“Justices Get Out More, but Calendars Aren’t Open to Just Anyone”

Adam Liptak NYT Sidebar column on Justices’ appearances features my new research:

The recent flurry of public appearances is part of a trend that has been decades in the making. As the court’s workload has dropped, the justices have found time for more outside appearances.

“The modern period, and the last decade in particular, has seen an explosion of Supreme Court justices being publicly reported on and being seen to some extent as celebrities,” said Richard L. Hasen, a law professor and political scientist at the University of California, Irvine.

Professor Hasen is the author of a new study that tries to quantify the phenomenon, using news reports on justices’ appearances from 1960 on. He found 196 appearances in the 1960s and just 95 in the 1970s. In the last decade, from 2005 to 2014, the number of appearances rose to 880.

Justice Sotomayor comes in first. She is followed by Justice Stephen G. Breyer and Justice Arthur J. Goldberg, who packed a lot of appearances into his three years on the court in the 1960s.

The rest of the top 10 is made up of the current members of the court. Justice Clarence Thomas, taciturn on the bench, is loquacious off it, coming in fifth. Bringing up the rear on the current court are Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Elena Kagan.

Professor Hasen’s data has limitations. Not all appearances give rise to news reports, and not all news reports, especially ones before the digital era, are easy to find….

Justice Ginsburg will take part in another public interview in two weeks, atthe annual convention of the American Constitution Society, a liberal legal group. Other members of the court’s liberal wing, including Justices Stevens and Sotomayor, have also spoken before the group.

On the other hand, Justices Scalia, Alito and Thomas, members of the court’s conservative wing, have addressed the Federalist Society, a conservative group.

There seems to be vanishingly little crossover.

“I could find no record of a sitting liberal Supreme Court justice addressing the Federalist Society or a sitting conservative Supreme Court justice addressing the American Constitution Society,” Professor Hasen wrote.

That pattern, he said, sends an unfortunate message.

“It gives the impression to the public that the justices are on one side or the other,” he said in an interview.

Share

Comments are closed.