The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court
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The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court

4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  9,382 ratings  ·  1,729 reviews
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 abortio...more
Paperback, 452 pages
Published September 9th 2008 by Anchor (first published 2007)
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Jessica
Dec 03, 2008 Jessica rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: young ladies thoughtlessly considering a thankless career in social work
Recommended to Jessica by: david giltinan; ginnie jones; paul glusman
WELL. How I wish I'd had the foresight, at a much younger and more capable age, to consult some kind of career counselor! If only, if ONLY someone back then had the wisdom and charity to inform me of the existence of something called "constitutional law," and advised me to study hard, behave myself, keep my mouth shut, make influential friends, and avoid leaving a drunken trail of scribbled opinions about all my personal and political views as I careened helter-skelter along a haphazard career p...more
David
It’s certainly not outside of the realm of possibility that I am deluded. Completely and utterly deluded. Nevertheless, I have always held the American judiciary in much greater esteem than either the executive or legislative branches of government for several reasons—but most persuasive among them is my firm belief that the judiciary is the best situated to transcend workaday partisan politics.

Sure, judges are appointed by partisan politicians for partisan reasons. Therefore, they are functions...more
m
"This book is based principally on my interviews with the justices and more than seventy-five of their law clerks," author Jeffrey Toobin writes in his notes that close the book. "The interviews were on a not-for-attribution basis -- that is, I could use the information provided but without quoting directly or identifying the source."

If you read the book back-to-front -- like the apocryphal politicos who look for their names in the index before reading a book -- you'll see the problem with this...more
Kate
Oct 02, 2008 Kate rated it 3 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Chris Michaud
3.5 stars. This book is really about the political trajectory of the Supreme Court over the past 30 years. Toobin seeks to show a gradual, unlikely shift leftward over the years of the Rehnquist Court (followed by a striking and uncharacteristically - for the institution - speedy swing back to the right since the Roberts and Alito confirmations).

Not exactly a work of rigorous scholarship, so don't read it if you want a primer on important cases (though Toobin does a good job describing, in plain...more
Janice
In law school I had one of the most sadistic, demanding and universally feared professors in the entire school for Constitutional Law, which is probably the most important class in law school. The first day of class he called me an idiot and told me I didn’t know how to read. For the next few weeks of the semester, he regularly berated me for my ignorance and ineptitude (which in retrospect, I fully deserved), but I got off easy (he stopped abusing me after a few weeks once I adapted my schoolwo...more
Peggy bill
In the past, whenever I have gotten sick or scared about the direction of politics in this country, I have comforted myself with the idea that our governmental balance of power mediates abrupt shifts to the right (I am not worried about abrupt shifts to the left, as the country is generally too far to right already). I didn’t have hope in the Supreme Court, but I did have faith in their moderating effect on law and society.

That was until the presidential election of 2000. I was disgusted by a st...more
Carol
You've got to love book group and you have to doubly love a non-fiction book group. If not for this group of wonderful people I might never have read The Nine. And I meant THE NINE... I'm mediocre when it comes to following our government. I'm not the worse when it comes to current events but I knew my reading group had it all over me. All the more fun as they had the background and could fill in questions that came up.

What I liked about The Nine was the way Jeffrey Toobin gave us snapshots of m...more
Nate
The author discusses the Court from about 1980 to 2007. He wants to show how politics influences the rulings of the Court, but while reading the book I was struck by the degree to which politics had influenced his writing. He wears his bias on his sleeve, which makes this book a less than reliable source of Court information. He portrays the justices with whom he disagrees as petty, rude ideologues, while portraying the justices with whom he agrees as compassionate, intelligent, and most importa...more
David
This is an excellent book. Toobin exhibits all the qualities one could want in a guide to the Supreme Court: he is smart, knowledgeable, engaging, witty, and writes clearly and fluidly.

This is a well-organized, well-written book on a fascinating and important subject. Remarkably, it is never dull - parts I found particularly notable were his account of the Court's role in the 2000 election debacle, and his explanation of how Sandra Day O' Connor became the most influential justice on the court....more
Lightreads
Sadly not the trashy gossip fest I was in the mood for. I wanted either another hundred pages discussing the court's role in the political system and propounding a new theory of case analysis, or I wanted some juicy judicial sexploits. Sadly, I got neither. The "revelations" in this book are nothing new if you pay a little attention to the court – Scalia and Ginsburg were besties, Thomas has a bizarre and alarming worldview, etc.

Still, the lay reader would probably enjoy this as a portrait of pe...more
Eric_W
some editing and additions 7/22/10

Toobin does a great job in detailing the personalities of the justices and how they shape the court. Thomas is the most interesting, perhaps. A man obviously bitter about the cards he has been dealt, he holds grudges seemingly forever, even disdaining Yale Law School, his alma mater; yet, he is very well liked and has lots of friends on and off the court. (Scalia, asked once for the difference between himself and Thomas, replied, "I am an originalist; he's a nut...more
Seth
Interesting survey of the modern supreme court's history and personalities. The author pretends to write balanced even handed biographical sketches of a number of supreme court justices during the Bush years. He has a hard time veiling his distaste for conservative ideology while praising "moderate" justices like O'Conner for her "diplomatic" and "pragmatic" judicial view. He seems to spend by far more time on her than all the others combined. He believes that she was the most influential justic...more
Ira
Toobin's book, as mentioned in some of the other reviews, is highly readable, captivating and contains very good summaries of many of the important Supreme Court cases of the last few decades. Perhaps as important is his ability to write about the Jurist's personalities and their judicial philosophy providing the reader with the thought processes that go to work behind the decision making.

The inner workings and day to day activity of the Court was something I found quite interesting. The Jurist...more
Tracy
I had given this book to my partner, who hadn't read it. . . So I picked it up.

It feels really strange to say this was a guilty pleasure, but it was!

What, a non-fiction work about the Supreme Court a guilty pleasure??? Well, it was! It is extremely accessible (perhaps too accessible?), and the position Toobin takes on any issue coincides pretty closely to mine, so that made it even easier to read.

The general pictures of the book is an insider's look at the Supreme Court from roughly the mid 1980...more
Michael
The book offered some good (and at times, juicy) insights into the Court that I was not previously aware of. It is a compelling tale and analysis of the Court’s recent history from prominent cases to the nominations of the justices to judicial politics.

The unfortunate side effect of this was again feeling the anguish that accompanied some vile and lawless decisions; most of all, Bush v. Gore. The naked desire on the part of the five that made the majority in that case to act as speedily as poss...more
Jeff
Oct 28, 2007 Jeff rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: everyone
Jeffrey Toobin’s The Nine is an incredibly well written book. If you’re a follower of the Supreme Court and acquainted with terms like Casey, Lawrence, or Hamdan you won’t be able to put the book down. If these cases are new to you, then you are in for quite an education on the true workings of the third coequal branch of the federal government. One criticism of Toobin’s style is that he doesn’t go into enough detail on the legal reasoning or merits of the cases. The book reads more like a novel...more
Caroline
A fascinating look at the Supreme Court and its justices.

I learned a lot (not that I was too knowledgable to begin with) about the ins and outs of the modern-day Supreme Court, from the procedures to the personalities that make it up. Before reading it, I expected Toobin to begin his narrative early in American history, so I was pleasantly surprised that it dealt with the Court's most recent history. I also appreciated how Toobin constructed his narrative, with a good mixture of anecdotes about...more
Catherine Woodman
The subtitle of the book is "Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court", and that is more or less true for the Rehnquist court, which began in the 1980's and goes to Rehnquists death, and the book more or less ends with the beginning of the Robert's court (which will warrent a whole other book, it seems like. That court was looking entirely predictable up until Roberts and the Affordable health Care Act decision, with Kennedy having returned to the conservative wing of the court, but with Oba...more
Kevin Quinley
Toobin provides an informative if not provocative glimpse inside the inner workings of the Court, a branch sometimes overlooked but perhaps wielding the most power out of the three. Prior to reading, I could probably only name about half the justices and paint their ideology in broad strokes, so by interpolating major decisions with personal profiles Toobin dramatically increased my own familiarity with the Court. To be sure, Toobin writes for a popular audience by eschewing more technical cases...more
Kirsti
Fascinating (though left-leaning) explanation of how the backgrounds and personalities of the nine Supreme Court justices affect American life and culture.

Probably the most interesting part, unsurprisingly, is about Roe vs. Wade. Justice Blackmun wrote the opinion based on viability of the fetus and on a Constitutional right to privacy. O'Connor believed Roe was sound based on the privacy argument but contended that technology would change the viability issue. (So far, it hasn't.) Ginsberg (who...more
Andrew
More of a liberal rant about the Roberts Court than an impartial history or analysis. It is aggravatingly and stupendously biased. When my blood cools perhaps I will read some more.

(For the record, I am neither a knee-jerk liberal nor an arch-conservative; I am an independent with libertarian leanings. However, in the realm of the law, my feelings align much more with "conservatives", in that I believe that judicial restraint must be the sine qua non of the legal system. The unelected judiciary...more
Judy
This is a fascinating history of the Supreme Court from the Reagan administration on. Toobin covers the appointment of each justice and the background of most of their major decisions. He discusses the ideological shifts that have occurred during the last 30 years, and expresses what I thought was a fair and balanced opinion on each justice's role.

I now have a better understanding of why abortion has been such a pivotal concern ever since Roe v. Wade, along with other issues such as desegregati...more
Stewart
A juicy must-read for any SCOTUS buff. Toobin presents a wonderfully entertaining and titillating portrait of the nine justices that graced the Reinquist Court from the early 1990s to the mid-2000s, while simultaneously weaving throughout his book the more sober legal implications at stake in the many high profile cases that this Court took on over those years. And they are all here, the culture war cases of abortion rights, gun rights and gay rights; the First Amendment cases of freedom of spee...more
Matt
This isn't The Brethren. That should be made clear from the start. Bob Woodward's book on the United State Supreme Court's 1969-75 terms is, in my mind, a classic. I've never read a better, more entertaining, more detailed book on the Supreme Court's inner workings. It also gives a glimpse of an interesting moment in legal history, as the progressive years of the Warren Court ended, and a gradual rightward shift began (despite, rather than because, of the incompetence of Warren Burger).

Jeffrey...more
Josh
I can't say the SCOTUS comes off looking great in this. Toobin has a great narrative voice that makes the book read nicely. Kennedy's ego driven flourishes, Scalia's unwillingness to contemplate a 20th century, make for some depressing if not fascinating reading. At the end of the day perhaps only Justice Souter makes me proud to be an American. Bryer and Ginsberg come off pretty well too although I think that might partly because of my liberal bias for my view of the Court as an institution to...more
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
This is an informative and engaging account of the recent history of the U.S. Supreme Court. Perhaps not a subject that holds 340 pages' worth of interest for the general public, but those who have an interest are almost certain to find this one worth their while.

The Nine takes the form of a narrative, starting in the Reagan years and ending in 2007; Toobin discusses major cases that reached the Court during that time, as well as the individual justices' decision-making processes and personaliti...more
Mark Desrosiers
I get the sense these Supreme Court gossip books will be a dime a dozen as the court sinks further into the slough of anti-stare-decisis, but this one's a great read -- devious but still relevant even five years later. Best of all is Toobin's hilarious attempt to be "fair" to Clarence Thomas -- a justice whose uselessness has only one rival, named Charles Whittaker -- by pointing out he's smiley and likable among Supreme Court staff. Seriously, Thomas comes across as the most blinkered and dange...more
Maythee
Best book I read all year. I felt like I learned more about American politics and history through this book than I did through the college courses I took on the same subjects. It also draws you away from staid political perspectives. It was fascinating to learn so much about the SC judges' personal lives and how they shaped their thoughts on the law (and vice versa). The anecdotes Toobin provides are fascinating -- I loved learning about Sandra Day O'Connor's assertive but quirky ways and develo...more
Bookmarks Magazine

The Nine is a welcome addition to the spate of recent Supreme Court histories (see Jan Crawford Greenburg's Supreme Conflict, ***1/2 May/June 2007). Informative and authoritative, Jeffrey Toobin's account draws on exclusive interviews with the principals (one critic cited a possible breach of secrecy) and offers colorful anecdotes about the members of the Court. The most important parts of the book explore Sandra Day O'Connor's critical swing votes, Clinton's impeachment hearings, and the Court'

...more
Armand
I’m not sure exactly what it says about me that the first book I picked up post-Bar Exam was Toobin’s accounting of the modern Supreme Court; regardless, I’m glad that I did. This well-researched accounting of Rehnquist’s reign is a fun survey of the politically and socially significant cases over the last thirty years. All the issues are here: abortion, the death penalty, affirmative action, privacy, Congress’s power to regulate commerce, the role of foreign law, the war on terror, and, of cour...more
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Lawyer, author, legal correspondent for CNN and The New Yorker magazine.
More about Jeffrey Toobin...
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