Over the years any number of best selling books have been written about the U.S. Supreme Court. If you are an avid reader like myself then you have probably read a few of them. Of all of the books I have read on this subject I found Jeffrey Toobin's 2007 offering "The Nine: Inside The Secret World of the Supreme Court" to be among the very best. As senior legal analyst for CNN and a staff writer for "The New Yorker" Jeffrey Toobin is uniquely qualified to tackle a topic that most Americans know precious little about and frankly find a bit mysterious. Like peeling the skin from an onion Toobin succeeds in revealing just who these justices are and how they have evolved over time. It is a fascinating study.
One notion that "The Nine" certainly reinforces is the conventional wisdom that says there really is no way of predicting how a judge is going to vote on controversial issues after receiving a lifetime appointment to the United States Supreme Court. While it seems that the majority of justices remain true to their philosophies after being appointed to the Court, a fairly significant percentage of appointees veer off in totally unexpected directions. Case in point is the retiring Justice David Souter whom President George H.W. Bush expected to a fairly conservative justice. Time certainly proved otherwise. Throughout "The Nine" Jeffrey Toobin introduces us to the men and women who have served on the Court over the past two decades. Depending on your point of view you will find some of the justices extremely likeable and others enigmatic. You will also learn who the reliable liberal and conservative votes are and who tends to occupy the center. And Jeffrey Toobin spotlights a number of controversial 5-4 cases where those 1 or 2 "swing" votes would make all the difference.
It is quite apparent that Jeffrey Toobin is a huge fan of retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. In fact, on a couple of occasions he refers to her as "the most important woman in American history". Appointed by Ronald Reagan in September 1981 Sandra Day O'Connor would spend a quarter century on the bench and prove to be the swing vote in a myriad of important cases. Toobin also views Justice Stephen Breyer in a similarly favorable light. Over the past few years conservative politicians and voters alike have been extremely critical of what they perceive as a very disturbing new development at the Supreme Court. There is little doubt that a number of the justices have been increasingly influenced by both international law and by the decisions of courts in other nations in making their decisions and in writing their opinions. Indeed, the members of the Supreme Court find themselves sharply divided on this issue and Jeffrey Toobin explains which members buy into this approach and why. This is a trend that certainly bears watching.
As I indicated earlier, "The Nine: Inside The Secret World of the Supreme Court" certainly qualifies as one of the best books I have ever read on the Supreme Court. Although Toobin displays his liberal leanings in some of his observations from time to time this is nonetheless an extremely well written, generally balanced and very informative book. Very highly recommended!
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Paul Tognetti (drifter51)
I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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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 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.
Jeffrey Toobin is a staff writer at The New Yorker, senior legal analyst at CNN, and the authors of such best-sellers as Too Close to Call: The Thirty-Six Day Battle to Decide the 2000 Election, A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Story of the Sex Scandal that Nearly Brought Down a President, and The Run of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson.