Jeffrey Toobin Looking for Corrections:

Jeffrey Toobin writes:

Hi Eugene,

I've been reading your posts on The Nine with interest. I am serious about correcting errors in my books, and I intend to fix anything I can. (Differences of opinion and interpretation are another story, of course.) In any event, I'd continue to welcome your thoughts or those of your colleagues. You can also post this email if you like.

Best, Jeff

I much appreciate the sentiment, and want to urge readers to pass along, in the comments to this post, any other errors they might have found. Please limit this to items that you think are genuine errors that require correction, and of course please be polite and substantive.

Matthew Ericson:
Start with pg. 102, from the post below:

Jeff - I think it would be a worthwhile correction to not include disparaging quotes about individual justices, based on their unanimous written decisions. If there is ever a time that the "Court" does something, it's a unanimous decision. Any negative commentary --- about the decision, not the reasoning --- should tend to attack the Court, not the individual author.

(Obviously, there are exceptions to this, but page 102 seems egregious.)
9.25.2007 3:05pm
He wasn't commenting on the opinion, but on Justice Thomas's thoughts on the opinion. Given that, why would it matter if the opinion was decided 9-0 or 5-4?
9.25.2007 4:03pm
Mr. Ericson, that's not a "correction."
9.25.2007 5:23pm
Matthew Ericson:
Excuse me? Here is what Toobin wrote:

In fact, as the journalist Tony Mauro first reported, the case was not inconsequential. Thomas's opinion made it much harder for railroad workers to recover for the horrific accidents that can take place when they climb between two railcars in the process of coupling. Years after the decision, the plaintiff in the case, William Hiles, was still bedridden most of the time.

How is that not an insinuation that Thomas was responsible for the suffering of railroad workers in general, and Hiles in particular. This was a unanimous decision. Thomas' opinion had nothing to do the suffering. The Court's decision did.

Otherwise, we'd be forced to say that Chief Justice Burger's opinion was responsible for making Nixon turn over the tapes. But no reasonable scholar says that. Right?
9.25.2007 5:37pm
Pon Raul:
I don't know about the book, because I have not read it, but last night on CNN, he said that in Bush v. Gore the SCOTUS decided that the Fla SC was wrong 5-4. Actually, SCOTUS said that the Fla SC was wrong 7-2 (in the method of the recount), but the decision to end the recount was 5-4.
9.25.2007 6:01pm
Darkbloom (mail):
This is extremely minor, but kind of funny. It's a copyediting error on page 63, in the section about Clinton considering Cuomo for the Supreme Court. Reproduced here with the same typography:
Clinton and Cuomo had a complicated relationship. Clinton admired The New Yorker's way with words but found his indecisiveness maddening.
Jeffrey Toobin is a staff writer at The New Yorker (and a non-italicized New Yorker, like Cuomo).
9.25.2007 6:45pm

Has any of the bloggers here thought about reviewing Keith E. Whittington's book, Political Foundations of Judicial Supremacy? If not, what is the criteria for writing about a book? A focus on the Supreme Court? A justice?

Just wondering.
9.25.2007 7:07pm
Warren Rudman:
Justice Souter is not a crybaby.
9.25.2007 7:25pm
Justice Thomas wrote the opinion and signed it. Therefore it's correct to refer to it as "[Justice] Thomas's opinion." People commonly refer to "Chief Justice Burger's opinion" in Brown v. Board of Education, or to many other unanimous opinions using the names of the authors.

Your point applies with equal force to 5-4 majority opinions as to 9-0 opinions. The only time it's truly correct to insinuate that a single justice's opinion is responsible for any practical consequences is when it's a controlling concurrence, but there is nothing inaccurate about Toobin's decision to note that Thomas wrote the opinion he describes. Rather, you're making a pedantic point of stylistic disagreement, not a correction.

If someone other than Justice Thomas had written the opinion, that would be a correction.
9.25.2007 10:04pm
JohnO (mail):

I hope nobody's writing about Chief Justice Burger's opinion in Brown. They should stick with Chief Justice Warren's opinion instead.
9.25.2007 10:17pm
Curious Student:
how about a review of the NYT article (magazine) over the weekend about Justice Stevens. It was a good piece.
9.26.2007 2:10am
Matthew Ericson:

If someone other than Justice Thomas had written the opinion, that would be a correction.

Not really. It would be a factual correction about who wrote it, but under your theory --- they all signed on --- we could just as easily say that Justice Ginsburg's opinion/decision hurt railroad workers.

The point is that Toobin is using a 9-0 decision as if it were Thomas' dicta, in an effort to make Thomas look bad. Sure, that's not a "correction" that a copyeditor would pick up, but it's one that honest scholars should not be making.
9.26.2007 9:34am
James Kabala (mail):
Darkbloom: There's a book about Catholicism in the early U.S., entitled Rome and the New Republic. On the spine of the book, where the title is supposed to be printed in Roman type, it is called Rome and the New Republic. Obviously it has nothing to do with the magazine. The mistake is, fortunately, not reprinted on the front cover or title page.
9.26.2007 6:58pm
I've found an actual error: "Even Scalia, who had like Rehnquist and O'Connor, joined the Bowers opinion, sounded defensive."

Scalia did not join Bowers because he was not on the Court. It was one of the last opinions in Chief Justice Burger's final term if I am not mistaken; Scalia was still on the DC Circuit at the conclusion of the October 1986 term and could not have joined Bowers.

Mr. Toobin can thank me later, but I would love a signed copy of his book!
9.27.2007 1:30pm
Oh, and that was on page 188. ;)
9.27.2007 1:30pm
BobVDV (mail):
p. 116 Toobin quotes Rehnquist in response to rumours that Bill Clinton would appoint Hillary as AG, "They say Caligula appointed his horse counsel of Rome". I think he means "Consul".
10.1.2007 6:00pm
Aaron Schwartz (mail):
9.6.2008 7:09am

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