Usually we respond to reader comments — which we always welcome, whether good, bad, or indifferent — in the comments. But some comments merit fuller treatment, like this one:
I still find it hard to fathom how gossip about these clerks adds to the public discourse. Given that the clerks are not going to be standing for an election, revealing details of their personal life seems completely unhelpful. Why don’t you consider getting a life of your own and stop harassing people.
Or, maybe you should “put your money where your mouth is” and post information about your law school grades, family background and net worth on your site. Yes, it’s a challenge (although none of us would honestly care)…
Our response to this idiocy, for those of you who care — if you don’t, just skip ahead to the next post, no one’s forcing you to read this — appears after the jump.
Writing non-defamatory things about someone on a website — things that can already be found out through Google, Friendster, Facebook, etc. — does not constitute “harass[ment].” That is simply ridiculous. We take it that you are not a lawyer, since you are definitely not employing any technical definition of the term.
If you’re stalking someone, that’s harassment — they can’t escape. If you’re writing random things about someone on a website, that’s not harassment — they can just NOT READ THEM.
At my old blog, Underneath Their Robes, I did a series of profiles of SCOTUS clerks. Nobody accused me of “harassing” anyone. To the contrary, the only feedback I received on them was positive (including feedback from the clerks themselves).
As for information about me, just Google me and you can read tons of stuff. There’s Jeffrey Toobin’s delightful New Yorker profile, in which I outed myself as Article III Groupie, author of Underneath Their Robes. Then turn to the 3,000-word profile of me in the New York Times, with which I fully cooperated (by letting a reporter follow me around for a day).
Here are my Friendster, MySpace, and Facebook profiles. I grant pretty much all friend requests (except for spam). Other sources will provide you with information and gossip — some true, some not — about my fashion sense, my personal life, and my dead little sister. Knock yourselves out.
Oh yes, my Yale Law School grades. Yale’s barebones evaluation system gives out grades of Honors (H), Pass (P), Low Pass (LP), and Fail (F). I received H’s in all but two of my classes (88 percent of my grades were H’s; 15 out of 17 classes). I ended up with an interview with Justice Scalia and an interview with Justice Kennedy’s screening committee (both unsuccessful, obviously).
To Yalies applying for Supreme Court clerkships, this is useful information. It gives them an idea of whether or not they’re in the ballpark.
Applicants for Supreme Court clerkships want to know what types of credentials you need to pass through the bronze doors of One First Street. Members of Congress, the mainstream media, and public interest groups want to know what kinds of people are clerking at the Court (e.g., their race and gender) — and how they’re landing these jobs. There is nothing wrong with providing this information. And throwing in what journalists call “color” — random little details and fun facts, easily gleaned through Google — is harmless. It is not “harassment.”
If people don’t like what’s being written about them, they don’t need to read it. Jennifer Aniston, for example, bans all celebrity magazines from her house — no one is allowed to bring them over the threshold. That is far more sensible than Aniston writing letters to US Weekly — or getting her friends to write letters to US Weekly — complaining about their coverage of her.
Some people need to get over their pathological aversion to publicity.
Earlier: SCOTUS Clerks Are Fair Game Archives (scroll down)