Bench Memos

Re: Tom Goldstein, Objective Centrist Poseur

Well, it turns out that Salon’s Glenn Greenwald wasn’t more impressed than I was by Tom Goldstein’s posturing himself as the objective voice of reason.  Some excerpts from Greenwald’s post:

[Goldstein] has drawn attention to himself by claiming to be an objective, non-ideological analyst of Supreme Court nominees, but it always takes the form — as it has here — of gushing sycophantic praise for the nominees, scoffing at criticisms voiced, and disparaging critics as unhinged ideologues.  He has done exactly the same thing with the nominations of John Roberts, Sam Alito, Sotomayor and now Kagan:  these are excellent and honorable people who deserve to be on the Court and all criticisms of them are not just invalid but disgraceful.  That’s what he does:  you wind him up and he recites lavish praise for every nominee.

Critically, Goldstein’s livelihood and career as a lawyer — one that brought him a lucrative partnership at Akin, Gump after he left the small firm he founded to join it — has depended and still depends upon constant appearances before the Supreme Court.… 

As a result, is it really surprising that he invariably takes the lead role in vocally defending the honor, integrity and qualifications of every single Supreme Court nominee while attacking their critics?  What could possibly be better for Goldstein’s career as a Supreme Court litigator than being the dutiful defender of every one of the Justices during their nomination process, while relentlessly smearing their critics?   SCOTUSblog is an excellent resource for reading about Court proceedings and decisions.  But this conflict of interest between Goldstein’s legal practice and his purported role as objective analyst of Supreme Court nominees is so glaring that it ought to disqualify him as being some sort of authoritative source on these individuals.  Of course he’s going to say that each nominee is special and honorable and that all critics are misguided extremists.  Why would he ever say anything else?  Why would he ever criticize a potential Supreme Court nominee on whose good graces his career success depends?

Goldstein’s steadfast defense of Kagan is particularly questionable given his prior relationship to her, which he has failed to disclose, at least in his recent pieces on her.  When Goldstein was attempting to build his small firm into one that could sustain an exclusive Supreme Court practice, he received vital assistance in terms of credibility and support from then-Dean Kagan, who created a program at Harvard to enable law students to work on Goldstein’s cases for free.  He was also hired during Dean Kagan’s tenure to teach litigation at Harvard despite no prior connections to that school (his law degree is from American University).  These aren’t the world’s largest conflicts, but they should be disclosed, and they do suggest he’s something other than an objective defender of Elena Kagan.