March 8, 2006

Justice Breyer on the newly reconfigured Supreme Court.

The AP reports:
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer said Tuesday the high court has more discussion and debate behind closed doors with its two new members.

Breyer, though, said the court "seems to be running very well" under Chief Justice John Roberts, and he doesn't think the extra discussion is a major change.

"Perhaps it has to do with younger people," Breyer, 67, told reporters at a news conference before he was to speak at the Clinton Library....

Breyer said publicity surrounding the latest confirmations has led to greater public interest in the court's operations. That could help justices demystify what they do, he said.

"We're not the CIA. The Supreme Court isn't and shouldn't be a secret place," Breyer said. "It's an opportunity for us to explain what the court is about."...

Breyer said he didn't know if a flurry of recent unanimous decisions indicates that the newly formed court under Roberts was trying harder to agree.

"The more controversial matters tend to pile up by the end of the year," Breyer said. "Unanimity is often a function of what cases come along. If people see eye to eye, it works very well."

I'll say more later. I've got to run to class!

UPDATE: I have to keep my promise to say more. Basically, I've been hoping Roberts will bring clarity and cohesion to the Court's opinions. Breyer's comments seemed inspiring to me, but on rereading them, I can see that he's being cagey and not really saying much of anything. They're talking more. Okay.... You shouldn't be too secretive.... Yeah, well, then... say something more substantial!


jeff said...

Interesting - when I try and view the FAIR vs. Rumsfeld post below, it cuts off the comments after only a few. Nowhere near the 26 comments it claims are actually showing up. Anyone else seeing this?

Simon said...

Speaking of the new Court, there are seven pages of photos up at Yahoo from their new class photo:

Mary said...

Seven pages, huh? No matter what the group, you'll never get photo unanimity. ("no, I blinked in that one")

yetanotherjohn said...

I am seeing the same thing, including my comment being "surpressed". I suspect a technical glitch rather than Althouse surpressing free speech that doesn't agree with her.

I am unconvinced that it is just the cases. I looked at the last 8 cases (10% of total) for last year. It had as many dissenting opinons as the first 39 cases (which based on last years 80 cases is likely to be half the years cases). There were three 5 to 4 decisions vs only two so far this year. The last 8 cases were runnins a dissent level almost 6 times higher than this year. In fact, the average number of dissents for the last 8 cases was higher than this years cases that had any dissents (2.75 vs 2.2).

Just to compare this with the first half of the year, to see if maybe they knock off the easy ones first. This year we have had two 5 to 4 decisions, 22 dissents and averaged almost 75% of the cases without dissent by anyone in the first 39 cases.

Last year we had 55 dissents (in full or partial), five 5 to 4 decisions and averaged just under 50% of the cases having no dissent. The number of dissents was running about 2.5x compared to this year. A real doozy was US V Booker where ever justice but Ginsberg filed at least a partial dissent.

So maybe last year was an especially contentious year. Maybe this year Roberts, more "disscussion and debate behind closed doors" and "getting along personally" is just making the court work in harmony better. Ann claims she sees a marked improvement in the writing. From my quick scroll through the opinions, I can tell you they are much shorter this year than last.

At least the MSM reported something about this remarkable outbreak of unanimity, even if they couldn't bring themselves to suggest something Bush has done for the supreme court could possibly have had a positive effect.

ChrisO said...

Geez, let's make sure we take advantage of every knee-jerk opportunity to bash the "MSM." The court as currently constituted has been together all of about three weeks - how dare the media not immediately provide in-depth analysis!

As for Bush, Presidents rarely get much of a mention after a justice has been confirmed. I don't think anyone thought Roberts would be a bad manager. It's a little early to start complaining that Bush isn't being given credit for remaking the court. He did nominate Miers, remember. Although if you're a supporter, I can imagine you'd look for any indication that he may have finally done something right.

As for the comments, I've often found that when you click on "post a comment" additional comments appear at the end of the thread.

Simon said...

See my roundup here, concluding that the first five months of the Roberts court is either the or the second most collegial term on the Court in five years, depending on which metric is used. And that's just to reduce it to a quantitative study; just reading the opinions is enough to tell you qualitatively that this is a more collegial term thusfar.

Simon said...

ChrisO -
I suspect the delay is because the comments page is pulled directly from a database, while the main page is a statically-coded HTML page that blogger updates on a schedule. So the comments page is up-to-the-second, while the main page is up-to-the-[whatever interval they use]

Ann Althouse said...

I'm not doing anything funny with the comments, but I think Blogger may be a little glitchy today. Sometimes comments don't show up until another comment goes after it. I have no idea why.

Palladian said...

Because Blogger STINKS, that's why!

Maybe you should really wipe the slate and, concurrent with moving your residence, move your blog to something like Typepad. Blogger's like the creaky, troublesome old house. Make the blog go condo!

Ok, ok, I'll shut up. For now!

Ann Althouse said...

Typepad has had problems too. And I don't want to change my URL. I'm happy enough with Blogger. Why should I switch to a whole different source of problems, change my address, and start paying? Not attractive at all. Google is motivated to make Blogger work.

chuck b. said...

It must be hard for the Justices to decide individually to say something substantive like Ann's talking about. If one of them says something off-key, then he ruins it for everyone. And he really stands out. The individual Supremes don't get lost in the shuffle.

vbspurs said...

Breyer's comments seemed inspiring to me, but on rereading them, I can see that he's being cagey and not really saying much of anything. They're talking more. Okay.... You shouldn't be too secretive.... Yeah, well, then... say something more substantial!

Yeah, but it was a book shindig, not a real press conference.

I'm pleasantly surprised he commented out of school, as it were, ANYTHING at all about the composition of the new Court.

What you say about cagey, may have something to do with the new "younger" flavour of the Court, as he replied (funnily) when asked about the vetting process to the SCOTUS:

"That is like asking for the recipe for chicken a la king from the point of view of the chicken," Breyer said.

That's cute.

He also said that it was "inevitable" in his opinion, that one day cameras would penetrate the inner sanctum, and allow the public to see as well as hear the goings-on.

The thing is, Roberts has gone on record a few times (once, when C-SPAN cameras were rolling, since I heard him say this), that he would be very much opposed to this eventuality.

And I'm afraid I tend to agree with him.

For the same reason that I dislike cameras in courtrooms -- people alter themselves for the camera, and that's bad.


Simon said...

I agree with Victoria, but would add that I would go further than simply not allowing C-SPAN into the Supreme Court - I would throw it out of Congressional Committees, too, and unless or until the Seventeenth Amendment is repealed, would not be entirely hostile to the idea of throwing it out of the Senate altogether. I'm not opposed to audio, on the other hand, although I think it should not be live, in order to deter (and, if necessary, excise from the tape) the sort of outbursts we saw in the Newdown oral argument and at Scalia's recent AEI speach.