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Discussion of The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court by Jeffrey

  • Aug 11, 2013 · 5:00 PM
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The poll is now closed and our selection for August will be:

The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court by Jeffrey Toobin
It's not laws or constitutional theory that rule the High Court, argues this absorbing group profile, but quirky men and women guided by political intuition. New Yorker legal writer Toobin (The Run of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson) surveys the Court from the Reagan administration onward, as the justices wrestled with abortion, affirmative action, the death penalty, gay rights and church-state separation. Despite a Court dominated by Republican appointees, Toobin paints not a conservative revolution but a period of intractable moderation. The real power, he argues, belonged to supreme swing-voter Sandra Day O'Connor, who decided important cases with what Toobin sees as an almost primal attunement to a middle-of-the-road public consensus. By contrast, he contends, conservative justices Rehnquist and Scalia ended up bitter old men, their rigorous constitutional doctrines made irrelevant by the moderates' compromises. The author deftly distills the issues and enlivens his narrative of the Court's internal wranglings with sharp thumbnail sketches (Anthony Kennedy the vain bloviator, David Souter the Thoreauvian ascetic) and editorials (inept and unsavory is his verdict on the Court's intervention in the 2000 election). His savvy account puts the supposedly cloistered Court right in the thick of American life.

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  • Christina H.

    If you're interested in hearing more about the nuances of Supreme Court decisions, Pomona College has posted a teleconference they held on The Supreme Court and the Future of the Constitution:
    It talks about parts of recent Court decisions that were little noticed but that set down new principles that may have a big effect on later decisions.

    September 22, 2013

    • Deanne

      Thanks Christina, great tip, I am interested in hearing that conference.

      September 22, 2013

  • Andrea P.

    Thanks everyone for the great meetup. I enjoyed our discussion about this book. I thought the NYTimes book review was more cynical of the book than our discussion. Looking forward to the next one.

    1 · August 11, 2013

    • Suzanne Y.

      Thanks for posting this Andrea! Interesting take on the book.

      August 12, 2013

  • bea h.

    Thanks, all, for an enjoyable discussion, and to Scott for making the process run so smoothly. Andrea, thank you for sharing the NYT article—I appreciated the in-depth analysis. After our meeting last night I read a piece by Toobin in the August 5th New Yorker ("Daughters of Texas") and the themes he touched on seemed like a continuation of our group conversation. Now I feel like Toobin is one of my "peeps" and I will be looking for more of his work.

    August 12, 2013

  • lorena

    A very lovely Sunday afternoon. Scott, as always, did a great job! The discussion was interesting. The cafe was very quiet. The book was a good one. I learned a lot.

    August 12, 2013

  • Rhonda

    Thanks again, Scott, for your facilitation and to everyone for an enjoyable discussion with many interesting points made.

    1 · August 11, 2013

  • Andrea P.

    Really nice group of interesting people!!

    August 11, 2013

  • Pamela

    not feeling so great today - will catch you all next time

    August 11, 2013

  • Barbara W.


    July 30, 2013

  • Larry F

    As a lawyer with extensive experience in Washington DC, I would very much like to join this particular discussion if space becomes available.

    July 15, 2013

  • bea h.

    Looking forward to broadening my horizons!

    July 12, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Looking forward to reading and talking about one of my favorite topics.

    July 9, 2013

  • Matt P.

    Yes, my daughter gave me this book awhile ago, and this is a good incentive to get cracking on it.

    June 22, 2013

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