Editor's Note: This book review is a Colloquy companion piece to the forthcoming Northwestern University Law Review Volume 106, Issue 2, which celebrates Northwestern Law alumnus and former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens's life and career.
The title of Justice John Paul Stevens's new book, Five Chiefs: A Supreme Court Memoir, tells us several things about the author before we have read a single page. By deflecting attention from the author to his subject, the title makes clear that this book will not be a celebration or even an exploration of Stevens's long tenure on the Court. And by designating the book a memoir rather than an autobiography, the title also cautions us not to expect a detailed account of the author's path to the Court. Instead, the modesty of the title prepares us for the modesty of the author, whose focus will be on the ways in which five Chief Justices ran their Courts. Stevens himself will be at the forefront only when needed to illuminate their successes and flag their occasional errors. Even this project is treated with self-deprecatory irony: the epigraph, borrowed from Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, announces that "[t]he world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here . . . ." This is, in short, a book about the Court itself rather than about the author.