The Brethren (book)

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The Brethren: Inside the Supreme Court
Woodward brethren.jpg
Author Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong
Country United States
Language English
Subject Supreme Court of the United States
Publisher Simon & Schuster
Publication date
Pages 467
ISBN 978-0-671-24110-0
OCLC 61201839

The Brethren: Inside the Supreme Court is a 1979 book by Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong. It gives a "behind-the-scenes" account of the United States Supreme Court during Warren Burger's early years as Chief Justice of the United States. Using Woodward's trademark writing technique involving "off-the-record" sources, the book provides an account of the deliberations leading to some of the court's more controversial decisions from the 1970s. Among the cases with substantial treatment in the book was the decision in United States v. Nixon (1974), where the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that President Richard Nixon was legally obligated to turn over the Watergate tapes. In 1985, upon the death of Associate Justice Potter Stewart, Woodward disclosed that Stewart had been the primary source for The Brethren.[1]

The book's sources are highly critical of Burger as Chief Justice, especially in comparison to his predecessor, Earl Warren. Burger is described to other Justices as pompous, devious, and intellectually inferior. The book is also critical at various points of William O. Douglas, who is portrayed as having gone from one of America's greatest jurists to a "nasty, petulant, prodigal child", and is also occasionally critical of Thurgood Marshall for his increasing laziness and apathy.

The book does frequently lend out praise to other Justices though. Stewart, who was one of the primary sources for the book is portrayed in a positive light, as is William J. Brennan, the acknowledged leader of the liberal justices, both for his intelligence as well as his amiable, friendly personality. The book also issued some particular praise for Justices Harlan and Powell.