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The Brethren is the first detailed behind-the-scenes account of the Supreme Court in action. Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong have pierced its secrecy to give us an unprecedented view of the Chief and Associate Justices -- maneuvering, arguing, politicking, compromising and making decisions that affect every major area of American life....

Title : The Brethren: Inside the Supreme Court
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ISBN : 9780671241100
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 467 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Brethren: Inside the Supreme Court Reviews

  • Matt
    2019-05-07 02:40

    In what is putatively a democracy, with power given by the people, and then shared among three coequal branches of government the United States Supreme Court stands apart. It is distinctly undemocratic: unelected, unaccountable, and secretive. The Supreme Court is where the power is, because it doesn't matter who makes the laws, or enforces the laws; it only matters who interprets the laws. The Supreme Court has always been a political branch, though it's only fairly recently that we've come to accept this (accept the reality, that is, without condoning it). Today, the big fight is over judicial activism. Liberals have been accused of being activists for finding "fundamental rights" in the 14th amendment. Conservatives - especially of late - have been accused of being activists for striking down laws passed by a duly and democratically elected congress. In essence, then, judicial activism is any Supreme Court opinion you do not agree with. Bob Woodward's The Brethren is the best window we've ever had into the Supreme Court and its life-altering decisions. It was written in 1979 and covers the 1969 through 1975 terms. Though it deals with a Supreme Court that has receded into the past, it is still as relevant and vibrant as ever. More recent Supreme Court exposes, such as Jeffrey Toobin's The Nine and Jan Crawford Greenburg's Supreme Conflict are pale pretenders. This is the original, often imitated but never surpassed. It is a high-wire feat of reporting and story-telling. The Brethren begins with the retirement of Chief Justice Earl Warren, who'd presided over Brown vs. Board of Education and Miranda vs. Arizona. This latter case, requiring criminal defendants to be read their rights, helped bring Nixon into office, where he would declare a "war on crime" (and unleash an undeclared war on Cambodia). The man chosen to replace the legendary Earl Warren, a man of true greatness, whether or not you agreed with his legal acumen, was Warren Burger, to whom no greatness ever neared. The Burger Court years were tumultuous and fascinating; at least, they are fascinating to me, which frankly, might not be saying much. The seven terms covered by the book saw many landmark cases: Roe v. Wade (abortion); Cohen v. California (f**k the draft!); and United States v. Nixon (executive privilege). It's not the cases that make The Brethren, however; it's the people. Supreme Court justices have always done their best to appear inhuman. The authority of a judge rests on his or her apparent impartiality towards the vagaries of life, and strict fidelity to the letter of the law. All the trappings of a judgeship are meant to foster this impression: the raised bench; the black robes; the lifetime appointments. Woodward gives these justices - some of them legal titans - the breath of life. Good or bad, these men are made human (Sandra Day O'Connor wasn't appointed till 1981). Burger comes off the worst. He is something of a legal weasel, a politician without any skill, who abused his prerogatives as chief justice to mess with the writing assignments (this famously backfired on him when he gave Blackmun Roe v. Wade). It doesn't take much to convince me that Burger was a ponce, but Woodward proves the case. For instance, Burger found it incredible that involuntarily committed patients should have a right to psychiatric care. Really! How would you like to live in Warren Burger's America, where your freedom can be taken by the government, and the government won't even give you a mental evaluation? (Of course, Burger wasn't a bad man, and Woodward shows that he was probably more racially enlightened than many of his contemporaries). In a book like this, bias is an issue. In my opinion, Woodward does a good job of presenting a balanced portrait. While Burger comes off poorly, Woodward presents a positive image of a young William Rehnquist, fresh from the Nixon administration and sporting a great set of sideburns. Much of The Brethren is focused on the back-stories surrounding the important cases of the day. However, the greatest enjoyment I got from this book was its sense of intimacy. There are times you feel like a fly on a wall of the justices' chambers (most of the sources were law clerks, who occupy a privileged position in the legal system). You are privy to the justices' conversations, their thought processes, and their jokes. If you're a lawyer nerd, or a nerd who's interested in the law, these pages are a great place to spend some time. You will come to know men who were formerly surnames on opinions: the good-humored Thurgood Marshall, pretending to be the elevator-man for befuddled tourists; the morally self-righteous Byron White; the prickly Harry Blackmun; and the tragic William O. Douglas, who kept hanging onto his position as a justice even after suffering a debilitating stroke. The great surprise of The Brethren is its humor, much of it gleaned from incisive observations about the justices: Stewart wasn't working too hard. The joke around the Court was that he and Marshall passed each other in the corridor most days just before noon - Stewart on his way to work, Marshall on his way home.Woodward also has fun with the large number of obscenity cases heard during these terms. You are treated to law clerks shouting "I see it" while screening allegedly obscene films (a riff on Potter Stewart's famous declaration that he knew obscenity when he saw it.) You are also witness to the rectitude of Wizzer White, the former all-American football player who had firm (no pun intended) beliefs on the matter: In the pending cases, White's clerk checked to see whether the material violated his boss's personal definition of hard-core pornography. It was a definition that White had never written into an opinion - no erect penises, no intercourse, no oral or anal sodomy. For White, no erections and no insertions equaled no obscenity. (What I took from this is that Byron White probably wasn't much fun on a Friday night.)A Supreme Court opinion is designed to be formal; unemotional; detached; cold. Like the laws given to Moses, the Supreme Court's edicts are meant to be chiseled in granite. The distance between author and reader gives the opinion's words their force. It also obscures the author's humanity, by elevating him (or her) above the human fray. The Brethren gives lie to the impression that judges love to foster: that they are immune to any consideration other than the law. In truth, their consideration of the law is determined by what kind of person they are.

  • Sean Sullivan
    2019-05-16 20:20

    OK, I haven’t read All the Presidents Men, but of all the Woodward books I’ve read, this is by far the best. Woodward can get just about anyone to talk to him, and that is never more clear than in this book. He’s got direct quotes from meetings where there were only five people in attendance. Its amazing.Some brief thoughts on some of the justices features in this book:Brennan- rules.Burger – was a toolMarshall – was a much better lawyer than he was a justice.Rehnquist – dick.Douglas –dick, but pretty fucking amazing.Probably the most fascinating of the justices is Blackmun who goes from an incredibly self-conscious to really confident and interesting in the quick couple of years the book covers. If you have any interest in the inner workings of the court, you have to read this, if not there’s no reason you’d ever pick it up.

  • Shailey
    2019-05-05 23:20

    I read this book in high school, as a high school senior for a Constitutional Law class. I loved it, I loved every minute of it. I found the book very compelling then, and I am sure that I would now. I read the book for a class, but I really got into it, without even knowing the cases that the court heard, who was on the court and the politics behind all of it. Personally, I think that this book really gave me an inside look into the legal system, and is possibly the reason why I became a lawyer. I would like to re-read it now that I have read most of the opinions from the cases heard in the book. Like many law students, I have a love for SCOTUS that runs deep.

  • Werner
    2019-05-08 22:23

    Whether they realize it or not, the decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court have enormous ongoing impact on the lives and prospects of every American. Most Americans who actually follow politics and public affairs have very strong opinions about the court: about what its proper role should be, about what philosophy of jurisprudence should guide its decisions, and about how well the current and past courts have measured up (or failed to) by those standards. I'm certainly no exception; my own perspective is that of a strict constructionist paleo-conservative, who sees adherence to democratically-adopted written law as essential to democratic government. That perspective is elaborated more fully in my reviews of The Tempting of America [www.goodreads.com/review/show/25812422 ] and Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights [www.goodreads.com/review/show/158209251 ] (and I'd recommend both books as windows into the abuse of authority by the court in the past and the present). Those two books, of course, barely scratch the surface of the voluminous number of legal and historical treatises that present explicit evaluations of the rightness or wrongness of the court's performance. This book isn't one of them. But it does provide a much rarer descriptive supplement.The authors were Washington Post reporters (Woodward, of course, made his mark as a reporter of the Watergate scandal), who approached their task journalistically: they give us a descriptive bird's-eye view of the inner routines, interactions and politicking of the Burger court in its first seven terms, 1969-75. They based this portrayal on a plethora of both oral sources on the inside (speaking off the record) and on access to a mass of written primary source material, much of it unpublished. What emerges is an unprecedentedly intimate and candid look at an institution that historically has been highly secretive. Indeed, the court's justices have cultivated an image of impartial, apolitical servants of the law, honestly divining its meaning for us plebians with no tool but their dispassionate intellect. Many of us would agree that their deliberations should be aimed at the honest, dispassionate and unpolitical exposition of constitutional and statute law. But if this book does anything, it demonstrates that this picture doesn't bear very much resemblance to what really goes on. (And to the extent that it doesn't, the pretense that it does becomes little more than a cynical ploy to gain popular compliance with dubious or illegitimate decisions --though the authors leave it to the readers to figure out that conclusion for themselves).Most of the justices depicted here are shown to have personal agendas, sometimes ideological ones on the Left or Right --impartial service to the law usually wasn't high among the considerations. Of course, the authors' own ideological sympathies lay with the Left, or they wouldn't have been allowed to work for the Washington Post; but in their researching and writing of the book, they did a commendable job of checking ideology at the door, to give us an objective factual portrayal of the justices as they were, with all of the personal likes and dislikes, ego-stroking, and sub rosa deal-cutting that shaped their decisions. Burger comes off the worst, manipulative and cynical --he was a master of the art of voting for outcomes he didn't believe in, in order to control who wrote the opinion, though he wasn't the only justice to tailor his votes with an eye to writing or getting out of writing an opinion. (His left-wing rival Brennan, who detested him personally, was just as politically manipulative, but much more naturally gifted at it.) But some liberal icons don't come off well either: Douglas, for instance, was a bullying tyrant to his clerks, and pathetically clung to his office long after a stroke had incapacitated him. Justices White and Rehnquist --one appointed by Kennedy and one by Nixon-- come across as the most principled of the bunch.A wide variety of cases considered in this seven-year period are discussed, the two most prominent being Roe vs. Wade and the subpoena for Nixon's Watergate tapes. In no case, including these, do the authors express their own opinion. But the factual description of the lead-up to the former decision makes it indelibly clear that the entire process was result-driven and political, with no attempt at actual constitutional reasoning. (The same could be said of a good many of these decisions.) And while the court ultimately supported the subpoena for the Nixon tapes, it's chilling to learn that if Burger (who privately declared his belief that Nixon hadn't done anything wrong!) had his way, the opinion would have conceded a great deal more ground to the claim of "executive privilege" than the one the court finally issued.Any study such as this one is a snapshot in time, a picture of one part of the court's ongoing history. None of the then-sitting justices are still on the current court; the cases discussed are all some forty years in the past. Some readers might say that it's "dated." But that's too superficial a conclusion. At the very least, it's an invaluable primary source for a key part of the court's history. And obviously some of these decisions --notably Roe-- still haunt us today. But most importantly, it reveals a basic reality behind the court's facade that time is unlikely to have changed; power blocs and alliances may shift, personalities and cases change, but the kind of dynamics the authors describe continue to shape the court. I think it could serve as an eye-opening read yet today, all these years after it was written. And it's certainly a fascinating read, as entertaining as a novel. (One reviewer complained that the authors don't define legal terms, such as "cert;" but they DO define that one in the introduction. I didn't find the legal terminology excessive, and don't think it would be too technical for educated readers.)

  • Ms.pegasus
    2019-05-11 00:22

    This is a story of what came after the Warren Court – the Burger Court.The appellation of the Warren Court was not merely a product of journalistic shorthand. The Chief Justice exerts enormous power over Court decisions. If he is in the majority of the initial vote, he assigns opinions. The resulting assignment affects the nuance of legal reasoning which can strengthen or dilute the effects of a decision. The authors note that Warren's successor, Warren Burger, was careful to vote with the majority so that he could prevent major cases from being assigned to the “liberal justices” (Douglas, Marshall and Brennan). The Chief's inclinations also are a means for muting opposition. Potter Stewart signaled his reluctance to lead a dissent:“I got shitty opinion assignments from Earl Warren for ten years, and I'll be damned if I want to get them from Warren Burger for the next fifteen years.” The Warren Court ruled on a succession of key cases in the areas of school busing, abortion, obscenity, the death penalty, freedom of the press, and freedom of speech. In one of its first major cases, Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, the Berger Court affirmed school busing in a unanimous opinion. What is fascinating about this book is that it reveals the compromises and considerations that went on before this public consensus could be forged. Burger and (surprisingly) Black were both anti-busing. Douglas and Marshall wanted a broader opinion of affirmation that recognized school segregation as the product of political and social segregation laws which were a clear violation of the Constitution. Steward crafted the bulk of the opinion which sought a middle ground. What was significant about the early years of the Warren Court was the recognition that compromises needed to be made in order to arrive at a convincing public consensus. We tend to think of the Court as either nine jurists secluded in a barrister bubble, or a political 5th column. THE BRETHREN dispels both myths. At times individual members of the Court both recognized and sought to distance themselves from political considerations. In deciding the President's claim of executive privilege to halt the publication of the Pentagon Papers, the Court spent considerable effort debating the issue of expediting the case. (An initial 5 to 3 vote was changed to a 6 to 2 vote as Berger realized the majority was for expediting). Their stance was similarly ambivalent over the dialectic of social consequences. On the subject of capital punishment, Marshall, Douglas and Brennan were willing to find the death penalty “cruel and unusual.” Burger and Rehnquist were for upholding the death penalty. Blackmun, Powell and Stewart were swing votes. Stewart was inclined to be for the death penalty, but unwilling to be the single deciding vote that would end the lives of hundreds of death row inmates. He felt it would be wrong for such a significant decision to be decided by a single vote. Unfortunately, the compromise they arrived at argued that the death penalty was “cruel and unusual” in the sense that it was inconsistently applied. As a result, which none of them intended, states began adopting mandatory death sentences.All of these issues will continue to be revisited and refined, despite the Court's tradition of precedent (stare decisis). Warren Burger is not given sympathetic treatment in this book. He seems obsessed with issues of control, and motivated by a determination to undo the work of the Warren Court. He was not a keen legal intellect, and excelled at gaming the rules in order to get his way. His drafts were purposely vague. In an obscenity case, Stewart said of Burger's initial draft:“'I don't know what it says or what it means,'” Yet, one cannot help but empathize with Burger. His discomfort at being a sitting duck to the sniping of the foremost legal minds of the day – Black and Douglas -- is understandable. Moreover, he was exceptionally kind and gracious to Douglas when the latter attempted to function after his debilitating stroke. The miracle was that Burger was able, perhaps unintentionally, to be the agent of consensus among such a group of strong-willed and opinionated men. That sense of balance was lost when Douglas was incapacitated and finally forced to resign. The authors imply that this was a turning point in the dynamic of the Court. They describe Brennan's increasing dejection, as the narrowly focused, but brilliantly articulated opinions of Rehnquist began to influence the Court's thinking. The theme the authors seek to advance is that the Court is not merely a debate club. Its decisions, particularly in times of political gridlock, have a lasting influence on all of us. One of its finest moments was Douglas' dissent in Sierra Club v. Morton. Douglas' passion was linked with Blackmun's disciplined mathematical calculations. The dissent, which Douglas read aloud, resulted in a broadening of environmental group powers to challenge commercial development intrusions (“standing” in filing lawsuits).This is a book to be referred back to as each new decision is reached by the Court. It offers rare depth to arguments that have become politically polarized to the point that measured discussion has become almost impossible. It also revitalizes the important and constantly changing discussion of the proper role of the Court. Moreover, it is written in a lively fashion offering glimpses of personality and humor.

  • David
    2019-05-10 03:36

    This book was written before Ronald Reagan appointed, in 1981, the first woman to the Supreme Court, so at the time, "the brethren" was an appropriate way to refer to the justices on the Supreme Court. I think it's still the way to which the justices are referred in general, even though more than one woman has now served on the high court. This book is an interesting look at the way the Supreme Court functioned a few decades ago, but perhaps the time has come for Bob Woodward to revisit this topic.

  • Abby
    2019-05-07 21:44

    A classic. Through and through. Sparked an interest that turned into a passion, and is still burning years after I first read it in high school. Every time I read this book I gain new insights. If only we could see behind today's Supreme Court. After The Brethren came out though, I doubt any justices will be talking to reporters anymore.

  • Chellie
    2019-05-18 02:19

    I absolutely loved this book! I had to complete a research paper in high school on the legalization of abortion. The Roe vs. Wade trial. This book was one of the ones that helped immensely. It was a great, interesting read through out the court cases and Justices through the years and terms of each one!

  • Rachel Bryan
    2019-05-02 00:41

    Hooray! I finished a book that is not about babies and their sleep habits and developmental milestones. I read ~10 pages a night over a few months and this was a good book for that slow pace. I enjoyed it. The authors seemed to have an impressive amount of access. I found the behind-the-scenes politicking and negotiating fascinating, but also disheartening.

  • Trevor
    2019-05-21 23:15

    I have a hard time believing that Chief Justice Burger was really as intellectually challenged as he is portrayed here. I also have more respect for Thurgood Marshall than to believe that he just loafed along his days on the Court. Still, this book was a fascinating look at the Supreme Court both as a bit of history and as a good look at how the Court is still run. Woodward organizes this book chronologically. It basically begins when Chief Justice Burger takes over from Chief Justice Earl Warren. Then it is divided into the courts yearly sessions.I thought Woodward did a great job evoking the personalities of the justices--though it surely has some inaccuracies due to cloudy political vision--as well as explaining some of the major issues the Court faced during Burger's early years. This is an important time in United States Constitutional Law history. Nixon resigned because the Supreme Court told him he had to produce tapes of his discussions with his cabinet even though he has immunity to some degree. Roe v. Wade was decided during this time, pushing to the outer limits the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Vietnam was out of control. First Amendment rights were being defined. And this book looks at the lives of the men (no women yet) in charge of making these decisions.While I had read most of the cases that were discussed in this book, I think Woodward explains the underlying conflicts and politics in a way that most people could understand. His looks at the decisions, however, don't pick up on all of the nuances and subtleties, so this is not the place to go if you want a deep look at the cases. Still, I think Woodward does an excellent job at showing just how important (it's frightening, really) it is to understand the Supreme Court and its members. They hold incredible power, and their decisions affect us all.

  • Brandon
    2019-05-03 21:28

    A shocking, detailed behind-the-scenes account of the Burger court thru 1975.Warren Burger was an inept, stupid, highly political hack of a Chief Justice. And a racist, sexist, bigot.Thurgood Marshall was lazy and delegated his work to the point of dereliction.William Brennan was awesome.Ditto William Douglas, until he became senile and crazy.Rehnquist was a really nice guy who lied a lot to get the results he wanted. It is chilling that in this book he is the far right, while at the time of his death he was practically the center.Blackmun was an indecisive Hamlet type who thankfully was won over by Brennan's flattery and deserted his pal Burger.Whizzer White was a jackass whose appointment by JFK is a total mystery to me. A total wild card.The clerks were radicals, even the ones who worked for conservative justices.Next, I'm gonna read Toobin's "The Nine." I'm not optimistic that things have improved.

  • Elizabeth
    2019-05-07 21:39

    This was a fascinating look inside the Supreme Court and it reads practically like a novel. It was scary learning what motivates a lot of the decision-making on the court - at the end of the day these are just nine normal people deciding such important issues that affect so many. I would have liked to learn more about Blackmun and I felt that Woodward's portrayal of him was very different than his portrayal in "Becoming Justice Blackmun." You might like this book more if you are a liberal, because Brennan comes across as the hero, Burger the oafish villian and Rehnquist the snake (but a likeable guy nonetheless).

  • Steven Peterson
    2019-05-16 20:36

    When this book came out, my first response was "Wow." How did Woodward get all of these inside stories? But that's my normal response to many of his books. Why do people open up so much to him? I once used this as a textbook in a course on Law and Politics, since it gives an "inside view" of the Supreme Court. Questions have been raised about this work, but--in thne end--a good read and a work that gets one to thinking about the Court.

  • Sara Alsup
    2019-05-11 02:39

    I found Woodward's prose to make this a compelling and accessible volume on the Court. My intellectual curiousity was piqued by some of the cases discussed.

  • Alisa
    2019-05-06 00:21

    One of the most insightful books about the inner workings of The Supreme Court every done.

  • Steve
    2019-05-11 19:20

    I have again gone back in time to a book that has ties to the Nixon years, co-written by a pair of Washington Post reporters with ties to Nixon's fall. The Brethren -- written by Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong -- looks at the U.S. Supreme Court during a time where justice selection seemed to be as political as the rest of the Government. From 1969 -- the year Nixon selected Warren Burger as Chief Justice -- through 1975, Woodward and Armstrong wrote about the life and times of the Court, provided tremendous insight to the members, and how their interaction decided (and delayed) some of the Nation's major legal decisions.The time frame selected - 1969 to 1975 - saw a huge transition in the Supreme Court. In addition to Burger (who replaced Earl Warren), Nixon was able to name three more Supreme Court Justices in three years. These selections included Harry Blackmun, Lewis Powell, Jr., and William H. Rehnquist, who would eventually replace Burger as Chief Justice in September 1986. With the selection of John Paul Stevens by President Ford in 1975 -- half of the Supreme Court changed in six short years. Most of the selections were deemed "political" as both authors felt the appointments were part of Nixon fashioning the Court to his liking.During that time span, the Court saw many issues that still have impact today, with some decision historic reference. These decisions impacted abortion rights, equal pay for women, busing to achieve school integration, the death penalty, the Muhammed Ali appeal, and the release of recorded tapes that led to Nixon's Watergate resignation in 1974. In all these subject, the authors went into details as to how decisions were researched, organized, reviewed and revised over an extended period of time. My fascination in this work was just how long the process took for nine judges to review, discuss, bargain, coordinate and intimidate each other until a decision was released. Everything from the politics involved in Nixon's selection of justices to the battles between liberals and conservatives on every little item of every case. I was intrigued by the way justices would shift gears, change course, and switch directions in their opinion of a case - often multiple times to gain either a unanimous vote or that delicate 5-4 decision. You also learned of the individual characters -- ones appointed in the late 1930s like FDR's appointments of Hugo Black and William Douglas, and how their styles matched with the newer appointments by Nixon. You also learned that a justice entering the court with a single philosophy could shift philosophy after time. This book had a tendency to drag a little, especially in the discussion of death penalty cases portrayed in the later chapters -- there was so much detail in the decision making process and anotating the process could get tedious. I did like the recognition both authors gave to the loyal legal clerks who served each justice. I also liked the way the authors portrayed each justice as an equal -- with none subordinate the Chief Justice or to another associate justice, yet respectful (with some exceptions) to those with the experience and knowledge of time served and decisions rendered. A wonderfully written civics and history lessson on how the court of 1969-1975 worked. I wonder how much has changed in the chambers of courts that followed.

  • Suzanne
    2019-04-28 01:32

    I had really looked forward to this book based on the reviews it has received. It was very disappointing for me, someone with no formal background knowledge of Law and the Constitution. The author makes assumptions that the reader will know what a "cert" is, what defines a "conference" , what the role of the Law Clerk is, and how cases ultimately end up at the Court. It would have taken very little effort for Woodward to have defined things more clearly for the general audience if his intention was to educate and enlighten the reader.That said, this book is about the Warren Burger Court in the mid-seventies. Some of the more well-known cases decided during his term as Chief Justice include Roe v. Wade and Nixon being forced to turn over his tapes during Watergate. Woodward divides the book into chapters based on the year. But then he loses his way.Each chapter plods along in a disorganized style with unnecessarily long narrative and dialogue that is quoted but not cited. Other reviews have stated that Woodward's sources were the Clerks themselves, but their names are not given. Frankly, I don't know how Woodward would know what was said between two Justices when no Clerk was present. Perhaps the Justices relayed the conversations to their Clerks? How accurate could that be? How many of our bosses embellish their recounting of conversations to their employees to enhance their own image? If what was written is, in fact, true, the image I had of the Justices has been permanently tarnished. They are portrayed as vain men with enormous egos and intellectual insecurities who act out their "issues" in their interactions with each other and with their clerks. Warren Burger and Thurgood Marshall are depicted as lazy and intellectually inferior while Harry Blackmun appears to be so obsessive compulsive he cannot complete his work under any reasonable deadline. Brennan shines the brightest, but my guess is that his clerk was a major source. Perhaps I am too cynical. There is bias here and one gets the feeling that the intent of the book was to shatter the myths surrounding the Supreme Court and its Justices. Woodward succeeded in that goal. For example, his inclusion of the individual Justices reaction to viewing hard core pornography seems superfluous, unnecessary and voyeuristic. If their reactions as described were true, (some giggles, inappropriate joking, disgust etc) they should have been respected as private. Instead one gets a visual image of a bunch of old men watching dirty movies and behaving like immature adolescents. We are left with that image as the Justices struggle with the definition of pornography as it relates to our Constitutional freedoms.Since this was one of the first books written about the inner workings of the Supreme Court the author had opportunities to create a classic work, one that was thought provoking and informative. Instead we have a hatchet job.

  • David
    2019-04-22 19:35

    I generally do not like to spend my free time reading books about the law. I picked this book up at my Dad's house during a recent trip. Due to the length of the book and its subject, I thought the odds were long that I would get very far before putting it down and picking up some fiction. I enjoyed this book more than anything I've read in a longtime. Now more than 30 years old, what was originally current affairs when it was published can be viewed looking back with some historical perspective. The last justice to join the Brethren in the book, John Paul Stevens, was the last of the Brethren to retire from the Supreme Court in June 2010.The Warren Court was responsible for the major advances in individual rights in the sixties and early seventies , but today's society was still be shaped in the early year's of the Burger Court (recognizing that it continues to be reshaped after the time period covered by the book, just in a different direction). It makes one contemplate what America would like today if justice Douglas had retired just a year or two earlier. Or if Nixon hadn't botched (from the conservative's perspective) so many of his picks (Blackmun and Powell). But as the Court moved to the right, the center gained in importance. Stewart, Blackman, Powell and Stevens (all republican appointments) perform admirably in the face of Burger.Burger - was he evil or stupid? That was the clerks' debate. Woodward and Armstrong leave you with the impression he's both. That is another thing I really enjoyed about this book, like Game Change, the curtain is pulled back. Imagine the contempt Justice Stewart must have had for Burger to permit himself to be the primary source for this book at a time he was still on the Court. I really enjoyed this book, but I also think that as a result of it being written, those with interests in picking Justices are much more careful to be certain that the nominee is what they believe him to be (Roberts, Scalia, Alito). The stakes are too high (for both parties), and, without the benefit of historical perspective, the Court looks more like it is occupied by two political parties rather than 9 justices.Next up, The Nine by Toobin.

  • Lily
    2019-05-04 21:27

    I found this book to be deeply entertaining and revealing. The interviews given in this book were inspired by the justices' and clerks' outrage at the Chief Justice's running of the Court. Justice Stewart, who was particularly disgusted, provided Woodward with extended, in-depth interviews. I especially love the picture on the cover - a towering picture of the Supreme Court, looking almost holy. Then, while reading the book you realize that these justices aren't legal scholars set away from society, shut up in that big building, but they are influenced by politics, internal squabbles and image as much as the rest of the Washington. For those of us who have a sort of holy reverence for the Court that the picture on the cover inspires, this book can shake up your world.I do wish more people - especially those of who think of the Court as an archaic and out-of-touch institution- would read this, and begin to understand how closely the Court affects every day and American life (and also see sometimes how arbitrarily decision are made!). If you liked this book, check out: "The Nine" by Jeff Toobin, "A People's History of the Supreme Court" by Peter Irons and (I know this is a book site) the PBS Supreme Court Series.

  • Scott
    2019-04-30 02:28

    Depth: BStyle: CContent: BResearch: AHistorical Impact: DWoodward and Armstrong write a tale of 7 years and 14 Supreme Court judges. To actually write the book, and to access dozens of law clerks and judges, and to amass huge documentation is in itself the feat of the book. The Supreme Court has been the most sheltered of all public institutions with only trifles of coverage before. The book does portray the quirks of the judges, the key decisions of each year, the infighting and the peculiarities of an institution founded on politics yet delivering fundamental cultural dictates.W and A fall down on two points - first, this is not a history book, but a retro-newspaper account. The two can't help but fall into the mode of journalists (which they tacitly state in the intro). This is not a book by Foote, Sandburg, Tuchman, or any other great historian.Secondly, in style they go year by year, day by day practically, without developing any great over-arching themes, lessons, keys, or even predictions.Toobin's recent book "The Nine" is actually sounder and more stylistic due to Toobin's political analysis and book writer's flair.It is clear that the authors despise Warren Burger, and their portrayal of him is of a petty, manipulative man with little integrity. Other accounts will have to be checked to see if the man is actually so unredeemed.

  • Bambi McGaha
    2019-05-03 01:31

    slow, but very intriguing read

  • Kim
    2019-04-25 22:16

    This was one of the few difficult books that I forced myself to read but I was curious about the supreme justices and our judicial system so I read it. I don't remember much of it except how the clerks would write most of the legal documents for the justices. The justices read briefs, made decisions, and hands off the rest of the work to their very faithful clerks. These poor clerks would toil long hours to appease their bosses. Hmm...I don't remember what year I read this book but it was before I strayed from academia. I'd say back in my early college days or high school days when I was very eager to learn.The one line that I remember from the book, the line that helped me find the book again, is the line from justice Brennan, "...upward mobility through conscientious public service".

  • Frank Stein
    2019-05-01 01:34

    Amazing. I had no idea Warren Burger was such an insufferable dick. I mean I heard bad things but I had NO IDEA. Apparently the whole reason this book got writ was because so many of the other justices were peeved at Burger and they had to vent in long, extended interviews.The book focuses too much on Watergate (perhaps justifiably for Woodward) and the extremely detailed background on some cases (the multiple memos, amendments,drafts, and meetings behind them), but one leaves the book with a real understanding of the Supreme Court as a political branch, both in relation to the outside environment, and, even more so, to its own internal environment. Every case is suffused with old fashioned horse trading and jaw boning. Also there are great descriptions of everything from the Swann v. Charlotte Mecklenburg to Furman v. Georgia.

  • Nikki Golden
    2019-05-05 03:17

    This book signifies everything I hate about Bob Woodward. He writes as if he was sitting in the chambers while the judges discuss these cases, quoting verbatim. However, NO ONE is allowed inside the chambers, so why not just say that and call it a fictionalized account of the real supreme court or something? Because then he would lose his cache as a journalist. But a true journalist doesn't withhold stories from the newspaper he's managing editor of so that he could write a best seller.That being said, what I liked about this book is it gives you the real flavor of the supreme court: from how it decides what cases to hear to how it's decided who writes the opinion, and for that, I think it's a valuable read.

  • TomHolt
    2019-05-05 23:15

    This is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the dynamics of the Burger court. Woodward obviously relied on numerous clerks (and perhaps some justices) to get the inside scoop on the interpersonal dynamics of the nation's highest judges at a critical time in jurisprudential history. The Chief himself is portrayed as vain, pretentious, and ungifted, while William Brennan is shown as the somewhat cynical swing player. The degredation of the relationship between the "Minnesota Twins" (Blackmun and Burger) unfolds against Blackmun's budding progressivism in the thral of Brennan and Marshall. The sad story is the slow decline of the once-great (although never good) William O. Douglas.

  • Jeff
    2019-05-21 21:25

    The best of Woodward's many books. The Brethren was the first the (now) many "Inside the Supreme Court" books.The cliff-notes version: Chief Justice Burger is a hack. Justice Brennan is a great hero for all mankind. Justice Marshall is lazy and lets his clerks do all of his work. And Justice Stewart is the everyman justice (with a 125 IQ, natch) with his finger on the pulse of the American zeitgeist. The rest of the justices barely figure.Much of this is probably true (who knows?), but Woodward here follows his traditional m.o.: reward those who leaked to you, punish those who snubbed you, and ignore everyone (and everything) else.

  • Oliver Bateman
    2019-05-07 23:41

    An interesting, gossipy account of the goings-on at the Supreme Court during one of the most critical phases in its history. The book has aged pretty well, and it still leaves readers with absolute contempt for Warren Burger. Potter Stewart, who apparently collaborated with the authors, doesn't come off looking much better. William Rehnquist, (pre-stroke) William O. Douglas, J-P Stevens, Lewis Powell, and the vastly underrated Byron "Whizzer" White are all portrayed as competent jurists, with William Brennan as the group's politician, Thurgood Marshall as its slacker, and Harry Blackmun as its tormented fussbudget.

  • Josh
    2019-05-11 20:31

    This was a WOW book for me.Woodward and Armstrong take their readers inside the halls of power and give us access to history being created as if we are there with them in real time. The thoroughness of the research and the intensity of the Justices' personality make for educational and entertaining reading. This is definitely only a book for the politically-engaged (read: incredibly nerdy) reader, but it's a remarkable piece of writing and reporting.

  • Dave
    2019-05-19 03:33

    Study of how our Supreme Court works. Hard to believe that it is really as depicted, with the Justice's clerks in control and Chief Justice Burger a total idiot. But maybe .... Much of the book chronicles events in the Nixon era, and if you are in your 50's this book explains alot of what went on and why. Very good.

  • Robert
    2019-04-21 22:42

    I felt like I was trying to sit through fifteen hours of Good Morning America. The Supreme Court as a Roy Rogers movie - petty men in black hats and heroic selfless ones in white hats. Lots of factual statments about the unknowable emotions and mental processes of the Justices. I guess being a Washington Post reporter qualifies you to write "nonfiction" as an omniscient narrator.