Patterico's Pontifications

3/1/2006

Burying the Lede: An Example

Filed under: Judiciary — Patterico @ 9:20 pm



The AP buries the lede in classic fashion today, in a story about the Supreme Court argument in the Texas redistricting case:

The subject matter was extremely technical, and near the end of the argument Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dozed in her chair. Justices David Souter and Samuel Alito, who flank the 72-year-old, looked at her but did not give her a nudge.

Well, who can blame her for dozing off? The subject matter was extremely technical! We don’t pay our Supreme Court Justices to pay attention to (or stay awake for) extremely technical arguments! Especially ones where they’ve already made up their mind . . .

I mean, this is Tom DeLay’s redistricting. Any of you really think Ruth is voting with Tom DeLay on this one?

No wonder she considered it a chance for a snoozefest.

By the way, the quoted paragraph is paragraph 16 of a 26-paragraph story.

(Via Bench Memos.)

UPDATE: Maybe Ginsburg hasn’t made up her mind after all, and was snoozing because her health is poor. See this post for more.

5 Responses to “Burying the Lede: An Example”

  1. She has already made up her mind.

    davod (5fdaa2)

  2. If it’s not unconstitutional for a defendant’s lawyer to snooze during trial, why not let Ruth snooze, as well?

    sharon (fecb65)

  3. Sharon has a point.

    Still, I wonder if Ginsberg is ok. Wasn’t she ill some time back? Pretty embarrassing for her to zonk out at a hearing like that.

    Dwilkers (a1687a)

  4. Unless the main point of the story is that Justice Ginsburg fell asleep (which it was not), the AP story seems to me to have been written in reasonable, descending order of importance journalistic fashion.

    Even the paragraph you quoted:

    The subject matter was extremely technical, and near the end of the argument Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dozed in her chair. Justices David Souter and Samuel Alito, who flank the 72-year-old, looked at her but did not give her a nudge.

    was written in the proper order. The main point was that the subject matter was extremely technical, and the boring nature of the technicalities is illustrated by the fact that one justice fell asleep. Heck, it would have been just as proper, journalistically, to have mentioned that “a justice” appeared to doze off as to specify which justice it was. The sentence which informed us that her colleagues didn’t “give her a nudge” was of even less importance.

    Now, assuming that the vote is 5-4 against Texas, and Justice Ginsburg is in the majority, her dozing off becomes more important to the story, because the story is (then) about the result of the decision; currently, the story is about the case being argued.

    Dana (3e4784)

  5. Technical question: On a claim for judicial malpractice (a justice slept during argument), where do you bring the claim? Before the defendant?

    More seriously: Nearly ever lawyer I know who’s appeared before the U.S. courts of appeals has a story about a judge who slept during the argument. But the Supreme Court isn’t supposed to be like that.

    Attila (Pillage Idiot) (dfa1f1)


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