The Clerks’ Tale

Commentary, March 1980.


The Brethren is, as it claims to be, a term-by-term account of the “inner workings of the Supreme Court from 1969 to 1976—the first seven years of Warren E. Burger’s tenure as Chief Justice of the United States.” Focusing on the major cases decided in each of these terms—cases dealing with abortion, school busing, and Watergate, for example—the authors provide a detailed account not only of the “internal debates, the tentative positions taken by the Justices, the preliminary votes, the various drafts of written opinions, the negotiations, confrontations, and compromises,” but of conversations alleged to have taken place among the Justices and between them and others. Thus, what had been hidden from public view—namely, the Court’s “deliberative process”—is hidden no more.

American Enterprise Institute