tv Supreme Court CSPAN December 28, 2009 8:00pm-10:00pm EST
into america's highest court threw unprecedented interviews. they speak about the court, their work and the iconic supreme court building. tonight, we will show you interviews from chief justice john roberts and justice john paul stevens. justice roberts talks about the court, its role in society and the tasks of the chief justice. this took place in the supreme court. >> chief justice john roberts, as we sit in this room, surrounded by some of the famous people who were in this court before, we want to start with the history of the court. how much is the modern court like the court that the framers envisioned? >> i think it is still as they envisioned, one of the three branches of government.
they did not give any thought at all as to where the supreme court should be based. in the basement of the capital did not seem suitable for one of the coequal branches of government. as for the court's responsibility, they eventually got this beautiful building of its own. >> we will be able to spend more time with the building and how it operates staying with the history of the court -- operates. that staying with the history of the court, who stands out? >> the great chief, john marshall. he was the first person to take
the job seriously. most lawyers had him as being the first chief, but he wasn't. he was the fourth. many did not regard the court as an institution. the first chief justice negotiated a treaty with the english. he saw them -- john marshall took the job seriously and served for three decades. he has stated that the court has the responsibility to review acts of congress for constitutionality. he established the court as one of the three coequal branches of government. >> who is the most influential modern chief justices? >> my predecessor had a great influence on how the court
looked at legal questions. earl warren was famous for bringing the court together and decide and one of its most important decisions, brown vs. the board of education. >> how many justices did the earliest courts have? >> i think they started with six. it is an interesting thing. it was hard to bring them together. the very first session of the court had to be adjourned immediately because they did not have a quorum. the second time, they convened, they did some administrative business and adjourn pretty quickly because they did not have -- adjourned pretty quickly because it did not have any cases. the current number of nine was established shortly after the civil war. it has remained intact since then. >> not without some trying by
franklin roosevelt to make it larger do you ever reflect on how it might have functioned if the court idea had worked? >> it would not have functioned at all. franklin roosevelt came into office with huge majorities. he had huge majorities in the senate and the house and the court was not in a popular position. it was blocking all of his reforms. he came up with the court packing plan that allowed him to appoint new justices on the court in order to get a court that would rule in his favor. even with his popularity, the country rose up against it and the plan did not get off the ground. the importance of having the
court as an independent check of the other branches. >> today, with all of the visibility of the two other branches, the court is less known by the public than the other two branches. i would like to have you talk a bit about what people should understand about the will of this court -- the boalt -- the role of this court. >> they do not elect us. if they do not like what we are doing, it is more or less to bad totoo bad. the need to understand that when we reach a decision, it is based on the law and not a policy preference. if we reach an environmental decision that comes out in favor of environmental groups, you also -- you often read in the paper that the court supports environmental protection.
all we are doing is supporting the law. we are just exercising our responsibility. i think that is very important for the public to appreciate. >> what is the role of the modern chief justice? >> in many respects, not terribly different from the will of the associate justices. i preside over world -- over oral arguments. i get to initiate discussion and have some responsibility to make sure that all the issues are adequately aired at conference. the most important responsibility is the responsibility of signing opinions. if i am in the majority, i get to determine who will write to the -- the opinion in that case
-- who will write the opinion in that case. you want to make sure that the work gets done on time. some cases are more interesting than others. if you want to make sure those are fairly distributed. some are harder than others and you want to make sure that is fairly distributed. you do not want one justice just doing criminal cases or something like that. a lot of factors go into that decision. the chief justice is the head of the judicial conference, which sets policy for the federal judiciary the route the country -- to help the country. -- federal judiciary throughout the country. i am automatically chancellor of the smithsonian. over the past couple of years, i
have been learning a little bit about museums. >> are you also the ceo? are you responsible for the budget and the people who work here? >> your medical, yes. we are a small agency and we have a police and security force of almost 100 people. we have visitors and sometimes they slip on the steps and have to worry about things like that. -- we have to worry about things like that. >> when you mentioned the budget, one part you do see every year is the process by which justices go before congress to request the budget. it is always an interesting example of how the function of the branch's work. what are your thoughts about that? >> the framers appreciated that it is important that the
political branches have control over the purse. we are no different than anyone else. we have to go to congress, hat in hand to get our budget. it is a very interesting process. we do not ask for much. we have a very little burden on the federal fisc. when we do, the members of congress have very low interest in budgets. we hear a lot about their views on cases that are before us or cases that we have decided. >> this building itself, you mentioned that prior to the building, the court was housed just across the street. what do you think of this place as a building among all the monumental buildings in washington?
i think it is the prettiest building in washington. it is distinctive. a lot of the buildings in washington, obviously the capital is the brand building. this is a different type of marble. it is much brighter and much lighter than the typical government building. as soon as you see it, you appreciate that this is something different. it looks a lot like the jefferson memorial or the lincoln memorial in terms of its visual impact than the it does and other government building -- the bennett does and other government building -- a ban it does another -- than it does another government building.
>> do you think that it suits the work that is done here? >> it is a grand looking building. i am not sure that people thought that type of monumental structure was appropriate. i do think that is suitable that we are not involved in the political process. we are applying the law. it is bound by the rule of law by a written constitution. you need to appreciate that it is something different that is going on here. you need to appreciate how important it is to our government. the fact that we're a democracy is vitally important, but we are a democracy under law.
it is different from other countries in the world. >> is its proximity to the capital corporate? >> perhaps the fact that it is across the street is appropriate. when someone makes a political or policy argument, we say that that is something that you should take across the street. there is interaction between us and i think that it is very appropriate that we can see the capitol right across the street and i think it is appropriate that they can see us. a policy matters is their job -- policy matters is their job. >>we see each other and things that round -- and things around
washington. we have to get money from them. other than that, very little. our job is not to help them when they form policy and they do not help us when we define what the law is. we have friendships across the street. but our jobs are very different. >> what about that great plaza in front of the supreme court, the site of so many protests. what do you think about the design of the building that has that wide public space? >> i am sure the designer did not design a for protests. -- design it for protests. it is a level introduction to the court.
it doesn't just hit you immediately, but it is often the distance. the protest point that you bring up is very interesting. it is not a situation where our decisions should be guided by popular pressure. the protests are there as a way for people to express their feelings, but should not be directed at us. you would not want us deciding what the constitution means based on what the popular feeling is. many of our decisions are quite unpopular. >> are you caught the scent of them when the big ones occur? -- are you cognizant of them when the big ones occur?
>> justices' appreciate that it is not part of their job to be swayed by popular sentiment. >> interaction with the public as a whole, justice breyer told us that in the years that he has been here, the number of your -- tourists has declined. what do you think about people making a stop? does the court actively work to get people here? >> i think everyone who has an opportunity do -- opportunity to do so should see the supreme court. we are tucked away behind the
capitol, but our role in the constitution is just as vital and just as important. i suspect that the decline is due more to the decline in tourism. we are going through renovation project is the first one in all these years -- renovation project. it is the first one in all these years. you have to have infrastructure behind the walls for technology. we are making sure that things are safer against any type of intrusion. it is general updating. >> do you ever run into tourists
as you walk around the building? >> insurer. >> to the recognition -- shar>> sherurure. >> to the recognition -- do they recognize you? >> sometimes. >> let's move into the process of how the core functions. you give us a brief synopsis. basically, if you don't mind, give us a civics lesson on the operation of the courts throughout the year.
i am going to fast forward to the opening of the next session. start with the process of how all works. >> we get a lot of cases that people want us to hear. everybody remembers someone saying they will take all the way to the supreme court -- take it all the way to the supreme court. we go through about 9000 cases. we have a long session where we go through those petitions and try to figure out which ones we want to hear. it is an interesting process. we do not look at the cases that we think are wrong. we do not look at the cases that we think have a lot at stake. our main job is to make sure that federal law is uniform across the country. if you have a court in
california that decides a case one way, and one in new york fed decides it another way, that is one we will pick up. >> there is a lot more detail in that whole process. >>the you know the history of te first monday in october? >> i know that they're used to be a february term and then they would take a break and i suspect that is when they had to go travel on circuit which is what the early justices didn'. >> the number of cases that you cited, the proportion of that seems to have changed over the
past 20 years. there are more request and you were are granted. >> the more requests are caused by the increase in judiciary. it may seem counterintuitive, but earlier in its history, the court viewed itself as responsible for deciding every case that came up. most of the cases were admiral to cases -- admiralty cases. we leave it up to the lower federal courts to try to get each individual case right. we had a different responsibility. chief justices have come and visit here and they said that we can't do important work the way
you do because they have to decide if 3000 cases a year. they spend a lot of time pushing paper and we don't. >> what is the actual role of each individual justice in making the decision about the 84 up to 100 that might be heard? >> each one gets a vote, but it only takes four votes. the court used to have a lot more mandatory jurisdiction of cases they have to hear. -- had to hear. there was a deal we made that you did not need five votes to hear a case. for would be enough. the idea is that if four people think we should hear a case, we will hear it.
courts how much work do you do? >> not a lot. 9000 cases, we would not have time to do much. you develop a pretty good eye for what kind of case you should look at more carefully. i look at the memos and i said that we should look at this one more carefully and do that before deciding how to vote on it? i think i am entitled to an extra one, both for seems like a right number. >> -- but four like a right number. you can tell if there is a case that is a particular hot button issue. i have to say that that doesn't
enter into our process of deciding. much of our pocket is very mundane. probably a half dozen will make it to the front page of the newspaper. all the others are a bankruptcy tax case for federal arbitration act case -- or eight federal arbitration act case. -- or a federal arbitration act case. the number of cases that you have to make a decision about, do you ever pause to think about how many lives will be affected? >> those are the people that said that this is no important to me that i will take it to the supreme court -- so important to me that i will take it to the supreme court. it is a very sad thing to call somebody and say that they will
not even hear your arguments. it will not get into the door. but by the time a case reaches the supreme court, live against have had at least two chances to persuade a court that they are right. sometimes more in the state systems. as we put it in legal terms, we are not a court of everror. >> in those cases where there are a human beings involved, do you ever get letters from people after the fact? >> i do not get many. maybe they do not send them into anme. we do correspondents. i like to look at it, not all of it, because most of it is screened. you like to respond when you
can, even though you can't do it very often. >> once the decision is made that x number of cases will be heard, how is it allocated across the calendar? >> it is a role in the admissions process. -- will when admissions process -- rowlinlling emissions proces. the cases we will hear at the beginning were granted the previous spring. >> be part the people most associate with the court, the oral argument, how does it work? >> once all the briefing is done, the case is scheduled for oral argument. most cases have an hour per
case. when you tell that to people, they asked if that is all. -- asked if that is all -- ask if that is all. a lot of the argument is devoted to justices' questions. we have read the arguments, we have read the opinions. you say that this is what the record shows, but what about this? it is a very intense time for questioning. the judge has their own style about questioning. we have some people that like the rapid-fire style and others that like to spin out long hypothetical. it is a real challenge for lawyers not only to answer the questions, but to move the ball in the right direction in defending their clients interest.
-- their client's interest. it is the first time we learn what our colleagues think about a case. we do not sit down before argument and say that this is what we think. we come to a cold, as far as knowing what everybody thinks. through the questioning, we are learning, for the first time, how the other justices view the case. if they are raising cases about an issue that you have not thought was important, it is a very dynamic part of the job. >> so, you need to listen very intently? >> very carefully. you need to understand how their answer may cause you to focus on another issue and appreciate that there will be another side of the case.
>> it sounds as if the justices are communicating with one another through the questions. >> it can be that way. this is where you get the justice is acting as a devil's advocate. if i think that that lawyer has a good answer to a question that appears to be bothering another justice, i know that they will come up with a good answer that will answer that the justice's concern. i guess it is more the repeated questions that try to probe the particular point. i do not usually spin out long hypothetical, maybe because i did not like them when i was a lawyer. if i have a particular view of the case that think the lawyer should have the opportunity to
respond to, i might do more of a spin out. they rely on the statute, but there is this president. -- this precedenct. more often times, it is more rapid fire. i like to try to get the lawyer to deal with the particular issue and not a general question. you try to throw them off balance a little bit. >> you have a particular experience of being on the other side of the bench i am wondering what the difference is. what is the experience like? >> it is a lot easier to ask questions and answer them. the big difference is that there
is a wonderful supreme court bar and you run into your competitors both on your side and against two on a regular basis. it is a competition. you still win or lose as a lawyer. -- or against you on a regular basis. it is nothing like that on the bench. we have majorities and we have this sense, but i do not think we think of winning or losing -- we have the sendescents. >> do you remember your first oral argument? >> absolutely. it was the case of united states forces alpert -- united states
vs. alpert. this is for all the attorneys that will eventually have a case before the court. what is it that you wish you had known about the process when you were on that side? >> everyone says you have to answer the questions. i hope i did that when i was all lawyer. i appreciate it so much more now that i am on the other side of the bench. you have to appreciate that the justices are engaged in the process. they're going to ask hard questions. they're going to ask questions that do not put your case in the best possible light. i did not appreciate this as
much as i should have. you want to have a certain level of zeal and commitment to your clients' cause. the justices know that, but when asked you a question about a particular case, you should let them know that you appreciate that that case causes difficulty, but this is why you should not rely on that case. the they like you to be part of the process that is helping them come to the right result. if you can convince them that you are on their side to help them make the right decision, i think that is very helpful. >> do you ever change your mind
while listening? >> sometimes. you don't make up your mind before you go into the courtroom. it is a continuing process of narrowing your decision window. when you pick up your first brief, the blue brief, you do not have much of an idea of how it should turn out. when you pick up the red brief, you see that there is another side of the story. again, you're moving towards a particular decision sometimes the causes you to go the other way. this is based on your own thoughts. you bounce ideas off of law clerks and you go into arguments with not a totally blank slate, but you lean one way or the other. you learn how your colleagues
feel about this case. change your mind -- that happens, sometimes too. it is more a question of getting to the point of decision and then you go to conference and it could cause you to move in an entirely different direction. >> do you have a different mindset about the government because of the coequal branch and your role as a court bursa's the administration? >> not at all. when i was a private lawyer, i argued against the government. i thought that they were wrong all lot of times and this is my opportunity to show that. that is really one of the remarkable things about the process. the government of the united states is one of the most
powerful forces in the world and they have a particular view. all that i have to do is convince five lawyers that the government is wrong and that individual will win. the government will have to recede. that is an extraordinary thing. it hasn't happened in very many places to about our history. that is what people mean when they talk about the rule of law. -- many places throughout our history. >> walk through a typical day, how is scheduled and how you go about it. >> the argument process is perhaps more important to me. it is an exciting part of the process.
i learn how my colleagues feel about the case and i am going to hear what lawyers have to say. it is an exciting day. i tend to get here a little earlier. >> what time? >> about 7:30 a.m.. i will call the law clerk in and to bounce off some last-minute ideas -- clerk in to bounce off some last-minute ideas. shortly before argument, we go to the robing room and we put on our roads and meet in the conference room which is right behind the court room. we carry on the tradition established by a chief justice more than 100 years ago. we shake each other's hands before we go to the bench. we announce the opinions that we have to announce and we announce
any orders that we have to announce. lawyers who hope to be admitted to the bar, we go through those -- that process. as i said, it is as exhilarating for me as it is for the lawyers involved. >> when you walked out with your colleagues, the converse about the argument you just heard -- the you converse about the argument you just heard? >> -- to you converse about the argument you just heard? -- do you converse about the argument you just heard. no, that is inappropriate. -- >> no, that is inappropriate. we go to lunch? >> together? yes.
-- >> yes. we talk about the kinds of things everybody would talk about with colleagues. >> and did you hear another case in the afternoon -- and then you hear another case in the afternoon? >> sometimes. in the spring, when normally have -- we normally have to. -- we normally have two. >> we should move on to conference. >> we said at the conference table in the same places every day. i sit at one end and justice stevens sits at the other end and that wraps around the table in order of seniority. we go in and sit down and if it is a non are given day, we have
conferences on friday. we reconfirm that we are a collegial court. sometimes we have very sharp disagreements on matters of great importance. that is to show that we are all involved in the same process. that is vitally important. i initiate the discussion for and argued case -- for an argued case. sometimes, in an easy case, it will take one minute. in a hard case, it can take a lot longer.
he might say that he disagrees and he thinks it should come out the other way or he might say that he agrees with the result but he thinks the reasoning should be this. then it goes around the table. there is a tentative vote as we discuss it. we keep track of that and i think that if there is more discussion, we have more discussion. a fundamental rule that helps things work out well is that nobody speaks twice until everyone has spoken once. when everyone has spoken, we decide if there is a need for more discussion. sometimes there is and sometimes there isn't. i try to make sure that the
issues are fully discussed and that both sides have an opportunity if there are two sides to get their views out. " we do you decide to write a decision yourself? >> it is a tough part of the job. you have to be fair. i am very conscious of the need to take my fair share of the cases that are not interested and my fair share of the ones that are hard at and my fair share of the ones that are good. -- are hard, and my fair share of the ones that are good. i do it longhand, not on the computer. >> is that the way you always tend to write? >> yes, i think i was just a couple of years too late going
through college. i never learned how to write on the computer. i will have law clerks help. if i think a law clerk can write part of this, i will have them draft something up that i will then heavily at it. -- edit. i like to do a lot of the facts myself. certainly, by the time the opinion is done, i do not put it to bed until i'm comfortable with my work. you figure out if you need to know a little bit more and you go back and look at the briefs and bring law clerks in and bounce ideas off of them.
what is wrong with this? what is the answer to that? >> sometimes we will go around two other justices and i will say that this is the reason, but i do not think that that is the right basis but i will let the decision this way. -- white the decision this way -- white -- write the decision that way. i sometimes change it back and then change it back again. i like the writing process. when you are ready to send it out to the toughest critics in the world, your colleagues, that is what you do. it always makes it look more authoritative, but it does not work with them committed they are not restrained in commenting on some things -- does not work
with them. they are not restrained in commenting on some things. you make accommodations to get their support. if you are just starting out and someone said he would like -- that would like you to change this or that. the fifth vote is more critical when you are more susceptible to making changes then the ninth vote. >> what about those five-four cases and the process of dissent. how much extra time would to spend on writing the opinion, crafting of the opinion, and then the value of the descent -- dissent.
if you have something that looks like it will be 5-4, it is an opinion that will show up in those bound books on judges and lawyers shelves. i'm very cognizant of that. it is a very part -- it is a very valuable part of our process. it shows that the arguments have been fully considered. we have a healthy degree of skepticism about what we're saying. it is good to see those fleshed out. obviously, you do not like it if someone disagrees with you. you hope to be able to persuade people and i think it is a good thing if we talk about cases and try to come together as much as we can.
sometimes we cannot do that. there is a lot of back-and- forth. you try to alter your opinion. it is an important part of the process. >> does it ever get too personal? >> on the court of appeals, a couple of judges have what i thought was a very good process. when it was all done, everybody sat down and said, "what is there about my opinion that is too personal or crosses the line?" most of the time it is taking out adjectives and adverbs.
you might say that the majority is not persuaded by these cases. i thought that was a very good customer. it is not quite so formalized here. on reflection, do you really want to be that harsh? most of the time, they are surprised. >> your colleagues have been at this for quite awhile when you join them as chief. what was that transition like? how did you get up to speed so that you felt in command the way that your responsibilities come with the role?
>> it helped that i had been a law clerk here 25 years earlier but but you never got to go in that room as a law clerk. >> never. >> -- 25 years earlier. >> but you never got to go in that room as a law clerk. >> never. my colleagues were very helpful in filling me in on how things worked, often in contradictory ways. you go in and do it and hold your breath and hope that they all do not ask you why you were doing that. my eight colleagues were extraordinarily helpful in making me very comfortable. it is not just that i was coming in as chief, but they had been
together for 11 years without any change. you could easily imagine that that would be difficult. everyone of them went out of their way to make me feel comfortable with the process. >> we have five minutes left and i have 25 minutes worth of questions. let me move to this building since it is why we are here. when you are here after work is done and you have the opportunity to what the court building, where do you most like to go? where is your place of reflection? >> i like to go to the conference rooms on a quiet night. the portraits on the walls are all of my predecessors as chief justice.
to some extent, you look up at them with a form of alwe. they are probably looking down at me with either burn -- bemusement or amazement. they all have a story to tell. you look up at marshall and appreciate the importance of him having to move the court from a situation where each justice wrote his own opinion and instead of saying that we would have an opinion of the court. that was vital in establishing the court in its present form. right next to him is another chief justice, the author of a popular decision. he was going to solve the issue of slavery.
you walk down further and see another chief justice, morrison wak. you look at melville fuller and see how he made the court run. then there is charles evans hughes. it is always an interesting way -- i don't do it every day or every week, but from time to time, i find a useful reminder of the role of the court and
the role of the justices. >> have you instituted changes in the roberts court that helped change the way the court functions? >> i do not think so. it is hard to say when things change if you are not aware of the way they were before. >> when you took your hand and put it on the bible for the oath, what was your sense of the responsibilities that you were taking up on yourself? >> that i had an important job to do. i was very grateful that i had eight colleagues. we share the burden and responsibility is -- and responsibilities.
i was very excited. we were hearing cases that day. divestiture was in the morning and we had cases right away. i was anxious to get to work. >> the court is in the process of preparing for a new member. can you give us a sense of what that is like, saying goodbye to an old colleague? >> to some extent, it is unsettling. you see the court as being composed of these members and it is hard to see it involving someone else. you do get new arrivals in both those situations. it is a tremendous sense of loss. justice souter is there a wonderful colleague -- is a wonderful colleague. that is part of the process of
the evolution of the court. we will welcome the new member with open arms and the court will be richer and the course of history. but you do get used to seeing the same people every day and you get used to having lunch with the same people every day. it is an interesting part of the changeover. justice white said that when the court gets a new member, it changes everything. it changes everybody. we've moved the seats around -- remove the seeds around -- we've moved up the seats are around -- we move the seats around. issues that are addressed may be very different than what we have been falling for sometimes.
-- for some time. >> does the chief get a vacation in the summertime? >> vacation is the wrong word. one justice said he could do 12 months of work in a 10 months. it is good that we get a break from each other. we have work that we continue to do. we continue to pour through those 9000 petitions. we get emergency matters from time to time. when we get out of washington, the work load is significantly reduced and i get to spend a little more time with my family them is always the case. but they c4 spending an hour with us. >> faq for spending an hour with
us -- thank you for spending an hour with us. >> one of the many items available at c-span.org/store. >> for more information on the supreme court and the justices, go to c-span.org/supremecourt. you will find an interactive timeline of the history of the court. >> the nature of most human enterprise is to ask yourself, "am i doing this the right way?" >> all this week, a rare glimpse into america's highest court
threw unprecedented conversations with 10 supreme court justices. tuesday, justice anthony kennedy and justice samuel alito. interviews with supreme court justices on c-span. get your own copy on dvd. it is part of the american icons collection. 83 disc set, one of many items available at c-span.org/store. a rare glimpse into america's highest court with conversations with can supreme court justices. -- tan supreme court justices. -- tan the supreme court justices. --10 supreme court justices. now, a conversation with john paul stevens.
>> justice stevens, what part of your chambers are be in right now? >> you were in the office of two of my law clerks. i come in a lot and learn about the law from them. >> how many law clerks do you have? four, and two others are upstairs. >> you are the only person left on the supreme court that served with warren burger -- berger. that was taken in the conference room. >> what is the difference between the court did and the court now? >> -- the court and then and the court now -- the core then and
the court now -- the court then and the court now. it is determined by how it has operated over the years. there is much more continuity in the way that we do our work than there is change. there is a change when a new chief justice presides. each chief justice has his way of presiding at the conference. our present chief justice is doing an excellent job. he has some virtues that the others did not have, but that pretty much has followed through the years. >> back in those days, were there more cases? how many cases should you have?
and they also work on alt opinions that we produce. our practice is i usually write a first draft. i always write a first draft, then they convert it from a draft to an opinion. >> let's walk in this roosm and you can tell us what this room is used for. >> well, this is the room where my secretary and assistant secretary are both in this office and there's room for office -- visitors to sit and see what the place looks like. >> what kind of visitors do you get over the years? and how easy is it to come see you? >> well, it's a lot eadsier -- i probably shouldn't say that because usually we're pretty busy but that schedule is governed by time and it is a
full-time job and we do spend an awful lot of time preparing for arguments and reading briefs and the major portion is in writing opinions and finishing those up. >> you ever total up just how many hours a week you read? >> i haven't but it's more than 40. >> what's your pattern for the day? >> well, i'm an early morning person so i do a lot of work early in the morning and i'm pretty well prepared when i come downtown. i have flexibility, on days we're not sitting, i can work at home on opinions and i can read at home and i sometimes do and sometimes i come down -- it's a totally optional schedule. >> where is this office located in the court itself? >> this is on the northwest corner of the building. >> have you always been in this space? >> no.
i've been in four different chamebemplets i -- chambers. i started just down the hall in the chambers that are referred to as the retired chief justice's chambers for three or four years. then i moved into the chambers justice o'connor was occupying then i moved into the chambers justice scalia is occupying now and then before that time justice black had been in those chambers. there had been only three justices in those chambers. now nino has those. >> let me ask you about the portrait. who is that gentleman? >> that's wily rutledge, a great justice of the court in
the 1947 term and he's one of my heroes. >> who was he? >> he was a justice of the court here and before that a judge on the court of appeals on the district of columbia circuit. before that he'd been the deaven the university of iowa law school and he taught at other law schools in his career as well. >> what year did you clerk for him? 1947. the 1947-1948 term. >> what did you learn from that experience that you still hold on to today? >> i learned an awful lot, to tell you. i learned to take the time to draft out your own opinions and make sure you understand a case before you turn it over to someone else to work on. i learned that every case is important, not just when there's a lot of money involved or a very important public issue. every case is important to the people involved in this.
>> back to the writing of the first draft. is that unique to you? >> no, i can't speak for my colleagues. i'm sure some of them do the first draft. one of the reasons i did that is justice rutledge used to write them out on a yellow pad. now i type them on computers rather than the yellow pad but he would write out in longhand a full dirs -- first draft. then his secretary would type it up and usually that was it. we would maybe supply some footnotes or suggestions but you -- he did the whole thing himself >> what's been your philosophy of the length of an opinion you would write and also the dissent you write sometimes or the concurring opinion? >> well, the length defends on the case. i try to keep them as short as i can but sometimes you take more pages than people think you should and i use footnotes regularly because i think
footnotes are optional reading. there are some things that should be in an opinion that people would gain from reading but they don't have to always read it to understand the argument and the opinion so i'm one of those old-timers who think footnotes perform a very useful function. some of my colleagues feel you will should never use footnotes. >> why? >> they figure if it's important enough to be included it should be worked into the text and if it doesn't, you should leave itout. >> how does an opinion change from the time you first write to the time it's finished m >> sometimes it it doesn't change very much at all. sometimes it becomes shorter, sometimes longer. i think probably more often it becomes a little longer. but i'm a fan of shorter opinions if it's possible but you can't always do it. >> over here on your wall is a
number 2 baseball jersey. what's that from? >> well, that was a gift from my law clerks a few years ago because they know i'm a cub fan and kind of encourage my continued interest in the cubs. >> when did you throw out the first ball? >> there -- that was three or four years ago i think. i think three years ago. >> what was that like? >> that was the highlight of my career! [laughter] i had all my grandchildren, not all of them, but most of them there and i can tell you i was a hero that day. much more important than my job. >> want to know if you made it from the mound to the catcher? >> oh, absolutely. i hit it high and wide. >> more pictures over here on your wall? >> the first is a picture that was at gerald ford's funeral
that his family gave me. i happened to be there just as the casket was passing by. then there's a couple letters he wrote to me that i'm very proud of and this is a picture taken at the swearing nve the vice president in january and then i have a picture of my colleagues on the court of appeals for the seventh circuit and the one at the top is the nixon court for which i clerked. >> so you clerked for riley rutledge during the benson court, 1947. then you come down the pictures and this court -- >> i served an -- on that court from 1970 to 1975. then this is the court i joined, the one at the bottom. >> the seventh circuit, where is it located in >> wisconsin, illinois, and indiana. but we always sit in chicago.
>> what was your experience sitting on the seventh circuit? >> well, i learned a great deal. an awful lot about federal law, of course. i served with some awfully good judges and learned a lot from them. in that picture, for example, tom fairchild was the chief judge for years and i learned a lot from him and p others of my colleagues. >> so what's the difference between the circuit court of appeals and the supreme court? >> well, in the circuit court of appeals you are more bound by precedent than in the court of appeals here. if there is a decision or an tean -- opinion, the court of appeals is really required to follow it whereas in this court there are many more open questions that have not been really finally resovepled -- resolved. we have more of a duty to
decide things that have not been faced before. >> let's go into your main office here. you've been in a lot of offices. >> right. >> does the atmosphere that you're working in matter to you much? >> actually it doesn't. i enjoy the office and i have a wonderful view of the capitol that i can see from my desk, but the most important part of the office is the computer sitting right next to me and wherever you are you spend a lot of time reading and composing on the computer. >> behind your desk are a number of pictures. can you just give us an overview of what's here? >> most are family and from the court of course. justice rutledge. picture of my two former law partners down in the lower left hand. >> who is this up here? >> that's my wife. taken a few years ago. those are my parents there. and my three daughters and my wife in that picture.
>> give us some background on your parents. >> well, that's a long story. they both lived a long time but they were probably the most notable part of their career, my dad was responsible for building what is now the conrad hilton in chicago. it was then the stevens hotel. he was in the hotel business. also he was a lawyer. he studied at northwestern back in the days of we gomore. -- wegmore. >> you were a northwestern law graduate? >> yes. >> not that usual to have somebody on the court from northwestern? >> well, justice goldberg was from northwestern. of course i went to law school at northwestern and did my undergraduate work alt university of chicago. >> is there any difference from goinging to a midwest school?
we hear so many judges are from stanford, yale, harvard. >> well, i think there is. every school has its virtues and strengths. northwestern had a fine law school when i went there and still haves a fine lieu -- law school. and there are good law schools all over the country. i learned that from hiring law clerks. they have done a magnificent job even though they were not from the iveney league. -- ivy league. >> i harrell you were the top grault in the history of course northwestern law school? >> i've been told that. i was told that that was the case. >> with all your experiences, northwestern law school, your job as a clarke here, service on the seventh circuit and a father who was an attorney, where along the way good -- did you get your philosophy of the
law? >> well, of course it's a combination of many, many things that combine to give you your views of what the law is and a lot of it is just the result of your reading. a lot is just your own experiences. i know for example that my experiences during world war ii have spaped -- shaped my experience in some cases. >> you were in the navy. i was in the navy, yes. and my experience as a practicing lawyer have had an impact on the work i've done. there are an awful lot of things that combined affect your view of the law. >> when you're sitting up on the bench looking out at the court during an oral argument, what do you think up there? what do you see that we don't see? >> one thing i often remember is the first time i argued before the court i was really surprised at how close i was to the justices and i think to myself sometimes, he is
thinking the same thing. he didn't expect to be quite as close, to have quite an intimate experience as it really is. you are right in a conversation with the people on the other side of the bench and it's a very interesting experience. >> have you been here long enough for the bench itself was straight? >> no. it was -- warren burger made that change a year or two before i got here so since i've been a justice it's always been with the angle on the two sides. but when i was a law clerk it was a straight bench. >> what's your favorite spot in the whole court? what room do you like the best? >> i haven't really thought that through. i suppose that i enjoy the oral arguments. i like the courtroom. i really do. i enjoy my own office and also one of the most interesting places in the court actually is
the spiral staircase. it's well worth seeing if you can. >> have you spent much time studying the history of this place? >> i've picked up a good deal of the history. but i haven't made an independent study of it the way some people have done of the white house, for example. >> what are those books behind you? >> those are the u.s. reports. from i forget just what but they're the last maybe 40 years of reports and over there i have the reports from the beginning. >> what does it mean? what are u.s. reports? why don't you walk around this desk and i'll meet you on the other side. >> well, they're the reports of the decisions by the court which of course include all the majority opinions and all the dissenting and separate opinions that have been written. >> we've read for years that you figured out a way to spend part of your time here and part
of your time in florida. what's been your philosophy? when did you start spending a couple weeks in florida and doing work down there? >> i've been doing that for perhaps 25 years, perhaps more. part of that is a product of the computer. you can continue with the work even though you are working there. you can read briefs and do other research without being in the office and you can write opinions without being in the office. i do just as much work when i'm in florida when -- as i do here, exempt i don't hear any oral arguments. sometimes i read briefs sitting on the beach. and i can remember getting a kick out of the fact that i had the briefs on the bench one day and i shook the sand out of the
briefs and it made my neighbors a little jealous about what i prepared. >> as the you know, around washington, a supreme court justice is somebody that everybody knows and i'm sure you have found yourself in supermarkets, saying oh, there's justice stevens? >> never. >> do you ever get this in florida? do they know who you are down there? >> the only time i can remember being recognized when i'm doing the shopping or something is running a video -- renting a video, you know, i don't know what the name of the outfit was but the guy who owned the store had been admitted to the bar a couple weeks earlier and he recognized ne. -- me. apparently he was both a lawyer and a entrepreneur. but i'm almost never recognized. which is nice. i just do the shopping or whatever and nobody knows who is -- it is. >> what's the correct way to
pronounce crertyorary? -- certiorari? >> certiorari. it's the lawsuit a person has lost in a lower court, he files, it's a petition for this court to grant the request to set it down for oral argument. the cases we grant come out of that number that are filed. >> how many justices participate in the crert -- cert pool? >> it has varied from when i joined the court. there were i think six justices in it. i did not join it because having been a law clerk some years earlier i had some familiarity with the cert
process and i thought i could handle the caseload more efficiently myself. so there were six then and after i joined, every justice to join the court has joined the cert pool since then so there have been eight with this one exception that last year justice alito decided to do his certs independently too so now there are seven different justices who share their law clerks and memos as preparation for the cert calendar. >> why did you decide not to join? >> well, because i thought i could handle the cases more efficiently independently because the memos they prepare are very thorough and carefully written but they're a lot longer than i thought was necessary to make a decision on whether to make a decision to grant or deny. >> what does that do to your work load or your clerks'
workload? >> well, you really would have to ask them. i think it makes it a little less but they go through they have cert penalty themselves and divide them up but they don't have to write memoranda in every case. so they read more but write fewer memoranda. it kind of cancels out. >> once it's accepted -- where does that happen? >> once a week, except in recess we'll miss a week, but we have a conference on friday and we'll review all the cert petitions that have come in hins -- since the last conference and we vote on whether to grant or deny them then. if four justices vote to grant, the petition is granted. >> where physically do you do that? >> we do it in the conference room and all the justices are present at the conference but no one else is present. it's -- our deliberations are entirely off the record.
>> what's that conference room like? >> well, it's a nice big room with a big table in it and nine chairs around the table and then when we get through sometimes they have kfee sent in and -- coffee sent in and maybe a sweet roll or cookie or something too. >> how formal is that meeting? >> well, it's informal in the sense that everybody is congenial and there's certainly a lot of conversation, but most of it is business and we are fairly rigid in our rules that we talk in order of seniority about the case. we go around and vote in turn and sometimes after we've discussed the case or a cert petition we'll talk about it a little further, but usually it's through after one go-around, around the table. >> now, you're senior. >> well, second -- i'm senior in age and years of service but the chief justice of course
speaks first. >> well you came on this court did you ever think you would be here 34 years? >> no. i had a law clerk named stewart baker who was with me my second or third year here and i asked him to prepare a memorandum for me on the ages of retirement of all my predecessors and to suggest the age i should plan on retiring and i thought then and i still sometimes feel you're not the best judge of when you should retire. well with, i didn't follow his recommendation.
i just enjoy the work and itch -- each year i've thought about it ifed decided that i can continue to enjoy it and continue to make a contribution. >> what do you do at age 89 to stay as healthy as you are? >> well, i play a lot of tennis. i don't play as much golf as i used to because my foursome is not as famed as it used to be. in florida i go swimming every day. >> is that painting over the mantle there of any significance? no. that's queen victoria as a young lady and apparently that's a portrait that's in a number of the schools in england. >> why don't you sit over here at your deck so we can get you a little more comfortable. right out that window is the capitol? >> that's right.
put the court for a moment in perspective where we have the president and this building across the street and the court. what's its role? >> well, it's an independent branch of the government. it has to decide cases of controversy. it has to do it with the best ability that it can. >> does it do it the way you want to do it? >> sometimes. sometimes not. it's been true while i've been here and really thought you the hit of the court there are cases that are very difficult on which there is a difference of judgment by different members of the court. so when you're not in the majority, you wish they had decided it the other way and up think the world would have been better off if decided the other way but you don't have the votes, you can't do anything about it. in your 34 years are there cases that really mattered to
you more than others? >> ok, i'm sure there are but if you ask me which is the most significant i'd have to say the ones i am working on currently are always most significant and that changes from time to time. >> which one over the years had the most reaction or the most, you know, the biggest sensation in the country? >> did you read the papers of course, i read the papers about both our work and the work of other courts, but you have to let others decide on which of -- are the most significant. >> do you man when you retire that your papers eventually will be released for the public? >> yes, i think i'm going to send them over to the library of congress. >> and how long after that? i know in the case of justice marshall they were released fairly early. >> i don't remember the exact
date that i have arranged for it now. >> so you go back to wiley rutledge, the justice you served as clerk. were there other justices in history that made a difference to you? >> oh, yes indeed. >> why? >> because of the quality of their work. there have been some really truly great justices that have sat on the court. >> some that you can mention? >> well, brandeis and cardoza are the ones we mention and justice holmes was an exceptional justice and my good friends potter stewart and byron white were great justices too. a number of great men have so the -- sat on the court. >> in your opinion, what makes a justice great? >> well, the quality of his work is the major main thing i think. you judge a judge by the work
product they produce while they're on the court. >> but what makes quality? what makes good writing? >> well, i'm not out to give you an -- a lesson in english grammar and the rest of it but they have to write clearly and accurately and honestly about what the issues are the >> back to what we were talking about earlier, on the court, things when you disagree with them, what is your option if you're sitting in the conference and they vote not your way? what role does your dissenting opinion play, do you think, in the law? >> sometimes it becomes persuasive later on. sometimes it doesn't. but i don't write dissents trying to change the law. i just think it's part of the job of the justice to explain his or her vote in the case.
i think that the process is an open process in the sense that this is one institution that explains in a public way what it decides and what it does and i think that when there is difference in the court on the way it should be decided, that it is appropriate for those who disagree to explain why they thought they had the better argument. >> you have been running on the radio. what is your philosophy? >> i think it's to ask questions when it may help in the case. i don't view them as an opportunity for the justice to advocate one point of view, i
think rather the questioning should be designed to help understand what the arguments on both sides are in order to enable the justice to reach a decision on his or her own views. >> how often do you change your mind on a case after the oral argument? >> sometimes. i can't tell you the number, but it has happened. it has happened when i was writing opinions, for example. that's one reason i think it's important for the justice to do the first draft is that when you try to write something out, you sometimes learn things about the case that you didn't fully appreciate or understand before. and there have been more than one case in which i have changed my views when i was writing the opinion. >> so a young man or woman comes into your office, they're 17 years old, and they say to you i want to be like, you want to be a justice some day. what advice do you give them
along the way? and is it possible that you could decide at a young age you want to be a supreme court justice? >> well, i don't know. i certainly didn't decide at the age of 17 and i don't remember talking to anyone at age 17 who asked me for that advice. >> well, after you're in college and you start thinking about it in >> well, the basic rule of course is to study hard and do the best job you can in understanding what you can learn in college. >> can you think in the future -- this is a court that has every member with a history of serving on a circuit court of appeals. is that something that is going to be expected, do you think, from now on for justices? >> that's something that future presidents are going -- going to have to decide. i think it's healthy for the court to have members with different backgrounds. i saw a television program
recently when somebody said this should always be someone that had served in the armed forces on the court. i think this should always be someone who was had practical experience in litigation. and i think experience in other branches of the government such as the legislatures would be very, very helpful. i think, frequent, justice o'connor had experience in the legislature and i think she made a very significant contributesing -- contribution to deliberations because of that experience. and in my own case the experience i had as a staff attorney on a legislative committee taught me a great delegate about slegs and affected my work in terms of trying to interpret statutes. so i think different backgrounds is a plus. >> what year did you serve -- serve on that judiciary subcommittee. >> 1951.
>> what was -- who was the chairman? >> manny sullivan was the chairman. he was a democrat from broog -- brooklyn and chauncey reid was the senior minority member and he was a republican from dupage county, illinois. i was hired by chauncey reid. >> last question on that, what role does the legislative history, not the law, play when you think bay case that comes to new >> i think it's all significant. our job is to figure out what congress intended to do in enacting a statute and i can remember being asked by members of the committee about rather tricky questions that might be presented in the case. i remember explaining to one congressman some of the difficulties that i saw in a case. he answered, well, we'll let the judges figure that one out. because it's a cooperative
venture. congress expects the judges to help fill in the holes in statutes as it goes along, realizing it's not just trying to word words -- read words in a sterile piece of paper. it's important for a judge, i think. >> thank you, justice stevens. >> thank you. >> if you'd like to own a copy of our original documentary on the supreme court on d.v.d. it's part of the american icons three-disk set. one of the many items available at c-span.org/store. for more information on the supreme court and justices, go to c-span.org/store. resources clg a virtual tour of the building, interviews with the justices, a photo gallery on the supreme court building
and an interactive time line on the history of the court. >> all this week a rare glimpse into america's highest court through unprecedenteded on the record conversations with 10 supreme court justices. tuesday, associate justices anthony kennedy and samuel alito. interviews with supreme court justices, 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span and get your own copy on d.v.d. part of c-span's american icons delex -- collection, including programs on the white house and the capitol. one of many items available at c-span.org/store. [captioning performed by national captioning institute]
>> the investigation be ongoing and i spoke again with attorney general eric holder, secretary of homeland security janet napolitano and john brennan. i asked them to keep -- continue monitoring the situation, to keep the american people and members of course congress informed. here's what we know so far. on christmas day, northwest airlines flight 253 was en route from always always -- amsterdam, netherlands, to detroit. as the plane made its final approach to detroit metropolitan airport a passenger alleged tried to ignite an explosive device on his body, setting off a fire. thanks to the quick, heroic actions of passengers and crew, the passenger was immediately subdued, the fire put out and the plane landed safely. the suspect is now in custody
charged with attempting to destroy an aircraft. a full investigation has been launched into this attempted act of terrorism and we will not rempt until we find all who are involved and hold them accountable. this was a serious reminder of the nature of the danger we face and of those who threaten our homeland. had the suspect succeeded in bringing down that plane it could have killed nearly 300 passengers and crew, innocent civilians preparing to celebrate the holidays with their families and friends. the american people should be assured we are doing everything in our power to keep you and your families safe and secure during this busy holiday season the since i was first notified of this incident i have order the following actions to be taken to protect the american people and security -- secure air travel. first i directed we take immediate steps to secure the safety of the traveling public,
we immediately enhanced screening and security procedures for all flights, domestic and international. we added federal air marshals to flights entering and leaving the united states and we're, would be closely in this country, federal, state, and local law enforcement, with our international partners. second, i've ordered two important reviews baw it's shule necessary we learn from this incident. the first review involves our watch list system our government has had in place for many years to identify known and suspected terrorists to prevent their entry into the united states. the a -- apparently the suspect in the christmas incident was on this list but not on the so-called no-fly list and so i've ordered a thorough view -- review of the overall watch list system and how it can be
strengthened. the second review will strengthen all policies. we need to determine how the suspect was able to bring explosives on board the aircraft. and we have directed tomorrow keep up the security for our country. they must know the united states will do more than simply strengthen our defenses. we will use every element of our national power to disresult. -- disrupt, de -- dismannedle and defeat the powers that threaten us, whether they are from yemen, pakistan, or anywhere they are plotting attacks against the u.s. homeland. finally, the american people
should remain vigilant backhand -- but also be confident. those plotting against us seek to undermine not only our security but the open society and values we cherish as americans. this incident demonstrates that an alert and courageous citizenry are far more resilient than an isolated extremist. as a nation we will do everything in our power to protect our country. as americans we will never give in to fear or division. we will be guided by our hopes, ure unity and deeply healed values. that's who we are as americans. that's what our brave men and women in uniform are standing up for as they spend the holidays in harm's way and we will do everything we can to keep america safe in the new year and beyond. before i leave let me zs -- also briefly address the events over the past few days in the islamic republic of irab.
the united states joins with the international community in strongly condemning the violent and unjust suppression of iranian citieses. -- citizens. for months the iranian people have sought nothing more than to exercise their universal rights. each time they have done so we have -- they have been met with the iron fist of brutality even on solemn days and holy days and each time that has happened the united states has watched with admiration for the courage of the iranian people. what's taking place in iran is not about the united states or any other people but about the iranian people and their aspirations for justice and a better life and the decision of the iranian government to use fear and violence will not make those aspirations go away.
along with all three nations, the -- all free nations, the united states stands with those who keek their universal rights. we call upon the iranian government to abide by international obligations that it has to respect the rights of its own people. we call for the immediate release of thall -- all those unjustly detained by iran and i'm confident that history will not -- will be on the side of those who seek justice. thank you very much, everybody and happy new year. >> was there a breakdown in systems -- [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2009] later, another chance to see interviews with supreme court
justices john perts and john palm stevens. coverage of financial markets was discussed at a conference hosted by the university of virginia. you will hear remarks from several financial journalists including robert samuelson of the washington post and alan murave "the wall street journal." this san hour and 15 minutes.
>> standing here tonight in this historic ug splendid building, i wonder what some of the founders of the republic might have thought about the subject of our discussion today and tomorrow, how do we govern through debt and deficits? in fact, both of -- most of them had some acquaintance with the subject of debt and deficits. alexander hamilton, for example, the first secretary of the treasury, is said to have said "a national debt, if it is not excessive, will be to us a national blessing." end of quote. mr. jefferson, who didn't always follow his advice to others, said, "never spend your money before you have it." now, i've often thought too
that what we have here tonight is a discussion about how people's thoughts, ideas, opinions, reactions, to the news events of the day are affected by the 24-hour, seven-day-a-week coverage of that subject by the media. well, tonight we're here to find out. we have a panel moderated by bob franken. he is an emmy award-winning journalist, syndicated columnist and tv political analyst. he served previously as a correspondent for cnn and msnbc. bob franken, who -- whom i've known for a number of years, was recently inducted into the society for professional journalists in washington's hall of fame. our second panelist is margaret brennan, an anchor and reporter for bloomberg television news
in new york. previously she was a contributor to cnbc and nightly news as well as msnbc. she is also a graduate of mr. jefferson's university of virginia. alan murray is executev editor on line for "the wall street journal" and author of the papers weekly business column. he has served as washington bureau chief for snbc and "the wall street journal." we are fortunate to have him on our govern n counsel ill here at the university. next we've robert sam uleson, contributing editor at "newsweek" and "the washington post" where he has written about business and economic issues since 1977.
his articles have appeared in the wall street journal, "new york times" and other papers. his latest book is on the past and future of american avenue will youence, in case you are wondering about a holiday gifment paul solomon is occasional correspondent for the pbs news hour. he answers questions on the business desk. recently he has become a fellow at yale's berkeley college and for those of you who were why our discussions this afternoon you know that he was a loud -- lovely moderator in the panel that just preceded dinner the with that i'm going to turn to bob franken and ask that he cuck the discussion on has the financial crisis changed the nature of economic news in bob?
>> governor balile, commissioner kaplan, president jefferson, other slightly less notable lights who are here, first of all i'll make a deal with you, no jokes about tiger woods or the salahis. but they do make a point and the point is that people are almost desperate to want to pay attention to that type of thing and they are encouraged to do so by my medium, television. but there is so much that is of probably much greater consequence these days and what we have when it comes to financial reporting is as dickens would say, the best of times and the worst of times. when what we've here are people i admire because of that are built to take these very arcain principles and issues and explain them in language that people can understand. unfortunately people often
don't take the time to understand them so we have media coverage that is feeding the self-feeding media frenzy. i will ask you, bob, whether you sometimes feel ub -- you are singing to the deaf while you are writing in >> singing, sometimes what? >> singing to the deaf. >> my hearing is already fading. there say vote in my house whether i should get a hearing aid and it's 4-1 and i'm the 1. so far i've held out. no, i don't. i think there is a real hunger for information, for journalism but i think people feel overwhelmed by the amount of information they're getting and that they have a hard time sifting through all the kind of raw data and sort of the onrush of events, figuring it out what it means. i think many readers or viewers
think there is someone somewhere who knows what it means, but there isn't, of course. and this sensation of feeling -- of not -- of feeling not understanding what's going on is in fact i think one of the events that we are portraying. part of this economic crisis, i would say a large part of this economic crisis was that the events on the ground moved faster in a way that was not anticipated by the people who were supposed to be in charge and supposed to understand what was going on. . but i don't sense that there is apathy out there or indifference but i do think there say kind of confusion that reflects, a, the reality that there is confusion but, b, the fact that there are now so many different sources of information that even somebody who is serious and earnest is
going to be bomb barred by lots of stuff that you can't make sense of. >> by the way, this is going to be less a panel discussion than a conversation and what i wanted to do is to ask you to participate in the conversation from the get-go. that is to say, if you have something you want to add or a question you want to ask starting now, feel free to walk up to the microphone and injuryject. so the panel becomes everybody in this room, sort of what they would call in congress a demvet the whole. anyway, to continue the conversation -- >> i think he's exactly right. when you look at the long historical view over the last 20 years i think there are more talented financial journalists today than there have ever been in my career. i graduated from school in 1977. governor, i thank you for not mentioning it but i did go to
the university of north carolina and when i got out of school, being a financial journalist at most papers was kind of the place you put the guy who wasn't doing very well and maybe had a bit of a -- an alcohol problem. and when i moved to washington in 1979 the first thing i did was find bob samuelson because he was one of the very few people out there who was writing intelligent stuff on these topics. and the world has changed a great deal since then. up and many of your colleagues, margaret, do wonderful stuff. what you have done at the newshour, paul, there's just been an explosion of really good, smart financial journalism. the problem is there's been an explosion of everything else too and i totally agree with bob. the problem is not the media. in fact in my view the whole concept of the mainstream
media, which may have should -- had some meaning 25 years ago when you had thee networks and a couple yuzz services and a couple of papers that mattered, has no meaning today. you have so many different sources of information. the problem is not that there isn't good information out there. the problem is frankly what people are choosing to consume. i don't know what you do about that. there are an awful lot of people who for whatever reason seem to prefer to consume news, information, that's supports their own prelilexes -- prell i willexes and -- pred i will exes and biases. and technology makes it a very easy thing to do. if you are in line with moveon.org and you only want to read columnists and get information that supports your personal biases, you can do that. >> and here you have media now that are exploiting that.
>> sure. and doing very well. and so you can spend -- you can find enough stuff on huffington post to read all day long or if you lean in the other direction it's very easy, you know, you can go to lucyann.org or a half dozen other plogs and never read anything that challenges your view of the world and i think that's a problem for society but i don't really -- maybe this is self-justification but i don't see it as the media's fault. the media is putting lots of stuff out there. if you want to get quality information about what's going on in the world of finance you can. >> but a lot is not quality stuff. there's an old joke in our business that the marching orders on television news are to get out there and scratch the surface. and unfortunately we're not talking about a subject that can be adequately presented by
scratching the surface. i know you probably have to deal with this dilemma every day. >> right. it's interesting because you've seen and there are sort of two points in here but what alan was just talking about is basically not just the democratization of the media face -- space in that anyone can sort of express their own views in whatever form, block, twitter, the media is -- believe it or not there really is life to this thing, 140 characters, you can get some sort of thought out there. people are forling it and investing in it. then there is this self-selection process which you're right, is ha louing people to just hone -- home in on the information they want. i'd like to think there is a little change of the opinion in that process in cable news last
year because i've had a lot of people come up to me and say they are tired of that, tired of the noise and looking for the nuggets. how do you get a news organization that can afford to give you the nuggets right now in in environment, that can afford to publish the papers and get them out there? >> you get the sense you should call the nielsen organization and get a box in their house because that's not what the nielsen numbers are showing. >> well, there's a bet on this. the paper content thing. that's a whole other topic. but you were talking about this idea of scratchinging the surface and it's something i have struggled with because now i'm at bloomberg news which is wonderful because you can really go in depth and i've been given the platform and leeway to do so. i can go beyond a minute and 30 on something, which is
unbelievable. your vfering -- average television report is one minute seven or something. unless you're the president you're not getting that. but i had a wonderful experience being with the msnbc family so long, so not only was i take -- talking to people who were choosing to seek out financial content, it was going and talking to people at home who were forced to understand financial news all of a sudden and that is scratching the surface but it raises the question of how much onus should be put on the journalists themselves to be disstill sg down to the point that people do need to know and not just reflecting what people want to hear. >> not just the journalists but the people who tell the journalists what they should be covering the >> right. >> which is not a problem at pbs. >> no, no. that's why i stayed there all those years. i've been at the newshour or
one of its incarnations or another since 1985 and literally it's true that within a couple of years of being there i thought i will never take another job anywhere else in television because it would be so confining and it would not allow me to do what i do. even so, the length of a typical newshour piece is shrinking. >> down to seven minutes now? >> no, we still go longer than that. [laughter] i think the piece you had on tonight was about seven. and that was all right for me. i felt as if i had a member lopped off, you know, to -- >> that's like my dream to -- >> you see why then i would continue to do this job forever. it's not singing to the deaf, it's singing to