Dispatches from the Creation Wars

CNN on John Roberts So Far

CNN has a long review of the job Chief Justice John Roberts is doing so far at the Supreme Court. By all accounts, the other justices have embraced him and he has shown great understanding of and affinity for court tradition. The article contains some interesting items for those of us who really watch the court and how the justices interact with one another:

And so it has gone this term, where an atmosphere of practically buoyant camaraderie has drifted through an institution that prides itself on continuity and certainty. This is in stark contrast to the mood during the year preceding Roberts’ arrival, when anxiety over the health of his ailing predecessor, William Rehnquist, cast a cloud over the court’s mood.

“The change has been amazing, the justices are a happy bunch again,” said one court official, who asked not to be identified. “They joke in arguments, they joke among themselves privately. The chief was just the type of man this place needed.”

Good news, certainly. Another passage that speaks to the camaraderie on the new court:

Associates say the new chief respects seniority and on October 3, the first day of the new term, he broke precedent by letting Stevens speak first. The spry justice offered a moving tribute to Rehnquist, who had died the previous month, and whom court staff now refer to as the “old chief.”

Stevens then turned to the future, welcoming the newest member.

“It is appropriate to note that in his prejudicial career our new chief justice argued 39 times before the court, a number that exceeds the combined experience of the rest of us,” said Stevens, bringing wide smiles from the other jurists and an especially vigorous nod from O’Connor. “We know him well and he has already earned our respect and admiration.”

And another passage about the behind the scenes interactions and the level of formality there:

Justice Thomas recently told a judicial conference in Colorado Springs about the first meeting with Roberts in charge, when the justices gathered in a closed-door session to discuss pending cases.

By tradition, the chief justice speaks first in the conference, followed — in order of seniority — by the other justices. He addressed them formally, “Justice Stevens,” “Justice O’Connor.”

Then came “Justice Scalia.” As Thomas related, the ebullient Antonin Scalia then spoke up. “I will always call you ‘Chief,’” he said, “But for you, I’m ‘Nino’ and this is ‘Sandra,’ and this is ‘John.’”

I like that, on the part of Scalia. Very nicely done and well balanced. Anyway, read the whole thing.