October 19, 2017 11:32 am -

Now here is something you rarely see in the media: actual leaks from inside the United States Supreme Court!

Whispers emerging from the court indicate [recently-appointed Supreme Court Associate Justice Neil] Gorsuch is more likely to alienate than influence even his conservative colleagues.

The latest sign of trouble comes from NPR’s Nina Totenberg, who dropped in on the indispensable Supreme Court podcast First Mondays to dish some gossip about the newest justice. Totenberg, a renowned court reporter who is friendly with several justices, noted that Gorsuch “ticks off some members of the court—and I don’t think it’s just the liberals.” Without exposing her sources—“you talk to former law clerks, you talk to friends, you talk to some of the justices”—Totenberg then dropped a bombshell:

My surmise, from what I’m hearing, is that Justice [Elena] Kagan really has taken [Gorsuch] on in conference. And that it’s a pretty tough battle and it’s going to get tougher. And she is about as tough as they come, and I am not sure he’s as tough—or dare I say it, maybe not as smart. I always thought he was very smart, but he has a tin ear somehow, and he doesn’t seem to bring anything new to the conversation.

… it’s astonishing that any reporter would hear details from conference, let alone score some genuinely juicy scuttlebutt. Conference is famously sacrosanct: It’s where the justices gather to cast their votes in the cases of the week, with each explaining his or her reasoning in order of seniority. … The fact that we know about the “battle” in conference between Gorsuch and Kagan suggests that someone on the court wants us to know.

… [I]s [Gorsuch] expounding his opinion so obnoxiously or condescendingly that [Justice Kagan] feels compelled to speak out?

A clue comes in the form of a recent article by CNN’s Joan Biskupic, another well-connected, widely respected Supreme Court reporter. … Biskupic confirms what the rest of us have long suspected—that Gorsuch is irritating his colleagues:

It can be difficult for people outside the marble walls to know truly the relationships among the nine in their private chambers. But word seeps out, through clerks and other staff, through the justices’ friends, and through the justices themselves. Such communications make clear that Gorsuch has generated some ill will among justices. Signs have emerged from the bench, too, as Gorsuch has been on the receiving end of a few retorts.

… [Gorsuch] is a Fox News anchor’s idea of a first-rate justice: an insipid ideologue peddling warmed-over dogmas. Kagan just might find him exasperating enough to merit a rebuttal, drawing her into the ongoing “battle” that Totenberg described.

Yes, there is more detail along with many juicy nuggets in the Slate piece.

But you can’t help but finish the article with the unmistakable impression that the vulgar, blustering Trump has tainted the court with an ill-mannered douchebag ideologue who, like Trump in the West Wing, seems intent on trashing the place.

D.B. Hirsch
D.B. Hirsch is a political activist, news junkie, and retired ad copy writer and spin doctor. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.