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Five Chiefs: A Supreme Court Memoir

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( 6 )
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  • Posted November 21, 2011


    This is a relatively short memoir by a Justice who served on the United States Supreme Court for more than 30 years. I would have expected more in-depth inside information regarding friction and disagreements among the Justices---and we all know there have been many of them over Justice Stevens's long career on the High Court. That this narrative was more of a reminiscing than a memoir was disappointing. I also expected to learn more about the Justices as men and women, with their strengths and weaknesses as seen through the Justice's eyes.

    I have always enjoyed reading his opinions. Justice Stevens writes clearly and convincingly. I only wish he had written more about the landmark cases he participated in, his disputes with other Justices--particularly with the Court becoming more and more an ideological battleground--and about what truly goes on behind those curtains, in the Justices' Chambers, and in the conference rooms. Only the Justices--and perhaps their law clerks who are sworn to secrecy---really know. Justice Stevens had the opportunity to open the doors, so to speak. I wish he would have done so in more detail.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2013


    A great review of SCOTUS history and one justice's insights.

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  • Posted November 30, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Politics, the lite way...


    Five Chiefs is memoir detailing John Paul Stevens' life and career as a Supreme Court Justice, which includes sections about the Chief Justices he served under.


    I have never been a "politics-junky", but as I have gotten older I've realized the importance of politics in today's society. So when I read the blurb, I decided to try reading it. Thankfully, John Paul Stevens writing style and organization wasn't as dry and boring as I thought it would be. Sure, some sections seemed to drone on, but many times it was because I was not associated with the cases and legal terms described. It took me longer to read because I had to look up several law definitions, which could have been avoided if there was some kind of side-note for those of us without background in law studies. I liked the inclusion of the photos, comics, and the copy of the Constitution of the United States; they made the material a little bit more enjoyable. I am glad that it was written like more of a down-to-Earth conversation than a full-blown law textbook, minus those few definitions. It is obvious that John Paul Stevens is very passionate about what he wrote, and he definitely knows what he is talking about. The length was also desirable for a person who isn't a political studies or law major; I would have expected a much lengthier memoir for all that I learned he, and his colleagues, accomplished. Overall, I would recommend Five Chiefs if you are really interested in The Supreme Court and politics because it is filled with facts, stories, and gossip about many of the past Supreme Court Justices.

    Rating: Bounty's Out (3/5)

    *** I received this book from Little, Brown and Company, (Hachette Book Group), in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

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  • Posted November 23, 2011

    Just OK, maybe better if you are a lawyer

    Stevens gives some interseting insights into the workings, traditions and personalities of the court but dwells too much on some of the complex, although historically significant, cases. It's not that the cases aren't interesting but his explanations are a little difficult for the average person to follow. Those educated in the law may give this a higher rating.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 22, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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