. An institution at a moment of transition, the Court now stands at a crucial point, with major changes in store on such issues as abortio In The Nine, acclaimed journalist Jeffrey Toobin takes us into the chambers of the most important—and secret—legal body in our country, the Supreme Court, revealing the complex dynamic among the nine people who decide the law of the land. An institution at a moment of transition, the Court now stands at a crucial point, with major changes in store on such issues as abortion, civil rights, and church-state relations. Based on exclusive interviews with the justices and with a keen sense of the Court’s history and the trajectory of its future, Jeffrey Toobin creates in The Nine a riveting story of one of the most important forces in American life today.

30 review for The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    WELL. How I wish I'd had the foresight, at a much younger and more capable age, to consult some kind of career counselor! If only, if ONLY someone back then had the wisdom and charity to inform me of the existence of something called "constitutional law," and advised me to study hard, behave myself, keep my mouth shut, make influential friends, and avoid leaving a drunken trail of scribbled opinions about all my personal and political views as I careened helter-skelter along a haphazard career p WELL. How I wish I'd had the foresight, at a much younger and more capable age, to consult some kind of career counselor! If only, if ONLY someone back then had the wisdom and charity to inform me of the existence of something called "constitutional law," and advised me to study hard, behave myself, keep my mouth shut, make influential friends, and avoid leaving a drunken trail of scribbled opinions about all my personal and political views as I careened helter-skelter along a haphazard career path towards obsolete drudgery. Recently, while shriveling away into a thoroughly burnt-out, cynical social worker who's abandoned all her dreams and ideals, I've spent many an hour asking myself what else on God's earth I would possibly want to do for a living. And friends, I've been totally unable to answer that question.... until now! Yes, being on the Supreme Court would totally RULE. Unfortunately, it does seem to take a little more planning and discipline than I've ever demonstrated.... planning and discipline, or some very special friends/bizarre views/unlikely series of events possibly dictated by an unusual positioning of stars and planets. But thanks to Mr. Jeffrey Toobin, I and other poor shmoes who'll never wear the magical robe can now peek behind the velvet curtain in much the same way that we frustrated and unattractive non-celebrities can relish in the "Stars! They're just like us!" portion of Us magazine. Except it turns out that Supreme Court justices, unlike stars, are not just like us. The Supreme Court seems to be mostly made of (a) bizarrely perfect, overachieving individuals who cannot possibly be real and (b) freaky weirdos. The fun thing about this book is learning which of the justices belong in which category -- and no, it has nothing to do with liberal and conservative ideology. Reading The Nine will allow you to hold vaguely informed judgments about the justices, sort of like how you have about various actors, which is kind of fun. I myself spend a lot of time in Manhattan criminal court, and I have lots of my own little opinions about the judges there. When I see my favorites walking out by the Chinatown park at lunchtime in normal non-judge clothes, I feel alarmed and excited, like I've seen a secret side of these eccentric sorcerers! This book is a bit like that, only with United States Supreme Court justices (for the record, I'd rather eat nuclear waste than be a criminal court judge, which to me seems like the worst job in the world; this may be part of why it took me so long to realize my own Supreme Court vocation). Anyway, that exciting sense of familiarity seems to be what The Nine is going for. This book will, for instance, probably make you adore Antonin Scalia, who is a surprisingly cuddly and endearing originalist grump! This book will not, on the other hand, make you adore Clarence Thomas, who is an even freakier weirdo than you probably already imagine (Actually, who knows, maybe you would decide that you like him. Apparently he's the friendliest justice on the court, and is an avid Nascar and RV enthusiast, so if you're into that stuff you and Justice Thomas would probably hit it off.) I enjoyed this book, even though it wasn't nearly as trashy as its gold-encrusted John Grishamy cover and sensationalistic title suggest. For instance, is David Souter secretly gay? I have no idea! This book doesn't speculate at all about sleazy, irrelevant stuff like that. Unfortunately, this book also didn't speculate much about why O'Connor chose to resign when she did to take care of her ailing husband, which kind of bummed me out because that was sort of what I read this hoping to learn. To be fair, the answer to that question may be so complex and inaccessible that one day another, possibly longer book will be written on what will always be, for me, the most surprising and troubling decision of her career. Still, with the amount of time Toobin spent focusing on O'Connor's importance and character, this dramatic moment did feel a bit anticlimactic and glossed over here. Anyway, I wanted to write some fabulous, thoughtful review that really returned to the text and interpreted this document for you, but it's late and I'm lazy.... maybe it's ultimately for the best that I'm not on the bench! As Breyer (the most boring justice) puts it, "All we do is read and write. I used to tell my son if you're really good at doing homework, you get to do homework for the rest of your life." That sounds terrible! Being on the Supreme Court is a whole lotta work. Far easier just to read this book instead, and craft your own armchair decisions and dissents from your luxurious sofa. Honestly, to me this book was more a three-and-a-half starrer than an legitimate four, and it did feel more like a magazine article than an actual book. If you really want an in-depth, organized study of the Supreme Court, you could probably find something more rigorous. If, however, you are dumb like me and know very little about this madcap band of Constitution-toting partisans, you will enjoy this spirited romp through the halls of justice! In closing, some thoughts: * Boy, Toobin really cannot stand Kennedy, whom he paints as a narcissistic, pretentious attention-whore blowhard. Ouch! * I love Ruth Bader Ginsburg so much, and I wish she was my grandma! I mean that with all due respect to my grandmas; Ginsburg wouldn't be a replacement, she'd just be an extra one. Ginsburg's dissent in Gonzales v. Carhart nearly moved me to tears at the time. I wish she'd been around to write stupid Roe v. Wade instead of that zany Justice Blackmun. Her take makes so much more sense! But I guess these things just don't work that way.... * My preceding point probably brings up the question for my more right-wing Booksters (yes, you know who you are!): is this the Supreme Court book for you? The short answer is "no." Toobin is clearly a bleeding heart liberal and cares not who knows it. So to me, his analysis on the whole did seem pretty fair, because I agree with most of his views. If you're a huge fan of the current five Catholic Supreme Court justices, there's probably a book out there more to your liking. That said, reading this book will probably put you in a pretty good mood, because after much trial and adversity, your guys do win at the end! * Justice Thomas is a total freaky weirdo (I know I already said that, but it bears repeating). * It makes me so sad that Justice Stevens is so friggin' OLD! He's so DEAR! Actually, all my favorite justices are super old. How horrible. I can't even think about it. Please let's move on. * Alito is still the most unlovable on the whole team. He's not even a freaky weirdo, he's just no fun at all. Borrrring! * Someone else on here repeated this, but in case you missed it, one of the greatest pieces of Supreme Court trivia in here is that Ginsburg and Scalia's families spend New Years together every year. There's actually a lot of nice stuff in here like that, things you wouldn't expect about how these people interact with their coworkers that is pretty surprising. In this narrative, a lot of that sense of camaraderie seems to have evaporated since the Bush v. Gore fiasco and Rehnquist's death. I don't know if that's true; as noted, unfortunately I'm not on the court, and have to take old Jeffrey Toobin's word for it. Sigh.

  2. 4 out of 5

    David

    It’s certainly not outside of the realm of possibility that I am deluded. Completely and utterly deluded. Nevertheless, I have always held the American judiciary in much greater esteem than either the executive or legislative branches of government for several reasons—but most persuasive among them is my firm belief that the judiciary is the best situated to transcend workaday partisan politics. Sure, judges are appointed by partisan politicians for partisan reasons. Therefore, they are functions It’s certainly not outside of the realm of possibility that I am deluded. Completely and utterly deluded. Nevertheless, I have always held the American judiciary in much greater esteem than either the executive or legislative branches of government for several reasons—but most persuasive among them is my firm belief that the judiciary is the best situated to transcend workaday partisan politics. Sure, judges are appointed by partisan politicians for partisan reasons. Therefore, they are functions of the vitriolic, electorate-responsive machinery known as American politics. (This is my concession that judiciary is more admirable than its peer branches in only a relative sense.) But once awarded their posts, however, they are no longer beholden to the partisanship which empowered them. Let’s narrow our discussion of the judiciary to the United States Supreme Court for purposes of specificity—and to give proper credit to the extraordinary book dealing with that institution known as The Nine by Jeffrey Toobin. David Souter provides an exceptional instance of the integrity which the judiciary branch does not demand, but enables. Souter was appointed to the Supreme Court by George H.W. Bush. According to Toobin, Bush was not particularly interested in the politics or strategy of such appointments. He simply wished to appoint an acceptable and competent justice to the Court—a Republican-leaning nominee, to be sure, but the rigor of his partisan stances was never tested. (This strikingly contrasts the younger Bush’s appointments of Roberts and Alito, which were, to differing degrees, a product of an informal vetting with Republican party’s social conservatives rather than the scrutiny of Congress. In this respect, the elder Bush deserves either credit for his integrity or blame for his political carelessness.) Souter of course ended up being an extreme disappointment to conservatives. A sort of eccentric bachelor who despised the Washington political scene, Souter’s opinions on the Court were based on a consistent judicial philosophy that generally placed him in agreement with the Court’s liberals. Whether or not his judgments reflected his personal views on these issues, he provided a model for an ideal of jurisprudence in which the integrity of law and justice outweighs one’s personal stances. This isn’t to propose that Souter’s interpretation of Constitutional law is the ‘correct’ one—but only to suggest that he points toward an ideal of thoughtfulness and judicial conscience unencumbered by prejudice or personal willfulness. (Please note that I called this an ‘ideal’—and in this sense an objective never to be reached by Souter or anyone else. Alas, we are humans…) An object lesson in lack of judicial integrity—at least in Toobin’s reckoning—might be provided by the most famous (and now retired) Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. O’Connor was the first female justice, appointed by Ronald Reagan, and as such she was the product of a very different brand of conservatism than holds sway today. Hers, more specifically, was a conservativism that did not yet despise intellectualism but was repelled by extremism (of politics and temperament). Wherever she is today, she is no doubt disgusted by the Tea Party movement, whose vulgarity and ignorance she would likely describe as ‘unattractive.’ (O’Connor transformed politics into aesthetics: moderation, decorum, and intelligence were attractive; their opposites were certainly not.) This concern for propriety and the political golden mean frequently drew the scorn of right wing of the Supreme Court—particularly Antonin Scalia who, in his opinions for the courts, showed little restraint in voicing his contempt for her unprincipled stances. She was scarcely bothered by these rhetorical attacks in any lasting way though because O’Connor, during most of her tenure, ruled the Court. She was not the Chief Justice, but she was dead-center. Her opinion was often the deciding one in many hot-button cases—because, while she was a political conservative, this conservativism did not extend to all social issues. In other words, she—unlike, say, Scalia or Ginsburg—was persuadable. She also served as a barometer for public opinion in most cases. Whether she followed public opinion or was merely the product of it, she privately relished her position as the voice of the people. As previously noted, she found extremism of either stripe distasteful and undesirable. As a consequence, she found herself the moderate tie-breaker of the Court—a power which she also enjoyed and knowingly wielded. Like Souter, therefore, O’Connor was often a disappointment to the Republican party. Over time, the Republican party had evolved (or devolved, as she would have likely put it), but her centrist views remained largely unchanged—or they changed only to the extent that the public’s did (which is to say, very slowly). Many will credit O’Connor for representing popular opinions and values on the Court, but then again, her detractors might note, the Court wasn’t intended as representative body. It was the Court’s expressed purpose to check the powers of the elected officials and to keep their legislation in line with the Constitution, regardless of public sentiment. Thus, seeming to lack a coherent judicial philosophy and following a course of personal (and aesthetic) moderation, rationalized into legal principle, O’Connor lacked integrity and coherence as a Supreme Court Justice. Her part in the Bush-Gore election case, for example, was egregiously unprincipled, and Toobin covers this case in all its disgraceful detail in The Nine. I don’t believe I’ve ever given a non-philosophical non-fiction book five stars. This is a first. Toobin’s book is the perfect integration of fluid, well-paced writing, personal insight, and a wealth of fascinating factual detail. Right-leaning readers will no doubt find this book biased, chiefly because of its scolding of the Court’s odious involvement in the Bush-Gore case, but his condemnation appears well-argued and reasonable (to these admittedly liberal eyes anyway). At any rate, his discussion certainly furthers the discussion of the role of the Supreme Court in our lives today. Even after reading this book, I still believe that the judiciary is (by a long shot) the branch of government with the most integrity. And I am aware of how problematic this belief is, too. To suggest that an appointed rather than elected branch is superior in such an essential way makes me sound undemocratic, to be sure—but more alarmingly it doesn’t seem to bode well for the state of representative government today. This awareness makes me very uneasy, but I can’t quite shake the truth of it.

  3. 4 out of 5

    mike

    "This book is based principally on my interviews with the justices and more than seventy-five of their law clerks," author Jeffrey Toobin writes in his notes that close the book. "The interviews were on a not-for-attribution basis -- that is, I could use the information provided but without quoting directly or identifying the source." If you read the book back-to-front -- like the apocryphal politicos who look for their names in the index before reading a book -- you'll see the problem with this "This book is based principally on my interviews with the justices and more than seventy-five of their law clerks," author Jeffrey Toobin writes in his notes that close the book. "The interviews were on a not-for-attribution basis -- that is, I could use the information provided but without quoting directly or identifying the source." If you read the book back-to-front -- like the apocryphal politicos who look for their names in the index before reading a book -- you'll see the problem with this book right away. You've got to trust Toobin as an author and a journalist in order to trust the book. I started out trusting it, but somewhere around the time that he took on Bush v. Gore, my view started to change... this was a man with an agenda to push, and though it may make for entertaining reading, it doesn't inspire confidence when all of the sources are anonymous. So I didn't finish this one. I bailed out at page 199, just before he began to profile Scalia. I'm no fan of Scalia's jurisprudence myself, but I am also loath to impugn the reputation of a sitting Justice... and I feared that was what Toobin was about to do. I close my eyes during the scary parts of movies. I even close my eyes on Splash Mountain, for heaven's sake. So it comes as no surprise that when I smelled the vitriol that was about to come, I bailed out. Maybe it didn't come after all. But I wasn't sticking around to find out. Modern journalism isn't well served by the preponderance of anonymous sources, all with an axe to grind, in our newspapers' front pages. I'm frankly surprised I got this deep into the book before questioning its methodology. And that, dear reader, is a testament to its entertainment value, at least for a while. Soon after I shut the book for good, Super Tuesday came along and I saw Toobin on CNN, huffing and puffing along with all the other talking heads. It was then that I knew shutting the book was the right decision. The Supreme Court exists to live above the political. It's not always successful (cf. Bush v. Gore), but it's meant to. Having a political analyst analyze the Court is, in a way, missing the point.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    3.5 stars. This book is really about the political trajectory of the Supreme Court over the past 30 years. Toobin seeks to show a gradual, unlikely shift leftward over the years of the Rehnquist Court (followed by a striking and uncharacteristically - for the institution - speedy swing back to the right since the Roberts and Alito confirmations). Not exactly a work of rigorous scholarship, so don't read it if you want a primer on important cases (though Toobin does a good job describing, in plain 3.5 stars. This book is really about the political trajectory of the Supreme Court over the past 30 years. Toobin seeks to show a gradual, unlikely shift leftward over the years of the Rehnquist Court (followed by a striking and uncharacteristically - for the institution - speedy swing back to the right since the Roberts and Alito confirmations). Not exactly a work of rigorous scholarship, so don't read it if you want a primer on important cases (though Toobin does a good job describing, in plain English, most of the issues at stake). But it's diligently researched - obvious from the volume of material on the justices' personal lives and the many accounts of exchanges at oral arguments - and if Toobin's agenda is a bit obvious, his thorough profiles of the lead actors are wonderful, fair and rare. I agree with reviewers who take issue with Toobin's seeming worship of Sandra Day O'Connor. At the risk of oversimplifying, I'd say he credits her swing vote for just about every 5-4 decision when he agrees with the outcome, while letting her off the hook when she swings the wrong way. His coverage of Bush v. Gore is pretty good; he shows, I think adequately, that the Court's intervention in the Florida recount was a low in its history, not because of the outcome, but because it injected itself into a political drama that did not require or deserve its intervention. He rightly points out that the Court prides itself on moving slowly and staying above the political fray, but that in this case, it was so eager to jump into the debacle as to be unseemly, not to mention that events were moving too quickly for the Court even to keep up. One comes away feeling as embarrassed for the Court as angry. The book is very readable. Toobin, notwithstanding his tendency to break paragraphs in odd places, is a good writer. I most enjoyed the anecdotes about the justices themselves. Things you may not know: - Clarence Thomas is universally adored on a personal level. From justices to cafeteria workers, he is kind to everyone in the building. - Ruth Bader Ginsburg's and Antonin Scalia's families celebrate every New Year together. - David Souter, once mistaken for Stephen Breyer by a stranger, was asked what the best thing was about serving on the Supreme Court, and responded: "The privilege of serving with David Souter." - William Rehnquist ran all the betting pools at the Court. - There is a basketball court on one of the upper floors of the Supreme Court building. It is known as "the highest court in the land."

  5. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    This isn't The Brethren. That should be made clear from the start. Bob Woodward's book on the United State Supreme Court's 1969-75 terms is, in my mind, a classic. I've never read a better, more entertaining, more detailed book on the Supreme Court's inner workings. It also gives a glimpse of an interesting moment in legal history, as the progressive years of the Warren Court ended, and a gradual rightward shift began (despite, rather than because, of the incompetence of Warren Burger). Jeffrey This isn't The Brethren. That should be made clear from the start. Bob Woodward's book on the United State Supreme Court's 1969-75 terms is, in my mind, a classic. I've never read a better, more entertaining, more detailed book on the Supreme Court's inner workings. It also gives a glimpse of an interesting moment in legal history, as the progressive years of the Warren Court ended, and a gradual rightward shift began (despite, rather than because, of the incompetence of Warren Burger). Jeffrey Toobin's The Nine clearly aspires to The Brethren, only during a different time period (it covers the Court from the Reagan administration to roughly present-day); however, it falls short. I just can't put my finger on exactly why. Toobin is a clear, accessible writer, so that you don't need to be a lawyer or law student to understand what's going on. His book is relatively short and brisk and it makes its points (the point being that it's politics). Despite this, I was never fully engaged. Partially, this might be due to the fact that, despite the book's subtitle, there isn't much revealed here that is secret, at least if you pay a little bit of attention to the Court. Toobin makes a big deal about Sandra Day O'Connor's moderate instincts and her tendency to craft opinions that hewed to the prevailing political winds, if not the Constitution. O'Connor's role as the swing vote, though, was always clear. It's also no shocking secret to discover that Anthony Kennedy is a gaseous windbag. Anyone who's read his muddled, condescending, self-important opinions knows this without Toobin's insight (I think that Lawrence v. Texas is rightly decided for a variety of reasons, but Kennedy's "sweet mysteries of life" reasoning is a shaky foundation on which to rest such a seminal case). Still, for anyone unfamiliar with the Supreme Court, this is as good a place as any to start. I say this because it's not polemical by any means. This book has been accused of having a liberal-tilt, but I'm not seeing it. There are certain people who see bias everywhere, usually when they don't read exactly what they're thinking. According to some reviews, The Nine might as well have been written by Trostky. To which I mutter a wearied whatever. On the whole, Toobin is even-handed in his criticism. His description of former Chief Justice Rehnquist as bitter and inconsistent (which was true, by the way) is no harsher than that of Stephen Breyer, who comes across as self-deluded as to his own abilities. The only place Toobin really takes a stand is on Bush v. Gore, which he thought was a mess. And it was. The whole situation was a mess, and the fact the Supreme Court waded into it virtually guaranteed a never-ending controversy. Had they instead hewn to their self-imposed doctrine of avoiding political questions, and let things take their course, things would have been a whole lot better. Of course, that will convince no one, since a person's reaction to Bush v. Gore is perfectly correlated to their political identification. The book ends with a weak call that the we deserve a better Court. Cass Gilbert's steps represent at some level a magnificent illusion - that the Supreme Court operates at a higher plane than the mortals who toil on the ground. But the Court is a product of a democracy and represents, with sometimes chilling precision, the best and worst of people. We can expect nothing more, and nothing less, than the Court we deserve. This conclusion sort of sums up my reaction. There is nothing inherently wrong or false; it's just flaccid. It wasn't that I was looking for something that took a stronger stand, right or left, it's just that I was looking for something with a little more vigor, or failing that, a little more humanity, which is what made The Brethren so unforgettable.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Janice

    In law school I had one of the most sadistic, demanding and universally feared professors in the entire school for Constitutional Law, which is probably the most important class in law school. The first day of class he called me an idiot and told me I didn’t know how to read. For the next few weeks of the semester, he regularly berated me for my ignorance and ineptitude (which in retrospect, I fully deserved), but I got off easy (he stopped abusing me after a few weeks once I adapted my schoolwo In law school I had one of the most sadistic, demanding and universally feared professors in the entire school for Constitutional Law, which is probably the most important class in law school. The first day of class he called me an idiot and told me I didn’t know how to read. For the next few weeks of the semester, he regularly berated me for my ignorance and ineptitude (which in retrospect, I fully deserved), but I got off easy (he stopped abusing me after a few weeks once I adapted my schoolwork schedule to focusing only on his class; also it’s worth pointing out that he even called one of my classmates FAT and regularly told people they were so stupid they were probably going to fail the class/out of school). Needless to say, I came to dread going to class and even went through great lengths to manufacture illnesses in order to justify my absence. To be honest, I only skipped his class once or twice the entire semester, because despite the stress of being on the receiving end of his abuse, and the accompanying “heart palpitations,” I actually got a lot out of the class and later came to enjoy it (perhaps because I too, am a sadist, and received a perverse sense of pleasure in seeing the little shits in my class squirm). Regardless of the intimidation factor, Professor Higgins was exactly how I imagined all law professors would be, no doubt informed by the The Paper Chase. My school turned out to be more like Legally Blonde.* In any case, Con. Law grew on me; in part out of necessity and self-preservation, but also because I found the justices fascinating. Professor Higgins focused a lot on the individual judicial philosophy of the justices and I came to know and love the writing styles and kinks of each of them. Scalia’s brilliant, but a sanctimonious asshat, O’Connor effectively legislated from the bench, Kennedy is melodramatic, and Justice Stevens - my favorite - was perhaps the most idiosyncratic Supreme Court Justice in history; he began his career as a moderate conservative, and sometime during his tenure on SCOTUS an ideological shift occurred** within the court in which he became the head of the liberal bloc. He almost never joined the majority opinion, but rather preferred to either write a concurring opinion with his own rationale for the ruling, or often dissented. Toobin goes into this a bit in The Nine, although his focus is primarily on how highly politicized SCOTUS has become. Justices are selected based on how they stand on Roe v Wade, rather than mere erudition, or professional merit. (To be fair, the Constitution is silent as to what criteria the President is to apply in selection process.) Toobin also focuses heavily on Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and the considerable power she possessed as a moderate conservative and as the “swing vote” of the court. Toobin champions O’Connor’s policy-based judicial philosophy of centrism - she was carefully attuned to what would be acceptable to the general public, and always careful to not push the envelope. Her focus was on the practical application of their decisions, rather than interpreting the Constitution in a vacuum like her more abstract colleagues, such as Scalia and Thomas. Although Toobin is appropriately critical of the shift towards the political when it comes to the selection process, he seems to advocate for it when applied to the decision-making processes of the justices (at least when it came to Justice O’Connor, whom he focused on heavily, and made no secret of his reverence for her). Toobin should have paid equal attention to some of the more apolitical (and interesting) justices like Souter or Stevens, by way of contrast. Furthermore, Toobin’s account is in no way objective. Despite my own leftist proclivities, I would have preferred a more nonpartisan portrayal of SCOTUS, but I suppose it isn’t really fair to set that expectation when even the justices themselves aren’t capable of being completely detached from their own ideologies, nor are they required to be. Despite the above referenced criticisms, this was a great, light read. Toobin writes about the legal complexities of the issues before the court in a way that is easily digestible and accessible, never pedantic, and even fun to read. He also includes gossipy tidbits about the justices, which adds to the entertainment factor, as well as humanizing these somewhat abstract figures. (Come on, show me a lawyer that doesn’t love to gossip. I dare you.) In closing, I wish I had read this before I started law school. I think it would have given me a great, general perspective on SCOTUS and some of the contemporary justices. Also it could have provided me some much needed fodder for discussion in class to impress Higgins! Prof. Higgins was a strange guy; runty and belligerent, he often decried the evils of milk (please refer to the aforementioned fat phobia), and was a bit touchy feely outside of class. But to this day, I know all of those SCOTUS cases pretty well - I can’t say the same about any of the cases I read for say, Property (except for that one about the fox hunt: “first in time, first in right!”). Prof. Higgins retired after my second year of law school; he used to always complain that he should be retired and drinking champagne cocktails on the French Riviera instead of stuck teaching Constitutional Law to a bunch of thankless cretins. I hope he ended up there. For a much more detailed, substantive review of The Nine, please refer to this one: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/... *caveat: I haven’t actually seen more than 10 minutes of Legally Blonde. ** in part because of Stevens’ own evolving ideology, or in part because of how far to the right the court had shifted since Stevens’ appointment in 1975.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Nate

    The author discusses the Court from about 1980 to 2007. He wants to show how politics influences the rulings of the Court, but while reading the book I was struck by the degree to which politics had influenced his writing. He wears his bias on his sleeve, which makes this book a less than reliable source of Court information. He portrays the justices with whom he disagrees as petty, rude ideologues, while portraying the justices with whom he agrees as compassionate, intelligent, and most importa The author discusses the Court from about 1980 to 2007. He wants to show how politics influences the rulings of the Court, but while reading the book I was struck by the degree to which politics had influenced his writing. He wears his bias on his sleeve, which makes this book a less than reliable source of Court information. He portrays the justices with whom he disagrees as petty, rude ideologues, while portraying the justices with whom he agrees as compassionate, intelligent, and most importantly correct, jurists. Many times I found his treatment of justices and their views so unequal as to be comical. He didn't even describe the judicial philosophies (i.e., how a judge interprets the law) of his "enemies" correctly! Some of the ways he explained legal decisions, opinions, and arguments were disingenuous at best and downright deceitful at worse. Apparently Toobin doesn't believe that reasonable people can reach different conclusions. If you want a good, objective book about the Court look elsewhere. If you want biased rhetoric in writing, this book is for you.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Annie

    Amazingly detailed and well-researched, I'd be surprised if any account of the Supreme Court could outdo this one (I have two from the library, so we shall see). Better than The Secret Lives of the Supreme Court but also has a different purpose and voice, so it might be unfair to compare them. Adding to my list of the justices in that review, here's some more fun facts (mostly just for me to keep them straight in my head): White: nicknamed Whizzer (he hated it). Gruff conservative, but sometimes l Amazingly detailed and well-researched, I'd be surprised if any account of the Supreme Court could outdo this one (I have two from the library, so we shall see). Better than The Secret Lives of the Supreme Court but also has a different purpose and voice, so it might be unfair to compare them. Adding to my list of the justices in that review, here's some more fun facts (mostly just for me to keep them straight in my head): White: nicknamed Whizzer (he hated it). Gruff conservative, but sometimes liberal concerning race; strangely, appointed by Kennedy. Powell: discussing the Bowers v. Hardwick case, said to his law clerk, “You know, I don’t believe I’ve ever met a homosexual.” The law clerk replied that wasn’t very likely (the law clerk himself was gay, and Powell had met his partner before; apparently Powell thought they were roommates). Rehnquist: Hated the Miranda decision. O’Connor: My professor likes to say that O’Connor doesn’t care what you do, whether individual or government, as long as you keep it quiet and don’t publicize it and smile politely. Gay? Fine, enjoy your gay sex, just don’t talk about it. Racist? We’re okay with that too, as long as you have a believable pretext that covers up why you really do what you do. Just be polite about it. Her very best friend was Breyer (closer than any other two justices). They were both practical, non-neurotic, not extreme, and took many trips together. Tough on crime, supporter of the death penalty, and big on states’ rights. However, pro-choice (ish), pro-gay (ish). Moderate on race. Powell was her mentor. Republican, but hated the way it moved during the Bush administration and pretty much rejected the party. Souter: serious dark horse, nobody had ever heard of him before he became justice. His whole life was being a judge, and Bush v. Gore just shattered him and his idea of justice and fairness. He almost resigned because of the partisan actions of his colleagues. Sometimes thinking about it made him weep. Loathed Washington, D.C. Well-loved by his colleagues. Ginsburg liked him because unlike everyone else, the two of them were never assholes to the majority when writing dissents. O’Connor kept trying to get him married off. Kennedy: a Romantic in the German sense with high-flying language and this sacred idea of women as Madonna-like. After Bush v. Gore (he voted to stop the recount aka got Bush elected), he changed a lot and became more globally-minded, got way more liberal (though he was always a huge fan of travelling). Thomas: NASCAR and Dallas Cowboys fan, sigh. Does not give a flying fuck about stare decisis. Raging originalist. When Scalia was asked to compare his judicial philosophy with Thomas’s, he said “I am an originalist, but I am not a nut.” Which speaks volumes. But he was a really nice guy generally, sweet to law clerks, and he was close friends with Breyer, in spite of their different opinions. They’d whisper and pass notes and cackle together during arguments. Hated Yale (even though he went there) and thought everyone was out to get him. Ginsburg: She was appointed two weeks before I was born, so I’ve never known a Ginsburg-less court. The book makes this comparison: what Thurgood Marshall did for racial civil rights, Ginsburg did for women’s rights. TRUE. And two of my very favourite justices. Breyer: almost got appointed to Ginsburg’s spot, but Clinton thought he seemed heartless (dude was in a massive biking accident before their meeting, so he can be forgiven his lack of pep). Actually a super chipper, friendly, sweet guy. He hates conflict. Best, best friends with O’Connor.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Peggy bill

    In the past, whenever I have gotten sick or scared about the direction of politics in this country, I have comforted myself with the idea that our governmental balance of power mediates abrupt shifts to the right (I am not worried about abrupt shifts to the left, as the country is generally too far to right already). I didn’t have hope in the Supreme Court, but I did have faith in their moderating effect on law and society. That was until the presidential election of 2000. I was disgusted by a st In the past, whenever I have gotten sick or scared about the direction of politics in this country, I have comforted myself with the idea that our governmental balance of power mediates abrupt shifts to the right (I am not worried about abrupt shifts to the left, as the country is generally too far to right already). I didn’t have hope in the Supreme Court, but I did have faith in their moderating effect on law and society. That was until the presidential election of 2000. I was disgusted by a strongly pro-state-rights court blatantly turning against their own principles and voting for federalist intervention. At that point I lost all hope in the system. So, I recently read The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court by Jeffrey Toobin, in order to understand what happened and what was happening to the highest court in the land. The Rehnquist court saw no changes in personnel for 11 years. This is the longest period for justices to work together in the history of the Supreme Court. In that time, Sandra Day O’Connor became the mediating voice. And while she was politically to the right of me, she had a solid thumb on the pulse of American politics. She consistently and thoughtfully voted the voice of the American people. This was correct and just. However, even she lost her head in Gore v. Bush. This is what Toobin had to say about Gore v. Bush. Random Chance—a freakishly close vote in the single decisive state—gave the Supreme Court the chance to resolve the 2000 presidential election. The character of the justices themselves turned that opportunity into one of the lowest moments in the Court’s history. The struggle following the election of 2000 took thirty-six days, and the Court was directly involved for twenty-one of them. Yet over this brief period, the justices displayed all of their worst traits—among them vanity, overconfidence, impatience, arrogance, and simple political partisanship. These three weeks taint an otherwise largely admirable legacy. The justices did almost everything wrong. They embarrassed themselves and the Supreme Court. –p.141. This book was published last year, and that quote was only halfway through. He goes on to describe how that case affected the court. It, in fact, caused it to move to the left. An interesting and refreshing phenomenon (I always value people learning from their mistakes). That of course, was before O’Connor quit and Rehnquist died. Now all bets are off. The religious right who has been loudly crying foul on ‘Activist Judges” have won in their attempts to place activist judges on the Supreme Court. With George Bush’s two appointments, the Highest Court in the land has taken a decided jump to the right. I am saddened by this happening in my lifetime. However, I recognize that such phenomena move in waves with lag times. This court is to the right of center. I think (I hope, I pray, I dance) that the country is on a move to the left. The court will be out of step with American sentiment, but the sentiment will eventually catch up as more liberal presidents select more liberal judges. While I no longer have faith in our Supreme Court, I do have faith in our fundamental system of government. If we can overthrow the “Corporatacracy” that has developed, then we can be ‘the people’ again. I just don’t know. I don’t think it looks good for my lifetime. This book was a long, arduous but fruitful read for me. Now that I am finished, I will be able to spend my van ride writing instead of reading.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    You've got to love book group and you have to doubly love a non-fiction book group. If not for this group of wonderful people I might never have read The Nine. And I meant THE NINE... I'm mediocre when it comes to following our government. I'm not the worse when it comes to current events but I knew my reading group had it all over me. All the more fun as they had the background and could fill in questions that came up. What I liked about The Nine was the way Jeffrey Toobin gave us snapshots of m You've got to love book group and you have to doubly love a non-fiction book group. If not for this group of wonderful people I might never have read The Nine. And I meant THE NINE... I'm mediocre when it comes to following our government. I'm not the worse when it comes to current events but I knew my reading group had it all over me. All the more fun as they had the background and could fill in questions that came up. What I liked about The Nine was the way Jeffrey Toobin gave us snapshots of many of the associate justices and fuller portraits of some including a good fleshing out of Sandra Day O'Connor and her importance in often being the swing vote. I learned enough about the workings of the Supreme Court, the cases they've heard, and the role of their law clerks. It was interesting to see political and power shifts through the years and to also to consider what changes might be forthcoming if President Obama gets to nominate another justice. I was surprised to learn that the justices each have their own offices and rarely visit one another, either at the court or socially. The group as a whole felt the statement that who gets to be one of these nine comes to down to politics, pure and simple. We all felt Toobin is a good writer and had an excellent handle on his subject. I think I'd like to read something else he has written, perhaps his newest book,The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court. I'd also like to read another author's take on The Court to have a comparison of opinion.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mahlon

    The Nine offers the reader a peek behind the curtains at the latter days of the Rehnquist court. The book is a good combination of pen portraits of the justices combined with explanations of the landmark cases they decided during this time, and often the legal sparring behind those decisions. The centerpiece is the most elucidating account of Bush v. Gore that I've read! This section elevates The Nine to one of the cornerstone books on the Supreme Court. It may feel dated now that many of the Ju The Nine offers the reader a peek behind the curtains at the latter days of the Rehnquist court. The book is a good combination of pen portraits of the justices combined with explanations of the landmark cases they decided during this time, and often the legal sparring behind those decisions. The centerpiece is the most elucidating account of Bush v. Gore that I've read! This section elevates The Nine to one of the cornerstone books on the Supreme Court. It may feel dated now that many of the Justices mentioned have retired or died, but the issues Toobin outlines will be argued by the court for years to come!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jan

    This book sat on my nightstand for about two years. My husband recommended it highly, but I just couldn't dig in--until this week. And then I could hardly put it down. There was so much in this book I wanted and needed to know, and I am walking away from my read of it much better informed, not only about the Supreme Court but about the U.S.A., the balance of powers and tensions to keep those powers balanced, the individual struggles of people who find themselves members of the Supreme Court.... This book sat on my nightstand for about two years. My husband recommended it highly, but I just couldn't dig in--until this week. And then I could hardly put it down. There was so much in this book I wanted and needed to know, and I am walking away from my read of it much better informed, not only about the Supreme Court but about the U.S.A., the balance of powers and tensions to keep those powers balanced, the individual struggles of people who find themselves members of the Supreme Court.... It's a not-to-be-missed read. I don't know why it was so hard for me to get started.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Eric_W

    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 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.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lightreads

    Sadly not the trashy gossip fest I was in the mood for. I wanted either another hundred pages discussing the court's role in the political system and propounding a new theory of case analysis, or I wanted some juicy judicial sexploits. Sadly, I got neither. The "revelations" in this book are nothing new if you pay a little attention to the court – Scalia and Ginsburg were besties, Thomas has a bizarre and alarming worldview, etc. Still, the lay reader would probably enjoy this as a portrait of pe Sadly not the trashy gossip fest I was in the mood for. I wanted either another hundred pages discussing the court's role in the political system and propounding a new theory of case analysis, or I wanted some juicy judicial sexploits. Sadly, I got neither. The "revelations" in this book are nothing new if you pay a little attention to the court – Scalia and Ginsburg were besties, Thomas has a bizarre and alarming worldview, etc. Still, the lay reader would probably enjoy this as a portrait of personalities, and for the capsule histories of momentous cases from the Reagan years to about 2006. (Though this book did lead me to discover that I can still recite footnote 4 of carolene Products from memory, which, honestly, I'd be happier not knowing that about myself). Anyway, this didn't change my opinions of anyone. You don't catch me agreeing with Scalia very often, but I am in complete sympathy with his opinion of Kennedy. I remember when I was putting together my constitutional law notes – I had this beautiful 70 page outline with case holdings and capsule dissents, and at the end of every statement of a Kennedy holding I wrote, whatever the fuck that's supposed to mean. My feelings on O'connor are complicated, and I suspect Toobin would say the same, so those sections worked well for me. And of course my opinions on Roberts and Alito were formed realtime – I actually worked on a team that vetted the short list of nominees that leaked that summer for a civil rights organization, which sounds roughly a billionty times sexier than it actually was. So this was well researched and diverting, but ultimately inconsequential for me.

  15. 5 out of 5

    David

    This is an excellent book. Toobin exhibits all the qualities one could want in a guide to the Supreme Court: he is smart, knowledgeable, engaging, witty, and writes clearly and fluidly. This is a well-organized, well-written book on a fascinating and important subject. Remarkably, it is never dull - parts I found particularly notable were his account of the Court's role in the 2000 election debacle, and his explanation of how Sandra Day O' Connor became the most influential justice on the court. This is an excellent book. Toobin exhibits all the qualities one could want in a guide to the Supreme Court: he is smart, knowledgeable, engaging, witty, and writes clearly and fluidly. This is a well-organized, well-written book on a fascinating and important subject. Remarkably, it is never dull - parts I found particularly notable were his account of the Court's role in the 2000 election debacle, and his explanation of how Sandra Day O' Connor became the most influential justice on the court. This book should serve as excellent background material to help track the evolution of the court in 2008 and beyond, as Bush's appointees begin to exert greater influence. Highly recommended. For all citizens and residents of the U.S.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Joyce

    This book is everything Supreme Court, primarily its members and their decisions on numerous supreme court hearings. It's a fascinating peek behind the headlines and it shows how liberal and conservative views have played out over the years. If you have an interest in the factors that came to play in such decisions, the intellect and even politics, you'll enjoy it.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    I cannot believe I waited to read this book until now. I thought I knew what it was about and that I didn't need this brick in my building of knowledge. I was wrong. This book is exquisite. It is so well written and is such an interesting and important account of US law and politics over the last several decades. A few thoughts: 1. It is amazing how much certain peoples' insecurities and temperaments end up changing the course of history. I am not a believer in the "great man" (or woman) theory I cannot believe I waited to read this book until now. I thought I knew what it was about and that I didn't need this brick in my building of knowledge. I was wrong. This book is exquisite. It is so well written and is such an interesting and important account of US law and politics over the last several decades. A few thoughts: 1. It is amazing how much certain peoples' insecurities and temperaments end up changing the course of history. I am not a believer in the "great man" (or woman) theory of history--I tend to think that there are people that a certain movement or a time chooses instead of people who make things happen. But in the case of the supreme court, the individuals and the culture each created on the Court really did affect the time. 2. I cannot believe that three decades of judicial choices and jurisprudence centered around the law of abortion--like our nation's political branches most wanted to tell women that they had to take their babies to term. But I wonder too if this is right. I do think that there are some true believers who believe abortion is murder, but are there not others who sell this line of thinking to their base but what they really want from their judges are decisions that are proc corporation and anti-integration? I wonder. 3. I know we all miss George Bush, but this book reminded me how crazy that administration was. Especially on the Guantanamo stuff (but then again Obama wasn't exactly the pillar of due process for prisoners either). 4. The whole time I was reading I kept thinking how desperately I wanted an update to this book. It's so much worse now. He doesn't even get to Citizens United and the Garland debacle and Gorsuch. Ugh, please Toobin write an update.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    My education has huge gaps around the area of the Supreme Court so I have been looking at various books to give me some of the information that I need to fill some of those gaps. I'm starting with this one because I have heard good things. I'm really glad that I started here because Jeffrey Toobin does a really good job of giving an overview of the Court as well as bringing the reader up to date on what's been happening for the last 30 years. And it was illuminating ... and a bit frightening. I' My education has huge gaps around the area of the Supreme Court so I have been looking at various books to give me some of the information that I need to fill some of those gaps. I'm starting with this one because I have heard good things. I'm really glad that I started here because Jeffrey Toobin does a really good job of giving an overview of the Court as well as bringing the reader up to date on what's been happening for the last 30 years. And it was illuminating ... and a bit frightening. I'd kind of always kept the Supreme Court on a bit of a pedestal for some reason. The highest court of the land and all of that. I think this really gave me more information about how the court has changed over the last 30 years and I feel a little more understanding of what I am reading in the news and able to understand the implications of things I'm seeing in our country today. I think this is a good place to start if someone is interested in learning more. I plan to read Bob Woodward's book about the Supreme Court next as I feel like I need to go deeper. I recommend this one. I felt it was balanced (politically speaking) as well as informative.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Seth

    Interesting survey of the modern supreme court's history and personalities. The author pretends to write balanced even handed biographical sketches of a number of supreme court justices during the Bush years. He has a hard time veiling his distaste for conservative ideology while praising "moderate" justices like O'Conner for her "diplomatic" and "pragmatic" judicial view. He seems to spend by far more time on her than all the others combined. He believes that she was the most influential justic Interesting survey of the modern supreme court's history and personalities. The author pretends to write balanced even handed biographical sketches of a number of supreme court justices during the Bush years. He has a hard time veiling his distaste for conservative ideology while praising "moderate" justices like O'Conner for her "diplomatic" and "pragmatic" judicial view. He seems to spend by far more time on her than all the others combined. He believes that she was the most influential justice of the last 20 years and voted according to the "pulse of the nation" with the zeal of a politician. The author's favoritism would not particularly bother me were he to remain consistent for his reasons of preferences. However, he harshly criticizes conservative justices for ideological reasons and fails to mention Stevens and Ginsburg on the same grounds...that is to allow ideology to inform a justice's vote much more than other more legally justifiable factors. His neglect reveals his preconceived biases which motivate him to search for more errors with the "conservative" justices. However, the bias tone only mildly distracts from Toobin's otherwise terrific insight. As a matter of fact his criticism seems merited. The problem is that it wasn't applied with the same zeal to the opposing ideology. Toobin seems to prefer O'Conner's "splitting the difference" approach over Scalia's antagonistic dissent. His conclusion even tries to reconcile the conservative justices' ideologically driven decisions as a necessary part of the democratic process as if he wouldn't have it any other way. After having read 300 pages of mildly panicked criticism of ideologically motivated decisions his conclusion was, admittedly, a very unpredictable reconciliation. I suppose its fitting...his thought process was as cryptic as O'Conner's (which explains his admiration). The book in many ways was incredibly informative. Its a terrific introduction to the court and who the justices are. The book's merit is mostly in the consolidated description of each justice's judicial philosophy. He also gives an excellent perspective of how justices influence their colleagues. Even though, I spend much of my review rolling my eyes at Toobin's facade of objectivity, I recommend this book for its summary of modern cases, condensed biographies of each justice, insight into motivations of justices, and judicial philosophies informing the court's decisions.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    Jeffrey Toobin’s The Nine is an incredibly well written book. If you’re a follower of the Supreme Court and acquainted with terms like Casey, Lawrence, or Hamdan you won’t be able to put the book down. If these cases are new to you, then you are in for quite an education on the true workings of the third coequal branch of the federal government. One criticism of Toobin’s style is that he doesn’t go into enough detail on the legal reasoning or merits of the cases. The book reads more like a novel Jeffrey Toobin’s The Nine is an incredibly well written book. If you’re a follower of the Supreme Court and acquainted with terms like Casey, Lawrence, or Hamdan you won’t be able to put the book down. If these cases are new to you, then you are in for quite an education on the true workings of the third coequal branch of the federal government. One criticism of Toobin’s style is that he doesn’t go into enough detail on the legal reasoning or merits of the cases. The book reads more like a novel than a law review, and that is the point. This book is not about comparing the facts of controversial cases or disecting the merits of a particular school of legal reasoning. Rather, it charts the organized rise and takeover of a new conservative legal philosophy and foreshadows what the impact of this new controlling ideology may be. Based on a series of background interviews and archival material, Toobin pulls back the black robes cloaking the personalities and political realities that shape the workings of the Court. He tracks the course of a larger conservative cultural movement and its impact on the law through the 90s, the aftermath of Bush v Gore, and into the present day. In one quotable passage Toobin rightly observes that Justice Scalia did not need to make better arguments, he just needed different colleagues. The Rhenquist court is gone, new colleagues have arrived, and Scalia’s future is looking brighter than ever. The Nine simultaneously fills you with a new awe for the rule of law and the protections of the Constitution while confirming your most cynical suspicions about how the law is really decided. The future for individual rights is indeed grim, but thanks to The Nine we all at least know what it will bring.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ira friedman

    Toobin's book, as mentioned in some of the other reviews, is highly readable, captivating and contains very good summaries of many of the important Supreme Court cases of the last few decades. Perhaps as important is his ability to write about the Jurist's personalities and their judicial philosophy providing the reader with the thought processes that go to work behind the decision making. The inner workings and day to day activity of the Court was something I found quite interesting. The Jurist Toobin's book, as mentioned in some of the other reviews, is highly readable, captivating and contains very good summaries of many of the important Supreme Court cases of the last few decades. Perhaps as important is his ability to write about the Jurist's personalities and their judicial philosophy providing the reader with the thought processes that go to work behind the decision making. The inner workings and day to day activity of the Court was something I found quite interesting. The Jurists don't have too many interactions with one another except at scheduled meetings to discuss cases and thus spend their time during oral arguments trying to influence one another. This is shown via the dialogue and questioning of attorneys who are before the court and displays both the intelligence and judicial outlook of those on the bench. Lastly, Toobin does a good job summing up the nomination process that got each Justice on the court, with the exception of Stevens. It's interesting to see that overtime this basically comes down to the candidates position on abortion. Only since the Bush II administration has this become the all deciding factor as everyone but Roberts and Alito was able to clear the Senate without this being the prime issue of their confirmation hearings. In the end Toobin makes a point that there will be no more jurists who do not exactly reflect the views of the administration that appointed them. No more Souters from men like Bush ! and more devastating no more O'Connors. Something to think about when we hit the polls.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Alisa

    I really enjoyed this audio book. Well-researched, relatively balanced, and an intimate look at the way the Supreme Court operates. Interesting to consider how this impacts (or doesn't) daily American life. It makes me wonder more about the clerking culture, and certainly will be interesting to see how the next iteration of the court, with Kagan and Sotomayor, will change the dynamics. The court will never be a microcosm of society, its functions and functionaries will always be part of our most I really enjoyed this audio book. Well-researched, relatively balanced, and an intimate look at the way the Supreme Court operates. Interesting to consider how this impacts (or doesn't) daily American life. It makes me wonder more about the clerking culture, and certainly will be interesting to see how the next iteration of the court, with Kagan and Sotomayor, will change the dynamics. The court will never be a microcosm of society, its functions and functionaries will always be part of our most elite amongst the legal profession (which itself is not reflective of society), and this book explores and explains some of the reasons for that. If you have time for nothing else though, read the epilogue. It talked through the social changes we've undergone, and how the emphases have changed, especially as the political systems have changed. *Rounded up from 4.5 stars.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Cami

    I guess I was expecting this to be more journalistic and less dramatic. While very interesting and well written you cannot say that this is an objective view of the Supreme Court, its members, or its role in our government. Written during the George W. Bush presidency, with hindsight it is humorous that the author was so concerned that the SCOTUS was becoming too conservative - ha!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Debbie "DJ"

    Really well written. Not at all dry or boring, really gave me a look into our Supreme Court. This book was written in 2007, so two of the justices have changed, but still an awesome read. The different personalities, and cases, shed so much light on the inner workings of our highest court.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mitch Rogers

    When rating a book, there is a difficulty distinguishing between the execution of the writing and the book's appeal to the reader's personal tastes. Toobin is readable, that's for sure. The execution is close to flawless. The legal minutiae is lucid, easy to follow, and often more entertaining than one would imagine. The book is generally even-handed, but a dutiful parsing of the language shows the author's leanings. At times, particularly in the new afterward, you can tell that Toobin is a libe When rating a book, there is a difficulty distinguishing between the execution of the writing and the book's appeal to the reader's personal tastes. Toobin is readable, that's for sure. The execution is close to flawless. The legal minutiae is lucid, easy to follow, and often more entertaining than one would imagine. The book is generally even-handed, but a dutiful parsing of the language shows the author's leanings. At times, particularly in the new afterward, you can tell that Toobin is a liberal. And that's fine. That's why you shouldn't form your entire opinion on something as important as the Supreme Court from just one book that can be purchased at Costco. However, never does the book read as a biased tirade against conservative justices or a reverent hagiography for liberal justices. To let Toobin's politics, which, to reiterate, are admirably toned down, get in the way of reading such an informative, insightful, and gripping book would be a real shame.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    I had finished Sandra Day O’Connor’s book “Out of Order” which was ok…. And read a fellow GoodRead’s review recommending this book. This is what I wanted to read…however, Sandra’s is a good book regarding the history of the Supreme Court. This book got more into the personalities, the workings, cases and the politics of the court. So many of the arguments had me reacting as if I was watching a sporting event, and at times I was able to see both sides of a case. All in all the law is fascinating I had finished Sandra Day O’Connor’s book “Out of Order” which was ok…. And read a fellow GoodRead’s review recommending this book. This is what I wanted to read…however, Sandra’s is a good book regarding the history of the Supreme Court. This book got more into the personalities, the workings, cases and the politics of the court. So many of the arguments had me reacting as if I was watching a sporting event, and at times I was able to see both sides of a case. All in all the law is fascinating and can be a real nail biter if it affects you. Reading these relevant books does encourage me to pay attention to what our law makers are doing…when I have the stomach for it!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    Excellent book. It has been out for a number of years but still provides great insight into our current Supreme Court politics.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Tracy

    I had given this book to my partner, who hadn't read it. . . So I picked it up. It feels really strange to say this was a guilty pleasure, but it was! What, a non-fiction work about the Supreme Court a guilty pleasure??? Well, it was! It is extremely accessible (perhaps too accessible?), and the position Toobin takes on any issue coincides pretty closely to mine, so that made it even easier to read. The general pictures of the book is an insider's look at the Supreme Court from roughly the mid 1980 I had given this book to my partner, who hadn't read it. . . So I picked it up. It feels really strange to say this was a guilty pleasure, but it was! What, a non-fiction work about the Supreme Court a guilty pleasure??? Well, it was! It is extremely accessible (perhaps too accessible?), and the position Toobin takes on any issue coincides pretty closely to mine, so that made it even easier to read. The general pictures of the book is an insider's look at the Supreme Court from roughly the mid 1980's to 2005, 2006. The information Toobin got was all off the record, but it's easy to see that much of it came from O'Connor, who is deeply disappointed with the current administration and the state of the nation. Toobin has a great deal of cool, gossipy information -- he knows things like what's in the offices of the justices (including a huge elk in Scalia's. He shot it himself), and he knows where their former clerks have ended up. For instance, Thomas's staff completely explores everything about his clerks, and they are all extremely concervative. One of his clerks was John Yoo, who helped more than anyone else to shape the current policy on torture. Another bit of insider information that felt intimate included Souter's great depression after the Gore v Bush decision. He felt that was a terrible moment in the court's history, and the only thing that kept him on the court was that he would lose his pension if he resigned immediately. He did, however, finally reignite his interest in the court. The book is frightening, though -- it's clear that we now have a near majority of justices who do not believe in stare decisis. That is, they do not believe that previous rulings of the court have any weight. Instead, they should make their decisions based on...well, something else! What is that something else? Some would say merely the constitution and no decision made after that document was written. However, it is very difficult to determine the exact meaning of the generalizations in the constitution and 2) the "intent" of the folks who wrote that document. Anyone who studies literature knows that "intent" is often impossible to posit accurately... But, it's always possible to think we do know what that intent is...It's what we want it to be. So, anyone who thinks like that gets to decide cases however he or she wants. That's a radical court, the very thing the folks who practice it now hated when Brennan was chief justice. Vote, vote, vote, vote!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    The book offered some good (and at times, juicy) insights into the Court that I was not previously aware of. It is a compelling tale and analysis of the Court’s recent history from prominent cases to the nominations of the justices to judicial politics. The unfortunate side effect of this was again feeling the anguish that accompanied some vile and lawless decisions; most of all, Bush v. Gore. The naked desire on the part of the five that made the majority in that case to act as speedily as poss The book offered some good (and at times, juicy) insights into the Court that I was not previously aware of. It is a compelling tale and analysis of the Court’s recent history from prominent cases to the nominations of the justices to judicial politics. The unfortunate side effect of this was again feeling the anguish that accompanied some vile and lawless decisions; most of all, Bush v. Gore. The naked desire on the part of the five that made the majority in that case to act as speedily as possible, not to make a decision on the legal questions put forth, but to settle the election in favor of George Bush, makes it perfectly clear why David Souter still occasionally weeps when discussing it. It also offered a grim reminder of the sinister force in the judicial world that is John Roberts, mid-west charm and silly baseball metaphors aside, the book details the arch, cruel conservatism of the man and his counterpart, Samuel Alito, as they ignore precedent and somehow subtly overturn long-standing decisions in favor of their twisted ideologies that have no basis in the law. Indeed at one point, the liberal dissenters write of one majority decision: “It is intolerable for the judicial system to treat people this way, and there is not even a technical justification for condoning this bait and switch.” The final chapters leave the reader with a sick feeling as it becomes clear that with Roberts, Alito, Thomas, Scalia and Kennedy - whom the author paints as something of an attention-seeking blowhard - running the show, one can expect more inching towards Roe being overturned, the dismantling of the wall between church and state, the speeding of executions and expanded power for the chief executive. This is the Court Reagan wanted.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    This journey started out because of my current obsession with The West Wing and the arc about the Supreme Court. Then, it was fueled by my love of repeating the name "Sotomayor." Generally I would never, ever pick up a book written by Toobin, a typical one-sided liberal talking head/legal analyst, but the subject matter pulled me in. I am so happy that I hopped on this particular ride. Though not entirely a fair-minded book, it's his book, and he can do what he wants with it. It was fascinating a This journey started out because of my current obsession with The West Wing and the arc about the Supreme Court. Then, it was fueled by my love of repeating the name "Sotomayor." Generally I would never, ever pick up a book written by Toobin, a typical one-sided liberal talking head/legal analyst, but the subject matter pulled me in. I am so happy that I hopped on this particular ride. Though not entirely a fair-minded book, it's his book, and he can do what he wants with it. It was fascinating and informative right from the start. I loved the history of the court, and I especially loved Toobin's in-depth research of opinions and the extremely political world of Supreme Court Confirmations. I knew intellectually that the Justices are typically selected based on their stand on one issue, and one issue alone: Roe. But Toobin was masterful at illustrating how there will never again be a justice that will surprise the administration that appointed them, such as Sandra Day O'Connor. When Reagan appointed her, she was deemed vastly conservative. Contrary to this, she voted moderately for much of her term, and then extremely left on many issues after the Bush administration took office and the war began. There's so much that goes into this all-important selection process, and even more that goes into the Justices' decisions. I could have read this book forever. I think I am going to have to find another book about the Supreme Court to fill the void. Bravo!

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