Linda Greenhouse on the ACA Leaks

July 19th, 2012

Question: What do you make of the significant leaks that have come from the Court since the decision in ACA came down? Did you receive many ‘leaks’ during your time at the Court? What would you have done if you had received information about the Roberts vote change and subsequent hostilities if they had come to you from a justice and/or clerk?

Greenhouse: I never received a single leak while I was covering the Court. I occasionally wrote stories that seemed to convey inside information — a vote change during the decisional process, the suggestion of a behind-the-scenes battle in a case that ended with a whimper — but my colleagues surely realized that I was just making informed deductions from publicly available evidence. In my column on the day of the health care opinion (see above) I speculated that the CJ had changed his vote around Memorial Day. This was not, in fact, rocket science after the fact. If someone had given me this information in real time, i.e. when it was happening, would I have gone with it? It would have depended on the nature of the source and on my judgment of the source’s motivation. My years in D.C. certainly taught me, from observation, how sources manipulate journalists’ desire for scoops and turn that desire to their own ends. I think the after-the-fact leaks in this case were highly manipulative, aimed at delegitimizing the chief justice and through him, the decision itself.
From the Supreme Court Insider. And on CJ:
Question: You write extensively in the book about the role of the chief justice as someone with less power than one might think — except that through the assignment power, the chief can drive doctrine in a certain direction. How do you think Chief Justice Roberts handled his role in the ACA cases?

Greenhouse: I did write a lot in the book about the office of chief justice, because I think it’s evolved in surprising ways that are not well understood. The CJ’s extrajudicial administrative burdens are huge, even crushing. To answer your immediate question — that Chief Justice Roberts was left standing alone in the ACA case is one of the most fascinating developments in all my decades of watching the Court. The story in its many dimensions is almost novelistic. I’ve taken a couple of stabs at unpacking his role. But this ongoing drama obviously isn’t over, and it has my full attention.