"Justice Stewart is not talking to any reporters today." "You know Justice Brennan is not going to talk." "Justice Rehnquist asked me to tell you he will have no comment." "Well, you know Justice Blackmun is press-shy."
At the Supreme Court yesterday, the secretaries did most of the talking, and reporters seeking reaction to publication of excerpts from the forth-coming book "The Brethren" met only studied nonreaction.
"Nobody's going to comment," said Barrett McGurn, the spokesman for Chief Justice Warren E. Burger. "The response is 'no comment.'"
"It's just a quiet day at work," said another Burger aide, "a quiet day."
The book, by Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong of The Washington Post, uses thousands of secret documents and interviews with more than 170 former law clerks and several high court justices to reveal the court's inner workings. The breach of secrecy, not to mention the internal strains detailed in the book, deeply upset the justices, many said. But it did not show yesterday. Burger and Justice William J. Brennan Jr. seemed to go out of their way to be friendly as they emerged, laughing and chatting, to hear oral arguments.
Justice Byron R. White grinned at the press section of the courtroom, possibly amused by the number of reporters gathered to see lawyers initiated into the Supreme Court Bar and to hear a dull argument over the boundaries between Ohio and Kentucky.
"Did you expect to see them cry or assault each other?" asked one court employe, noting the number of reporters present.
Privately, some justices were distrubed even before the book's contents were known. Anticipating a possible poisoning of relationships at the court, one justice said that already "it's not always so easy here. We don't choose whom we serve with, you know. We're put here together."