We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
When it comes to mysterious, secretive, hidebound government institutions, you can’t beat the Supreme Court. Cameras aren’t allowed inside the court chambers; opinions are refined and assigned behind closed doors; justices rarely give interviews, and if they do, they usually avoid answering any controversial question at all. (Except for you, Scalia, God bless ya.) So when a journalist manages to pry out anything beyond Linda Greenhouse’s usual tea-leaf-reading, it’s an accomplishment. The best and most famous SCOTUS insider account is Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong’s 1979 book The Brethren: Inside the Supreme Court. What made The Brethren so good is that it was pieced together from tell-all interviews with anonymous loose-lipped law clerks. Since then, though, clerks have learned to keep their mouths shut, and Jeffrey Toobin’s new book, The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court, has to rely much more on the circumspect words of the justices themselves. The CNN analyst and New Yorker contributor does a stellar job describing a crucial period in American jurisprudence, but The Nine is less an “inside” account of the Supreme Court than it is just a really, really hard look from the outside. Toobin discusses and signs copies of his work at 7 p.m. at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919.