By Josh Wolff
Research Attorney, Illinois Appellate Court, First District
On January 21, 2016, the Association gathered at the Union League Club of Chicago to host "The Roberts Court at Ten: A Reporter's Reflections" featuring Adam Liptak, the United States Supreme Court reporter for the New York Times.
The Appellate Lawyers Association President Michael A. Scodro began the event by offering welcoming remarks as Association members and guests enjoyed lunch. President Scodro previewed future Association events, including one on February 17, 2016, at the Union League Club of Chicago, featuring Justices Diane Sykes and David Hamilton of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, who will discuss the various approaches judges use in statutory and constitutional interpretation. President Scodro also took a moment to recognize former Association President Judge Jean Prendergast Rooney, a "driving force of the" Association, who recently passed away.
Liptak began his discussion previewing the three questions he intended to answer: (1) What the name the "Roberts Court" means? (2) What cases the United States Supreme Court has decided recently? and (3) What challenges he has faced covering the Supreme Court in an accelerated and fragmented news environment?
Liptak discussed the diversity, and in some ways the lack thereof, of the Supreme Court. Liptak observed that for the first time in the Court's history, there are three women justices and no Protestant members, remarking that currently there are six Catholic and three Jewish members. However, Liptak noted that all the justices had either attended law school at Harvard or Yale, and only one justice did not previously serve on a federal appellate court.
Currently, according to Liptak, there are five conservative members and four liberal members sitting on the Court. He noted that each liberal member had been appointed by a Democratic president while each conservative member had been appointed by a Republican president. Although this might seem customary, Liptak refuted that notion by pointing to various examples of liberal or moderate justices who were appointed by Republican presidents, such as Justice John Paul Stevens appointed by Gerald Ford, Justice David Souter appointed by George H.W. Bush and Justice Sandra Day O'Connor appointed by Ronald Reagan. Liptak explained that today, ideology appears to be the critical factor when appointing a justice to the Supreme Court rather than geographic diversity or judicial experience.
Liptak expressed various conclusions about the "Roberts Court." First, because of its conservative majority, the Court itself under Justice Roberts has leaned toward conservative rulings, highlighted by various decisions involving guns, voting rights and campaign finance. Liptak opined that the defining shift in the Roberts Court's ideology was in 2006, when Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative, replaced Justice O'Connor, a moderate.
Finally, Liptak gave his unofficial slogan of the Roberts Court that "everything worth deciding is worth deciding twice," with the second decision often being the most impactful of the two. Liptak cited examples in campaign finance, voting rights, same-sex marriage and public unions.
The event concluded with a question-and-answer session.
The Association thanks Adam Liptak for an informative and enjoyable luncheon, and all of the guests for their attendance and participation.
DISCLAIMER: The Appellate Lawyers Association does not provide legal services or legal advice. Discussions of legal principles and authority, including, but not limited to, constitutional provisions, statutes, legislative enactments, court rules, case law, and common-law doctrines are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice.