Big Chief

26 Jan

I may be wrong (as I am offering these thoughts, I think not) but I have a sense that of the three branches of our Federal government, the Supreme Court is the least attended to (and most certainly the least understood )by the American citizenry. While the court’s functions and responsibilities are pretty straightforward, the complexities and nuances of the law require a certain kind of mind—you know, a legal mind. No doubt why books about the court and by its justices are rarely in the public spotlight.

Five Chiefs by John Paul Stevens(Little Brown) should be an exception. Stevens who sat on the court from 1975 until his recent retirement, was conversant and acquainted with the last five Chief Justices (hence the book’s title)—Fred Vinson, Earl Warren, Warren Burger, William Rehnquist, and John Roberts. And most significantly, Justice Stevens wrote the dissenting opinions for two of the most egregious Court decisions in memory—mainly Gore V Bush which handed the 2000 election to the loser, George Bush. And the Citizens United case which allowed unrestrained amounts of money into the electoral process and added another nail to the coffin of true democratic governance.

Thankfully, erstwhile candidate Steven Colbert found it useful to chat with Justice John Paul Stevens claiming at the same time to have “out-legaled” him.

The 91 year old Stevens comes off as an exemplar of probity and good humor—compare him to, for example to noted bully, Justice Scalia

Currently reading A Good Man by Guy Guy Vanderhaeghe (Atlantic Monthly Press)

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