tv Supreme Court Books CSPAN April 30, 2016 9:00am-10:16am EDT
>> kind of a genre that keeps growing in literature, both fiction and nonfiction. we had a panel like this three years ago, and it really was intended to celebrate the fact that the supreme court is, seems to be the subject of more and more books of all kinds. and judging by the corner of my desk where i stack books about the court that have come in from publishers, the genre has only increased since the last event. so we thought we'd do this again especially since the supreme court is in the news more than ever these days. i'm especially pleased with the panel that's been assembled this evening. i've written about all of these fine authors and mentioned all of them in my annual lists of the top ten books for the supreme court officionado in your life. i've praised each one of them not just because of their books, but because their books, each in their own way, have shed new
light on the supreme court which sorely needs more light. so i'll introduce each of them briefly, then start the discussion with questions from, first, some of mine and yours and then we'll have an opportunity to buy the books. i hope the panelists will discuss things with each other as well. and we want to leave a substantial amount of time for questions from you about the books and all other things related to the supreme court whether it's the current nomination and confirmation mess or justice scalia and the impact of his absence on the court or whatever. it's definitely the case that all the authors here, both fiction and nonfiction, are true experts about the court. not just dabblers who stumbled on it and thought it might be a cool subject for a book. first, i'm pleased to announce anthony franze, a lawyer at arnold and porter whose latest
supreme court thriller or, "the advocate's daughter," was just released last month. the body count is lower for his first book, "the last justice," but it's no less suspenseful and no less accurate when it comes to details about the supreme court. next to anthony is david lat, the founder or and managing editor of above the law, the blog that all the lawyers read daily whether they admit it or not. [laughter] david branched out to fiction in a very successful way with his book, "supreme ambitions," which casts the supreme court as an aspiration as well as a reality, an aspiration for judges on the 9th circuit. coincidentally, david just happened to clerk on the 9th circuit a number of years ago. next to david is kim roosevelt, professor of constitutional law at the university of pennsylvania and former law clerk to justice souter. he's written both fiction and nonfiction books and also
happens to be the great, great grandson of theodore roosevelt. his novel is titled "allegiance," and it brings us back to the supreme court of world war ii more vividly than any nonfiction book ever could. next to kim is jay wexler, professor at boston university school of law and former law clerk to justice ginsburg. he's authored several books including the very funny and readable first novel about a justice going through a mid-life crisis. it's been said that a book of supreme court humor would be a very thin book -- [laughter] but jay has added immeasurably to that sub-genre. and finally is irvin carmon who is a reporter at msnbc and co-author of a terrific biography, nonfiction, of justice ruth bader ginsburg fittingly called "notorious
rbg." it's a terrific book. so i'll just start off with a broad question asking each of you to describe your book and tell us what special challenges you found in writing about the supreme court or appellate courts. >> i'll start, sure. my book, as tony mentioned, is "the add slow tate's -- advocate's daughter." the protagonist is named john, and he also has a big, deep, dark secret, a youthful crime that has haunted him for 30 years, and it's been kept secret. and the book's about his daughter being murdered and his fears that may relate to his possible nomination or the secret from his past.
and as far as challenges writing for the supreme court, as tony mentioned, i'm a practicing lawyer at arnold and porter, and i have cases in the supreme court, and sometimes i have justices in my novels do some really terrible things. [laughter] so when you file briefs with your name on it and you have a book in barnes & noble where a justice, you know, does some unthinkable things, you have -- it stays with you in the back of your mind a little bit. so that's been my major challenge. but i think that, i hope that my admiration for the institution kind of shines through the book, recognizing that for a thriller, you know, core component is murder, mayhem and some mischief. so that's my book. >> so my novel is entitled "supreme ambitions," and it is set actually in the 9th circuit, one of the federal appellate courts one step below the supreme court. but each though only part of the novel really takes place in d.c. or in the vicinity9 of the supreme court, the supreme court
is kind of like the great white whale that both the protagonist and her her mentor are off. it tells the story of audrey coin who is clerking for a judge who is on the 9th circuit. and audrey's dearest wish is to clerk for the supreme court which is an extremely high honor that several of the panelists have had the opportunity to do. and her boss, judge stintson, wants to sit on the supreme court as a justice. so the book examines what one has to do to advance in the legal profession and to vindicate one's ambition. i have two short sort of shorthands that i give for the book which perhaps the audience will appreciate even if it's not going to be hitting the bestseller list anytime soon. one is it's kind of like john grisham wrote a legal thriller about jurisdiction. [laughter] and the other one i like to give, because you have two strong, ambitious women who, one of whom is new to the field and
the other who's sitting atop of it, i kind of like to say it's the devil wears prada meets the judiciary, that's my rough shorthand for a book that otherwise is kind of weird to explain to people. oh, sorry, challenges. i forgot to talk about that. i think the main challenge which some of the fellow panelists can relate to -- although maybe not kim. kim's book actually has real -- actually, anthony's too. one of the challenges was writing about the legal world. a lot of it is up here. a lot of it is mental, a lot of it is on paper, and my book has no car chases, no murders, so how do you get people to keep turning pages when it's all about filings and briefs and motions? i think that is a big challenge for writers of novels set in the legal world. sorry. >> as tony said, my book is called "allegiance," and it's set mostly in the supreme court during world war ii. it tells the story of a guy from philadelphia who's in law school when pearl harbor is attacked.
he wants to join the military, but he fails the physical. then he gets a chance, he thinks, to everybody his country in another way, he gets the opportunity to clerk for justice hugo black on the supreme court. and, of course, during world war ii the government removes japanese-americans from their homes on the west coast and confines them in camps in the interior of the country. so my protagonist is clerking one one of the japanese-american cases is decided. after his clerkship ends, he goes to work for the justice department, and he's in the alien enemies control unit. so he's actually one of the people responsible for defending the detention program in court. he ends up writing the briefs for the korematsu case. and as time dose on, he learn -- goes on, he learns more and more about what the government has done supposedly to keep him safe, and he starts having doubts about where his true allegiance lies. and what i was trying to do there was take a historical episode that had some kind of relevance to the present. is so i'm trying to explore the question of what we do as a
nation when we feel afraid, when we feel insecure and how we decide who we can trust, how we decide who's dangerous and how we decide whose interests count and who's going to be sacrificed to make the rest of us feel safer. and i do have a murder actually. no car chases. but i face the same problem that david is talking about which is i thought, oh, this legal material is all super fascinating, and that will carry the story. my editor disagreed, so i ended up putting in a murder or two. i won't even tell you how many there are. i don't want to spoil it. [laughter] but that was one of the challenges. the other challenge i found was historical fiction was much more difficult than i'd realized. my first novel was about life in a law firm x i knew that pretty well. i'd worked in a law firm for almost two years. i felt confident inventing scenes between characters. but with historical fiction, i had real anxiety about getting the details right and not having people say things they wouldn't have said or wear things they wouldn't have worn. so i had to do an enormous amount of research just to have
the confidence to write even the simplest scene. >> hello. my novel is about a supreme court justice having a mid-life crisis in the middle of one of the biggest terms in recent years. tuttle is 60-ish or so, drinks too much, he's divorced, super horny, looking for love, perhaps contracting syphilis, i'm not really sure. [laughter] and also he gets really into a fourth century b.c. chinese philosopher who teaches that rationality and logic are not something that anybody should rely on which is somewhat destabilizing for a judge who has to make decisions in cases. [laughter] and so he kind of unravels over the course of the book. and, so the book is about what happens when somebody starts really doubting whether they ought to be in the position that they're in and whether the position makes any sense at all.
for me the challenge, i think, was trying to -- i knew i wanted to write about the supreme court but slightly skewed. so in order to do that, you have to write about the supreme court in a convincing manner so that it looks real, and then you can just twist it, you know, 5% to the left, and you can maybe get the reader to buy in whereas if you're writing manager that's just out-- something that's outrageously crazy, that's another matter. i i wanted to make it look almost like reality but not quite. >> hi, everybody. i'm irin carmon. thank you, tony, for that wonderful introduction, and it's really fun to be here at georgetown. as i'm sure you guys know, former home of marty ginsburg who's one of my favorite comments about our book was that somebody said that when they read the chapter about marty and ruth's marriage, they felt like what they think they're supposed to feel when they watch a romantic comedy. [laughter] so i think i'm outnumbered a
little bit on panel. mostly -- well, among other reasons i did not write a work of fiction. we're also the only book that started out as a tumbler. so my co-author, inspired by the voting rights decision -- inspired by shelby county v. holder and specifically justice ginsburg breaking the record for dissents from the bench in a single week, started "notorious rbg" as a mash-up of the tiny, fierce womens' rights pioneer and the 350-plus pound dead rapper. and the idea was to juxtapose this and to think about the ways in which both of them are speaking truth to power. so it struck a chord, obviously. no to have rouse r -- notorious rbg tributes are legion. so the challenge we faced in putting together our book was how do we bring substance to this fun, celebratory,
irreverent phenomenon? how do we make a week that lawyer -- a book that lawyers want to read, but mum blers want to read, a key audience that we were trying to reach? we wanted the book to have the same breezy, visual content of the tumblr, but we also wanted it to be substantive, we wanted it to do justice -- sorry -- to the themes to which justice ginsburg has devoted her life. so one of the ways we did that was we had distinguished law professors including one former justice ginsburg clerk, neil segall, and also reva segall and a few other folks annotate, but we also had justice ginsburg's favorite recipe from marty, we interviewed her personal trainer. so while the book gives a serious accounting of the feminist jurisprudence and civil rights issues to which justice ginsburg has devoted her life,
we wanted it to feel fun. so in the spirit of david's mash-up, my favorite description of our book was the one in "the new york times" said it was as if thal mud and a scrapbook had a baby. [laughter] >> great, great. i want to just ask another general question, then we'll get into some of the specifics for each panelist. why do you think so many lawyers, whether they're practice, in practice, academia or the media, why do they write novels? why do they feel the need to do something other than the law? >> i have an answer. well, i've thought actually a fair amount about the connection between fiction and legal practice because i teach a creative writing seminar at the law school at university of pennsylvania. and initially i felt that this was something i had to justify. and i tried to justify it just in terms of its utility for writing generally, because i
said, you know, we have exercises every week, and the students critique them and get feedback, and we talk about them in class. so at least the students are paying attention to their writing. if you compare that to the previous seminar i taught which was advanced constitutional theory, it's probably more useful for them. but as the years went on, i realized there's actually a very deep connection between writing fiction and practicing law primarily if you're a litigator. but i think also maybe to a lesser extent in other fields which is that what litigators are doing is telling a story. and you've got the two sides of the case, and there's certain facts that are not disputed, and you've got to use those, and there are certain facts that are disputed, and you can weave those in or out of your narrative as you want. ultimately, what you need to do to win the case is tell a story that the finder of fact finds more plausible than the other side's story. and how do you make your story plausible? it's all of the techniques fiction writers use. being able to set a scene and have a narrative with a good flow to it.
so i think that lawyers probably feel they're immersed sort of in the world of storytelling, and it's not surprising at all to me that they want to step out and get into novel writing and storytelling more proper. >> anyone else? >> i, you know, i've been asked this question a lot, and i looked into it a little bit. it's not a new phenomenon. you can go back to the 1800s, and lawyers back then would write fictionalized accounts of their real cases for newspapers for entertainment value. and i even found that when he was practicing law, abraham lincoln wrote a fictionalized or embellished version of one of his criminal cases. so this didn't start with grisham, and it's been around for centuries. my favorite theory though about why lawyers write is, david will recall this, washingtonian magazine did a whole feature on
why do so many d.c. lawyers write novels. and the writer met with a number of lawyer-authors, you know, several of us -- me, david and others -- and after spending time with us and getting to know us and hearing us out on why we write, the takeaway was that, you know, basically we all have a bunch of big egos -- [laughter] and we want to be renaissance men and women, and that's really the driving motivator. so that's one theory. [laughter] >> okay. >> i'm just wondering about the premise. i don't -- it very well could be that lots and lots of lawyers write fiction, or it could be that there are just lots and lots and lots of lawyers, and so it turns out that they produce a lot of fiction. i don't know. i'm thinking about trying to think about my friends who are lawyers and my colleagues who are lawyers and wondering if they write fiction and hoping that a lot of them don't. [laughter] but, so i don't know. i'd like to sort of know the per
capita fiction-writing data. i want some data! [laughter] >> well, i've found over the years there are a lot of lawyers who want to be doing something other than lawyering. [laughter] so that's just one outlet. they may be bird watchers too. but you need some kind of relief from the law once in a while. so this is a question for everyone but especially the law professors. do you think fiction can serve as a teaching tool? i'm thinking especially of kim's book which is a great way to better understand korematsu and the japanese interment cases. is this something that's teachable through fiction? >> i think absolutely. i think fiction can teach us just as much about a lot of
cases and a lot of issues as you could get from an academic presentation, and also i think it can reach different people. i think it can reach people in a way that academic analysis doesn't. because studies have shown this, i think. people tend to organize their lives in terms of narratives. people tell stories about their own lives, that's how they make sense of the world. and if you speak to someone in an academic, analytical language, that's the voice in some people's heads. but it's not the voice in most people's heads. so it doesn't necessarily come across as something that's easily internalized that they can take inside themselves and change themselves with. but the voice of narrative, the voice of fiction does. so i think if you're trying to teach people something in a way that really gets inside them and really changes the way that they think about things, very often fiction is actually the most effective way to do that. >> i don't think my novel should be left anywhere near a classroom. [laughter] but --
>> i taught his novel in my class. >> uh-oh. >> yeah, sorry. no thank you. that was a really fun class. i do generally agree with kim though that you can, that fiction can serve as a teaching tool. i think, you know, our universities have fiction writing as a department, right? or as a program of study. and so, and the reason that is is because it's a particular art that people can engage in that shows the world in a certain way. it's a way of understanding the world that's different than economics, history or something like that. the economics and history are also great ways to understand the world, but so is fiction. and so the idea of having even like a program in law and creative fiction, to me, would make a lot of sense. so i -- generally, yes. my book, no. >> i think your book is, could be exhibit a for why there should be another method besides
impeachment to get rid of a supreme court justice. [laughter] and that's something that's worth teaching. but anyway, any other thoughts about teachable fiction? all right. irin, i wanted to ask you especially about your book and how much access you had to justice ginsburg and her friends, papers, etc. and what's been her, what's been her reaction since the book was published? >> well, shawna started her tumblr about a year and a half before we began working on the book. so when it came to suddenly becoming a pop culture icon, i think justice ginsburg was initially perplexed and then amused. she said publicly that she had to ask her clerks, who is this notorious? [laughter] and then once known she said, okay, great, we're both from
brooklyn. [laughter] once it was a book, to be honest, i think she was a little bit not apprehensive, but a little bit uncertain. you know, she's been for many years collaborating with two distinguished georgetown emeritus faculty on her official biography. this is a very different project. this was a project that was supposed to be a beautiful object, a fun story, you know? again, we took the substance very seriously, but it was very much anker irreverent piece of k and not meant to be the definitive work on her life in any way. so she said, you know, i think we started to realize that she was not opposed to the project when clerks and others would call her chambers and say was it okay to talk to us. and then, you know, kind of the door started opening. and i as a reporter at msnbc had actually previously requested ab interview with her before i started working on the book
together with shawna, and so officially she was not giving an interview for the book, but then about a week later i prevent my prior interview request, and suddenly it was happening. so i got a chance to sit down and actually bring cameras into the supreme court which you all know is, even for a television interrue, very -- interview, very, very challenging even if it's not an oral argument. very intense, very stressful in terms of the crew and the production, having no time to set up and just very nervous atmosphere. over time too, i think, once she was convinced that this was a serious project as well as a fun one, we got more and more access. so the most incredible moment for us was, you know, we had interviewed her children, her grandchildren. jeffrey toobin had published in the new yorker a letter from marty ginsburg that he wrote her shortly before he died, and every time i read the letter, i would cry. and it was, you know, near the
end of the chapter about their marriage x. their marriage was significant to us not just because, you know, it's this beautiful marriage -- although it is -- but because it really informed her ideas, her equality jurisprudence and her optimism that men could become better partners. it really, i think, inspired her to imagine a world of equality between men and women including in romantic partnership. so we were trying to get the original of the letter because one of the key parts of our book -- this is the scrapbook aspect -- is primary documents. so we went to the library of congress, we got permission from justice ginsburg to reprint letters including a letter from gloria steinem, the original letter to the editor or from steven wisen fed. but this letter, every time i asked for it, you know, there would just be a polite silence. and i thought, you know, this is inappropriate, maybe she doesn't want to give us this very personal letter.
we just wanted a picture of it in his handwriting. anyway, her son agreed to read the book right before it went to oppress and he said why do you have my dad's letter in this weird font? you should have the original. and i said, yeah, i'd love -- remember when i asked you for it? so at the 11th hour, basically we had to stop the presses. we got an e-mail from justice ginsburg that said my son says you should have this letter. and there it was in marty's handwriting. and had we, you know -- she said i hope you can use it. had we not had the original letter, we would not know that, you know, one of the things we write about in the book is justice ginsburg's precision and her love of, you know, copy editing her clerk's work which jay knows very well. we wouldn't know that justice ginsburg had corrected her husband's dying note to her -- [laughter] in the margins. you can see that in the book.
[laughter] >> jay and kim, did you have much -- i know not necessarily for research reasons, but did you talk to your justices about what you were writing? >> i didn't talk to justice souter during the writing process. the way i was trying to depict the supreme court and some of the lessons that i thought were imminent in the historical material did come from my experiences clerking for him and some of the things that he said. so he didded have an influence on -- did have an influence on the book in that sense. >> i sent the book to her, and she wrote me a letter back that said something like i think it's really interesting that you used the name "tuttle," because there's a former judge from the 5th circuit -- >> right, right. >> i forget his first name? >> elbert. >> and he would never have had a mid-life crisis. [laughter] >> that's great.
that's great. kim, i want to go back to you on your book. what concerns did you have about writing fiction about real figures like justice black, justice frankfurter? you also used real names of other characters like eugene gressman and some others. was that -- why did you do that, and was it a tricky thing to work out? >> well, in some cases it was a little tricky, particularly with gene gressman for reasons i won't go into, because it would spoil a little bit of the plot. generally, i was guided by two principles. the first is you can't libel the dead. to that gave me a little sense of freedom. but the second is there's a difference between fact and truth and insight or illumination. so you can imagine a bad biography that just gives you a
bunch of disconnected facts about a person, and you wouldn't say you got any truth or insight out of that. and you can imagine a better biography that gives you facts about a person but arranges them in a way so that they tell a compelling story and makes connections between them and highlights some things and downplays others and brings out themes from this person's life. and you might say that gives you the truths of the perp, and it gives you -- of the person, and it gives you insight. what the biographer has done there is similar to what a fiction writer does. and so i think fiction can help us get insight, certainly, and you could almost say it can get you to the truth in some cases. i think of an example of this as abraham lincoln vampire hunter, which is a movie that i haven't seen and probably you haven't seen it either. but if you assume that the title is an accurate reflection of what it's about, there's something that's clearly fiction as far as i know. but tells you some true things about abraham lincoln, maybe like he was a brave man who fought against evil, and he was also a physically imposing
person. and it tells you maybe some true things about the world which is the civil war was a struggle against an evil system that sustained itself on the blood of innocent people. now, i didn't really go the abraham lincoln vampire hunter route was, generally speaking, i tried to have the real people in the book do things that they really did. so my criterion, basically, for whether i used someone's real name or not was are they doing what i can verify they actually did. i get away from that sometimes, but generally i tried to have real people doing real things and fictional people doing fictional things. but what i was trying to do with all of that was use the fictional elements to highlight the connections that i found between the historical materials and to bring out the themes that i thought were important there. and i did think that the resources of fiction allowed me to write something that was more illuminating. and i hope in some ways more truthful.
>> i meant to ask david and anthony also about reactions they've gotten. david, i know you got some reaction from 9th circuit judges to your book. >> yes. >> how did they take it? >> so it's interesting. i have to confess the book is a bit of a ramona clay. there are some characters in the book who, you know, we have the standard disclaimer in there, but whatever. [laughter] there are some characters in the book who bear striking resemblances to real people. and that was certainly something i was wondering about as a former clerk on the 9th circuit myself. but i was pleasantly surprised by the reaction of judges. a number of them were contacted for a new york times article, and most of them were appreciative of the project. i think part of it is -- and this is a difference, i think, between maybe the appellate courts and the supreme court -- they don't get quite as much attention on the appellate courts. so i think some of them were sort of tickled and flattered that, wow, there's a book that's kind of about us.
and the genre of supreme court books is always growing, the genre of books about the intermediate appellate courts is probably not. so i think a number of them were pleased. and judge kaczynski, then chief judge of the 9th circuit, even hosted an event in pasadena at the 9th circuit courthouse where i and a number of other authors got to talk about our works. my own judge, justice scanlon up in portland, he and judge graver had a mini book club where he and a number of the law clerks got together and i flew out there for it. i was very pleased by how they took it well even though, as anthony was saying, not all of the judges in this book behave wonderfully. but nobody really seemed to take offense, so that was good. >> i had a similar experience with my first book which the main character was the solicitor general. and it was called "the last justice."
and the character took a bribe, had an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate, did all kinds of inappropriate things. and i was surprised as well that it was -- you know, i had a former solicitor general introduce me at an event. and he pointed out all of the things the character did. [laughter] so it was nice. i had a similar experience, i had a judge send me a very funny e-mail that basically said, you know, i liked your book. you know, my one beef with it is the judges are a lot more sexualized than in real life. but he said at least that gives us all something to strive for. [laughter] and so i got this e-mail, and i said this is a really funny e-mail. i don't like to read from my book, so i went around at all these events, the judge said i could as long as i didn't mention his name, and i'd always get a laugh. this time he sent me a very kind of i liked your book, look forward to seeing you. [laughter]
so i kind of milked that aspect of it. but overall, it's been surprisingly warm reception for my books given what some of the characters do. >> well, i want to open it up to the audience. we may have some follow-up questions but, please, let us know what you're wondering about, about fiction, nonfiction and current events about the court which is actually stranger than fiction, i think, in many ways. [laughter] yes. >> i'm curious how -- [inaudible] hi, i'm just curious how you fit in your book writing with your other work. >> well, i guess there are two ways to take that question. one is sort of thematically how it fits together, and in my case
i hope it does. i'm a constitutional law professor, this is a book about the supreme court, the constitution, american identity, those kinds of themes. the harder question, of course, is how i fit it in in terms of time, and there the answer is i just don't do very many things. i spend time with my kids, i teach, i write law review articles, and i write novels. and then i try to exercise enough so that i don't drop dead. [laughter] but, basically -- >> that's not a lot of things? that sounds like a lot of things. [laughter] >> well, it's enough that it's sort of a struggle to get them all in, but, you know, i try not to take up too many new hobbies. >> i do the same but without the exercise part. [laughter] >> irin? >> so i have a full-time job as a reporter at msnbc where i cover women's rights, politics and the law. and my co-author, shaun a that, was actually at 3l at the time
of the book, and we were on an insane deadline. part of it was that we were inspired by the fact that justice ginsburg throughout long periods of her life got two or three hours of sleep per night and produced incredible work. so shawna and i really felt like we couldn't complain. i did take some time off from work but, you know, rbg sets up quite the high standard. thematically, it made sense for both of us but logistically, you know, we got the proofs back from our highly visual book the week that shawna took the bar, and they were due -- i think she took the bar on monday and tuesday, and the proofs were due on friday, and she was going to thailand to try to squeeze in a week vacation before her clerkship. so we were just sitting there on my living room table kind of threading it all up, and then she found out that she passed the bar the day the book came out. and got a nice note from justice ginsburg herself too. >> happy day. >> i guess i also don't do much
exercise, and so that's the time in which -- [laughter] i write. so, you know, people, they train for marathons, and people don't ask them how do you, you know, do your marathon training with your work. and so when i -- but since it's writing and my other work is also writing, it doesn't look so different. but i like to at least tell people it's different. it's like how people are training for the marathon, i'm in my little closet typing. >> that's a good point that jay raises. i think for lawyers who are interested in writing fiction, it can be a challenge if your day job also involves writing and editing which mine does as a journalist and a blogger. and so i found it very helpful to sort of separate out the blogging, journalism, nonfiction stuff, and i do like to think we write nonfiction on above the law, and the fiction stuff which was sort of drawing on different writing muscles. so i found it a little difficult to write or at least generate
original material during the week for the novel. i kind of worked on a somewhat weekday/weekend kind of schedule where i did a lot of the fiction work on the weekendses. i might be able to edit a little bit during the -- i would say the mornings, but i'm not a morning person. during the evenings, but i did find it helpful to have a mental separation between these two things. >> question. >> ken -- [inaudible] author of supreme court yearbook. tony began with a little bit of a dismissive comment about judicial biographies, and i'm wondering to what extent you all have read, you know, supreme court justice biographies. i'm picturing the one of john marshall that's this big on my book shelf, and i did read it. and i wonder what you learn or what you think readers would learn from biographies about
what makes a good supreme court justice, what makes an effective supreme court justice, etc. >> well, i didn't read that thick john marshall biography, i'm sorry to say, but i do think enough of what i have read about john marshall is what makes for a good supreme court justice which is a consensus builder and someone who can bring people together. and as far as -- also a sense of humor. you know, i saw something recently that was talking about marshall and the court was getting criticized about the justices drinking too much or something, and marshall made this rule like, well, we'll only drink wine when it's raining. and then, inevitably, they'd all get together and the sun would be out, so he'd say, well, we have a big jurisdiction, it's going to be raining somewhere. [laughter] >> we were privileged to have a lot of supreme court biographies
to draw on for ours in addition to the additional -- original reporting and research that we did. but it was kind of freeing to not have to tell every story. and it was freeing also to bring a lens to it. i mean, our project is very much within this kind of renaissance of feminism that's happened on the internet. so thinking about how do you take these serious, substantive topics, these legal concepts, and how do you bring them to people who are curious about justice ginsburg because they think she's cool and because they're feminist and because they're angry about recent supreme court decisions, but bring them a little bit into that world of the serious biographies, you know? so we drew on biographies. there were some great stories, the most recent biography of justice brennan was really helpful. and justice ginsburg herself has done such a good job of looking back in history also to the justices' wives.
in thinking of -- [inaudible] harlan in particular, she co-edited excerpts from malvina harlan's diary, somebody she really identified with. so we were trying to bridge that history too. a lot of it involves looking back into history in places where women and other marginalized people are just not there and figuring out how do you also make that part of our conversation and the current day conversations. >> i read a lot of biographies. i mean, sort of naturally because i have a bunch of supreme court justices as my characters. i'm not sure that it taught me what it takes to be a good justice. i think, first of all, there are probably several different ways to be a good justice, so it's good to have some consensus builders, it's probably also good to have some brilliant mavericks, you know in you probably want a mix of different people on the court. i think you want a mix of different life experience and maybe experience in different governmental institutions. so i think it's unfortunate that increasingly now we're just getting federal appellate
judges, people who have spent most of their professional lives in the judiciary. if i had to guess, i would say i think the most important qualities for a supreme court justice are being open-minded and willing to learn and also i would say genuinely humble. and not everyone who tells you that they're humble is, in fact, humble. but justices who do have a sense of humility about their role and understand that their one branch of government and their reviewing the actions of other branches of government and sometimes of state governments and sometimes the views of these other government actors deserve respect. sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. it's good to have a theory about why that's so. >> i'm pretty sure i've never read a bhoig my of a supreme court -- a biography of a supreme court justice. maybe if more of them had syphilis, i would read more. [laughter] >> douglas. >> wow. [laughter] >> can't libel the dead. [laughter]
>> yes -- [inaudible] >> [inaudible] i've realize tuttle in the balance, and i just ordered my second, third and fourth copies of notorious rbg, and i've enjoyed all of them. >> thank you. >> you're the most valuable audience. >> kim, i have a question for you. there was a historical novel about two years ago in which the lead character's name is kermit roosevelt, and he takes a trip down the amazon with his dad. and in the end -- well, it doesn't end well for kermit roosevelt. how did you feel about having your ancestor and namesake used in historical fiction, and did that influence how you treated real people in your novel? >> well, i suppose -- the novel is a great novel. but i suppose it gave me a little bit more confidence in what i was doing because i was able to say, look, i'm not a hypocrite. here's someone who wrote a novel
about my namesake, my ancestors, my family, and i think that's great, you know? there are parts of it that are true, there are parts of it that are made up. but what he was trying to do -- and this is exactly what i was trying to do -- was he was trying to use these fantastic fictional elements to get at deeper truth about the character, that maybe you can't coax out of the bare narrative of facts but that you can develop more pulley with fiction. -- fully with fiction. and i thought he did a great job of that. >> didn't you, in your novel, reference the death of -- >> i did, yes. there's a moment in my novel where things don't go well for kerrmy roosevelt -- kermit roosevelt also. [laughter] >> anyone else? was that you, marty? or -- >> [inaudible] >> oh. [laughter] well, i'll ask since we were talking about what makes a good justice, do you think we're going to get a justice merrick
garland now or later or ever? any -- just what are your thoughts? >> well, he was a former partner in my law firm, and by all accounts a extraordinarily qualified nominee. so i hope so. i will say that every nominee in "the advocate's daughter," even the villainous ones, got a hearing -- [laughter] an up or down vote. i would like to think if i was conjuring a character that was going to block that process, i might throw them in a seedy hotel doing some unsavory thing so the vote could go forward. but the long answer -- short answer is i don't know. >> well, i think you can libel chuck grassley. he's very much alive. [laughter] if i had to guess, i would say no. just based on incentives that republicans have to wait it out. we may have a justice nominated
by president donald trump. >> i would guess, i might guess, yes, in the lame duck session. i think -- i was predicting judge lawson was going to be elevated, so take my predictions for whatever little they're worth. although, in hindsight the pick of judge garland was just brilliant. it's like at the end of "the sixth sense" where you're like, ah -- yeah, i didn't see that coming, i'm a moron. [laughter] >> spoiler alert. >> i think you could see it in a lame duck session. i know some of the republican senators are saying, no, no, no, we can't do that. but i think it's a little bit like the government shutdown. are there incentives for them to hold their ranks now? sure. i think once november is done and maybe we have president-elect hillary clinton, i think 63-year-old moderate judge garland is going to start looking very good for them. you know, if this were like "the west wing" or the she questioning to supreme ambitions, the president would
nominate pam carlin or let president clinton nominate a pam carlin or someone else who's much younger and much to the left of judge garland. so anyway, i think we might see one. donald trump, it's very interesting. he -- everyone often thinks of him as somebody who is not really going to give us fabulous supreme court justices. but he's told us he's going to give us his short list already of a dozen, and i'll be very curious to see who's on that. he's already told us he's not nominating his sister who's on the third circuit even though she kind of became a minor campaign issue, that's not happening. but the judges he has mentioned like judge bill pryor, these are not outlandish. these are not crazy ideas. these are well-respected judges who are pretty conservative. they're probably the kinds of judges you'd see under another republican president. so it's not like he's going to be nominating some contestant from "the apprentice." this is not an endorsement of donald trump, of course, i'm
just saying. [laughter] >> i think he should use a reality show like "the apprentice" to elect his nominee. [laughter] >> they could have a robe contest, like swishing down a runway. >> i'd watch that. [laughter] >> i actually sent in a request to project runway to do a robe challenge. they never took my idea. [laughter] >> well, so what -- those who you have written from inside the court, what do you think the justices are feeling, or how are they coping with all the focus on them right now and on the death of justice scalia? i have the sense that it's a difficult time at the court. any thoughts? >> well, i think the justices would like to be back at a court of nine. you know, for some of them
that's going to, obviously, have partisan effects. well, for all of them it will have partisan effects. for some of them, they'll be welcomed, for some of them less welcomed, depending on who gets seated ultimately. but i do think all of the justices care about the court as an institution, and i think they can see in certain cases it can't do what it's supposed to do. and sometimes, you know, the court doesn't take cases, and sometimes it allows circuit splits to percolate. even in situations where different courts in different parts of the country have said dump things -- different things about the meaning of the constitution, sometimes that situation can go on. but i think that the justices all do wish that they had a court that could resolve those issues when they want to. and sometimes, you know, we see them deadlocking 4-4, and that just means they can't, they can't do their job. >> that's got to be right, i think. plus, it must be just sod and sad -- so odd and sad there, i would think.
i was at the court watching oral arguments for the first time in a long time last week, and just the counts -- and there are only -- it's a very, very odd thing to see. and i imagine that everybody must miss justice scalia, you know, just in some way or another quite a bit. his just presence was so enormous that it must be just like a big hole for all of them. >> justice kagan spoke yesterday at nyu, and she mentioned, i think, that the supreme court was a bit duller and a bit more gray as an institution and that the justices are sad to have lost their colleague. so it's very interesting. we are here at georgetown law school where, as we have covered on above the law, a number of professors had dueling e-mails to the entire community about whether or not they really mourned justice scalia. but i think that for his colleagues at the court, certainly, including justice ginsburg who gave some of the most moving testimonials to him,
he is very much missed. >> i also think for the justices that are very invested in the functioning of the court as an institution above politics, this is a very difficult moment because, you know, chuck grassley gave a speech today in which he said that it's john roberts' fault that they're not confirming a nominee because he's politicized the court with his obamacare votes. which i thought was pretty ironic considering that those votes stand in testimony that the court can be above what the republican party wants chief justice roberts to do. so the longer that republicans show that they are unwilling to fill justice scalia's seat purely on the basis of partisan politics, it begins to kind of tarnish the court. i mean, i think justice ginsburg and justice scalia's friendship, at least for her, was premised on this idea of the court as an institution that could function despite differing ideologies and political commitments.
that it was about making the institution work. i think they genuinely liked each other, and she thought it was hilarious, and they loved going to the opera, but i think it was a performative friendship that was about showing we're above the fact that we have different values and ways of reading the constitution and statutes. and so for it now to come down to this bare knuckle political fight about whether it's going to be the lame buck which would be a complete abdication of whatever principle they're citing or whether it would be there are vulnerable republicans in purple astronauts, i person -- states, i personally think that current has always been there, but i think it undermines the legitimacy of the court to say that a duly-elected president, that his nominee cannot even get a hearing or an up and down vote. up or down vote. >> any other questions? well, before we end, i had
suggested to the panelists that if they had a passage from their books that they wanted to read to the audience that illuminated some aspect of the court, they would have that opportunity. anybody want to take a stab at it? [laughter] >> i don't have my book with me, so let me just say to everyone in the audience, if you read it, you'll find many passages -- [laughter] >> it's a beautifully-written book. i reviewed it for the wall street journal, there's much lyricism in it. >> i could read two paragraphs or so which should illuminate some of the premises upon which the court acts and decides cases, some things that are so fundamental we might not even really think about them. there's a, this is the -- the court is hearing a pornography and first amendment case, and justice tuttle is the swing vote. he's the one who's going to decide really which way it goes but, of course, he's sort of worried about logic and reason
and such. and so the solicitor general of texas is making an argument, and she's citing some cases about various things. ed tuttle fidgets, she's citing cases, but there are others on the other side. sometimes the court does one thing, sometimes another. sometimes the justices say one thing, sometimes they say something else. so what? it's all just words. he's had it up to the proverbial here with all the words. he interrupts cox's string of citations. counselor, says ed, i can't help but notice that like your opponent you insist on framing your argument with words. [laughter] does the strength of your argument rely on the presumption that words mean something rather than nothing? [laughter] ed is looking intently at cox. the lawyer blinks once, then again. ed imagines he can hear her eyelids close and open like in an early morning cartoon, blink, blink. the question, understandably, has thrown off the cool nerve of texas' top arguer. in all the many practice
arguments she had staged to get ready, not once did any of the lawyers playing justices ask her to share assumptions regarding the capacity of language to convey meaning. i just had not come up. [laughter] it just had not come up. [applause] >> thank you. >> sounds like a question justice scalia could have asked in a, in an odd moment. anyway, anyone else? >> yeah. i'll go ahead. because we were talking about justice scalia and justice ginsburg's friendship, i was here at georgetown several years ago for the end of the term event that the supreme court institute puts on. and for those of you who don't know, the supreme court institute which is graciously hosting this program does this tremendous public service where
they moot for advocates arguing before the supreme court. they practice argument sessions for, you know, all of the cases or virtually all of the cases every term. and after the last argument, they have a gathering, basically a thank you to the volunteers who, you know, serve as, you know, mock justices for these practice sessions. and one year at the event justice ginsburg appeared and was honored, and justice scalia gave this very warm introduction to her. and ginsburg, being an avid opera fan, the institute arranged more some opera singers -- for some opera singers to come and serenade her. and it was a beautiful kind of thing that stuck with me, and i incorporated that scene into my novel. and so i'll read just briefly, you know, tony asked us to get something that captures the essence of the supreme court or the supreme court community. this is more of a quirky thing if those of you who have ever met somebody in the supreme court bar, they tend to talk in their own language and jargon.
and so my character is at that event, a fictionalized version of that event, and he is making some observations about that. so it says: we were spoiled at osg, cecilia said. like most of the supreme court community, cecilia spoke in abbreviations and acronyms. it wasn't the office of solicitor general, it was osg. it wasn't justice robert reeves anderson, it was rra. a case wasn't dismissed as improve departmentally granted, it was -- improvidently granted, it was digged. there was the cvsg, and the risk went on. an ivory tower version of annoying teenage text speak. [laughter] [applause] >> these are tough acts to follow. my passage is not funny, actually, is so i may be at a disadvantage. this is a short passage, and it
does, i think, capture -- even though it's not set at the supreme court, i think it captures in some ways the psychology of how do you get to become one of the nine -- out of the 1.4 million lawyers in america, how do you kind of wind up as one of the nine robed ones who's sitting not too far from where we are right now. by the way, this is funny. i kind of feel like this is probably what it feels like to be at a confirmation hearing. we're sitting not too far from the capitol. there are these bright lights, and there are cameras on. anyway, this is probably the closest i'll ever get to a confirmation hearing. so i will read this short passage. the background is a character in the book who's narrating this particular passage, a character has found out that she will not be clerking for the supreme court. i would never have the privilege of clerking for the supreme court. a longtime dream of mine was dashed. at the same time, i would never have the core responding --
corresponding burdens. and make no mistake about it, being a supreme court clerk came with burdens, the weight of high expectations. within a few years of leaving your clerkship, you are expected to enjoy a certain amount of professional success; a partnership at a major law firm, a tenured professorship at an elite law school, a high government office. if you weren't a federal judge by age 45, people would wonder what went wrong. and even making it to a coveted life-tenured seat on the federal bench did not put an end to ambition. district judges wanted to be circuit judges. circuit judges wanted to be particularly well-respected circuit judges such as feeder judges or, better yet, supreme court justices. i recalled what judge stintson had told me during my clerkship interview. i like to be a judge who's going places. success didn't take you off the tread mill, but simply put you on a different one with a higher speed and steeper incline. now i didn't have to worry about
that. with no hope in my future, i was free to just be an ordinary person. it felt liberating to have the weight of ambition lifted from me or so i tried to tell myself. [applause] >> so in the spirit of talking about clerkships and court life, i'm going to read a brief interpret from the chapter -- excerpt about the chapter from some of the accounts of the clerks of justice ginsburg, of course, one of whom we interviewed for the book is sitting next to me. >> when rbg heard through the grapevine that berman was dating a clerk, he got buzzed. he remembers picking up the phone apprehensively thinking he'd messed something up. i didn't know you had a special friend at the court, rbg cooed. you must have her up for tea. two days later, she had set up a small table in her chambers and spent 30 minutes with the young couple. later, she performed their
wedding ceremony, something she's done for several clerks. i'll never forget the end, says berman. instead of by the power invested in me by whatever, she said by the power invested in me by the united states constitution. my wife always says if we got divorced, it would be unconstitutional. [laughter] rbg even occasionally gets in on clerk shenanigans. in alito's first full term on the court, his clerks persuaded him to field his own fancy baseball clerk along with the leagues the other clerks had put together. the week that the ginsburg clerk teams played against alito, we beat him soundly reported a clerk that year. he eagerly reported the victory to rbg and suggested she send a memo to alito crowing about the victory. she looked at me like i was crazy, he recalls. he boldly slid a draft memo across the table. [laughter] rbg looked down at the page. now, tell me what fantasy baseball is again, she said.
[laughter] she took out her pen to make some corrections. in the end, as he remembered it, the memo read: dear sam, i understand that this week my clerks beat your team by a score of 10-0. we expect more, even from the junior justice. [laughter] .. in front of me. i will read a passage about a clerk trying to decide a case which is what the book is about. it is not an easy case. military authority imposes a curfew and japanese americans and remove them from their homes ordering them to report to is simply centers for transport to relocation camps. they refused to assemble and was convicted in federal court. the aclu has chosen him to make
their challenge to the exclusion orders. they have chosen him but he is clearly loyal. he is an eagle scout, baseball fan, no threat to the security, the court could not decipher him alone but everyone excluded. how do we decide? i use the method my professors taught me. the lawyers brought me a story of a man who walked through the fbi office and told him he would not go. through those murky waters i have the stain of intellect, looking for the bright fish in the law but find nothing. i am lost, adrift in an endless sea and there is no law in the shallows or the dark abysmal deaths, there are only men, the only faces, i see gordon with his merit badge, general john dewitt and his metals, american soldiers standing in guard towers and crossing pacific beaches carmen ernest young men of the aclu and congress, the president of the department of
justice. here is how to divide a constitutional case justice roberts once said, late statute alongside the constitution and see if they fit but he must've been joking. no law will decide this case. the only question is who to trust. if these people are dangerous they can be excluded. if they are loyal they cannot. they are the faces in the story and the voices and the briefs. whose word will we accept? the japanese are loyal, the aclu says. there were no acts of sabotage on the coast before the evacuation. there have been none in hawaii. evacuation was driven by racism and fear mongering. we did not know says the department of justice, we could not know. they worship the emperor as a god, send their children to
japan for schooling. if no sabbath has occurred might that mean they were gathering, it is milder than the draft. the pacific coast states take a stronger tone. these people are disloyal, they said. they are not like us. they do not assimilate, they have their own religion, their own language schools, they sent tinfoil home before pearl harbor. before the evacuation there were radio signals and lights flashing messages to ships at sea, raids on japanese businesses found dynamite, guns and ammunition. on the loyalty questionnaire they admitted it all. [applause] >> with that we will adjourn. there is a reception and several stacks of books are available for purchase. it has been a great time, great discussion, thank you very much. [applause] [inaudible conversations]
[inaudible conversations] >> booktv tapes hundreds of other programs all year long. here the look at some of the events we will be covering this week. on monday in new york city at new york university for several dorian journalist oscar martinez's talk on the origins of the current violence in el salvador, honduras and guatemala. and glenn greenwald and staff members of the intercept discuss the us government thrown warfare program at the bell house in brooklyn, new york. meg jacobs recalls america's energy crisis of the 1970s at the jimmy carter presidential library and museum in atlanta. that same evening at the free library of philadelphia, daniel
schapiro, founder and director of harvard international negotiation program talks about how to resolve conflicts between governments. that is a look at other programs booktv is covering this week. look for them to air in the future on booktv. >> you are watchg booktv with top nonfiction books and authors every weekend, booktv, television for serious readers. >> coverage from the fourth annual book festival. with the politics of marriage, crime and more. tomorrow we are live with will hagood for in-depth, he will take your questions including his most recent, showdown, on the life of supreme court justice thurgood marshall.
on afterwards america online cofounder steve case looks at the future of the internet. and julia ward powell. and ali baba in the marine corps universities sebastian on how to defeat isis. booktv, 48 hours of nonfiction books and authors, television for serious readers. >> this is primarily a love story. a love story of mine toward my late husband and the difficulty that one has when one makes that commitment at the time of
marriage. sickness and health. to the court, another life, another being, another person with whom lived with john for 53 years, we were married in 54, john had parkinson's disease, this became more and more apparent that his parkinson's was taking him downhill. he decided to end his life. he did it in a way that still makes me so sad because there
was no, and is no longer in maryland which allows doctors to assist individuals who have been deemed within six month of death as john was, there is no longer, that allows doctors to help those patients, chose to stop drinking water, stop using food, stop taking medication. i am sure many of you know, would you forgive me if i stood up and walked? >> i think so. i think we could forgive you. [applause] >> i am so much more comfortable, this strikes me as being more difficult but i hear a little echo and if we get that down, that would be great. i am sure as most of you know,
you can go without food for days upon days upon days, but not without water. within about we 10 days to two weeks, the organs begin to break down without water. john chose to end his life that way and i have chosen to write a book that i began writing on the night he was dying. i was sleeping, trying to sleep on two chairs, and with my little dog maxine on my stomach and that didn't work so i just got up at about 2 am, i had my
pet with me and i began writing. i cannot tell you that there was any plan in mind at that time to continue to continue to create a book of essays, anything of the sort, that is nice, what to put on paper what i was feeling, what i was seeing, what i was thinking. and so it began. >> you can watch this and other programs online. >> here's a look at the best-selling books according to the conservative book club.
>> booktv continues with peter ross range. in his book "1924: the year that made hitler" he takes a look at the year that defined adolf hitler's ideas and led to his political rise in germany. >> hello, thanks to everybody for coming indoors on a beautiful winter day. you probably had to stop for the girl scout cookie stand on the way and but at least you are here. thanks for coming. i handed out a timeline to give you a sense of why i chose to write about 1924. i don't know if there are enough to go around, maybe you can share them. you can see we are talking about the early period of hitler's political life, not the third reich or the holocaust but the first 14 years leading up to his seizure of power in 1933. this period was 14 years long and coincident with the myanmar