HR Management & Compliance

The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court

Ralph Gaillard reviews the book The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court by Jeffrey Toobin. Review highlights book’s insightful look into the legal force that makes employment law.

Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court book review

For close to 10 years, I called Washington, D.C., home, where I had the privilege to cover the inner workings of Congress, the Pentagon, the State Department, and The White House as a National News staff researcher for The Washington Post. As a result, I’m a bit of political junkie and probably know more than most about how things get done in that town — with the exception of the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is my Achilles heel of inside-the-beltway knowledge.

In fact, many in that town, including the most powerful lobbyist, congressional committee chairman, and agency chief of staff, share my deficit. Who blames us? The high court is a mysterious place that prides itself on duct tapping its decisionmaking process in secrecy. That’s all about change, as more politicos like myself and those outside the beltway pick up Jeffrey Toobin’s celebrated book The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court a fabulously written effort that allows the reader to see up close how the court’s decisions are made once the oral arguments are done.

It’s also important for today’s HR managers because it pulls the curtain back to reveal how this unique set of individuals arrives at decisions that set the ground rules for managing the U.S. workplace.

Toobin focuses on the Rehnquist court and, using interviews with clerks and various justices, uncovers the personalities, power struggles, and deliberations of the justices. We discover that Sandra Day O’Connor fought tenaciously to give the court a centrist label. We also get a front row seat to the messy Bush v. Gore decision in 2000, where we learn that David Souter came surprisingly close to resigning from the court after this infamous decision.

When you pick up The Nine, don’t let the book’s 350+ pages intimidate you. Believe it or not, it’s an easy read. As a TV analyst for CNN, Toobin understands what it takes to capture today’s information-saturated reader’s attention. To that end, his writing is clear and concise, allowing the reader to embark on a wonderful literary journey that illuminates the humanity of the court ? and the role it plays in shaping the court’s decisions.

Kudos to Toobin for having the courage to tackle an institution that causes the most seasoned Washington journalist to run for the Potomac. He’s produced a fascinating book that every HR manager should pick up and consume over the holiday break. After all, these justices play a significant role in defining your workload, so you might want to find out what makes them tick. Thanks to The Nine, I finally have some answers in that department. The duct tape is loosening a bit.

I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

Ralph Gaillard is the Executive Editor of HR Insight and Group Publisher of the Strategic HR division for M. Lee Smith Publishers. For nearly 20 years, Ralph has worked in the publishing and marketing fields, with a specialty in creating executive education programs, building strategic partnerships and launching new products. Ralph has worked for various information publishers, including Lawrence Ragan Communications, a leading provider of corporate communication information and training. He was also an account executive for The PBN Company, an international media relations firm based in San Francisco. Early in his career, Ralph worked for the Chicago Tribune as an editorial researcher and at The Washington Post as the staff researcher for National News. He is a member of the Society for Human Resource Management, the International Association of Business Communicators, and the American Society for Training and Development.

Ralph shares his choice for more great books for HR in “Insider’s Picks” in the right column.