Book Review – The Nine by Jeffrey Tobin


You would expect a book about the inner workings of the United States Supreme Court to be dry and boring. I did, which is why this book has been sitting unread in my book pile for months.

Surprise! I found this book to be very interesting and entertaining.

The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court was written by Jeffrey Tobin, a staff writer for The New Yorker and a senior legal analyst at CNN. Toobin guides us through the last twenty years of court history by focusing on individual justices and their roles in some of the most controversial cases.

It is not an unbiased view of the justices. Tobin paints a very flattering picture of the centrist Justice O’Connor. In Toobin’s view Rehnquist has little interest in the reasoning even of his own opinions. He paints Antonin Scalia as the brilliant but pugnacious. Stephen Breyer is portayed as an optimist with an unrealistic belief in his powers of persuasion. Justice Kennedy comes across as pompous. Thomas seems bitter and angry. Ginsburg is charming and briliant. Stevens stands as the last bastion of liberalism on the court. Souter is a hermit living in the woods of New Hampshire who has never plugged in his television.

Toobin also portrays a bumbling Clinton administration putting its appointees on the Court. In comparison, the Bush White House ran its candidates past the religious right for their approval on social issues.

I am lawyer, so I may find the working of the Supreme Court more interesting than non-lawyers. Maybe my view is tainted, but this is one of the best books I have read in many months. I think you should add The Nine to your reading list.

If you are taking constitutional law, this book is a must read. It will provide great insight to some of the recent cases before the court.

A version of this post was first published in Compliance Building, my blog on compliance and business ethics.

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