Even at Yale, Linda Greenhouse LAW ’78 just can’t get away from the United States Supreme Court.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning Supreme Court correspondent was feted by Yale students and faculty in a Law School presentation Oct. 6, followed by a Master’s Tea and dinner Monday evening. The events kicked off Greenhouse’s one-year tenure with the Law School’s Law and Media Program. She will become a Knight Distinguished Journalist-in-Residence and Joseph M. Goldstein Senior Fellow with the program in January, charged with delivering lectures and planning large-scale analyses of the American judicial system as part of her one-year tenure.
During the week, Greenhouse traced her history with the court and the judicial trends and shifts that have occurred in Washington over the last 30 years.
At Monday’s tea, held in the Trumbull College common room, Greenhouse addressed the ideological transformation of justices from conservative bents to more liberal leanings. Justice Harry Blackmun, for example, moved from a staunchly conservative position to a more left-wing bias.
“He really was quite conservative in the beginning but ended up 24 years later … as the most liberal judge in the court,” she said. “How does that happen?”
That shift began in 1973, when Blackmun received praise from women’s rights groups after penning the landmark Roe v. Wade decision overturning Texan restrictions on performing abortions.
Ironically, Blackmun did not consider women’s rights at all in writing the decision, Greenhouse said. Blackmun was a premedical student who did not have enough money to finish his studies in college, she said, and considered doctors’ rights in crafting a decision that left the door open for women to freely have the operation.
Greenhouse said she has witnessed several judges move from right to left, such as Sandra Day O’Connor and Lewis Powell.
Ryan Nees ’12 asked later in the Tea if Greenhouse’s coverage of the court had influenced justices’ ideologies, a phenomenon conservative pundits have dubbed “the Greenhouse effect.”
Greenhouse waved off the question.
“I have never personally seen the slightest bit of evidence that I’ve had any influence on the court,” she said.
At Monday’s dinner, Greenhouse lectured on “The Mystery of Guantanamo Bay,” as her talk was called. Debate over detainee rights to habeas corpus, the right to stand before a judge to dispute a detention, and rights to leave the Cuban base have sparked, she said, a five-and-a-half-year drama between the administration of President George W. Bush ’68 and the Supreme Court.
In the end, after years of back-and-forth between Supreme Court acquiescence and administrative pushing, after habeas corpus petitions from detainees have been reviewed, dismissed and re-reviewed, Greenhouse said, “there are no winners in this tale.”
“The trench warfare continues, as lawyers for the detainees and the government battle in the district court and the court of appeals over how to handle the revived habeas corpus petitions,” she concluded.
Greenhouse plans to teach on journalism and the Supreme Court at the Law School next fall.