The Brethren: Inside the Supreme Court Essay

The Brethren: Inside the Supreme Court Essay

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The Brethren – Inside the Supreme Court: Book Review

The Brethren, co-authored by Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong, is an in-depth documentary of the United States Supreme Court from 1969 to 1975, under the leadership of Warren Burger. The book attempts to present the reader with what "really" goes on in the Supreme Court. It describes the conferences, the personality of justices, and how justice's feel toward each other, items which are generally hidden from the public. This book is comparable to a lengthy newspaper article. Written more as a source of information than of entertainment, The Brethren is the brutal truth, but not boring. The storytelling is clearly slanted against the Burger court but the overall quality of the work makes the bias forgivable. Readers learn how the members of the Court see their mandate and also see the enormous role the clerks play in shaping the rulings of the Court.
The Brethren shows the flowering of Nixon's four judicial selections: Warren E. Burger, Harry A. Blackmun, Lewis F. Powell, Jr., and William H. Rehnquist. The final chapter introduces President Ford's only appointment, John Paul Stevens. Burger was Nixon's first appointee, replacing retiring Chief Justice Earl Warren. By the late 1960s, federal courts and school districts were struggling with court ordered busing. Once Burger joined the court, the longtime Nixon friend clearly showed an interest in moving away from these liberal decisions. However, Woodward goes to great lengths to illustrate how Burger's indecision, lack of tact, poor legal reasoning and overall gauche demeanor hampers his own effectiveness.
The book takes heavy aim at what author feels are Burger's negative personality traits. The Chief's pettiness manifested ...


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...ch as ideology, compromise, persuasive arguments, and even interaction with the clerks. It could be used as a textbook for a course on the Supreme Court. Trust in the political system was both strengthened and weakened by this book. I was impressed by how difficult it is to confirm an appointment to the Supreme Court. Not just anyone can become a Supreme Court justice, but selection is limited to political insiders who don't always know what America is all about. A book like this keeps Washington on its toes. It reminds politicians that someone is always watching, and even the closest colleague may be willing to talk. The average American probably wouldn't read this book. If they did, they would only pay attention to cases that could possibly pertain to them. It could definitely make some readers angry and confused, causing them to question the whole political system.

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