In This Review

Five Chiefs: A Supreme Court Memoir
Five Chiefs: A Supreme Court Memoir
By John Paul Stevens
Little, Brown and Company, 2011, 304 pp

Stevens’ understated and lucid memoir, organized around the five chief justices who led the Supreme Court during his career, will instruct and entertain novices and legal experts alike, as Stevens lifts the curtain to show readers how the judicial sausage is made. He is always humane and courteous in his approach, but this does not prevent the occasional deft ­insertion of a stiletto between the ribs of various judges with whom he served. Whether he is lifting an eyebrow at the gold stripes with which Chief Justice William Rehnquist adorned his robe, deploring the Court’s increasing bias toward the prosecution in capital cases, or probing the weak spots of originalism, Stevens is always clear and frequently entertaining. Future chief justices would do well to read this book in preparation for their duties. The rest of us should thank Stevens for a lifetime of service and for the rarest kind of political book: a genuinely memorable memoir.