Chief Justice Roberts Improves Court’s Public Relations


As more Supreme Court justices give television interviews, the high court’s increasingly public face is astonishing, University of Chicago law professor Dennis Hutchinson, a former courrt law clerk, tells the Associated Press. “More and more, the justices are spending time talking off the bench informally to reporters, on the record, off the record, in public, on tape, on film,” he said. Justices Antonin Scalia and Stephen Breyer debated their competing views of the Constitution. Breyer and retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor talk about threats to judicial independence. Justice Samuel Alito affirmed his membership in the conservative Federalist Society at its recent convention.

Perhaps most noteworthy has been the media-friendly attitude of Chief Justice John Roberts, in contrast with predecessor William Rehnquist. Roberts was featured on ABC News’ Nightline. Douglas Kmiec, a Pepperdine law professor, said Roberts’ public relations effort is in line with his desire to have the court issue narrower, more consensual rulings. “I think he feels a burden of explanation. The court has become so much the storm center of cultural controversy. Roberts is committed to not having that be so,” Kmiec said. “If that’s the case, it requires a certain amount of public explanation.” Law Prof. Stephen Wermiel of American University agreed that “the idea of more consensus brought about by narrower decision making enhances the public image of the court.”


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