Who’s Toobin’ Who?

If the U.S. Supreme Court is headed into session during an election year, then it must be time for lawyer-turned-writer-turned-TV-personality Jeffrey Toobin to crank up the book-selling machine. Like the 2008 tome “The Nine,” which relied primarily on anonymous sources that Toobin won’t identify and whose information is impossible to confirm, his new offering “The Oath” focuses on the inner workings of the nation’s highest court by using anecdotes gleaned by Toobin from his cadre of nameless alleged insiders.

Toobin’s new book is getting high marks from his friends in the media and piling up great sales numbers (ranking as high as #5 on The New York Times best seller list). However, “The Oath” is following the same destructive path as “The Nine” by treating the Supreme Court and its Justices like participants in a reality television show. Among the mud-slinging in his latest work, Toobin includes extensive passages about a rumored angry conflict between Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Antonin Scalia, which both justices have repeatedly denied. 

Explaining the workings of the Supreme Court is a noble goal, but it’s one that Toobin apparently ignored in the name of book sales and more frequent TV appearances. Rather than giving readers a thoughtful examination of the current court, Toobin seemingly decided it was easier to go the sensational route on the well-worn theory that tawdry conflict sells better than sober analysis. Of course, tawdry conflict is something with which he has personal experience.      

While Toobin’s latest effort may further fill his (and his publisher’s) pockets, it does little to contribute to the improvement of the judicial system, which is a shame. One would hope that, if things at the Court are as political and unprofessional as Toobin claims, then he could back up those allegations with at least one named source.

Posted: 10/30/2012 12:00:00 AM 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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