The Common Good

Covering SCOTUS

As a confirmed newspaper addict, I've learned to pay attention to the bylines on stories, and over the years have learned which ones to look for on particular topics. In Sunday morning's New York Times, I see that one of my favorites is retiring. For nearly 30 years, Linda Greenhouse has covered the Supreme Court and I've come to trust her reporting - always well-researched and well-written. If I want to understand a complicated Court decision, I go to her story first. When the new Court term begins in October, it won't be the same.

In her final piece yesterday, she offered some reflections on her years covering the Court. She describes learning "a real sense of the court as an active participant in the ceaseless American dialogue about constitutional values and priorities, not a remote oracle" and points out that:

In fact, it is most often the Supreme Court that is the follower. It ratifies or consolidates change rather than propelling it, although in the midst of heated debate over a major case, it can often appear otherwise. Without delving into the vast political science and legal academic literature on this point, I'm simply offering my empirical observation that the court lives in constant dialogue with other institutions, formal and informal, and that when it strays too far outside the existing political or social consensus, the result is a palpable tension both inside and outside the court.

Although the piece doesn't say so, I for one certainly hope that she writes a book on her years covering the Court. I'll look forward to it.

Duane Shank is senior policy adviser for Sojourners.

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