Do we exaggerate the rivalry between Linda Greenhouse, the New York Times’s veteran Supreme Court correspondent, and comely up-and-comer Jan Crawford Greenburg, who covers the Court for ABC News?
Maybe. We have a weakness for the dramatic, in case you haven’t noticed. But even if exaggerated, there’s no denying the tension between these two formidable female journalists.
Linda Greenhouse recently spoke at a litigation department luncheon at Willkie Farr in New York. And in her remarks, she threw down the gauntlet before Jan Crawford Greenburg.
Here’s what La Greenhouse had to say about Supreme Conflict, the bestselling book penned by her young rival (emphasis added):
“In her book, Jan Crawford Greenburg wrote, I think quite improbably and without any evidence, that Justice Thomas is the ideological heavyweight anchoring the conservative side of the court…”
“Jan Crawford Greenburg got a lot of mileage out of that statement in the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere, but I just don’t think it’s true.”
WOW. What did Willkie Farr feed Greenhouse for lunch? Fancy Feast?
An interesting account of the rest of Greenhouse’s remarks, from an ATL reader who was there, after the jump.
LUNCHEON TALK BY LINDA GREENHOUSE AT WILLKIE FARR & GALLAGHER
I thought Linda Greenhouse spoke extremely well. She spoke about justices’ movement on the ideological spectrum, either becoming more conservative or more liberal. The course material was her book Becoming Justice Blackmun, of which the firm bought hundreds of copies. Cha-ching!
She discussed various predictors (attributed to various scholars) regarding ideological movement, including whether the justice is new residents to the DC area (those who have prior DC experience are less likely to change their positions in the context of DC culture), whether the justice has prior executive branch experience (those with prior experience are less likely to change their ideology), and any life-changing events that the justices have experienced (e.g. Justice Thomas’s confirmation hearings). She indicated that Justice Thomas is unlikely to become more liberal over time because his defenders on the right during his confirmation hearings so firmly anchored him to that ideology. Her conclusion seemed to be that Justices Roberts and Alito are unlikely to change their ideological stances over time based on the first two tests (both have prior DC experience and both worked in the executive branch).
The Q&A is where it got particularly interesting. Note that all quotes are from memory. Anything not in quotes is paraphrased.
On her access to the justices: She doesn’t think she has more access than anyone else, and she has very little access directly to the justices. She doesn’t really have any sources among the clerks. To the extent she has an inside track on what cases will be heard, it’s from her experience paying attention to the docket.
On Bush v. Gore (in response to a question by Governor Cuomo, who is Of Counsel at the firm): “Justice Scalia says that we should all get over Bush v. Gore, and I’m trying to do that. (Jokingly) I try to do whatever Justice Scalia says. “I like to think of Bush v. Gore as a bad hair day.” She basically thought of Bush v. Gore as a situation where 5 justices believed they needed to resolve a situation, found federal jurisdiction, and made their decision. “And obviously four justices disagreed.” She had some interesting commentary on the fact that people thought the two sides of the Court would never get along again after Bush v. Gore, but they came back and it was business as usual, apparently because they realized that they needed 5 votes to get anything done and you can’t hold a grudge forever.
On the release of Justice Blackmun’s papers (as described in her book): Justice Blackmun’s instructions were that his papers were not to be released until 5 years after his death. What Justice Blackmun did not anticipate was that the Court would be the same Court at the time of the release of his papers as at his retirement. She thinks the members of the Court were taken aback by the release of the papers because there were bench memos, discussion of other members of the Court, etc., that were unusually candid.
On the idea that justices become more liberal as they get older because they’re tired of being criticized in the media and they want people to write nice things about them: “You’re referring to the Notorious Greenhouse Effect.” “This is the idea that justices become more liberal as they get older because they want the east coast liberal media, such as the New York Times, to write nice things about them in their obituaries.” She was skeptical of this as an explanation for ideological movement.
On TV cameras in the Supreme Court: “I’m agnostic on this.” But she finds it odd that the justices themselves decide which cases are important enough for audio to be released. Good point! She’s going to tell this directly to the Chief Justice at an upcoming brunch. (Don’t get too excited…it sounds like the brunch is for all Court correspondents).
We thank our tipster for this detailed write-up of what must have been a very interesting presentation. Good stuff!
Earlier: All About… Jan?
Greenhouse v. Greenburg: This Queen Bee Will Not Buzz Off