I just ordered the Kindle version of Jeffrey Toobin’s new book The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court. I haven’t read any of it yet, as of this writing, but The Hill provides some of what is in the book, which looks very interesting. Based on interviews with justices and clerks, it appears that he is very harsh on Justice Scalia in particular. On that now-infamous health care ruling:
The book confirms previous reports that Roberts changed his vote in the landmark case over President Obama’s healthcare law after initially siding with the conservative justices. But Toobin reports — as others have implied — that what pushed Roberts away was the conservative justices’ insistence on striking down the entire health law.
“Scalia’s view of the justices as gladiators against the president unnerved Roberts,” Toobin writes.
The book describes Scalia as “furious” and “enraged” at Roberts — contradicting Scalia’s public statements brushing aside any tension.
Toobin’s book says Scalia has become fixated on politics — and particularly on Obama — at the expense of legal scholarship, saying frustration over the healthcare ruling helped fuel his acerbic statement dissenting from the court’s decision on Arizona’s immigration law.
“Scalia was indeed unhappy with the immigration decision, but the splenetic excess of his Arizona opinion owed far more to his failure (as yet unknown to the public) in the healthcare case,” the book says.
He also apparently interviews former Justices David Souter and Sandra Day O’Connor, who were moderate Republicans appointed to the bench and are apparently very bothered by the increasingly strident tone of other Republican-nominated justices:
Much like the Republican Party, the conservative wing of the Supreme Court has gotten staunchly more conservative over the past several years, Toobin notes. He says the old guard of recent Republican justices has been deeply upset by the Roberts court…
It had the same effect for Justice David Souter.
“He abhorred the views of Roberts and Alito. Souter didn’t like what the Republican Party — his party — was doing to the court, or to the country,” Toobin writes.
Former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor “had projected onto Roberts her idea of what a chief justice, and a Republican, should be,” Toobin writes, but her reservations grew as she watched the court overturn core pieces of her legacy. Toobin also recounts O’Connor talking to Souter about her decision to leave the court.
” ‘What makes this harder,’ O’Connor told Souter, ‘is that it’s my party that’s destroying the country.’ “
Toobin’s last book, The Nine, was good, though Jan Crawford’s book, Supreme Conflict, which covered much of the same ground and was released around the same time, was better. I’m sure this new book will be very interesting and will give me some fodder for future blog posts.