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Supreme Court Advocate Discusses Blog, Future Of Court

Publication Date: 
September 28, 2007
Virginia Law Weekly
Sean Conway

Lecturer in Law Thomas Goldstein and the "wildly popular Supreme Court Blog" he co-founded, SCOTUSblog, is covered in a Virginia Law Weekly article:

"We had 150 hits the first day we launched the blog,” recalled Goldstein, “and over 100,000 hits on the last day of the Supreme Court’s term this year.”

Goldstein credited much of the blog’s success to the objective content and daily updates. “There are thousands of [Supreme Court] blogs on the internet, and approximately three which are updated on a daily basis,” he quipped. “I also try to write objectively on my blog, which is different from most people who use blogs as a way to express themselves.”

He also noted that SCOTUSBlog, now sponsored by Akin Gump, never contained advertisements, which related to Goldstein’s overarching message to the future lawyers in attendance: be willing to do things for free early in your career.

Goldstein cited his own legal career, which began as an unpaid intern for National Public Radio’s legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg. “I couldn’t find a paying internship during my 2L summer, but my work with Totenberg introduced me to the niche field of Supreme Court statistics,” he said.

Goldstein realized during his internship that there was no organization that kept an up-to-date compilation of Supreme Court statistics, including the voting patterns of the Justices. This prompted Goldstein to fill this void. Soon, within a few hours of the final session of each term, Goldstein released a compilation of that term’s voting statistics.

After graduating from American University’s Washington College of Law in 1995, Goldstein clerked for the Honorable Patricia M. Wald of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and then spent two shorts stints with firms Boies, Schiller and Jones Day.

But Goldstein told the audience he was happier working out of his home in Washington, D.C. He started his own law firm, Goldstein & Howe, with his wife Amy Howe, and along with the Supreme Court statistical compilation, he began to take pro bono Supreme Court cases.

“I wasn’t making much money during this time, but I was establishing myself as a so-called ‘expert’ on the Supreme Court,” said Goldstein.

It wasn’t long before reporters from around the country were relying on Goldstein to provide analysis on trends in the Supreme Court. He was later approached by Stanford and Harvard to lead Supreme Court clinics, and in the spring of 2006 he joined Akin Gump.

“If you can find something that you love that no one else has addressed before, it can be very manageable to establish yourself as an expert in that field,” Goldstein told the audience, “though you will most likely have to be willing to work for free.”

“But now I get paid more than God.”

Goldstein also shared some of his most interesting findings about the Court’s voting patterns along with some predictions for the future of the Court.

On the Court’s last term, he pointed out that of the twenty-four 5­–4 Supreme Court decisions, Justice Anthony Kennedy was in the majority in every single case. “It’s Justice Kennedy’s world,” said Goldstein, “we’re just living in it.”

Commenting on the Court’s future, Goldstein predicted that retirements will occur in this order: Justice Souter, Justice Stevens, Justice Ginsberg. He further observed that if the Democrats lose the 2008 election, it will take 100 years for the Court to get a functioning left leaning majority.

Looking ahead to the next session, Goldstein said that the Court has a peculiar mix of cases on the docket, and he believes that the left will prevail more than not. In response, Goldstein predicts that many newspapers will say the Court is shifting back to the left, which may mobilize the right during the 2008 election.