By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm
To celebrate the first Monday of October, I'm reviewing Jeffrey Toobin's new book on the recent history of the Roberts Court. One thing is again made clear: Toobin knows how to find the story in the law. That is the same thing that all good trial attorneys are aiming for, and that makes "The Oath" definitely worthy of a spot on the litigator's nightstand.
Good advocates are often legal junkies, and the book provides a timely window into an especially interesting period in the Court's history. Beyond just serving up page-turning accounts of the cases that have marked recent terms - up to and including the surprising dynamics behind this summer's 5-4 decision upholding the core of the President's health care reform - Toobin delves more deeply into these legal dramas, placing them in the context of the justices' prior professional lives, as well as the broader arc of the ideological campaigns that define our current political moment. The result is not the interpersonal drama between two men suggested by the cover and the event from which the book draws its title, the botched (and repeated) administration of the President's oath of office on Inauguration Day. Instead Toobin provides an accessible intellectual history of the Roberts Court, and the stories carry a few practical lessons not just for appellate lawyers, and and other Court watchers, but for anyone who appreciates the larger picture of a legal decision's many roots.