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The Oath

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Toobin notes that lower-level judges have sworn in several presidents, leaving the chief justice on the sidelines. And, of course, circumstances dictated federal district judges dispense the oath in the cases of LBJ and Theodore Roosevelt, both of whom took office in the wake of assassinations. The anecdotes served up in these pages tend to be gems. To cite one of many examples, Toobin mentions a walk-through a week prior to Obama’s inaugural. An aide offered the chief justice a card bearing the oath, but Roberts demurred. “That’s okay,” he told the aide. “I know the oath.”

Until, of course, he forgot it. Here, too, Toobin provides interesting context, noting that Roberts has earned raves throughout his life for his prodigious memory. Running through specific cases and pivotal moments in the fortunes of the nine justices, Toobin combines contemporary history with a solid primer on how the political divide drives the court and its decisions today. Along the way, he juxtaposes the activist judicial philosophy of Roberts and his fellow conservative Republican justices on the court with a similar approach fostered by liberal Democrats during the 1960s and 1970s, starting with the tenure of Earl Warren.

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