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Justice Kennedy Doesn’t Really ‘Rush’ to Read What Reporters Write

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With C-SPAN publishing a new book this week, The Supreme Court – A C-SPAN book featuring the Justices in their own words, it’s only natural that one of the judges would have thoughts on the media.

And they’re not all that flattering. (You’ve gotta love a Supreme Court Justice who sounds like he’d rather be doing anything besides reading what reporters have to say about the court.)

Here’s Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Fourth Estate:

On page 81 of the book, Kennedy discusses the media covering the Court. Here’s the exchange:

Q: What is your relationship as a justice with the long-term reporters covering the Court?
KENNEDY: I don’t see them on a regular basis other than in the court. Occasionally, there will be a retirement party at which we meet each other. We have each a professional obligation of keeping a certain amount of distance, a certain amount of independence. We never complain about what they write, even though they sometimes are wrong on the facts.

Q: But you do read what they write, obviously.
KENNEDY: Yes. I don’t really rush to do it. I am upset sometimes when I see an editorial, and it’s obvious they haven’t read the opinion and they don’t understand. The reason we write, as I explained, is to explain the reason for what we did. To just write an editorial that indicates that you’ve made up your mind without reading what we wrote is to me quite silly. But by and large, the people who cover us, I like their work. They, as you indicate, they know our traditions, they know the schedule, and they do a very good job reporting with this observation: The news cycle, the interest, the attention span being what it is, they have twenty-four to forty-eight hours to make the point. Well, we write for a different time dimension than that. It’s not just the results. It’s what the principle is. The press does a very good job of reporting what we do. It’s a little more difficult, for reasons I’ve explained, to report why we did it. I can understand their problem because they have the twenty-four-hour, forty-eight-hour news cycle. So they have a tough job.

The book provides views of the Court from the ultimate insiders – the nine current Justices and retired Justice O’Connor. The book is an edited collection of transcripts of interviews conducted by Brian Lamb, Susan Swain, and Mark Farkas for C-SPAN’s 2009 feature documentary about the Court.

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