Harvard Magazine: Toobin on the High Court

May 29th, 2013

Harvard Magazine
May 29, 2013

Jeffrey Toobin ’82, J.D. ’86, who writes on legal matters for The New Yorker and appears on CNN as a legal analyst, gave the Class Day address at Harvard Law School on May 29. (The Law School webcast the full Class Day program.) Toobin, whose books include The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court (2008) and The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court (2012), bestowed ample attention on the court in his remarks. He noted anecdotally, for example, that his friend and law-school classmate, former Law School dean Elena Kagan, now an associate justice of the Supreme Court, had once received a disappointing grade in torts. “In the larger scheme of things, I don’t think it’s going to matter very much,” Toobin recalled counseling Kagan. He then asked his audience, “Was I right, or what?”

He also addressed weightier matters, such as the changing composition of the Court. He noted the retirement of associate justices John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O’Connor, and David Souter ’61, LL.B. ’66, LL.D. ’10, observing that no one is likely to see “three more different people” than that trio. Yet, “all were moderate Republicans who left the Court completely alienated from the modern Republican party.” He explained that “the notion of moderate Republicanism has disappeared from the Supreme Court, just as it has from American life.” Toobin’s description of today’s court was sobering: he characterized it as a body “that now has five Republicans and four Democrats—and that tells you most of what you need to know.”

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