The Right Coast

July 06, 2004
Liberal Legal Bias, Pure and Simple
By Mike Rappaport

Ah, the Linda Greenhouse summary of the Supreme Court's term. Every July we are treated to this "learned" review of the Court's cases. As far as I can tell, Greenhouse basically figures out what slant will do the most damage to the conservatives on the Court and orients the article towards it. If the conservatives have won many cases, the slant is usually they are doing bad things. This year, where the conservatives lost a lot of cases, the slant is that Chief Justice Rehnquist is losing control of the Court. Precious.

Of course, principle and even-handedness are not part of the review, unless they can be used to tar the conservatives. One standard criticism that liberals make of the majority opinion in Bush v. Gore is that it was a narrowly drawn decision designed not to have precedential effect. It is thus criticized as result oriented.

But when the liberals do it, it is clever. Consider this quote:

Justice Stevens displayed his own strategic skills, finely honed during a 29-year tenure that has made him the senior associate justice, in a position to assign the majority opinion in all cases where the chief justice is in dissent. He tailored his majority opinion in Tennessee v. Lane to Justice O'Connor's comfort level, for example, and crafted a procedural opinion that removed the highly sensitive Pledge of Allegiance case from the court's docket with surgical precision, leaving no precedent behind. At 84, his intellectual energy appears undimmed, and he told a gathering of his former law clerks a few weeks ago that he has no retirement plans.
Somehow, I did not pick up any criticism of Stevens's resulted oriented opinion. Of course not. Stevens is here shown as maintaining his control of the Court, leaving the weak Chief Justice in the dust.

Just precious.