Five Chiefs

Five Chiefs

A Supreme Court Memoir

Book - 2011
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Grand Central Pub
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.

Baker & Taylor
Former Justice Stevens discusses the accomplishments of the earliest Chief Justices and the role of Chief Justice, profiles each of the Chief Justices he knew personally and their most important cases, and describes his relationship with each.

Publisher: New York ; London : Little, Brown, 2011
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780316199803
Branch Call Number: Biography St47s
Characteristics: vii, 292 p. : ill. ; 22 cm


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Aug 20, 2018

Justice Stevens truly is an American treasure, and his memoir provides insight into the daily workings and personalities of the most opaque branch of American democracy. The high points of the book might just be some of the most dizzying arcane components of the life within the court, like his solid two page diatribe about how disappointed he was when Justice O'Connor and Souter decided to add a third chandelier into the conference room (where the Justices decide the cases), because it ruined the flow of the room. The harshest criticism I can levy towards the memoir is that it may not be accessible to the layperson. It seems written for and tailored to lawyers despite the second chapter being almost entirely about procedure that most lawyers would already know. Justice Stevens seems to favor the civility of the Supreme Court and its members above all, and that comes across clearly in his memoir.

Apr 29, 2013

A bizarre book, especially in light of their Bush v. Gore decision, and Citizens United decision (always with Ted Olson as the attorney on the bad side). The Supreme Court denied the Florida recount because they held that American citizens don't have the constitutional right to vote.

Apr 29, 2013

Chatty legal memoir by Justice Stephens about the five Chief Justices with whom he had dealings. Occasionally the discussion gets into obtuse principles of constitutional law. But there are other attractions to this book: for example, who knew that there are spitoons behind the US Supreme Court bench? Or that Justices Stephens and Breyer agreed that the Bush Campaign's application to stay the Florida recount was so frivolous that the Court would never grant it? Justice Stephens manages to roundly criticize some of the decisions by some in the conservative wing of the Court without resorting to name calling. And he didn't especially like Chief Justice Rehnquist's gold stripes, but confirms what other justices have said: that Rehnquist was a very efficient Chief Justice who was fair to all wings of the Court. A good read for lawyers and laypersons interested in the workings of the Court


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