Publisher's Summary. When he resigned last June, Justice Stevens was the third longest serving Justice in American history (1975-2010)--only Justice William O. Douglas, whom Stevens succeeded, and Stephen Field have served on the Court for a longer time.
In Five Chiefs, Justice Stevens captures the inner workings of the Supreme Court via his personal experiences with the five Chief Justices--Fred Vinson, Earl Warren, Warren Burger, William Rehnquist, and John Roberts--that he interacted with. He reminisces of being a law clerk during Vinson's tenure; a practicing lawyer for Warren; a circuit judge and junior justice for Burger; a contemporary colleague of Rehnquist; and a colleague of current Chief Justice John Roberts. Along the way, he will discuss his views of some the most significant cases that have been decided by the Court from Vinson, who became Chief Justice in 1946 when Truman was President, to Roberts, who became Chief Justice in 2005.
Packed with interesting anecdotes and stories about the Court, Five Chiefs is an unprecedented and historically significant look at the highest court in the United States.
Review. Boardwalk Empire’s Nucky Thompson occasionally sports one. Conservative commentator George Will wouldn’t be caught dead without one. And Justice John Paul Stevens is a devotee too. Yes, they are all bow-tie loving dudes! Nowadays, apart from black tie affairs, the bow tie is largely absent from the modern man’s wardrobe. This explains why the roaring 20’s character Thompson dons a bow-tie, but what about Will and Stevens? I have two theories: 1) they are metrosexual fashionistas; or 2) they are persnickety-professor types. Based on TV roundtable discussions I have witnessed, I have placed Will in the persnickety column and after reading Five Chiefs I have marked Stevens as persnickety too.
In Five Chiefs, a Supreme Court memoir, the recently retired Supreme Court Justice Stevens shares his personal reflections on the five recent Chief Justices: Fred Vinson (1946-1953); Earl Warren (1953-1969); Warren Burger (1969 – 1986); William Rehnquist (1986-2005); and John G. Roberts (2005 – present). The recollections vary in perspective from law clerk to practicing lawyer to Supreme Court colleague. Specifically, Stevens served as a law clerk to another Supreme Court Justice during Chief Justice Vinson’s tenure; argued before Chief Justice Warren; and was a colleague to the latter three Chiefs.
As the third longest serving Supreme Court Justice Stevens has a bevy of memories to share. Many of the anecdotes are mildly amusing, such as, the permanent ban on basketball playing (there is a basketball court directly above the Court room) while oral arguments are heard which was imposed due to the then law clerk and later Supreme Court Justice Byron White’s playing while the Court was in session. Some memories are insightful such as Chief Justice Burger’s penchant for switching votes during the decision drafting period to ensure that he was, more often than not, on the “winning” side.
Sadly, however, many of Stevens’ memories reveal an exacting and occasionally petty persona. For instance, he spends three pages disparaging a committee’s (composed of three fellow Justices) decision (made without consulting Stevens!) to rearrange the conference room furniture. Apparently, the old setting afforded more spaciousness in the center of the room; easier access to the phone; and freer mingling among the justices during coffee breaks. And at the end of Stevens’ diatribe, he confesses that the table’s new location adversely affected his hearing. Perhaps, this could have been simply noted upfront without the literary temper tantrum? Another example, involves Chief Justice Rehnquist’s decision to decorate his robe with stripes. How dare he! Stevens describes the stripes as “ostentatious and more reflective of the ancient monarchy.” Seriously? The back story is that this decision was made after Rehnquist queried his fellow justices as to whether they would like to change their robes. And while they voted an emphatic no, he modified his. Moving along, Stevens’s pettiness is on full display in his disparaging comments on Justice Thomas. His crime? Thomas had the audacity not to vote as Thurgood Marshall would have voted. Again, how dare he!
In short, although Five Chiefs is written as Stevens’ reflections of others I found it most enlightening about the author.
I'm a reader/commuter in the DC Metro Area. My daily commute to work provides me with ample time to do what I love most: read! Whether its chick lit, literature, memoirs or other non fiction you can always find me with a book.
Review requests may be sent to dcmetroreader(at)gmail(dot)com.
This blog is a personal blog written and edited by me. This blog does not accept any form of cash advertising, sponsorship, or paid topic insertions. However, we will and do accept and keep free products, services, travel, event tickets, and other forms of compensation from companies and organizations.
The compensation received will never influence the content, topics or posts made in this blog. All advertising is in the form of advertisements generated by a third party ad network. Those advertisements will be identified as paid advertisements.
The owner(s) of this blog is not compensated to provide opinion on products, services, websites and various other topics. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog owners. If we claim or appear to be experts on a certain topic or product or service area, we will only endorse products or services that we believe, based on our expertise, are worthy of such endorsement. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider.
This blog does not contain any content which might present a conflict of interest.
To get your own policy, go to http://www.disclosurepolicy.org