“Hee-hee, this book of mine is TOO FUNNY! Every time I read the story about Souter drinking all of Luttig’s wine, I completely lose my s**t. I can’t figure out who was the bigger a**hole: Souter for drinking the wine, or Luttig for offering it?”
(Lest there be any confusion, the caption above is fictionalized. Jan Crawford Greenburg is far too genteel to say such things. Who do you think she is — Alexandra Korry?)
Here’s a quick, belated write-up of the interesting discussion we attended last week at Georgetown Law School, featuring Jan Crawford Greenburg and Jeffrey Rosen (and moderated ably by Professor Neal Katyal, who happens to be Rosen’s brother-in-law).
Both Greenburg and Rosen have just published new books about the Court. Rosen is the author of The Supreme Court: The Personalities and Rivalries that Defined America, and Greenburg is the author of Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States Supreme Court.
Some brief highlights from the conversation, as well as a few photos, after the jump.
Jan Crawford Greenburg (JCG) was even more dazzling than she was at the Breyer-Scalia debate. She had Hollywood-quality hair — not surprising, since she’s on television a lot — and was wearing a chocolate brown skirt suit with dark brown leather trim. This outfit was nicely paired with matching brown pumps (silver accents).
Jeffrey Rosen (JR) was also well-dressed, even if he wasn’t quite the vision that JCG was. He was wearing a dark suit and crisp blue shirt (sans tie). We’d describe him as youthful, even baby-faced. He reminds us a little of Matthew Rhys, who plays Kevin Walker on Brothers & Sisters (which we do enjoy).
Here are some random, interesting remarks (paraphrased, unless quotation marks appear):
JCG: George W. Bush was “seared” by his father’s nomination of David Souter. Hence his nomination of Harriet Miers. He didn’t have to rely upon the testimonials of others (as George H.W. Bush relied upon Sununu with respect to Souter); he knew Harriet Miers personally, and trusted her.
JR: Interviewing Chief Justice John Roberts for my book was a thrill. Chief Justice Roberts spoke a great deal about judicial temperament, which he described as “not acting like a law professor.” Some justices — JGR didn’t name names — are more interested in writing law review articles than handing down the law.
A funny quote from JR about Justice Kennedy: “Kennedy loves running the country.”Also, AMK’s “grandiosity” can be “endearing or annoying,” depending upon your point of view.
Interesting observation from JR: the justices who get the most attention in the short term often don’t wear so well over time.
Professor Katyal turned the discussion towards Lee v. Weisman. JCG pointed out Chuck Cooper in the front row, and Cooper took the floor to talk about the case:
This sprightly, silver-haired fellow is prominent conservative litigator Charles Cooper (OT 1978/Rehnquist). Jan Crawford Greenburg invited him to speak about Lee v. Wesiman, a case that he argued before the Supreme Court.
CJC, describing their litigation strategy: “We wrote [a brief that] amounted to a ‘Dear Tony’ letter.”
But ultimately they didn’t get AMK’s vote. AMK’s refusal to vote for the petitioners in Lee v. Weisman infuriated many conservatives.
Some good gossip about AMK from JCG: Clerks tend to harbor affection for their former bosses, and this is true of Kennedy clerks as well. But AMK’s clerks sometimes find him “maddening” during the clerkship, because of his elaborate, meandering, unpredictable decisionmaking process.
JR on Scalia: Scalia is “the great cautionary tale about judicial temperament on the current Court.”
(This remark is consistent with JR’s appearance on The Daily Show.)
JCG on how Justice Clarence Thomas is on an interpersonal level: “He has a great ability to connect.” For example, CT will meet you, maybe you’ll mention that your mom is sick, and then “six months later, he’ll ask you, ‘How’s your mom doing?’”
JCG also discusses how CT can be effective behind the scenes in garnering additional votes for his position. At Conference, he might be the only justice to stake out a particular position (usually the most conservative one). But in between conference and the issuance of final opinions, he sometimes can win over additional justices to a position that initially only he voted for.
JR’s response: This may happen sometimes, but it’s rare. CT isn’t, say, as skilled at coalition building as Justice Hugo Black was. “I don’t think we’ll be talking about Justice Thomas in fifty years.”
JCG on Harriet Miers: “The story of Harriet Miers is a sad story. She was put in a difficult position.” Sandra Day O’Connor, when she was nominated to the court as an intermediate-level appeals court judge from Arizona, also didn’t have “broad constitutional experience. But we expect more of our nominees now.”
Then JCG and JR got into a juicy, quasi-catty exchange about Justice Clarence Thomas’s forthcoming memoirs.
JR complained about how CT has agreed not to do “the morning shows” to promote his book, but HAS agreed to try and get Rush Limbaugh — a personal friend of his — to promote the book. JR expressed the view that CT was essentially pandering to a narrow constituency, which is unseemly for a SCOTUS member to do.
JCG disagreed vehemently. She observed that CT knows the audience for his book, and he’s entitled to promote it as he sees fit. She added that his memoir stops with his arrival at the Supreme Court.
Some interesting comparisons between AMK and SOC as swing justices:
JR: SOC “relished power and knew how to execise it.” And she “knew her own mind.” In her chambers, she had a pillow that read: “Maybe in error, but never in doubt.”
In contrast, AMK is “Mr. Hamlet Justice,” who agonizes more. SOC writes up narrow opinions that preserve her ability to change course in a future case. AMK, on the other hand, “writes these huge sweeping ‘sweet mystery of life’ opinions.”
JCG observed that SOC is “perhaps the least reflective of the justices” that she (JCG) spoke with for purposes of her book. JCG didn’t seem to say this as a slight against SOC. Rather, SOC’s view of things is basically, “that’s decided, now let’s move on.”
In discussing SOC’s legacy as a justice, JCG drew a distinction between being “influential” and being “powerful.” SOC was powerful while she was on the Court; but it remains to be seen whether she’ll prove to be influential over time.
(Reading between the lines: “No, SOC won’t be viewed by history as an influential justice. She will be remembered at One First Street for those darn aerobics classes.”)
After the discussion, there was a reception — free food and drink! — and a book signing. Here are two photos:
Supreme Conflict is a critically acclaimed bestseller. So why was Jan Crawford Greenburg’s post-discussion book signing located on the way to the restrooms (note sign at left)?
Jeffrey Rosen, chatting with fans.
We didn’t get a photograph of the woman in the purple suit who seemed to have confused him with another Jeff Rosen. Even after Professor Rosen her that he wasn’t THAT Jeff Rosen, she couldn’t stop talking about how brilliant, how witty, and how charming the other Jeff Rosen was. It was really awkward…
Crying Over Spilt Wine [Prettier Than Napoleon]
Earlier: Programming Note: Off to Georgetown Law, for ‘Fire and Music’