January 6, 2007

"He told me the precise date he plans to retire."

Said Jan Crawford Greenburg. "He" is Justice Stevens. Fascinating. Am I right to interpret her use of the term "precise date" to mean that he doesn't intend to stay on until, say, his health or mental acuity declines. The use of the word "retire" should also mean that he did not say that he intends to stay on the Court until he dies. "Date" -- if used accurately -- means a specific day, month, and year. [ADDED: The general opinion in the comments is that this was just a joke. I guess my sense of humor is limited on this topic. More on what I think about Justices not retiring: here.]

The linked interview, by Howard Bashman, makes her forthcoming book sound exciting:
I was fortunate enough to talk to nine Supreme Court justices, and a lot of what I heard surprised me. Some of the conventional wisdom is just wrong, especially about Justice Thomas and his early role on the Court. When I was doing the research on his early years, my heart would literally jump up every time I came across a memo or document that was completely at odds with what people have long said about him. The book is about how the Rehnquist Court came to disappoint conservatives -- what went wrong from their point of view -- and how those perceived missteps influenced the Bush Administration's thinking on Roberts, Miers and Alito.
The book is called "Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States Supreme Court."

15 comments:

Gerry said...

I wonder if she means the date he plans on his retirement taking effect, or the date he plans to announce his retirement.

I assume she means announce. If so, I predict it is the day after election day, 2008. I think it is clear he does not want Bush to name his replacement. I don't think he plans to stay on until 2012 or 2016 if the election does not go the way he hopes. I also do not think he wants the election to be about who gets to name his replacement.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe he told her when he's going to retire. She's joking.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Weasel word: "plans."

Simon said...

I'm pretty sure she was joking about Stevens, but her book sounds fascinating, and it'll hopefully be an interesting counterpoint to Mark Tushnet's A Court Divided. In general, anything that upsets the conventional wisdom -- which is usually little more than a thin skin that has congealed on the surface of a larger corpus of fact -- particularly about Justice Thomas will be welcome.

The best thing that I can say about Greenburg as a reporter is that I have absolutely no idea where her political or legal sympathies lie. That compares favorably with Totenberg or Greenhouse, whose every issuance telegraphs their view.

Mortimer Brezny said...

According to Ed Whelan, Jan is joking. She really doesn't know!

Melissa Rogers said...

I saw this yesterday and assumed it was a joke. I thought Greenburg was just poking fun at the notion that ABC would refrain from reporting the date if a reporter actually knew the date. I'm assuming here that Justice Stevens didn't tell her a date "off the record" -- that's so hard to imagine.

In a story about the interview, it says "Stevens has said he would remain on the bench until he no longer writes the first drafts of his opinions." Do you think she was just alluding to that in a playful way? But, then again, she did say "precise date."

I think we need Howard Bashman to give us his official interpretation of this sentence.

Anonymous said...

"He told me the precise date he plans to retire."

Not having read the article, I'm betting it is "the precise date he dies :-)"

Anonymous said...

Greenberg's statement is an example of what is known in the industry as a "joke." You see, it would be an extraordinarily big news story if Stevens told Greenberg when he was going to retire, and it would be extraordinarily implausible for Greenberg to leave the most important part of the story out of her reporting. The juxtaposition of the unlikely events creates a humorous effect.

SteveR said...

Without a word from him, the date Gerry predicts, has been a certainty since January 2001.

vbspurs said...

I saw Jan Crawford Greenburg recently, when Chief Justice Roberts came down to the University of Miami, to give a lecture which I was fortunate enough to attend.

The evening was divided into 3 parts: First part, UM Chairman of the Board (a Harvard college buddy of CJ Roberts) spoke.

Then, Chief Justice Roberts (a twinkly, charismatic performance where he showed his prodigious wit, and articulateness) spoke.

The third part, was Jan Crawford Greenburg "interviewing" the CJ in front of the audience, as they sat down on the dais.

You can check out some pics here, although I'll be blogging about it, with my own (surreptiously taken) photos later.

Ms. Crawford Greenburg struck me as down-to-earth, but more than a little certain that she wanted everyone to know she knew the inner workings of the SCOTUS very well.

In short, she was more than just a reporter covering the SCOTUS for ABC. She was an INSIDER -- which this Souter revelation only confirms to me.

Not a bad performance, but let's just say that asking Mr. Roberts questions like "What is on your iPod...do you even have an iPod?" did not endear her to the audience.

Cheers,
Victoria

Tom T. said...

Well, conceivably "the precise date" could have been something like, "the day he gets confused at oral argument" or "the day he forgets his clerks' names" or some such. I think you're probably right that it's an actual calendar date, though.

Anonymous said...

Please let it be tomorrow.

Simon said...

Victoria - I must have missed something; what Souter revelation?

SteveR said...
"Without a word from him, the date Gerry predicts, has been a certainty since January 2001."

More precisely than that, even: I'd have said close to certainty since December 12, 2000.


Mark Jakubik said...
"Please let it be tomorrow."

That's just plain selfish. I'm getting on a plane tommorow and leaving the country for a week. If Stevens retires while I'm gone, I'm going to be pissed - I'll miss all the fun!

SteveR said...

Simon, you are correct, of course, I was too lazy to look it up.

vbspurs said...

Victoria - I must have missed something; what Souter revelation?

Fair enough. No Souter revelation, merely a cack-handed joke. But even how we tell jokes, you can tell a lot about a person.

Did I tell you the one about me and Julia Roberts and the Queen of Bulgaria in the MIA women's loo? It's funny!

Cheers,
Victoria