Remember that scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark when Indiana Jones pops up with a German bazooka and threatens to blow up the Ark of the Covenant unless the Nazis free the captured heroine? Knowing darn well that Jones could never destroy a holy relic of such magnitude the evil Belloq calls his bluff, “Indiana, we are simply passing through history. This, this *is* history.” I was reminded of that scene while reading Five Chiefs: A Supreme Court Memoir by John Paul Stevens. It’s one thing to read a book on the Supreme Court. It’s quite another to read one by a person who was on the Court.
In his 2011 memoir recently retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens recalls his time spent with five Supreme Court Justices: clerking for Fred Vinson; arguing before Earl Warren and serving alongside Warren Burger, William Rehnquist and John Roberts. Though sometimes things get a bit dry, he tells his tales with sincerity, respect and malice towards none. While Five Chiefs didn’t blow me away, for the most part it made for fascinating reading. I’ll freely admit that I didn’t enjoy it as much as I did The Nine, The Brethren and The Supremes’ Greatest Hits. But with Five Chiefs I wanted an insider’s perspective. And much to my satisfaction, I got it.