In the wake of the quasi-scandal that the divine Dahlia Lithwick has dubbed Divagate, we’ve received several defenses of that legend of the Supreme Court press corps, NPR’s Nina Totenberg.
We previously shared with you an email from Tom Goldstein, who once interned for Totenberg (just as Cate Edwards is doing this summer). Today we bring you celebrity correspondence from another SCOTUS superstar: Jan Crawford Greenburg!
Check out her message, which includes a detailed discussion of seating arrangements in the Supreme Court press gallery, after the jump.
Here’s what Jan Crawford Greenburg wrote (in response to an email from us asking for comment):
I saw the item in the Post this morning, so I’d already read your blog when I got your email. I’m on Nina’s side, here. We have assigned seats for the big cases (I’m guessing this incident occurred on a pretty big day), so she didn’t do anything wrong when she asked the person to move out of her spot. You have to sit where the Court tells you to sit.
Our source doesn’t recall what cases were being heard on the day in question. Anyway, back to JCG:
Here’s how it works: Each news organization that regularly covers the Court gets a “hard pass” that entitles one of its correspondents to sit in first two rows of press seats (the nice cushy pews that are to closest to Justice Breyer, so we have a good view when he rolls his eyes at Justice Kennedy). On major argument days, the Court’s Public Information Office (headed by Kathy Arberg) assigns specific seats for all the reporters. When we check in before the arguments, they give us a little pink card with our seat number on it, and we have to give that to a Supreme Court police officer before we take our seats upstairs in the courtroom.
Assigned seats — how elementary school! Does the PIO keep LG away from JCG, so Linda won’t steal Jan’s special pencils?
The regulars sit in Rows A or B — those pews right up front, amazing seats just a few yards away from the bench. The other reporters who don’t regularly cover the Court sit in the alcove or, worse, in the chairs behind the columns and curtains, where you can’t see a damn thing (sometimes, someone from the PIO will stand back there during arguments and helpfully hold up photos of whichever Justice is talking, so no one confuses Kennedy with Souter).
HA, that’s awesome. ‘Cause all those old white dudes look alike.
That’s for the major cases. For arguments on the second-tier cases, the Court just reserves Rows A and B for the regulars — we can sit where ever we like. And on the cases no one really cares about, anyone can sit up there, even if you don’t have a hard pass.
It works well — the PIO is organized and assigns the seats fairly. They mix up the seating assignments from argument to argument, so we sit in different places in A and B throughout the term (except the wires, which always are in the first seat on the aisle so they can dash out to file).
So the wire reporters (not Nina) are on the aisles. What a neat little factoid! And it makes sense. It wouldn’t do at all to have some AP guy clambering over La Totenberg.
Anyway, that’s the deal. (Please don’t ask me about seating in the cafeteria, though!)
Oh, and btw, Nina is a terrific colleague — smart, funny, generous and always professional. She’s been really helpful to me (and others) over the years. And I’d guess she gets her own Starbucks!
Say it ain’t so, Nina, say it ain’t so! No self-respecting diva fetches her own Starbucks. Especially when she has a potential First Daughter for an intern!
Names & Faces: Totenberg’s Courtside Seat [Washington Post]
No Conflict? NPR’s Nina Totenberg Takes on John Edwards Daughter As Summer Intern [NewsBusters.org]
Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of Nina Totenberg (scroll down)