In recent weeks, a steady stream of gossip has appeared throughout the world of legal news about supposed conflicts at the Supreme Court between the justices. Curiously, the leaks have been fed to Nina Totenberg, NPR‘s legal affairs correspondent, who happens to be close personal friends with liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
In every case, Totenberg has presented anonymously sourced – but supposedly legitimate – claims about feuds involving Justice Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s nominee, and one of President Obama’s nominees, Justice Elena Kagan. Specifically, Totenberg has alleged that Justice Kagan has embarrassed Justice Gorsuch in conference in duels of wit over the law.
Justice Clarence Thomas denied this fake news about Gorsuch to his former clerk and Fox News host Laura Ingraham earlier this week, definitively stating that Totenberg’s allegations are false:
Perhaps most critically, they are damning evidence of a serious problem: leaks at the Supreme Court.
Totenberg, despite lacking a law degree, has a close professional and personal relationship to Justice Ginsburg. It is possible that the comments dripping out of the conference are courtesy of the embittered Ginsburg, a Clinton appointee.
According to a 2015 article in the Washingtonian titled “Supreme Court Justices Officiate A Lot Of Weddings,” Justice Ginsburg officiated Totenberg’s wedding in 2000. The article describes Totenberg as “[Ginburg’s] friend.”
The only individuals present at the conference are the justices themselves – no clerks, no reporters, and no coverage. This means that someone at the conference is actively attacking their colleagues and undermining the court. Given the nature of the comments and the reporter who ran with them, it is possible Justice Ginsburg is leaking to Totenberg to gin up conflict and intrigue.
Were this blame aimed at any other justice, it would surely be met with skepticism. But, as noted, Justice Ginsburg is no ordinary judge – she is known for this type of behavior. The ultra-partisan Ginsburg has not shied away from controversy in the past year. Before the 2016 Presidential Election, she predicted a Hillary Clinton victory; she also viciously attacked then-candidate Trump. Her antics were striking and deeply embarrassing to the high court as an institution.
Stay tuned for more.
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