Maybe you’re tired of reading about NPR’s Nina Totenberg and the tempest in a teapot over seating in the Supreme Court press gallery.
But we’re not. So we’ll continue to write about it, since ATL is our party, and we’ll cry if we want to.
We have two new messages to pass along today. One is from a current member of the SCOTUS press, and the second is from a former member of that group.
If you’re interested in this story, you can read the messages, after the jump.
A member of the Supreme Court press corps had this to say:
Nina Totenberg’s arrogance and rudeness are so well known that a court could take judicial notice of the fact. But Jan Crawford Greenburg’s explanation of seating arrangements for reporters covering the Supreme Court warrants some additional information.
As Crawford Greenburg explains, the ‘regular’ Supreme Court press corps members are assigned specific seats in the first two rows only for ‘major,’ not for ‘second-tier’ cases. She also correctly notes that the ‘aisle seats’ in the first two rows are seen as somewhat preferable because they allow quicker egress.
But this is where things get tricky:
Reporters who cadge the aisle seats on ‘second-tier’ days ordinarily do not give them up voluntarily. Instead, later-arriving reporters have to take the less desirable seats farther from the aisle — just like at the movie theaters. Whatever the specifics of the incident cited by Above the Law’s previous source, I can attest that I have seen Totenberg on at least one occasion arrive late and insist on taking the aisle seat from the reporter who had arrived earlier.
Very interesting — and what a relief! After the lovely testimonials by Jan Crawford Greenburg and Tom Goldstein, our faith in Nina as Diva was shaken. Now it has been restored.
A second source, who has covered the Court in the past, essentially confirms this:
The front rows in the press gallery are indeed reserved for Supreme Court regulars — the ones who are credentialed by the Court. These people include Linda, Nina and Jeffrey. I believe the AP and some other outlets have a seat as well.
The rest of us who only go to the Court once a year (if even) to cover a specific case aren’t allowed to sit in the front rows UNLESS one of the regulars doesn’t show. Then you can sit in those rows — if you ask the security guard nicely, he will usually let you move up.
So even if you have an assigned seat, if you arrive late — as La Totenberg allegedly did — usually you’re out of luck.
Anyway, why does everyone care about these seats so much? Our second source explains:
These seats are coveted not just because they are padded but because everyone can see you. It is a status symbol to sit there because lawyers and other folks in the main gallery envy that you have such a great view of the bench. The press area is off to the left.
Otherwise, the little people have to sit in the “back” room of the press gallery. They have crappy chairs and if you get there too late you won’t even get a view of the justices. You have to watch them through some sort of lattice screen.
Ah yes, status symbols. This whole episode just goes to show that lawyers (and high schoolers) aren’t the only ones obsessed with their place in the pecking order.
Okay, now you REALLY know more than you ever cared to about seating for the press at One First Street. And we’ve now written all we intend to do on this topic.
But we do have a few more stories about Ms. Nina, which we’ll be posting over the next few days. We heart Nina Totenberg!
Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of Nina Totenberg (scroll down)