NYT's Former SCOTUS Reporter Greenhouse Praises Kagan, Hits 'Mean-Spirited...Immature' Scalia

July 15th, 2011 2:37 PM

New York Times liberal Supreme Court reporter turned liberal online Times columnist Linda Greenhouse filed her "scorecard" Wednesday of the Supreme Court’s recently concluded term. Even her terminology is slanted, translating conservative as "regressive" and liberal as "progressive."

Most regressive decision: In a competitive category, I’ll give the nod to a little-noticed decision the court issued just a week ago. By a vote of 5 to 4, with an unsigned opinion speaking for the majority, the court denied a temporary stay of execution to a Texas death-row inmate despite the urgent pleas of the federal government and the government of Mexico.

The inmate, Humberto Leal Garcia, who was executed within hours of the court’s ruling, was a Mexican citizen convicted in 1995 of the kidnapping, rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl. There was no dispute that his conviction was obtained in violation of a treaty to which the United States is a signatory, the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. The treaty provides that a foreign national who has been charged with a crime must be notified of the right to the assistance of officials of his native country’s consulate. Law enforcement officials in the United States routinely violated this provision, a situation that led in 2004 to a successful lawsuit by Mexico in the International Court of Justice on behalf of 51 Mexicans then on death row in several states. The Bush administration declared that the United States would abide by the judgment.


But “our task is to rule on what the law is, not what it might eventually be,” the court’s majority responded. If the bill “had genuinely been a priority for the political branches, it would have been enacted by now.” One might ask: what part of Congress don’t they understand? There was an air of judicial triumphalism to the unsigned opinion, a tone between petulant and scolding more appropriate for use on an annoying teenager than on the president and Congress – or, as Justice Breyer pointed out in dissent, the world. The other dissenters were Justices Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

Greenhouse crowned the “Term’s Biggest Winner" to be Obama appointee Justice Kagan, claiming that in Kagan “a distinctive voice emerged, full-throated and distinctly unbound.” Greenhouse then insulted Justice Scalia, jumping off a law professor’s statement that Kagan “was veering into Scalia territory: ‘mean-spirited and a little bit immature.’" Greenhouse issued a rebuttal: "Elena Kagan has light years to go before catching up to Antonin Scalia in that regard. In the meantime, she will be a force to contend with.

Greenhouse’s caustic tone against conservatives is no surprise. In a 2006 commencement address at Harvard while still a Times reporter, she lamented how "our government had turned its energy and attention away from upholding the rule of law and toward creating law-free zones at Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, Haditha, and other places around the world. And let's not forget the sustained assault on women's reproductive freedom and the hijacking of public policy by religious fundamentalism."

Predictably, Greenhouse even praised a conservative circuit judge, Judge Jeffrey Sutton, for his “act of intellectual integrity” for upholding Obaa-care: “This air-tight opinion, I believe, has taken the air out of the effort to overturn the law and makes it measurably more likely that the Supreme Court will ultimately uphold it. The opinion has not received the public attention it merits, but I can think of nine offices in a marble building on Capitol Hill where it is being scrutinized, actively.”