Past Event On April 20, 2024

Jan Crawford & Kimberley Strassel

On the Docket

A conversation between two notable legal affairs journalists examined the year’s most highly anticipated Supreme Court cases and their potential consequences.

“Justices take the long view. They see themselves as stewards of the institution. That’s not to say that things weren’t really bad after Dobbs, and it wasn’t really bad after Bush v. Gore, but they figure out a way to come together.”

Jan Crawford

On the Docket

Program Date: April 20, 2024

On April 20, 2024, with the Supreme Court about to hear its final round of oral arguments for the current term, a captive Richmond Forum audience tuned in for an inside look at the state of the Court. In a conversation moderated by Jayme Swain of VPM, legal affairs journalists Jan Crawford and Kimberley Strassel discussed all matters of the Court, from notable cases on the docket to unlikely friendships on the bench.

According to Pew Research Center, fewer than half of Americans (44%) now express a favorable opinion of the Court. However, Crawford assured that, despite low approval ratings, the Court is in capable hands. “The rule of law is strong,” she said. “The wheels are not coming off the bus, and the bus is going places.”

Having covered the institution’s inner workings for 30 years, Crawford has learned that the justices take their relationships with one another and the traditions of the Court seriously. Their commitment helps them maintain common ground when they disagree on how to interpret the law.

“If Congress would just do its job we wouldn’t even have three quarters of these cases.”

– Kimberley Strassel

Strassel added that the current political climate has led to an overreporting and exaggeration of the partisan division of the Court. “Of 58 cases that were decided last year, 48% were unanimous,” she shared. According to her data, the justice who was mostly in the majority was Brett Kavanaugh. “He voted 95% of the time with Chief Justice Roberts, but also 80% with Justices Jackson and Kagan.”

As for the current term, the pair touched on a range of cases regarding reproductive rights, the First Amendment, and former President Donald Trump. They agreed that common themes on the docket include states’ rights, limits to executive power, and putting governing bodies “back in their lane.”

“Congress is not doing its job [in adequately writing the law] so other agencies or branches are picking up the slack,” Crawford explained. She and Strassel both drew attention to Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo, a case in which the Court will decide whether to overrule its 1984 decision in Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council. Chevron laid out that courts should defer to how federal agencies interpret the law, as long as that interpretation is reasonable. “Agencies currently have a lot of power. If there are gaps in the law or it’s unclear, the agency will interpret it…And that’s not the structure of our Constitution.”

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“The Court’s kind of danced around this,” Strassel said. Citing what she sees as a recent trend in agencies leveraging dated provisions to expand their reach, she expanded, “At a certain point, you can’t hide an elephant in a mouse hole.” She anticipates this will be an ongoing subject for the Court over the next few years, barring a change in its makeup.

The duo does not foresee that makeup changing anytime soon, despite recent calls for Justices Thomas and Sotomayor to step down from both sides of the aisle. Lighter observations about the justices were noted, including their individual strengths and their willingness to work together. Crawford distinguished that because their terms are much longer than most elected officials, justices take the long view.

“They see themselves as stewards of the institution,” Crawford said. “That’s not to say that things weren’t really bad after Dobbs, and it wasn’t really bad after Bush v. Gore, but they figure out a way to come together.”

“Jan and Kimberley are amazing, brilliant women. Both demonstrated deep expertise about the subject matter. They felt free to challenge one another, but did so with respect and humor. I am a long-time fan of Kimberley Strassel. While I knew of Jan and am very familiar with her reporting, I left with deep respect for her. Both were excellent.”

– Subscriber Survey Comment

About Jan Crawford

An award-winning legal journalist, Jan Crawford has covered the Supreme Court for more than 10 years and has had extensive interviews with nine of its justices. She is also the New York Times best-selling author of “Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States Supreme Court.” A penetrating and unvarnished look at the making of the current US Supreme Court, the book is a news-breaking account of the coordinated campaign to move the Court in a more conservative direction. With high-level sources inside the White House, in the Justice Department, and on Capitol Hill, Crawford gained unique access to the leading players in the confirmation battles.

Crawford previously served as an ABC News legal correspondent, the Supreme Court analyst for PBS’s “NewsHour with Jim Lehrer” and CBS’s “Face the Nation,” and was the chief legal affairs writer for the Chicago Tribune. On “NewsHour,” she provided live, gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito. Her exclusive reports and inside accounts of those nominations received wide acclaim.

While at the Tribune, she twice won the paper’s highest reporting award. First in 1996 for her 13-part series on the American South a generation after the civil rights movement, and again in 2001, as part of a team of reporters who covered the 2000 presidential election and the subsequent legal battles over the White House.

A member of the New York Bar, Crawford is a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School and earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Alabama. She has taught journalism at American University and frequently speaks about the court to universities, law schools, legal organizations, and civic groups across the country.

About Kimberley Strassel

Opinion columnist and author Kimberley Strassel delves into national affairs, top daily headlines, and the fundamental importance of civil liberties — specifically those guaranteed by the First Amendment — to healthy democracies.

As a member of The Wall Street Journal editorial board and author of the publication’s weekly “Potomac Watch” column, Strassel has established herself as a preeminent political commentator whose informed views make her a sought-after contributor to Sunday political shows, including CBS’s “Face the Nation,” “Fox News Sunday,” and NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Strassel began her career at the Journal in 1994 when she joined the news department in Brussels, later transferring to the London office. She moved to New York in 1999 and soon thereafter joined the Journal’s editorial page, working as a features editor and later as an editorial writer. She assumed her current position in 2005.

Strassel blends original reporting with historical context to spur thought-provoking conversations about current events and the impact of political and social actions on civil liberties. She is the author of three books, including “Resistance (At All Costs): How Trump Haters are Breaking America” and “The Intimidation Game: How the Left Is Silencing Free Speech.” In the latter, Strassel outlines the tactics and strategies used to limit free speech and offers solutions for combating this encroachment on First Amendment rights.

An Oregon native, Strassel earned a bachelor’s degree in public policy and international affairs from Princeton University. She lives in Alaska with her three children.

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