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The Brethren: Inside the Supreme Court, by Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong. New York: Avon Books. $3.50.

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Chief Justice Warren E. Burger and his court are entitled to more thoughtful if not more sympathetic treatment than they have received in "The Brethren." For the reader, the book stands as a triumph of method over perspective.

The authors offer an endless stream of facts, anecdotes, restructured conversations, memo excerpts, and gossip, most dealing with the interactions among the justices as they debated which cases to consider, how to rule on them, and how to present their individual views.

"The Brethren" takes us inside the court for a fascinating view of how things really work: how justices build majorities for their points of view and, occasionally, how they lose them; how the chief justice can use his power to assign cases to impress his philosophy on the fi nal decision; the unique role played by the law clerks.


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