Patterico's Pontifications


L.A. Times (and Just About Everyone Else) Fails to Report Justice Ginsburg’s Nap

Filed under: Dog Trainer,Judiciary,Media Bias — Patterico @ 6:41 am

I was annoyed last night at the fact that the AP had downplayed Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s catnap during the oral argument in the Texas redistricting case. But at least the AP reported it. David Savage’s L.A. Times story about the oral argument doesn’t mention Ginsburg’s dozing at all.

To be fair to Savage, his failure to report this fact is far from unique. As Captain Ed notes, the New York Times and Washington Post also fail to note the tidbit in their news stories on the argument (though the Post‘s Dana Milbank does mention it in his column, and says that, by a Bloomberg news estimation, Ginsburg was asleep for about 15 minutes).

Nor does lefty Slate correspondent Dahlia Lithwick find the nap worth mentioning, though she has a blow-by-blow description of the oral argument. Lithwick describes Justice Stevens as “on fire” — but says not a word about Ginsburg, who was apparently on “snooze.”

There is not a rational reader among you who truly believes that the liberal media would largely ignore a nap by Justice Scalia or Justice Thomas during any oral argument — never mind one on such a partisan issue as this. It would be page one of all of the above national newspapers. Dahlia Lithwick would be yukking it up alongside Jon Stewart, Leno, Letterman, and the rest of the liberals out there.

I will say this, though — if Savage is right, then maybe Ginsburg wasn’t sleeping because she already decided to vote against DeLay. Savage seems to think that Ginsburg and other liberal Justices are going to vote with DeLay. If he’s right, then maybe Ginsburg just isn’t doing well.

Based on Savage’s reporting, I retract my suggestion that Ginsburg was sleeping because she had already made up her mind to vote against DeLay’s redistricting.

I still think her nap is news — and should have been reported by more news outlets than just the AP, which put it in paragraph 16 of a 26-paragraph story. [UPDATE: And, of course, by the Post, as already mentioned above.]

42 Responses to “L.A. Times (and Just About Everyone Else) Fails to Report Justice Ginsburg’s Nap”

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

    Patterico’s Pontifications » Burying the Lede: An Example (421107)

  2. I don’t want to find myself in the role of defending the Washington media too often, but this post on National Review Online’s Media Blog helps explain why reporters have a hard time covering oral arguments in the Court. For those not inclined to check out the post, it relates how the media are given obstructed views, and often cannot see the Justices during the proceedings.

    Of course, that does not explain why Dana Milbank would miss Justice Ginsburg’s dozing.

    JVW (54c318)

  3. He didn’t! He’s one of the few who reported it. Didn’t I make that clear?

    Patterico (4d4be8)

  4. […] Of course, some cases are so boring that you have to wonder why judges don’t doze off. Patterico thinks that Supreme Court reporters should be giving us more snooze alerts. No responses to ‘“When Justices Refuse to Retire”’. RSS feed for comments and Trackback URI for ‘“When Justices Refuse to Retire”’. […]

    Confirm Them » “When Justices Refuse to Retire” (5c7b11)

  5. I googled around a bit because I remembered hearing that Ginsburg is in poor health from a while back. Pretty much nothing but rumors from what I could tell – none of the stories were in the normal MSM. One had Ginsburg in poorer health than Renquist prior to his death, one said she was having chemotherapy, another radiation, one said she had advanced colon cancer. One cited SCOTUS staff…but I find that hard to believe, my impression is the staff there is just about leak proof.

    Anyway, she may be ill, and if she is or has been getting treated with chemo or radiation it makes you pretty darn sick.

    Dwilkers (a1687a)

  6. To my mind, this is a very, very strange case. I’m a liberal. I cheered when the Texas Democrats fled. I thought the redistricting scheme was a horrible abuse of power and that the voters of Texas should never have tolerated it.

    And I simply *do not* understand the argument that it is somehow unconstitutional. It’s possible that that is due to a lack of legal training … but I doubt it; I think it’s more likely that the opponents are simply trying to move their political argument to the courts.

    I expect them to get roundly spanked for it.

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  7. Aphrael,

    There is nothing in Texas law banning redistricting more than every 10 years. From what I’ve seen, the Court is more inclined to smack DeLay for diluting minority votes, the usual way the Supreme Court doesn’t address the issue brought to it.

    sharon (e51965)

  8. Ah yes, Patterico, you did note that Milbank mentioned Justice Ginsburg’s dozing. My bad for passing over it — I must have been fixated on Washington Post and forgotten that Milbank writes a separate column.

    This being the case, it seems more plausible that many (but perhaps not all) reporters missed it because they simply could not see her. It doesn’t surprise me that Milbank, with his superior view, would not bother to share his insights with his colleagues.

    JVW (54c318)

  9. Sharon – as I understand it, for the Supreme Court to even be considering it, it must be a federal issue. So it’s not a question of Texas state law, rather a question of federal law.

    That said, the fact that it was almost certainly legal does not make it good.

    aphrael (e7c761)

  10. Well had this been Bush at a meeting falling asleep for 15 minutes, we would have 100 reporters from all over the world set up and the New York Times would have 12 front page full page articles everyday for 1 month. CNN and MSNBC would have news coverah\ge 24/7 for 5 months.
    God Bless what used to be America. We may as well
    let Muslims take over the US. MSNBC and CNN would be hapy.

    Carl TIrpitz (c7527a)

  11. Maybe we’ll start having to borrow the old joke about Reagan:

    Redistricting cases have been giving Justice Ginsburg a lot of sleepless afternoons.

    Attila (Pillage Idiot) (dfa1f1)

  12. My concern is that the awake justices allowed references to minority voters. THERE ARE NO MINORITY VOTERS, JUST VOTERS! Every vote counts the same, and so Jim Crowing the Black vote or Ghetoizing the Hispanic vote is as anti-constitutional as would be doing the same to their bodies.

    Walter E. Wallis (13659c)

  13. Okay, everyone go look at this graphic. (Hat tip to Junkyard Blog.) I had pictured Ginsburg as gently snoozing in an upright position, maybe nodding a bit, possibly the hint of a snore…

    Such was not the case. The Fox sketch artist reveals that she was head-down, face planted on the bench. That’s downright surreal, and unmissable from almost any vantage point!

    See Dubya (4f1b2e)

  14. OK, should Justice Ginsburg have to recuse herself from this case?

    Dana (9f37aa)

  15. “Sharon – as I understand it, for the Supreme Court to even be considering it, it must be a federal issue. So it’s not a question of Texas state law, rather a question of federal law.”

    From the oral arguments, the Supreme Court is splitting hairs about whether the new redistricting dilutes minority votes. The original case (shrieked about by the runaway Democrats) was that it was “illegal” and “unfair” to redistrict twice in a decade. As I stated, Texas law does not bar this action. The Court is not buying the Democrat argument, thus the argument in the alternative that the redistricting dilutes the power of minority voters. From what I’ve heard and read, some of the Court isn’t even buying that argument, either.

    “That said, the fact that it was almost certainly legal does not make it good.”

    Yes, this is quite true when the issue is abortion.

    sharon (fecb65)

  16. See Dubya, I believe it’s a cartoon not a sketch. An expression of editorial opinion in other words.

    As for the lack of reporting, I think our host’s allusion that the real story is that Justice Ginsburg will be the next one to retire, and soon, is correct. It has long been the scuttlebutt. The media may be avoiding the little story (the nap) because they are not yet ready to tackle the big one (the replacement).

    nk (d7a872)

  17. I’ll bet a lot of liberals are ruing the day that Clinton appointed a 60-year-old jurist to the SCOUS. Eleven years passes rather quickly, doesn’t it? I’m glad the Bush Administration had the forsight to appoint relatively young Justices (Roberts is 50 and Alito is 55).

    JVW (54c318)

  18. nk–


    Milbank says she was facedown for a quarter of an hour.

    See Dubya (5073f6)

  19. I will reserve judgment. If there’s an illness involved — and I’m only saying if — then the respectful thing to do is to not call attention to it unless its preventing Justice Ginsburg from doing her job. And yes, sleeping isn’t exactly great for her job; but as many have admitted, I have nodded off in a boring meeting now and then. Plus I know of medical conditions that might have led her to put her head down while remaining conscious and alert. (I would name some conditions that would fit, but that would almost surely spawn new rumors.) Aside from her fellow Justices, can anyone even confirm that she was asleep? I doubt it.

    Now if the press were treating a public figure respectfully, that in itself would be newsworthy, on a par with the press pretending not to notice President Roosevelt’s infirmity. Completely unprecedented in the modern era.

    But still, I can think of enough innocent and vaguely plausible explanations that I would rather not draw any conclusions here. If the incident repeats, I’ll be more concerned; but for now, much as I enjoy seeing the media caught in hypocrisy, I’ll give them a pass on this one. There are many more blatant examples of media hypocrisy out there.

    Martin L. Shoemaker (9dba84)

  20. I heard reports of Justice Ginsburg snoozing.
    What I found interesting was the mention in both reports of the two flanking judges “doing nothing”
    to awaken her.
    See, it was their fault.

    Paul Albers (7494b1)

  21. L.A. Times (and Just About Everyone Else) Fails to Report Justice Ginsburg’s Nap.

    Ginsburg’s napping was covered by CNN, NBC, MSNBC, and Fox News; it was carried by the NY Times and Boston Globe, and, finally, as you mention, the WaPost.

    Which liberal arm of the liberal main stream media outlets are you referring to?

    This is the third time I’ve called you out on your lies and distortions. You have yet to adress one like a man.

    So, we will see what happnes.

    jmaharry (74c3ec)

  22. Paul wrote:

    What I found interesting was the mention in both reports of the two flanking judges “doing nothing”
    to awaken her.

    See, it was their fault.

    It might say something interesting about how they feel about Justice Ginsburg. Justice Alito may not have known her for long, but Justice Souter certainly has.

    Dana (3e4784)

  23. One question: if Justice Ginsburg was sleeping for 15 minutes, it was 15 minutes out of how long an oral presentation?

    Dana (3e4784)

  24. Ginsburg’s napping was covered by CNN, NBC, MSNBC, and Fox News; it was carried by the NY Times and Boston Globe, and, finally, as you mention, the WaPost.

    Links, please, at least to the print sources. I ran a quick search for the New York Times reference and didn’t see one.

    This is the third time I’ve called you out on your lies and distortions. You have yet to adress one like a man.

    To the contrary, I have a great deal of time responding to your various arguments, hoping to cultivate a lefty commenter who could help provide another perspective, but do so without distorting my arguments and calling me a liar. I am starting to see this effort on my part as a waste of time.

    Patterico (8ccd07)

  25. Yeah, it’s news, but downplaying it doesn’t seem wrong to me.

    Of course the MSM would be all over it if it were Scalia or Thomas (but can you imagine either dozing off during oral argument?). But they were correct (most of them, anyway) to cut Justice Ginsburg some slack, just as they SHOULD do for any one of her colleagues on the Court. Perhaps most of the reporters covering the Court understand that the reason for the nap wasn’t just boredom or the previous night’s carousing. She’s in her 70s and in poor health, and it’s not as if anyone thinks the Justices have a light workload. Give her a break. I’d like to see her retire during W’s presidency, but giving her a hard time for this would say more about her critic than it would about her. Maybe the reporters covering the Court understood that. I’d like to see all of the justices treated with respect and courtesy by the media, and, as Dwilkers suggests above, some compassion (and that can be done without pulling punches when covering the decisions). It’s not really an acceptable alternative to have the media treat the liberals and conservatives alike with disrespect and discourtesy.

    TNugent (6128b4)

  26. Of course, a fantasy would be to have Justice Scalia sign a notarized letter, which was kept secret, indicating his intention to fake falling asleep during an oral argument, and seeing what the MSM would report.

    Dana (3e4784)

  27. Dana, what I read said the oral argument for this case was 2 hours (is that twice as long as normal, or is there a ‘normal’?).

    As far as why the other justices didn’t wake her, that’s part of what makes me think she’s ill. I mean, I don’t agree with her politics, but if I was on the court with her I’d still reach over and give her a squeeze on the hand or a touch on the arm or something in a situation like that just as a courtesy. Unless I thought she really needed to be left alone.

    Dwilkers (a1687a)

  28. Sharon – I have no problem with the argument that abortion is legal but a bad thing. But I was making a more general point: legal and good are not coterminous, and in many regards are not even overlapping, but much political debate seems to make them synonymous.

    I agreed with the Democrats that the redistricting was unnecessary, a violation of the normal rules by which such things are handled, and to some degree unfair. I would have voted against a legislator from either party who supported it, were I a Texas voter. And, aside from the Voting Rights Act minority dilution concerns (about which I don’t know enough to make even a first-pass judgement), they don’t have a legal case.

    aphrael (e7c761)

  29. go back to sleep.

    this isn’t the first time, nor will it be the last.

    “Justice Thomas is joined for portions of his ritual nap by—in no particular order—Breyer, Scalia, and opposing counsel.”

    Johnny (2343b4)

  30. Aphrael,

    I agree with your points. If it were my ox getting gored, I probably would have been angry instead of merely amused. Unfortunately, politics is politics and this once, the Republicans got the jump on the Democrats, who usually seem to know all the rules much better…and how to get around them.

    My biggest fear, of course, is that the “Sprint for the Border” will become a bi-annual event in Texas (the lege only meets every 2 years).

    sharon (fecb65)

  31. re: nudging a sleeping justice. I’d be afraid it would cause her/him to awake with a start, which would be even more embarrassing. Tough call, but I’d leave them alone also.

    tbaughman (c03bf0)

  32. Reagan slept through most of his second term including a fair amount of Cabinet meetings.

    Mike Deaver (0ce116)

  33. He was saving his strength for dealing with the “evil empire”. I guess the strategy worked.

    Harry Arthur (b318a5)

  34. The artist’s conception they ran on FOX News is one of the funniest images I have ever seen. I don’t know why, but I was reduced to tears when I saw it.

    And of course it’s news! Total double-standard. This redistricting thang is a huge partisan issue and the former general counsel to the ACLU is not keeping up her end of the bargain.

    Toby Petzold (000ded)

  35. toby–I think it’s poor Alito’s expression that makes that so funny. Almost the first day on the job, and your colleague goes “splat” into the bench beside you and starts drooling, and it’s the Supreme Court and everybody’s watching…is this some initiation stunt? Is that FOX sketch artist getting this? What do I do? Meanwhile on the other side Breyer’s there just staring off at the plaintiff’s counsel with his hand on his chin, going, yeah, whatever, Ruth’s passed out again, mmhmm…

    He doesn’t look concerned, thinks Alito, but should I be?

    See Dubya (c1046f)

  36. Perhaps the rule is that you don’t awaken Justice Ginsburg unless she starts to snore. 🙂

    I’ve got to wonder: if Justice Souter, who has known Justice Ginsburg for many years now, seemed unconcerned and didn’t nudge her, has this been happening previously, and we just never heard about it?

    Dana (9f37aa)

  37. Come on, MSM is covering for Ginsburg. She was drunk as a dog. It’s obvious she had more than just one beer with lunch, and besides that she was out playing patty cake with her boyfriend, way way over did it, became acutely exhausted and then passed out on the bench. She’s too old for this sort of thing and has major health problems too.

    Her Lefty pals obstructed the investigation and wouldn’t let the Park Police give her a breathalyzer test either.

    When is she going to resign from office?

    Black Jack (d8da01)

  38. You know, Jack, if we repeated that enough times, and posted it on enough other sites, we could create a Genuine Internet Rumor™.

    Dana (71415b)

  39. […] In an editorial today, the Washington Post criticized Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for smearing people who oppose her use of foreign law to interpret the U.S. Constitution. The Post urges her to stop “stooping to such insinuations.” Indeed, it does seem far-fetched to believe that some kook could read the following and be inspired to threaten Justice Ginsburg, or to believe Ginsburg’s insinuations that the author of the following is a fan of Roger Taney: If we’re relying on a decision from a German judge about what our Constitution means, no president accountable to the people appointed that judge and no Senate accountable to the people confirmed that judge. And yet he’s playing a role in shaping the law that binds the people in this country. I think that’s a concern that has to be addressed. The other part of it that would concern me is that, relying on foreign precedent doesn’t confine judges. It doesn’t limit their discretion the way relying on domestic precedent does. Domestic precedent can confine and shape the discretion of the judges. Foreign law, you can find anything you want. If you don’t find it in the decisions of France or Italy, it’s in the decisions of Somalia or Japan or Indonesia or wherever. As somebody said in another context, looking at foreign law for support is like looking out over a crowd and picking out your friends. You can find them. They’re there. And that actually expands the discretion of the judge. It allows the judge to incorporate his or her own personal preferences, cloak them with the authority of precedent — because they’re finding precedent in foreign law — and use that to determine the meaning of the Constitution. And I think that’s a misuse of precedent, not a correct use of precedent. […]

    Confirm Them » Roberts’ Confirmation Testimony on Foreign Law (5c7b11)

  40. […] UPDATE: Regarding slumber at the Supreme Court, see here. 59 responses to ‘Luttig, Jones, and Owen’. RSS feed for comments and Trackback URI for ‘Luttig, Jones, and Owen’. […]

    Confirm Them » Luttig, Jones, and Owen (5c7b11)

  41. Where did gerrymandering come from?
    The original gerrymander was created in 1812 by Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry, who crafted a district for political purposes that looked like a salamander.

    What is the purpose of gerrymandering?
    The purpose of gerrymandering is to either concentrate opposition votes into a few districts to gain more seats for the majority in surrounding districts (called packing), or to diffuse minority strength across many districts (called dilution).

    It’s strange how this is suddenly a big issue for the press and the supreme court when Massachusetts has been protecting the likes of Tedd Kennedy and 100’s of democrats for years. But there isn’t a double standard in the press, really….

    Doomed in MA (d7a7b4)

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