* AG Gonzales: Federal judges are unqualified to make national security decisions. [MSNBC]
* AG Gonzales: Federal judges should be making national security decisions. [MSNBC; Washington Post]
* Affirmative action takes center stage at Boalt. [WSJ Law Blog]
* Dahlia asks, “Have the Supreme Court’s opinions become suggestions in Texas?” [Slate]
* Linda discusses the Texas death penalty cases as well. [New York Times]
* Former Cendant Chairman Walter Forbes get sentenced to 12 years and seven months in prison, on accounting fraud charges. The prosecution was handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for New Jersey; Forbes was represented by Williams & Connolly. [WSJ Law Blog]
* Picking a jury for the Scooter Libby trial in D.C., the biggest small town in America: it ain’t easy. [Washington Post]
- Affirmative Action, Alberto Gonzales, Crime, Dahlia Lithwick, Death Penalty, Department of Justice, Eavesdropping / Wiretapping, Education / Schools, Federal Judges, Habeas Corpus, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Jury Duty, Linda Greenhouse, Morning Docket, SCOTUS, Senate Judiciary Committee, Sentencing Law, Supreme Court, Trials, War on Terror, White-Collar Crime
* AG Gonzales: Federal judges are unqualified to make national security decisions. [MSNBC]
- Dahlia Lithwick, Hotties, Howard Bashman, Jan Crawford Greenburg, Linda Greenhouse, Media and Journalism, Movies, Nina Totenberg, SCOTUS, Supreme Court, Tony Mauro
Our favorite movie of all time is All About Eve (1950). It’s the story of a brilliant but aging stage diva, Margo Channing (Bette Davis), and an aspiring actress, Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter). Margo befriends Eve, taking the star-struck youngster under her wing. But then the exceedingly ambitious Eve starts to threaten her mentor’s reign as queen of the theater.
The small Supreme Court press corps can be compared to the clubby world of the theater. It’s populated by distinguished veterans, like Tony Mauro, and emerging younger talents, like Dahlia Lithwick. (Expressed in Broadway terms, Mauro and Lithwick could be compared to, respectively, Christopher Plummer and Sutton Foster.)
The stage has its great divas — e.g., Bernadette Peters, Chita Rivera — and so does the SCOTUS press corps. Nina Totenberg is certainly one of them. But the undoubted queen of Supreme Court correspondents is Linda Greenhouse, of the New York Times.
Greenhouse has been covering the Court for almost three decades, since 1978. She enjoys unmatched access to the justices, especially those in the middle and left wings of the Court. Supreme Court justices are notoriously media-shy. But Linda Greenhouse can magically reach them on their cell phones, at any hour, and get them to spill their deepest and darkest secrets. If you want to know whether there was blood in a justice’s stool this morning, ask Linda G.
So here’s our question:
If Linda Greenhouse is the Margo Channing of Supreme Court reporters, does that make Jan Crawford Greenburg into Eve Harrington?
Just like Eve Harrington, Jan Crawford Greenburg of ABC News is a talented and attractive young woman, whose star is on the rise. In the past three months, she has scored coveted in-person interviews with almost half of the Supreme Court:
(1) Chief Justice John Roberts, in Miami;
(2) Justices Antonin Scalia and Stephen Breyer, here in Washington; and
(3) earlier this week, Justice John Paul Stevens (his first network television interview ever).
For all of you non-journalist types, please understand: these are MAJOR COUPS.
And there’s more. As Howard Bashman notes, later this month, Greenburg has a “top-secret” new book on the Court coming out. That book, Supreme Conflict, is being touted as drawing upon “unprecedented access to the Supreme Court justices and their inner circles.”
(Note to Greenburg’s book publicist: We’d love to get a reviewer’s copy, if you wouldn’t mind sending one our way.)
Call it Greenhouse v. Greenburg. Linda Greenhouse’s historic domination of Supreme Court coverage is under siege, as Jan Crawford Greenburg makes some serious inroads at One First Street. And we’re not the only ones who have taken notice. Check out Howard Bashman’s great interview with La Greenburg, posted just this morning, in which he accurately describes the trajectory of her career as “meteoric.”
We will surely piss off some people with this question, but we’ll ask it anyway:
Could Greenburg’s status as a hottie be contributing in any way, however small, to her journalistic success?
In All About Eve, you will recall, Eve Harrington uses her beauty and charm to seduce theatre critics, writers, and directors.*
Some of you might object: “This whole ‘All About Jan’ theory is ridiculous. Linda Greenhouse has been covering the Court since Jan Crawford Greenburg was in footsie pajamas. Do you really think LG is about to be supplanted as Empress by some upstart kid?”
We respond by quoting this exchange from All About Eve, between Margo Channing and her lover, Bill Sampson:
BILL: Darling, [to succeed in the theater,] you’ve got to keep your teeth sharp. All right. But you will not sharpen them on me — or on Eve…
MARGO: What about her teeth? What about her fangs?
BILL: She hasn’t cut them yet, and you know it!
But Jan Crawford Greenburg HAS sharpened her pearly whites (which we’ve admired up close). And she’s ready to sink them into Linda Greenhouse.
* Rumor has it that back in the day, as a young and attractive reporter, Nina Totenberg was not averse to “workin’ it.” If you can confirm this rumor or shed more light on it, please drop us a line.
N.B. We are NOT suggesting that Nina Totenberg pulled The Full Judith Miller. We’ve simply heard that Totenberg, back when she was a youthful beauty, was highly skilled at deploying feminine charm in getting her sources to talk.
Update: This comment is one of the best compliments we have ever received in our entire life. Addison DeWitt is our idol. Thanks, Michael Doyle!
Interview of Jan Crawford Greenburg by Howard Bashman [How Appealing]
Jan Crawford Greenburg [NewsHour Extra: The Road Taken]
Linda Greenhouse bio [Wikipedia]
All About Eve [IMDb]
All About Eve screenplay [Screenplays for You]
Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States Supreme Court [Amazon]
- Andrew Sullivan, Antonin Scalia, Constitutional Law, Dahlia Lithwick, John Roberts, Media and Journalism, SCOTUS, Stephen Breyer, Supreme Court
We agree with Andrew Sullivan: Dahlia Lithwick did a superb job in her write-up of the Scalia-Breyer debate, which took place Tuesday night at the Capital Hilton. We attended as guests of the ACS, whom we thank for their hospitality.
For our fourth and final post about the evening — prior posts here, here, and here — we’ll quote liberally from Lithwick’s great Slate piece, with commentary of our own appended and interspersed.
It all appears after the jump.
- Antonin Scalia, Constitutional Law, Dahlia Lithwick, Media and Journalism, SCOTUS, Stephen Breyer, Supreme Court
Question: Now that the Supreme Court is hearing hardly any cases these days, how are the justices spending all their free time?
Answer: On constitutional law road shows, in which they debate the proper way to go about interpreting that foundational document. What fun!
On Tuesday, Justice Antonin Scalia and Justice Stephen G. Breyer held forth on the subject before a packed ballroom at the Capital Hilton. The event was co-sponsored by the American Constitution Society and the Federalist Society. It ran for about an hour and a half; Jan Crawford Greenburg, of ABC News, served as moderator.
Our prior coverage of the event appears here and here (photos). Our third installment appears after the jump.
The Supreme Court heard a number of interesting oral arguments this week — and we’re way behind in our coverage of them. We’re working on catching up.
On that note, it’s too bad that audio recordings of this week’s SCOTUS arguments aren’t available. As noted by the WSJ Law Blog, the Court released same-day printed transcripts in Watters v. Wachovia Bank and the greenhouse gas case — but no audio broadcasts or same-day recordings.
This was pursuant to the Court’s policy of selectively releasing recordings based on whether there is “heightened public interest” in a case — i.e., whether it involves a hot-button issue. And these two cases, despite their major implications for business, environmental law, and federal-state relations, didn’t make the cut.
We’d like to echo Dahlia Lithwick’s recent call for the Supreme Court to revisit this policy of selective audio-casting:
If the Supreme Court justices really want the public to recognize that what they do is subtle and legal, as opposed to ideologically driven, why would they release the audio in precisely those cases in which they are most stridently split? Why reinforce the stereotype of a partisan 5-4 court that splits along the most-basic liberal/conservative lines?
(Oh, and Howard Bashman is with us on this — which means that of course we’re right.)
Releasing same-day audio tapes of ALL Supreme Court oral arguments, regardless of the level of “public interest,” would take a clean, bright-line approach to the issue. It would allow the public to learn more about the workings of the Court, but without the intrusion of cameras in the courtroom. Justice Breyer wouldn’t have to worry about television close-ups of his wattle; Justice Scalia could leave his eyebrows au naturel.
Finally, same-day audio release would save the Court — or the Court’s Public Information Office — from having to determine whether a case is “sexy” enough to merit broadcast. Because do you really want Kathy Arberg deciding what’s sexy?
(Speaking of Kathy Arberg, a few weeks ago the Supreme Flacktress put up a “help wanted” sign at One First Street. Out of curiosity, does anyone know whether the position is still open?)
Listen Up: The Supreme Court’s hot/cold audio-casting policy [Slate]
Should Congress Mandate Supreme Court TV? [Law.com via How Appealing]
Listen to Today’s Supreme Court Oral Arguments… Not! [WSJ Law Blog]
- CIA, Crime, Dahlia Lithwick, John Roberts, Media and Journalism, Morning Docket, SCOTUS, Supreme Court, Television
* When committing a robbery, try not to target a master of illusion. [CNN]
* Another legal show goes the way of “The Law Firm.” [CNN]
* Dahlia Lithwick begins this article, “Chief Justice John Roberts is the Dr. McDreamy of the federal bench.” [Slate]
* Dismissal sought in the CIA leak case. [AP]
* Justice Kennedy, the likely swing vote in Monday’s decision in Ayers v. Belmontes, also holds the critical vote in deciding the constitutionality of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. Here’s some interesting commentary on last week’s oral arguments. [SCOTUSblog]
- Antonin Scalia, Dahlia Lithwick, Media and Journalism, Samuel Alito, SCOTUS, Supreme Court, You Go Girl
Some of you think we give Dahlia Lithwick, the legal affairs writer for Slate, a hard time. And it’s true that we often disagree with her (even if we always acknowledge her writerly talent). But we do find ourselves agreeing with much in her latest piece, criticizing recent critiques of the news media by several Supreme Court justices.
In response to Justice Antonin Scalia’s remarks during a panel sponsored by the National Italian American Foundation, Lithwick writes:
Scalia said, “The press is never going to report judicial opinions accurately.” It seems our reporting is limited to: “Who is the plaintiff? Was that a nice little old lady? And who is the defendant? Was this, you know, some scuzzy guy? And who won? Was it the good guy that won or the bad guy?”
I’m still running the Nexis search for the reporting on last spring’s campaign-finance reform decisions that includes the terms “little old lady” and “scuzzy guy.” But it seems to me the reporting on that case was a lot clearer than the opinions.
And although, if anything, the Supreme Court press corps is hypercautious in its attention to legal detail at the expense of sensationalism, Scalia dismisses them, and their readers, because, in his view, “nobody would read it if you went into the details of the law that the court has to resolve.”
While we agree with Justice Scalia’s general point that news accounts of court cases often focus more on the facts, including facts about the parties, and less on the legal issues — which may not be surprising, given that the facts are more accessible to a lay audience — we do believe that most Supreme Court reporters try their best to explain the legal nitty-gritty to their readers. And many of them — including Lithwick, Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times, and Charles Lane of the Washington Post — have formal legal training.
A little bit more, after the jump.
After yesterday’s discussion of Tequilagate, the pseudo-scandal in which Justice Antonin Scalia stands accused of racial insensitivity for a passing reference at oral argument to Mexico’s national drink, we received this reader email:
Scalia’s “tequila” comment from the other day reminded me of a remark he made during oral argument in Hoffman Plastics, an immigration case from a few years ago. He made some crack about illegal immigrants who could stay home all day, eat “bon bons,” and get paid for it — if the NLRB had their way. I was surprised there was no outrage over that.
Intrigued by this, we tracked down the Hoffman Plastics oral argument transcript (PDF). And here’s what we discovered:
QUESTION: If he’s smart he’d say, how can I mitigate, it’s unlawful for me to get another job.
MR. WOLFSON: Justice Scalia –
QUESTION: I can just sit home and eat chocolates and get my back pay.
MR. WOLFSON: I don’t agree that the board would have to accept such a representation….
“Chocolates”? That’s much tamer, and far less snarky, than “bonbons.”
We checked back with our tipster, who claimed a distinct recollection of “bon bons.” So here’s what we’re wondering: Might Supreme Court oral argument transcripts get “scrubbed,” a la Congressional ones?*
This seems inconceivable to us. Such shadiness would be SO Article I — like sending nasty emails about masturbation to underage male pages…
But we don’t have the audiotape, so we don’t know for sure. If you also happened to be in the Hoffman Plastic audience and can recall whether Nino referred to “chocolates” or “bon bons,” we’d love to hear from you.
Of course, even if Nino did refer derisively to bonbon-popping illegal immigrants, it might not be seen as THAT problematic. After all, there’s no negative stereotype about undocumented aliens gorging themselves on bon bons — unless they’re French.
A “bon bon” remark might be viewed as slightly un-PC, in a “Let them eat cake” kind of way. Liberals might say: “Justice Scalia, how insensitive of you to refer to illegal immigrants eating bon bons! Don’t you know that they’re working day and night to obtain the bare necessities of life — not Teuscher champagne truffles?”**
But compared to other controversial things Justice Scalia has said (and done) over the years, it would be a pretty minor infraction.
Update: Oh darn. This has ruined our Friday. But thanks, Ben, for digging up the audio tape!
* We’d object to replacing “bon bons” with “chocolates.” The terms are not interchangeable. A bonbon is a very specific, especially indulgent type of sweet: “a candy with a fondant center, often with fruit or nuts, covered in fondant or chocolate.”
The word “chocolate” doesn’t convey the same decadence as “bonbon.” We might go instead with “truffles” (as in chocolates, not gourmet fungi).
** Teuscher champagne truffles are endorsed by Oprah — so they’ve got to be good. Says La Oprah: “They make the little hairs on my head rise. It’s so sinful!”
Oral Argument Transcript in Hoffman Plastic Compounds, Inc. v. NLRB [Supreme Court official website (PDF)]
HOFFMAN PLASTIC COMPOUNDS, INC. v. NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD [Legal Information Institute of Cornell Law School]
Earlier: A Tempest Over Tequila
How Many Drunk Mexicans Live In Dahlia’s Head?
We recently received an interesting piece of reader feedback that we’d like to pass along to you. It relates to the recent Tequilagate scandal, which we previously deemed to be “kinda stupid.”
We predict that we’ll get some hate mail and negative comments over this (perhaps from the webmaster of this site). But we’ll push ahead anyway. If we were thin-skinned, we wouldn’t be in this line of work.
Here’s what one reader had to say to us:
I think you should do another post on Dahlia Lithwick, turning the “Tequilagate” scandal on her. Because, really, saying that there is a stereotype of drunken Mexicans is racist in itself, since she basically invented the stereotype.
Like if someone said, “An Irish thief,” and I responded, “That’s racist. How dare you appeal to the stereotype of theiving Irish,” that would be weird, because the stereotype doesn’t exist. We’re drunks, not theives.
As reflected in this post and this one, here at ATL we strive for complete accuracy in racial and ethnic stereotyping. So we thank our reader for this valuable input.
(Okay, that’s all we really wanted to say. If you’re fine with this, then you can stop here. But if you’re inclined to disagree or attack us, please continue reading. Two notes of anticipatory defense appear after the jump.)