Interview: Marcia Coyle

by Elise Spenner

Marcia Coyle is the Chief Washington Correspondent for The National Law Journal, a national weekly newspaper that covers law and litigation. Marcia, a lawyer as well as a journalist, has covered the Supreme Court for 25 years. She is also a regular contributor of Supreme Court analysis to PBS’ The NewsHour.

Before joining the NLJ, she covered state and national government and politics for a Pennsylvania Times-Mirror daily newspaper for more than a decade. Besides her work for the Law Journal, she has written about the Supreme Court and other legal issues for such publications as Vogue, Ms. magazine and the New York Times Book Review, and she is a contributing author to a book on the Supreme Court, A Year in the Life of the U.S. Supreme Court (Duke University Press).  She also is the author of The Roberts Court, published in the spring of 2013.

Were you interested in journalism as a teenager?

I was, somewhat. We didn’t have a high school newspaper, but I worked on the yearbook. I was more interested in writing than journalism, per se. I’ve always been an avid reader of newspapers, even in high school, but I don’t think I saw myself as a journalist then. I saw myself as a writer.

Did you ever consider being a novelist or writing in other forms?

Oh, of course. I was going to be the great American novelist. When I entered college, I think that’s what I thought I would do more than anything. But when I was a sophomore in college, I got involved in the college newspaper, and then ended up being the editor-in-chief for almost three years, and really did get into journalism at that point. I used to work in the basement of one of the dormitories and was always the last one to turn the lights out. I would hand over the pages to someone to curry them downtown in Frederick, Maryland, where the Frederick news posts would put them up on the boards for me to edit before it went to the printer the next day. I loved it. It was great; it was exciting. We had a lot of fun. 

But there were no undergraduate journalism courses, so as I approached graduation, I had to make a decision as to what I wanted to do. And I thought, “Well, if I stay with journalism. I could use a little bit of an edge, since I don’t have the degree.” I did have some experience, but not the degree. I was really torn between law and journalism, because I could also see myself in law. I had gotten involved in a lot of the school politics in the four years I was there and student council; it was an all women’s college that was turning over to co-ed, and I was very much involved in helping it to transition that way. But I decided to go the journalism route — that’s where my heart was. I think I still had in the back of my mind that great American novel, and journalism was more likely to let me do it then law was. So I decided to go to graduate school at Northwestern Middle School of Journalism. I really didn’t have any money to go, my parents had never been to college, and my father didn’t understand why a college degree wasn’t enough. But because I had been so active in my undergraduate college, the registrar found me a fellowship that paid for my tuition at Northwestern, and my blessed mother sent me $25 a week from her switchboard job.

One of the reasons I wanted to go to Northwestern was that they had a winter semester in Washington DC. And it wasn’t just to avoid Chicago winters, which I know some of my friends there wanted to do, but I wanted to be in DC. They had this news bureau in DC; it was print as well as radio. They divided up DC into beats, and you would be working for newspapers — at least on the print side — around the country that didn’t have Washington bureaus. So my beat was the Supreme Court — so lucky, so lucky. I just loved it. I loved going to the court. The press room was this wild place at the time. It is very staid now, but it had great journalists, a lot of fun.

I had my first front page story in that bureau, when a Supreme Court case involving Miles City, Montana was decided, and I wrote about it, and that was my first real front page story in the Miles City, Montana newspaper. And when I finished there, the retired journalist who ran the program in DC — and aren’t they all grouchy old men — he roughly said to me, “Well, do you think you’re ever coming back to DC?” And I said to him, “Yes, I’m going to come back, and I’m going to come back and cover the Supreme Court.” And it took me nine years after that. But I did. 

But along the way, I grew up as a reporter in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where I was covering state government and state politics for a family owned newspaper, the Allentown Call Chronicle — Allentown is the third largest metropolitan statistical district in Pennsylvania. And there again, I was just so lucky. When I got out of Medill, I couldn’t find a job. I sent out 100 resumes, I decided that it would be nice to live in New England, so I took a trip with my mother up the coast of New England, and I applied at every little newspaper town along the coast from Connecticut up to New Hampshire, still didn’t get a job, came back home, and knocked on the door of my hometown newspaper, “The Allentown Morning Call.” They had one opening. It was on the obituary desk, and the managing editor said, “You’re overqualified.” Can you believe that I was overqualified for the obit desk? And I begged him, “Just let me start, let me start,” And so he did. It was great. I wrote a lot of obituaries, but I also took notes from this string of correspondences around their circulation area. I would have to write their stories up for them, they would dictate their notes to me, and I would write their stories. 

One of the dictators was the Harrisburg correspondent, Ben Livingold, who was probably my first real mentor, and I got to know him over the phone. He tipped me off one day that the paper was thinking of expanding its Statehouse Bureau, and he said I should go apply for it. I was like, “I’m on the obit desk, Ben.” And still he said, “Go ahead, you’ve got a good background, go do it.” So I walked into the publisher’s office and said, “I hear you’re expanding your Statehouse bureau. You should send me.” And he did. I know he got me very cheap at the time, but he did. And that’s really where I grew up as a journalist. It was a great beat. There was lots of corruption in the Pennsylvania legislature. I covered the Three Mile Island nuclear accident while I was there; I traveled all around the state during the elections with candidates for governor or US Senate. It was a great place to learn to be a journalist. There were only three women in a press room of about 35 reporters from all around the state, so that was another way that you quickly grew up in journalism. 

I eventually got to Washington, again, when the paper decided it wanted to open its first Washington bureau. At that point, I was going to law school nights in Baltimore and commuting between Harrisburg and Baltimore. I was on the road about three hours every night, and they knew I was doing that and they thought that once I finished that I might have other plans. So they asked me to open the Washington bureau. And I opened the Washington bureau for them, finished law school, and decided I wanted to combine law in journalism. The National Law Journal had a bureau three floors above mine in the national press building. I went up one day and knocked on the door. They had an opening, and I applied for the job. I got it. Three months later, the bureau chief who covered the Supreme Court left for the Los Angeles Times. No one else in the bureau wanted the Supreme Court as a beat except me. And there I was back at the Supreme Court, where I’ve been ever since. So I’ve just been incredibly fortunate, and I worked hard, but there was a lucky star out there for me. That’s a long way to give you my career in a nutshell.

What did you learn from covering state government and politics at the somewhat-local level?

It was not local; it was statewide. I covered the governor’s office, I covered the state courts, I covered the Pennsylvania legislature, but I did have to keep an eye on legislators from my circulation area. I learned how the government works and doesn’t work. Pennsylvania, in particular, was an old style of politics. I don’t think it happens today, but if it did happen today, there would be tremendous criticism and reporting about it. There was some reporting about it when it crossed the line into criminal activity. But there were backroom deals. The head of the Pennsylvania Senate was indicted and convicted, and I always remember his last press conference, his name was Buddy Cianfrani, and he said to us, “Well, they’re sending me up the river,” where the federal prison was. It was full of characters. It’s hard to describe. Some of them you could actually like because they were very open about what they were doing. I learned how the state was divided up, how you had the very progressive Democrats in Philadelphia, the more conservatives in Pittsburgh, and right down the middle of the state was something akin to a bible belt. So, it was fascinating to travel with candidates, to travel with my colleagues. 

I had always had a good sense of humor, so that helped me get along with them, but it also helped me in the press room, where, as I said, there were only three women out of 35 reporters. Some of them were very old fashioned. There was a back room where five or six reporters all sat playing hearts, and they would listen to the legislature above them. You didn’t want to interrupt the hearts game. And then there were things they did that, I guess you could take offense at, but were kind of funny. I had my desk smack in the middle of  the UPI press room; there were about four UPI reporters and me. And it was a very historic press room. We were the oldest working press corps in the United States. And so sometimes tourists who were in the Capitol would come through the press room, and I noticed one day, there was snickering as tourists walked through the UPI room. And I didn’t understand what was funny about this, so I got up to go to lunch, and I found a sign on the back of my chair. And remember, I was working for the Allentown Morning Call. Well, this sign said Morning Call Girl. What do you do with something like that? I just laughed because it was meant in good humor. They were always respectful of my work, I never was harassed by them. It was just funny. But I learned how to deal with those guys. And that was a really good experience for me. It was a great beat, but I think after nine years — I didn’t know if I was getting tired of Harrisburg, or I was getting tired of the beat. That’s why I decided, “I don’t want to wake up some morning and hate my job and my life.” And what else would I do if I left journalism? Law. So, I decided to go to law school at night.

You’ve mentioned that you went all the way up the New England coast looking for a job and you didn’t get one. Did you feel like you were slighted because you were one of the only women reporters? Did that ever happen to you?

No. At the time, everybody was having trouble getting a job. And these were small newspapers, so they didn’t have a lot of turnover, and I had the degree, but I didn’t have anything else to really set me apart. I didn’t think there was anything sexist about it, it just wasn’t working out, and then I did get hired by my local newspaper. The only time I ever really ran into sexism is when I was covering the Pennsylvania legislature. I would go to committee hearings and sit at a press table. Before the hearings, staffers usually hand out any testimony that’s pre-printed, and I would often be sitting right there between other male reporters, and they would go right by me. They would give it to the male reporter on my right and the male reporter on my left, but they’d skip me. Once it happened, it didn’t happen again because I would say something about it. 

My male colleagues in Harrisburg were extraordinarily supportive of me. When I was going to law school nights, I couldn’t time my classes to jive with the schedule of the Pennsylvania House, which often would have debates on the floor that went well into the night, on budget and on abortion. My colleagues covered me until my last class was out at 10. And I had to get up to the Capitol, it took me an hour and a half, and they would cover until I got there, and that was amazing to me that they were willing to do that. Fortunately, it was a morning newspaper, so I didn’t have my deadline until 2am. And I could usually make that deadline. I did make that deadline.

I don’t mean to switch gears quickly, but when I was preparing for this, I saw that you wrote about racial discrimination in regards to environmentally hazardous toxic waste. I was really interested in that, because it’s not related to the Supreme Court and law. Why did you write about that?

I had a three-person bureau in Washington for the National Law Journal, and one of the three reporters was our environmental reporter, Marianne Lavelle. The three of us were looking for an investigative project that was timely, important, and hadn’t been done before. And she was the one who suggested we look into environmental racism. And I thought, “Well, this is really fascinating.” I knew nothing about environmental racism, so we just started backgrounding ourselves. We read articles, books, and we found two scholars who had written a lot about it and talked to them. And then we sat down and said, “Well, what can we do with this?” We wanted to do a database investigation, which at the time was rather new. Fortunately, Marianne was a computer whiz — unlike me — and so she suggested that we look at Superfund Sites, where they were located, by their demographics, and how quickly or slowly EPA was doing the cleanup. She’s the one who created this amazing database in which we could plug in everything. And we found in our project that the EPA was taking longer to clean up sites that were located in poor people of colors’ neighborhoods or areas. And then we picked three or four sites to visit and to talk to the people who lived around there about their experiences. We plugged into some of the environmental groups that were trying to get the EPA to move faster. 

Ultimately, we had a sit down with EPA, which was quite an experience. We thought we were just going to meet with one person. Instead, we walked into an office with 20 people arranged around a long table. I remember as we were going over, Maryanne asked me, “What are we going to say? What are we going to do?” And I said to her, “We’re going to listen. We’ll just listen to them. Don’t feel you have to defend anything, or that you even have to answer their questions.” They knew what we were finding. So we were going to go listen to them. And that’s what we did. It was a time when our editor-in-chief, who was young, and the publisher, would have gone nuts to know we were doing this, because all he cared about was coverage of law firms and the legal industry. But she found a way to finagle the budget so that we could do this. I’m extraordinarily proud of that project, and we should have won a Pulitzer for it. It was path-breaking. We were an ambitious little bureau.

In 2013, you wrote a book called The Roberts Court. It was centered around four landmark cases: Parents Involved, Heller, Citizens United, and NFIB. How did you choose those four specific cases to represent the Roberts Court?

First of all, I was looking for 5-4 decisions. Not because I wanted to show the court as always divided, but because I continue to believe that the 5-4 decisions help us learn the most about the Court. They reveal the most about how each justice thinks and approaches constitutional or statutory interpretation. And I wanted them to be cases that people would care about and would be interested in reading about. It wasn’t hard to pick those cases; they sort of jumped out at me, and they were intended to take the reader through the years of the Roberts Court from 2005 until the book came out in 2013. And when the paperback version came out, I had to write a new chapter that took us through the Shelby County case. 

It’s been eight years since Shelby. What cases would you add to that book if you were to write an update?

It’s actually something I’ve been thinking about lately because my publisher, right before the pandemic lockdown, had contacted me about updating the book or taking a different tact. And I don’t want to reveal what I’m thinking about in terms of how I would do the book. But in terms of important and interesting cases, you would almost have to focus on the religion cases, because I think that’s going to be one of the enduring legacies of the Roberts Court. I think I would also pick the shadow docket and explain to people what’s happening with the shadow docket and how significant it has become. That spills over a bit into religion, but the shadow docket has been very important in terms of the death penalty. I think probably, but we’ll have to wait and see, abortion. Put aside next term, which may be the biggest one of all, but I might pick Whole Woman’s Health or June Medical. Probably also Bostock, the LGBT case that Gorsuch wrote. I think that and also maybe the companion case to that on sexual orientation. I’d have to think about the criminal justice area, nothing leaps out at me at the moment in terms of how I would use them. This last term, of course, you saw what happened with Jones and the death penalty involving minors, and whether the courts are now starting to drift away from Justice Kennedy’s view of those things. I might return to voting rights with Brnovich

I want to talk a little bit about your reporting on the book. How do you craft relationships with the justices to the point where they’re willing to open up?

One: my longevity in covering the court — they knew who I was. Two: I try to be that objective journalist. I know nobody believes that journalists can be objective anymore, but I try to play it very straight in my reporting of the Court. And three: I think they got to know me even better when I started doing PBS NewsHour Supreme Court analysis. I interviewed Justice Ginsburg a number of times before she died. The very first time I interviewed her, as I was leaving her chambers, she was right behind me, and she tapped me on the shoulder, and I looked back and she said, “I watch you on the NewsHour on my treadmill.” And then I said, “So how am I doing?” And she said, “Very good.” 

All you really have is your reputation, and you build that reputation through your reporting and how you deal with your sources. When I joined the National Law Journal and the beat opened, that’s why my colleagues in the bureau didn’t want the Supreme Court beat. You have so little contact with the original source of information. They were covering the Justice Department, other agencies, the White House, where you could actually call up a source or get an interview with that source. But the Supreme Court is not like that. You can’t call up a justice and say, “What did you mean by footnote four?” Or, “Was this a really hot case to talk about in the conference room?” They won’t respond to that. So you really have to build your reputation and trust through your actual reporting. 

You try to show them that you’re serious, as well, by showing up for oral arguments. And that was one thing I was taught when I first started — that if you wanted to learn the Court, go to oral arguments. That is your main avenue for seeing them and hearing them, and you will learn just by sitting there and watching and listening. I try to go to as many of the arguments as I possibly can. But yeah, it’s really tough. There are some journalists who have had personal relationships with justices, like Nina Totenberg and Justice Ginsburg. And the guy on CNN who had the unfortunate experience on Zoom and was suspended from CNN — Jeffrey Toobin. He’s part of an old boys club from Harvard, and he knows Justice Kagan, he knows Justice Breyer. And he just gets entrée because he’s part of that club, and I’m not. I’m not Ivy League, I’m just me. So you really have to work hard. I’ve probably been turned down more times than I have been granted interviews.

In your book on the Roberts Court, why was Justice Scalia willing to speak on the record while all the other justices weren’t?

Because he’s Justice Scalia. Initially, when I went to interview him, he asked me, “What did Chief Justice Roberts say about talking on the record?” And I said, “Well, he said, off the record.” And he said, “I’m going to do what Chief Justice Roberts does,” I said, “You know, Justice Scalia, there is an in-between here, and that’s on background. Why don’t we do this? Let’s do the interview. And I’ll honor off the record. But I will come back to you and ask you if you’ll go on the record with certain things.” And he agreed to that. And so that’s what I did. I went back to him after the interview. I had transcribed the interview, and gave him a copy of the transcription and said, “What do you think? What do you think you can live with here?” And he was just Justice Scalia. He agreed to a lot of it. There was some he didn’t agree to, but he agreed to a lot of it. Also, it surprised me — and maybe it was just the older members of the Court at the time — that the justices did not always really understand the rules of interviews.

When I interviewed Justice John Paul Stevens, he wanted to be off the record. I was getting really tired of this at that point. And I said, “Justice Stevens, we could talk on background,” and he was like, “Well, what does that mean?” I said, “Look, if you’re off the record, I can’t use anything you say to me unless somebody else, out of the deep blue sea, says it as well. But I can’t use it. But if we’re on background, I can. I just can’t say that you said it, or indicate in some way to the reader that it was you.” And he said, “Oh, that’s fine.” It was like a light bulb went off. And you’re sitting there and you think, “They don’t know this because they don’t have that much contact with reporters.” With others, I did the same thing I did with Justice Scalia: transcribe the interview and go back and ask, “What can you live with?”

Do you have different strategies for interviewing each justice? I know that with Justice Ginsburg, you said that you have to wait and wait for her to say something, and then she gives you a whole paragraph.

Nobody warned me the first time. And they laughed in the press office when I came down and I said, “Why didn’t you warn me?” Because you sit there with Justice Ginsburg, and you wait, and you want to say something, you want to fill the air, and it’s hard. And if you don’t realize that’s her style, you really feel like something’s wrong. But once you realize her style, you wait, and you get these perfectly formed paragraphs from her that often are very revelatory. With Justice Scalia, I wanted to be respectful but funny. When I asked for the interview with him, I wrote out the request for the interview, and I had the letter taken right to his chambers. In it, I said “If all else fails, and you don’t want to talk to me about the Court, we can talk about why so many Italian men marry Irish women,” Because that’s what my father did, and I can list 10 names of people where Italian men married Irish women, and I knew that sort of thing would resonate with him. And I got the interview. 

With somebody like Roberts, I wanted to be very respectful and very careful, because he’s a very cautious person. And I wanted to be sure my questions were phrased in a certain way. At one point, he even said to me, “I wasn’t going to answer any of your questions, but the way you’re phrasing them, I feel like I have to answer them.” I wasn’t trying to trick him or anything, but it was a way to get him to talk. Justice Kagan is another one who’s got a great sense of humor. At one point, we were talking about Toobin, who she knows, and I made a comment about the reading of the Affordable Care Act decision, because Toobin had written that Roberts read his opinion with bloodshot eyes. And I said to her, “Toobin was sitting in the same row I was, but he was at the far end, closest to the public audience. So there was no way he could see Roberts’ eyes.” And soon after that, I made a comment asking whether it had been a particularly difficult case to decide, and she looked at me and she goes, “Oh, Marcia, now you’re being very Toobin-esque.” She’s very, very funny. So there’s no magic formula. It’s just what you sense from having observed them, what they may be willing to tolerate. 

I have not interviewed the newbies yet. I’ve tried. I tried to get an interview with Barrett recently, and she said she wanted to hunker down and do her work. I understand that, it may take a while. Kavanaugh had an informal gathering with some of us, but I haven’t had a 1 on 1 interview yet. Sometimes you want to wait until you get a better sense of who they are because you want to ask intelligent questions. I think the best interview I ever did with Ginsburg was after Shelby County, and there were a number of decisions in which she had assigned dissenting opinions to Sotomayor and Kagan, and she was willing to talk about why she picked them. And so that was a real window into her, her thinking about the Court, and what she wanted to be said in those cases. So sometimes you just need to wait until you have a better sense of who they are and what they’re doing. And that’s what I’m doing with the new crew.

Do you think a justice has ever said something in an interview that they didn’t intend to say? Or is everything well prepared and meticulously crafted?

No, I don’t think so. Not at all. In fact, I did one interview where a justice called me afterwards and said, “Please don’t use that. I didn’t mean to say that.” There wasn’t anything horrible. He didn’t say anything harmful. It just was a little window into something that had happened, and he didn’t want it reported. I think sometimes it just slips out. 

In general, when you come out of an oral argument, how confident are you that you know which way a case is gonna swing?

Not at all. There was a study done of how accurate some of the media stories are after oral arguments and a decision comes out. When Linda Greenhouse covered it for the New York Times, she was amazingly accurate with her reading of oral arguments. But I am not. There are some arguments where it’s really obvious what’s gonna happen. But, the big cases, you just don’t know. Look at the cheerleader case, for example. It looked like the cheerleader was going to win, I think we all felt that. But how was she going to win? That’s where you don’t know. And look at Fulton, the LGBT foster care case. We were pretty sure that Fulton was going to win, given the trajectory of the Court in this area. But how? More important than the bottom line, to me, is trying to figure out what exactly they are going to do, and how they are going to do it. That’s why so many of us have crafted these wonderful leads: “The Supreme Court Monday wrestled with…” or “The Supreme Court Tuesday struggled to do…” You can sort of hide behind that. And then maybe bury a little farther down in your story how you think the argument went.

When she covered the Court for the New York Times, Linda Greenhouse always read the dissent first. What do you think about that?

Many of us do. I will look first to the syllabus for the holding — what did the court hold? And then, I look for the breakdown. Is it unanimous? Is there a dissent? And if there is a dissent, then I’ll go to the dissent.  The dissent, even though it might be hyperbolic, will often tell you what the impact is. And that helps. 

What do you think is the best piece of advice that you’ve received on covering the court?

Probably going to oral arguments. And then preparing in advance for those arguments. Read as many of the briefs as you can. Some of the cases will have as many as 100, if it’s an abortion case. You certainly want to read the petitioner and the respondents briefs on the merits, so that you understand what the arguments are about. Because if you don’t, you could be quite lost. I’ve also been really fortunate over the years to have found lawyers and academics who have talked to me about legal issues that go before the court, and really have taught me a lot. There is a Columbia law professor and one at American University who really helped me understand habeas corpus, which is tough. And I could rattle off a half a dozen other names, too, that have been unsparing with their time when I call to talk about these cases. 

When you’re at an oral argument, what do you do? 

I have a pen and a little notebook. Sometimes it’s a reporter’s notebook, but I don’t really like writing on them because they’re too long and narrow. I like the 8 ½ by 11 notebook — yellow, white, doesn’t matter. When I first started covering arguments, I felt like I had to get every word down and was afraid of missing something. Now, I try harder to resist that impulse, listen before I write, and pick out main themes. When I started, after an argument, we would all be down in the press room, and we’d be comparing notes, mainly quotes, to be sure that if you missed something, somebody else had it. And that was as accurate as you could get. But now, with the transcripts available, it just makes life much easier. And you can usually get them fairly quickly. If there are two arguments, you can usually get unofficial transcripts around one o’clock. It’s harder for wire services who have to get something out immediately—and even for me, now that we’re pretty much all web-based. I remember when the same-sex marriage decision was expected, my bureau chief at the time said, “I want something up on the web within 15 minutes of that decision.” And I was like, “It takes me 15 minutes to get down from the courtroom and through the crowd to my computer!” 

If you know the court is having an oral argument, or if you know a case is coming out, do you have an outline of the story before the oral argument or decision comes out?

I do it for the decision, but not for the oral argument. We call it B material. I will often have a draft with all of the background information, and a synopsis of what I’ve written about the argument, so all I have to do is the lead, the top, maybe three or four paragraphs. And then we can get it out the door and go back and update if necessary. You have to do that now, because everybody’s competing to get posted so quickly. It’s a little unfortunate because you have to read so quickly, and you may be more prone to error. 

When I joined the National Law Journal, I was leaving a daily newspaper in order to go to a weekly paper, where I thought I’d be writing about law in-depth, and have the time to really write in-depth and write well. I was told by the editor at the time, “Before you get our premier place on the front page, you have to learn everything possible about the issue or story you’re writing about. I don’t want you to put one word down until you feel you’ve mastered the idea.” And they gave you two to three weeks to write a front page story. Well, it’s no longer a newspaper, it’s a monthly magazine. All of our work is now on our website and there’s enormous pressure to produce every day and to produce quickly. So I’m back into the daily newspaper mode of my life. My life has come full circle. And I can do it, but it’s not often as satisfying as it was initially.

What cases are you most interested in coming down the pike for coming terms?

Next term, obviously, the Dobbs case — the abortion case — as well as the gun case. But I’m also waiting to see what the Court is going to do with the affirmative action case involving Harvard, and the challenge to its use of race in its admissions policy. To follow-up on LGBT issues, they have an interesting petition pending on whether a religious hospital can deny transgender care or services. There’s been a number of lawsuits filed on the critical race theory controversy; I want to see whether they’re going to percolate up to the Supreme Court. I want to see how the Biden administration policies fare, if they are challenged in some way. It’s not as sexy an issue, but there are a number of states that have challenged the COVID relief bill because states can’t use that money for tax relief, and they’re suing the Treasury Department over that. 

Will the Biden Solicitor’s General office be like the Trump Solicitor’s General office and run to the Court with emergency applications when they lose in the lower courts? Are they going to use that mechanism as much as the prior administration did? And also, what happens with the shadow docket? Is that going to continue to be as relevant as it has been in the last couple of years? Voting rights is going to be with us. I know those lawsuits are out there, and they’re going to come to the Court too. I really try to follow some of these issues from the district court level to the Supreme Court. I’ll pick a few cases that I can follow, while I’m also covering what’s happening at the Court. It’ll be an interesting term.

Last thing: will the Court continue to livestream oral arguments when we’re back in-person?

I wish I knew. As I told you, I just did a story about what the advocates are hoping for. They’re all hoping to be back in-person, but they all want to continue live-streaming the audio. And how can you not agree to do that after what we went through? It would be awful. It’s such a small thing to do for the public. I can sort of understand their reluctance to allow cameras. But live-streaming of audio? I would also like them to have live-streaming of the audio of them reading their summaries of their decisions from the bench. We’ve been told there is some reluctance to do that because sometimes, the prepared summary by the Justice is not exactly what others on the court thought they had agreed to. They may not change the bottom line, but it’s inflection or subtlety that they don’t like. So that might be a hurdle, but again: live-streaming of the arguments? Oh, give me a break! Let’s do it.

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