National Law Journal Profiles Unprecedented Event at Georgetown, and Compares me to Tom Goldstein

September 18th, 2013

Many thanks to Tony Mauro for his coverage of the Unprecedented book event at the Georgetown Supreme Court Institute on Monday.

Even though the court found the law constitutional, challengers said during a September 16 discussion of the case at Georgetown University Law Center that it would be an important weapon in opposing other expansive exercises of congressional power. The event, sponsored by Georgetown’s Supreme Court Institute, brought together many of the key litigators on both sides of the contentious battle over the massive health care reform.

The occasion for what amounted to a reunion was publication this month of Unprecedented, a book about the case by Josh Blackman, assistant professor at the South Texas College of Law.

And, it seems that Monday night was my Washington debutante ball!

The event was also a symbol of the rapid embrace of Blackman, author of the book, by the Supreme Court community. Blackman is the latest young face to impress court practitioners and aficionados with his enthusiasm, Supreme Court savvy and bright ideas—but without the usual credentials (not an Ivy Leaguer, no experience in the solicitor general’s office or as a Supreme Court law clerk.) Think Shon Hopwood and, a decade or so ago, Tom Goldstein.

I’m honored to be in such great company as my dear friend Shon, and SCOTUS magnate Tom. Throughout the entire process of writing this book, I have been privileged to work closely with many members of the Supreme Court bar, and the reporters who cover the Court . Everything you’ve heard about them is absolutely true. I don’t think you can find a more warm, welcoming, and helpful group of lawyers and reporters in Washington. I’ve heard that many reporters usually burn out in D.C., or cycle through different beats over the years. But the press corps remains remarkably consistent. I think this is a testament to the wonderful group of people who work there, and cover the Court. Plus the Justices are fun too.

Tony also had some high praise for Unprecedented.

Blackman was an early partisan in the battle over the Affordable Care Act, and he turns up briefly in his own narrative in the book of the strategizing among challengers to the law. In spite of that, his book plays it straight, offering a remarkably balanced and accessible account of the litigation. He does not, for example, hide the fact that Republicans did as much flip-flopping over the individual mandate as Democrats did. And he gets into some of the infighting between advocates on both sides.

It’s true. I unknowingly entered into the discussion that birthed the challenge to Obamacare. Though I am very close to those involved in the case, and am sympathetic to their positions, I tried really, really hard to get things right. Such kind words from a veteran journalist like Tony mean a lot.

Plus Tony quotes the moderator of the event, Adam Liptak:

“Gripping reading, really,” said New York Times reporter Adam Liptak, moderator of the Georgetown event. “It is likely to last as the definitive account” of the landmark Supreme Court case, he said. Liptak jokingly recalled first meeting Blackman some years ago when Blackman was a George Mason University School of Law student waiting on line for a Supreme Court argument. Blackman came across as “a little goofy and not likely to amount to anything,” said Liptak, whose opinion has long since changed.

I first met Adam while camping out for McDonald v. Chicago in 2010 ( I was a few months out of law school). At the time, Adam was interviewing many people on line. In an article that ran in the Times, Adam quoted me in what I’m sure was my goofy way:

Josh Blackman was walking around telling people about his blog, which allows people to make predictions about how the term’s cases will come out. “I’m the czar of Fantasy Scotus,” he said by way of introduction, adding that he had recently barred three people from his site for cheating.

Back in 2010, I noted the quote was slightly out of context, but that was so three years ago. In this video, you can see the line from that night (it was freezing!), with Adam conducting interviews. The dazed look on his face when I asked him to say hi to YouTube says it all!