In The Nine Jeffrey Toobin, CNN Legal Analyst and staff writer for the New Yorker, paints a fascinating portrait of the justices who served on the Rehnquist Court from 1986 to 2005. The result is an extremely readable account of the inner workings of the Supreme Court. While Toobin has a liberal bent, his discussion of cases dealing with a wide variety of subjects such as affirmative action and separation of church and state should prove riveting for any reader. Using interviews with several justices and more than 75 former law clerks he discusses the backgrounds, personal stories and judicial philosophies of the justices. What Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong did with the Burger Court in The Brethren: Inside the Supreme Court Toobin does with the Rehnquist Court.
The author describes in detail the personalities and backgrounds of the justices as well as the rivalries and interactions between the members of this most secretive branch of government. Toobin describes Justice David Souter as being so upset by the politics involved in Bush v. Gore that he considered resigning in protest. But he also brings out the lighter side of the justices. For example, once when Justice David Souter was eating lunch a stranger came up to him and asked “You’re Justice Breyer, right ?” Rather than embarrass him Souter simply nodded. Not wanting to end the conversation the stranger asked “Justice Breyer, what’s the best thing about being on the Supreme Court?” Souter replied, “Well, I’d have to say it’s the privilege of serving with David Souter.”
This book is intended for anyone who wants to go beyond the news headlines and get to know the individual justices who served during this time period as human beings and not just names on opinions, concurrences, and dissents. The Nine was voted Best Book of 2007 by The Economist, Time, Newsweek, and Fortune and is well worth reading. It will also prompt interest and speculation about the personalities on the current Court.