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The Burger Court (1969–86)

Introduction

What book exposed some of the inner workings of the early Burger Court?

Watergate reporter Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong, a senior investigator for the Senate Watergate Committee, published a book entitled The Brethren: Inside the Supreme Court (1979) that examined the inner workings of the Burger Court from 1969 to 1976. The authors obtained some of their information from interviews with former Supreme Court law clerks and court personnel. The book painted an unflattering portrait of Chief Justice Burger, depicting him as pompous, ineffective, and manipulative. It charged him with withholding his initial vote in a case in order to make sure he was in the majority and could assign the majority opinion. It also quotes him as saying he would never hire a female law clerk and for saying to a fellow justice: “We are the Supreme Court and we can do what we want.” The book reveals that other justices had a low opinion of the quality of Burger’s opinions and his intellect.



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