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“America’s Sweetheart, Ginni Thomas”: Did A Justice’s Wife Leak Supreme Court Drama?

NPR legal reporter Nina Totenberg spoke to Bloomberg Law yesterday about the Supreme Court’s recent healthcare reform decision and the subsequent series of stories on the deliberations based on leaks to reporters from court insiders. She made this interesting observation:

“[The leaks] had the earmarks of somebody — somebody or two bodies — who are very angry. Now that’s not necessarily a justice. Could be a justice, could be a law clerk, could be a spouse of a justice.”

Totenberg goes on to say that of course she never tries to learn the identities of other reporters’ sources, but that’s still an interesting bit of … fairly specific speculation, there.

Of course, there is only one “spouse of a justice” that anyone has ever heard of, and it’s America’s Sweetheart, Ginni Thomas.

We already know her husband, Clarence Thomas, is an extraordinarily angry and bitter person, thanks to his memoir, “I Am Still an Incredibly Angry and Bitter Person on Account of That Time Anita Hill Told the Complete Truth About Me.” (And Clarence Thomas is apparently buddies with CBS’s Jan Crawford.) And Ginni made a living, for years, touring the nation telling everyone how awful and unconstitutional healthcare reform was, which means she was probably pretty upset when her husband told her John Roberts voted to kill liberty forever. She’s also known for having really poor impulse control, if her still-hilarious early Saturday morning voice mail for Anita Hill is any indication. So let’s all just assume she’s leaking everything, because she and her husband are so mad and crazy.

(Though Ginni Thomas is still doing video interviews in which she inexplicably doesn’t actually appear for Tucker Carlson’s “The Daily Carlson,” so why didn’t she leak to one of the Caller’s many fine reporters, like Mickey Kaus or the guy who says a black person probably stole his bike? She is an enigma!)

 

By: Alex Pareene, Salon, July 12

 

July 13, 2012 Posted by | U. S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Supreme Conflict”: Was Justice Clarence Thomas Behind The Obamacare Leaks?

The biggest revelation in CBS News reporter Jan Crawford’s piece on the Supreme Court’s health care deliberations isn’t that Chief Justice John Roberts originally voted to strike down the Affordable Care Act and then changed his mind — Crawford merely confirmed what many people already expected based on evidence in the opinions themselves. Rather, the biggest revelation is that fact that, in order for her piece to exist at all, someone inside the Court must have leaked confidential informationto her.

Yesterday, the New York Times‘ Adam Liptak strongly implied that the leak could be Justice Clarence Thomas:

[T]he possibility that conservatives had victory within reach only to lose it seemed to infuriate some of them. The CBS News report, attributed to two sources with “specific knowledge of the deliberations,” appeared to give voice to the frustrations of people associated with the court’s conservative wing. It was written by Jan Crawford, whose 2007 book, “Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States Supreme Court,” was warmly received by conservatives.

In a 2009 interview on C-Span, Justice Thomas singled her out as a favorite reporter. “There are wonderful people out here who do a good job — do a fantastic job — like Jan Greenburg,” Justice Thomas said, referring to Ms. Crawford by her married name at the time.

Thomas’ affection for Crawford is mutual, and Crawford has spent years defending Thomas against his critics. At times, these defenses have been thoughtful and compelling, such as when she shot down the ridiculous idea that Thomas is merely a lapdog for his less conservative colleague Justice Antonin Scalia, or when she defended Thomas’ wife’s Ginni’s right to have her own career regardless of what her husband does for a living. At other times, they have been much less thoughtful, such as when Crawford accused Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) of racism for criticizing Thomas. Crawford has also conducted high-profile interviews of Thomas in the past.

None of this, of course, proves conclusively that Thomas is one of Crawford’s two sources. But it does demonstrate that the two of them have a strong working relationship based on mutual admiration for each other. If Thomas were looking to leak confidential information to a member of the Supreme Court press, it is likely that he would choose the one reporter he has publicly revealed to be his favorite. The fact that that reporter is a well-regarded conservative journalist who also works for a high profile outlet is gravy.

If Thomas is the leak, that would be a shocking escalation from the justices normal tactics — and one which could have lasting consequences for the future. Appellate courts function because of the assumption that their members can openly discuss their thoughts and misgivings about individual cases without fear that those discussions will later be used to embarrass them. If that assumption no longer prevails in Supreme Court conferences, the Court will morph into a far less deliberative, more factional institution.

Yet Thomas has shown no indication in the past that he cares about the sanctity of institutions or the consequences of his actions. Thomas continually finds himself embroiled in ethics scandals, including a high-profile gifting scandal similar to the one that forced Justice Abe Fortas to resign from the bench in 1969. Thomas’ jurisprudence is equally reckless, as he would declare everything from national child labor laws to the federal ban on whites-only lunch counters unconstitutional.

If Thomas did leak the Court’s deliberations, that still leaves open who the second leaker is (Noam Scheiber makes a strong case that the second leak could be Justice Kennedy). At the moment, however, we know that Thomas is the justice who is most likely to cast long-established practices aside due to a personal crusade. And we know that he already has a good relationship with the reporter who received the Supreme leak.

 

BY: Ian Millhiser, Think Progress, July 3, 2012

 

July 4, 2012 Posted by | U. S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Escalation Of Tactics”: Supreme Court Leaks To Conservative Pundits May Have Started More Than A Month Ago

CBS News’ Jan Crawford confirms widespread rumors that Chief Justice John Roberts initially voted to strike down the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, but decided midway through the opinion drafting process that he could not support this constitutionally unjustifiable result. In what may be the biggest revelation of her piece, Crawford also reports that pseudo-moderateJustice Anthony Kennedy led the internal lobbying effort to bring Roberts back into the right-wing fold:

Roberts then withstood a month-long, desperate campaign to bring him back to his original position, the sources said. Ironically, Justice Anthony Kennedy – believed by many conservatives to be the justice most likely to defect and vote for the law – led the effort to try to bring Roberts back to the fold.

“He was relentless,” one source said of Kennedy’s efforts. “He was very engaged in this.”

But this time, Roberts held firm. And so the conservatives handed him their own message which, as one justice put it, essentially translated into, “You’re on your own.”

The conservatives refused to join any aspect of his opinion, including sections with which they agreed, such as his analysis imposing limits on Congress’ power under the Commerce Clause, the sources said.

Instead, the four joined forces and crafted a highly unusual, unsigned joint dissent. They deliberately ignored Roberts’ decision, the sources said, as if they were no longer even willing to engage with him in debate.

Crawford cites two unnamed sources, and there are a very limited universe of people who could have revealed this information to her. Only the justices and their personal staff would have access to this knowledge, and it is highly unlikely that a clerk or secretary would be willing to risk their entire career by revealing the Court’s confidential deliberations to the press. Crawford, moreover, is a very well connected conservative reporter who has, at times, worked closely with the Federalist Society to drive conservative legal narratives. Nothing is certain, but it is likely that one or both of Crawford’s sources is a conservative justice.

Moreover, as Linda Greenhouse points out, it is possible that the Court started springing leaks more than a month before Roberts handed down his opinion:

Around Memorial Day, a number of conservative columnists and bloggers suddenly began accusing the “liberal media” of putting “the squeeze to Justice Roberts,” as George Will expressed the thought in his Washington Post column. “They are waging an embarrassingly obvious campaign, hoping he will buckle beneath the pressure of their disapproval and declare Obamacare constitutional,” Mr. Will wrote. Although the court has been famously leakproof, Mr. Will and some of the others are well connected at the court, and I wondered at the time whether they had picked up signals that the chief justice, thought reliable after the oral argument two months earlier, was now wavering, and whether their message was really intended for him.

To be clear, at this point only two facts are confirmed: 1) According to Crawford, Roberts flipped his vote midstream; and 2) someone within the Court must have leaked her this information. It is perfectly appropriate for Justice Kennedy, or any other justice, for that matter, to internally lobby Roberts to try to obtain his vote in an important case. If a member of the Court has turned to conservative columnists like Will or reporters like Crawford in order to pressure and then embarrass Roberts, however, that would be a significant and unusual escalation from the justices’ regular tactics.

 

By: Ian Millhiser, Think Progress, July 1, 2012

July 2, 2012 Posted by | U. S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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