Supreme Court Rift? Scalia Says No

Venerable media outlet CBS News may have set a new standard for shoddy coverage of the high court when it relied on anonymous sources to report alleged conversations between the justices as they decided the case, including the impossible-to-verify claim that the four dissenting justices decided to issue their unusual, unsigned dissent as a “message” directed specifically toward Chief Justice Roberts.

Not surprisingly, it didn’t take long for CBS’ overhyped report to begin losing credibility. Justice Antonin Scalia recently debunked the allegations of personal infighting in an interview on CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight. During the interview, the conservative justice denied any personal beef with Chief Justice Roberts, saying: “The press likes to paint us as nine scorpions in a bottle. That’s just not the case.”

Justice Scalia also had a few words for those who like to ascribe political motivations to the Court’s rulings. "We are not a political institution," Scalia said. "I don't think any of my colleagues on any cases vote the way they do for political reasons."  In fact, On the Merits is unaware of any instance where a Supreme Court Justice has ever accused a colleague of playing politics with court opinions.  And they alone are in a position to know, so one must take Justice Scalia at his word in the absence of any evidence to the contrary.

The media may be hoping for a Jersey Shore-type brawl to spill out of the high court chambers, but it’s not likely to happen. Like their colleagues on the lower courts, the nine justices who decide our country’s most important cases should be judged not on the political consequences of the outcome, but rather the strength of the legal reasoning they set forth in the court’s opinions.

Posted: 8/8/2012 12:59:34 PM by Editor | with 0 comments

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Thanks for stopping by On the Merits, the first blog from the Texas Center for Legal Ethics. On the Merits will take a close look at significant legal stories with an eye toward addressing the legal myths and misconceptions that turn up in news stories, movies, TV programs, websites, anonymous emails and other forms of mass communications. Our goal at On the Merits is to provide readers with a thoughtful examination of what the media and others are saying about the legal profession and to apply the frequently-absent context of how the legal system actually works.

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