Jeffrey Toobin, a New Yorker staff writer and CNN analyst, spoke before a capacity crowd at Pierson Auditorium on the UMKC campus. His appearance was sponsored by the Edward A. Smith/Bryan Cave Lecture Fund and the Carolyn Benton Cockefair Chair in Continuing Education. Toobin is a well-known journalist and author and an expert on courts and politics. In his talk, he provided a civics lesson that went through the political composition of the high court since the 1960s and related their decisions to the political tenor of the times. The heart of his message was clear – the ideological split in which America finds itself is reflected by Supreme Court decisions,
As a new lawyer, Toobin was an associate counsel for the Iran-Contra trial, which he described in his book: Opening Arguments: A Young Lawyer’s First Case – United States v. Oliver North. As a journalist, he related the events of the O.J. Simpson trial in The Run of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson. His prize-winning 2007 book, The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court, is considered the definitive work on the current Supreme Court justices and what influences their decisions. His most recent book, The Oath, The Obama White House and the Supreme Court, tells of President Obama’s clashes with the Supreme Court. With this background, Toobin was uniquely qualified to talk about the history of the Court and the effect of politics on its decisions, and he did not disappoint.
Prior to his talk to the community, Toobin visited the UMKC School of Law, where he met with students and faculty and answered questions about the Court and its decisions. He cautiously made predictions about some of the Court’s current cases, reminding the audience that his prediction regarding the Affordable Care Act case last term, which is preserved on tape, missed the mark. He cautioned the students not to rely too much on the questions justices ask in oral argument in predicting the outcome of cases. In answer to a student question, Toobin told the audience that, for him, the most important case the Court decided in recent years was Bush v. Gore. He noted that, when Justice Scalia is chided about the case when he speaks to groups, he tells them to “get over it,” but added that he personally has “not gotten over it.”