Interview with Nina Totenberg:
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Thursday provided an unusual peek behind-the-scenes at how the court did its work this term.
It’s true, she said, that the liberal justices tried to be disciplined about having their majority opinions and even their dissents, speak with one voice, in one opinion. “The stimulus,” she said, “actually began many many years before … when the court announced its decision in Bush v. Gore.” That was the decision in which the Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, put an end to the dispute over the 2000 election returns in Florida, resulting in George W. Bush becoming president.
The time pressure in the case was excruciating, with the court issuing an opinion just a day after oral arguments, and, as Ginsburg put it, the four liberal members of the court “were unable to get together and write one opinion.” Indeed, each wrote a separate dissent, resulting in such confusion that, as she pointed out, some early press accounts, erroneously reported that the decision was 7-2, not as it in fact was, 5-4.
After that experience, “we agreed,” said Ginsburg that “when we are in that situation again, let’s be in one opinion.” It’s important, she added, because the public and the lower courts need to know what the court has done or not done. And neither lawyers nor judges will stick with opinions that go on and on.