- Hardcover: 284 pages
- Publisher: Ankerwycke (December 7, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1627220461
- ISBN-13: 978-1627220460
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 101 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #133,282 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Supreme Ambitions Hardcover – December 7, 2014
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"This fine novel by a leading Internet commentator and analyst of the courts provides disquieting insight into the secretive world of federal judges and their brilliant anxious young law clerks."
-- Judge Richard A. Posner, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
"So realistic, it makes your teeth hurt. So much fun, you can't put it down. A sprightly, gripping novel with a serious message about the rewards and dangers of unbridled ambition."
-- Judge Alex Kozinski, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
"[A] cross between a serious look into the heart of darkness and an insouciant study of Manolo Blahnik footwear.... This is legal realism at its finest but told in the highly unusual and difficult form of a well-crafted novel."
-- Judge Richard G. Kopf, Hercules and the Umpire (book review)
"[F]or an elite niche -- consisting largely of federal judges and their clerks -- Supreme Ambitions has become the most buzzed-about novel of the year."
-- Alexandra Alter, New York Times
"[A] thriller that captures the law clerk experience masterfully, with all its intensity, competitiveness, big-bucks allure and prestige."
-- Tony Mauro, National Law Journal
"I absolutely loved this book. It was funny, fascinating and taught me about a world that [outsiders] would never know, or have reason to know.... If you take any pleasure in the secret sauce that makes the judicial hotties hot, then you will adore Supreme Ambitions."
-- Scott H. Greenfield, Simple Justice
"[A]n impressive first novel, one of the best that has ever been written about the federal judiciary. It is a great read for anyone interested in the world of federal judges and their sometimes overly ambitious clerks."
-- Ilya Somin, Volokh Conspiracy/Washington Post
"Supreme Ambitions is a legitimate page-turner. Lat knows the story he wants to tell, and he tells it well. He makes no secret of the themes he wants to convey, and he conveys them effectively. Overall, it's a smashing success."
-- Steve Klepper, Maryland Appellate Blog
"Supreme Ambitions shows us the inner workings of a judicial chambers and the intrigue that goes on at the highest levels of the judiciary -- details only an insider like Lat can reveal."
-- Rosemarie Yu, New York Law Journal
"[A] revealing look at the lives of law clerks -- bright young lawyers who give up sleep, sex, and happiness so someone else can take credit for their work."
-- Ed Hayes, author of Mouthpiece
"I still can't decide whether this is a ridiculous book or an insightful one. It might be both."
-- Will Baude, Volokh Conspiracy/Washington Post
About the Author
David Lat is the founder and managing editor of Above the Law, an award-winning legal website that reaches more than 1 million unique visitors a month. Prior to starting Above the Law in the summer of 2006, David founded Underneath Their Robes, a blog about federal judges. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post, among other publications. David lives in New York City. Supreme Ambitions is his first novel.
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The role of clerks on occasion has been controversial, with allegations that they exert too much influence on their judges' decision-making. Chief Justice Rehnquist, himself a former Supreme Court clerk, wrote a famous article on this very topic.The reader is also introduced to the hot topic currently of judicial restraint and what philosophy governs the judicial role in making decisions. Some appellate and SC judges feel they are executives more than drafters of opinions. With four law clerks per judge, many judges have their clerks largely draft their opinions and do the research, seldom getting down "into the weeds" of opinion research and drafting. The main character's judge follows this philosophy. Or, as she says, "legal research is for the little people."
As the title suggests, the real concern of the novel is with unrestrained ambition and how this affects the clerks. If following an ethical rule would alienate your judge who is a "feeder" of SC clerks, what do you do? That is one dilemma faced by the central character. The author describes these clerks as competitive overachievers, who have graduated from the "best" law schools after brilliant undergraduate careers as the most prestigious ivy universities. Their competitiveness probably goes back to learning Mandarin in kindergarten. But the reader surely will ask himself whether this is really so bad having bright young lawyers exerting themselves to the hilt as they clerk. Ah, but dirty tricks are apparently not unknown as the clerks compete. So this is a good book to stimulate some thinking on this issue. Snobbery about law schools is endemic here, as it is throughout the legal profession. I was vastly amused to see the clerks running down the reputation of U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall, which surely comes as a surprise to those of us from the West. I was gratified to see that one successful SC clerk candidate had graduated from University of the Pacific law, so I guess there is always hope.
The book's authenticity is one of its prime contributions. Since author has been involved with several legal blogs, including "Above the Law," he makes sure to identify through his characters a number of today's most prominent blogs, including several of which I was not familiar. We also get a bit of the late Alexander Bickel's astute legal philosophy as an added bonus. Bickel is a giant figure who died way too young and whose ideas must not be allowed to vaporize. The only downside of the book is the ending, which I felt was fairly contrived and disappointing as well as being entirely unrealistic. But characters in novels are allowed to do crazy things, just as happens in real life. A good read which is also informative--you can't ask for more in a good novel.
Though the writing style in "Supreme Ambitions" won't necessarily win a Booker Prize, the book takes a fresh perspective on some persistent themes in American life: the challenges faced by the children of immigrants striving to break into the elite; the fine line that professional women must walk to be successful in the workplace; and most strikingly, the moral compromises and sacrifices that are sometimes required in order to fulfill ambition.
There is something in Lat's novel for everyone with an interest in the legal system, including lawyers, those who love them, and those who love to criticize them. A great book for a long plane flight or a day at the beach!