by Liz O’Donnell
CNN Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin visited UConn Law on Monday, February 10 as the 2014 Day Pitney Visiting Scholar.
A Supreme Court expert and the best-selling author of The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court, Toobin came to the Law School in an event sponsored by the Day Pitney Foundation and hosted by Connecticut Law Review. He addressed a crowded room of students, faculty, and community guests before taking questions and participating in a book signing.
Toobin began his remarks with an anecdote about his short stint as a Hartford-area resident, during which time he worked on the ill-fated Senate campaign for Toby Moffett.
After a few witty comments that solicited laughter from the crowd, the convivial speaker then moved to the main topic of his speech, observations on the Supreme Court of the United States. Toobin discussed the history of the Court, including its shift over the years toward a more “conservative agenda.”
“The Supreme Court is no refuge from partisan decisions,” he said.
As evidence for this assertion, Toobin spoke about the shift of the Court during the Bush Administration, noting the retirement of more moderate justices from the Court. Rather than appointing similar minded justices, President Bush subsequently appointed justices with more conservative ideologies.
Toobin also spoke about the inner-workings of the Court. In particular, he offered the insight that typically one Justice was strongly disliked by his colleagues and usually it tended to be the Chief Justice. Toobin said that changed, however, during the Rehnquist Court.
“Perhaps he was always popular because he engineered a reduction in the courts workload,” he half-joked.
In addition to factual information about the Court, Toobin also confessed some of his personal fascinations with the court, including referring to himself as a “Bush v. Gore Junkie.”
With respect to his favorite justice, Toobin had a clear favorite for many years: Justice David Souter. He said he particularly liked Justice Souter’s respect for what it meant to be a member of the Court and found his dislike for technology fascinating.
“[Souter] was just, and is just, so weird,” he said.
Toobin closed his address with predictions about what the court might be like in the future. He said his best prediction came down to a single inquiry.
“Who’s the next president going to be?” Toobin said, “That’s the only question that matters.”
During the question and answer session, one member of the audience asked Toobin what he would change about the existing political structure. Toobin said he would change the makeup of the U.S. Senate, calling it the most “undemocratic” institution in existence. He also said he would get rid of the Electoral College.