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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

New Justices Break Tradition By Talking to the Public

From USATODAY/AP: Many Supreme Court justices prize the anonymity that comes with their lifetime appointments and camera-free courtroom. Unrecognized, justices have snapped pictures for tourists in front of the court or been asked to move out of the way of a shot. On rare occasion, a justice might consent to an interview on the C-SPAN cable network to discuss a recent book or be shown addressing a lawyers' gathering somewhere.

Lately, however, some members of the court have been popping up in unusual places — including network television news programs — and talking about more than just the law.

Justices Antonin Scalia and Stephen Breyer recently debated their competing views of the Constitution. Breyer and retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor have talked publicly and repeatedly about threats to judicial independence. Justice Samuel Alito proudly affirmed his membership in the conservative Federalist Society, speaking in a packed ballroom at its recent convention.

Perhaps most noteworthy, though, has been the media-friendly attitude adoped by new Chief Justice John Roberts, in contrast to his predecessor William Rehnquist. Roberts recently was featured on ABC News' Nightline discussing both his view of the court and his son Jack's Spiderman imitation at Roberts' introduction by President Bush.

"Roberts is putting a smiley face in the center chair," said Hutchinson, who recalled earlier eras in which chief justices rigorously avoided the press and looked askance at their colleagues who consented to the rare interview. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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