The Motivations & Impact Of SCOTUS Justice John Roberts

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Support for this podcast and the following message. Come from mayo clinic when you are searching for answers that can change your life. You know, where to go mayoclinic more. At mayo clinic dot org slash answers. Hi, it's Terry gross. I'd like to know more about you. And why you listen to podcasts. And now there's a good way of letting me know by completing short anonymous survey at NPR dot org slash podcast survey podcast, surveys, one word, it takes less than ten minutes helps support the show and helps us figure out how we can better serve you. So that's NPR dot org slash podcast survey. Thanks so much from WHYY in Philadelphia. This is fresh air. I'm Dave Davies infra Terry gross today. Understanding the motivations and impact of supreme court. Chief Justice John Roberts in a new biography, Legal Affairs. Correspondent Joan bisque explores the roots of Roberts conservatism and his work for the Reagan, and George H W Bush administration's she said, he's headed. -servative impact on the law. But is deeply concerned about the courts reputation. Something President Trump would be wise to remember and more Donald Trump talks about how the court is on his side, the more he's going to drive John Roberts to the left. Because the last thing John Roberts wants to do is to appear that he's reinforcing. Donald Trump's notion that judges will automatically rule in the favor of the president who appointed them this cupid's new book is the chief and Maureen Corrigan reviews, the new novel the other Americans by Leyla Leyla me. This is fresh air. I'm Dave Davies in for Terry gross. Who's away on a special project today in February? President Trump predicted that lawsuits challenging his emergency declaration defined a border wall may succeed in lower courts. But that when the matter gets to the US supreme court. He will prevail. Our guest veteran Legal Affairs, correspondent Joan bisque. You pick says the president may be misreading. The thinking of chief Justice John Roberts who voted to uphold Trump's travel ban in a new biography of Roberts, miss cubic says his conservative beliefs have had a profound influence on American law. But that he's also determined to protect the courts reputation for impartiality miscue picks book explores the roots of Roberts conservatism and its impact on decisions involving voting rights. Affirmative action campaign, finance and abortion. She also examined his vote upholding the Affordable Care Act, which enraged conservatives. Joan biskupic was a Legal Affairs editor for Reuters. And the supreme. Court correspondent for the Washington Post a Pulitzer prize finalist and the author of books on Sandra Day, O'Connor, Antonin Scalia and Sonia Sotomayor, she's now a legal analyst at CNN. Her new book is the chief the life and turbulent times of chief Justice John Roberts. We'll Joan biscuit pick welcome to fresh air. Tell us a little bit about John Roberts background. It wasn't a fluent background, right? His dad was an executive at a steel company. He graduates from this prep school goes to Harvard and works really hard there. He seems to have always been a really serious and focused young, man. What did he sacrifice in return for all those efforts? His wife. Jane told me that when he was a Cambridge studying at Harvard, which he got through as an undergrad and just three years and then did law school in three years. He only went into Boston once or twice that he was so devoted to his schoolwork. And she told me that he later regretted that he didn't get out and about more the other thing, I want to mention is that his roommate said that he was rarely without a bottle of pepped abysmal. He tended to be good at fighting his nerves. But he did he did get a nervous stomach and one consistent theme that I found throughout is that as much as he presents himself. So well, and he seems to be such a fine speaker. He can get really nervous. And you know, those those early episodes that people told me about when he was anxious about how he would do in. In school translated, then to when he was an oral advocate, and everyone regarded him as so sterling, but colleagues would say his hands would shake almost uncontrollably before he would step up to the lectern to argue a case. So he became quite skilled at putting himself at ease and delivering in a way that really made his name in Washington. So he goes to Harvard Law School. He's on the law review does great things, and then ends up with a couple of Clark ships out of law school, one of them with supreme court Justice, William Rehnquist, what kind of influence did Rehnquist have on Robert at the time that John Roberts worked for William Rehnquist. Reckless was an associate Justice, and he was at the far right wing of the court and often alone. In fact, his clerks yacht him a little Dow of the lone ranger because he often dissented alone. But William Rehnquist in those years in the late seventies and early eighties was known for sowing seeds of legal reasoning that could then be picked up and turn from dissenting opinions into majority opinions laying the groundwork for future rulings that would move the court in a more conservative direction. So in an opinion, which may or may not go your way, you assert that such a certain a certain legal principle has been established and recognized and then four years later call upon that that assertion in another another case. That's right. That's right. And just to flash forward to John Roberts tenure as chief Justice. We've seen him do that in the context of voting rights in two thousand nine case to a two thousand thirteen case the early years of his legal career were in the nineteen seventies in which there were a lot of really contentious issues about, you know, affirmative action and school integration through busing, etc. In one thousand nine hundred Ronald Reagan is elected. He was enthusiastic about Reagan. And he ends up getting a job at the Justice department. What does he do? Yes. John Roberts had almost perfect timing throughout life. You mentioned that he came of age in the nineteen seventies. When you know, the era civil rights tension, liberalism is still. Dominant in America. But just as John Roberts is finishing his judicial clerk ships. Ronald Reagan is elected and conservatism, suddenly, isn't ascendance and John Roberts. Here's Ronald Reagan's inaugural speech in January of nineteen Eighty-one. And he says I felt the call I wanted to be part of that in. He goes right from the clerkship with William Rehnquist to the Reagan Justice department, and there he is for the first time with so many like minded attorneys who want to rollback liberal era policies any right to one of his mentors. Judge Henry friendly. We clerked for on the US court of appeals for the second circuit any rights to him. And he says this is an exciting time when so much that has been taken for granted for so long is being. Seriously, reconsidered and John Roberts really found a home among other Reagan, lawyers and was more than just a an employee in the administration. He he took up the call. What are the issues that he addressed in the job as deputy attorney general where was issues of the Voting Rights Act and affirmative action, what kinds of positions did he take? John Roberts almost immediately in coming into the Justice department in one thousand nine hundred eighty one. Join the opposition to a broad interpretation of the Voting Rights Act of nineteen sixty five he believed that many of these issues of discrimination should be handled on the local level by the states, and that judges shouldn't be as involved, and that the federal government shouldn't be involved, and he became a strong Lieutenant to then attorney general William French Smith to try to narrow the protections of the Voting Rights Act, and so many of the memos. He wrote in those days in one thousand nine one in one thousand nine hundred eighty two have themes have translated into his rulings now on the supreme court. Can you think of an example of that? Yes. At a time when congress was looking at renewal of the Voting Rights Act, some very important provisions and the Reagan administration was far to the right? Of where congress was at the time and attorney general William French Smith was the public face of this position. And he was laying out the administration's position on renewal the Voting Rights Act, and and how it shouldn't go as far as congress wanted it to go, and he was he was trying to pull it in. So as I say, there wouldn't be as much federal enforcement in what Reagan officials felt would be matters left better left to the states. And if I can just interject her a lot of this involved provision in the Voting Rights Act, which required changes in voting procedures in certain states with a history of discrimination to have them reviewed by federal officials before they were enacted, right? Yes. There were two provisions that were on the table in late nineteen Eighty-one in one thousand nine hundred eighty two but the core one that required. Renewal was what was known as section five, and that's the part of the Voting Rights Act. Act that covers states and other jurisdictions with a history of discrimination, and those cities states municipalities were required to obtain Justice department approval before changing any kind of electoral practices that was to ensure that anything that they put in place, maybe a change in voting times a new voting location. New voting district maps that they wouldn't be discriminatory. So there was that screening pre-clearance process that was very important to enforcement of the Voting Rights Act in protecting African Americans and Latinos from discrimination, essentially, getting out ahead of it rather than another section of the Voting Rights Act section two which addresses discrimination after a policy is actually in place. So John Roberts believes that at this time. He's he's as I say trying to buck up attorney general William. And Smith, but he also feels that the Reagan administration's position on Voting Rights Act is being mischaracterized in the press. He was watching all the coverage. And he was also furious when anyone broke ranks from the Reagan administration position and would often right to his superiors about that. A lot of these writings would certainly be illuminating of Roberts views on some key legal issues, and might be might be issue when he later is appointed to the court or other positions was he concerned about whether these issues would be publicly available. He was in. This is this is part of John Roberts. Great skill of looking ahead. Always been many steps mentally ahead of either his his colleagues ever series. And he seemed to express some trepidation at the about the possibility that some of his memos might soon be open the presidential records act of. Thousand nine hundred seventy eight had been passed after the Watergate scandal and that allowed disclosures of executive branch material twelve years after president had left office, which in Reagan's case would end up being about twelve years from nine hundred eighty nine now, again, he is just you know, in his late twenties at the time, this is all going on. But he is seen so far into the future that he starts talking. He starts encouraging officials in the Reagan administration to try to amend that act. And he writes a memo in one thousand nine hundred five that says just think any member of the public will only need go to the Reagan library in see any internal White House deliberative document, they want to see in less. We change things any refers to the quote pernicious effect of the statute that's the presidential records act of nineteen seventy eight. And he writes, this is now again, he's just a young man at this time. He writes, twelve years as a brief lifetime in public life. Many of the personalities who are now candidly discussing sensitive White House materials, and certainly many of the authors of the memoranda, perhaps he's even thinking of himself. Dave, you know, we'll we'll still be active twelve years from now. And how correctly was John Roberts likely and -ticipant it without knowing exactly how it would happen that his once confidential writings could one day be revealed and potentially used against him as they sort of were in two thousand and five. A man who knows he is going places. So did all this material eventually become public when he was nominated to this court in two thousand five yes. In two thousand five once he's nominated to I succeed, Sandra Day O'Connor. But then of course to succeed chief Justice William Rehnquist to his passed away. All these materials come out, and we see what he is saying about the Voting Rights Act, and we see what he's saying about, you know, raining in the core provisions, I referred to earlier that we're supposed to, you know, fight the disenfranchisement of African Americans and Latinos at the ballot box, and so he's faced with these memos, and they all come back to them. And and it's especially democrat, Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts Democrat, dick Durbin of Illinois and several other. Others on the on the left are laying them all out to him. And saying why did you write this? Why did you write that? And he says, hey, I had a client. I was I was doing what my client wanted. That's exactly what he said. I want to take this discussion of the Voting Rights Act and the federal government's role in ensuring equal access to the ballot. And the debate about that and fast forward to win many decades later when he is the chief Justice of the supreme court and these same issues arose again, and in particular, there was a there were a couple of cases involving Seattle and Louisville. I believe which really kind of drew this debate into sharp focus and created some really heated divisions within the court. You wanna tell us what that was about? And what Roberts position was as it emerged. So John Roberts gets down the court in two thousand five in just a couple years later, a very important case involving school integration efforts comes through. For the supreme court. This is a time when public school districts were creating programs to try to maintain integration gains of earlier decades or try to restore them after they've slipped away in the supreme court get's to cases one from Seattle and one from Louisville and in both school districts are trying to set up assignments schemes that allow for more integration of districts, and that's to fight national housing trends, where you know, people start, you know. Locking into segregated areas. And you know, it turns out that blacks Dudin population is in a particular area, and the white student population is concentrated in another and for racial unethically diversity school district's try all sorts of placement programs that would merge the two races and two of these programs. Come before the supreme court from Seattle and Louisville in two thousand seven and John Roberts takes the lead to strike these down. He he thinks that they fly in the face of the Karen t of Brown v board of education, which of course, had rolled back the separate but equal principle. He doesn't like any kind of government policies that classify people based on race, even if they're trying to remedy segregation. Even if they're trying to bring out more diversity, obviously diversity has been seen as a compelling. Governmental interest in prior supreme court rulings. But he finds that these measures in Seattle in Louisville should be struck down and his position so far to the right that Anthony Kennedy breaks off and says you are undermining the principles of Brown v board of education, but John Robertson has statement for the supreme court says it he really sees Brown v board as forbidding not just the kinds of policies that kept blacks in separate schools, but policies that would bring blacks and whites together in integration efforts. And so he's done as equally harmful, right? Yes. He sees. He sees those measures is equally harmful and his both violating the equal protection guarantee. Of the constitution. He seems to have held the position throughout his career from young man to the chief Justice that the way to stop discriminating on the basis of race is for the government to stop making any distinctions in policy based on race. Well, and this is this is the case where he offers a statement that is one of his strongest statements against racial remedies. And it's constantly echoing through his. His opinions, and it's constantly opposed by liberal justices. And this is when he says the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race. You wrote about how he worked as an assistant in the Justice department of Ronald Reagan and was a strong advocate for conservative views. He also worked in the White House counsel's office for Reagan. He did some private practice, and then was a a work. I guess I deputy solicitor general in the George H W Bush administration. And he again pursued a lot of conservative views which were then reflected later in his judgments on the supreme court. Let's talk about a few the issue of abortion came up often enough. What were his how did he act on that issue? Yes. And just to take people back. He's working for Ken Starr at the time, Ken Starr's, the solicitor general and John Roberts comes in. And he's quite young. And he again just launch his right in and he helps the administration in its opposition to abortion rights, both in the core opposition to the right itself. But also in terms of protecting the rights of abortion protesters who at this time if you remember in the early nineteen nineties operation rescue is blocking all sorts of clinic access and that was important issue for him. As was just the core issue of abortion rights and. He signs on to a brief that encourages the overturning of the nineteen Seventy-three landmark rove e Wade supreme court Justice, he pursued a similar course. Yes. John Roberts has continued to oppose abortion rights, but he has never had to face yet. An upper down vote on whether to overturn Roe v. Wade as a Justice an do his opinions offer a clue as to whether he would welcome such a talent. You know? Dave, this is what I would say about that. Yes. On one hand his opinions reflect a continued opposition to abortion rights, and the supreme court's precedents in this area. But his chief Justice now, he's very mindful the court stature and the court preserving precedent. So I think there's real tension there that we will see play out in upcoming. In years when the court has before it squarely a question of whether Roe v. Wade should survive. Joan biskupic is a legal analyst for CNN. Her book is the chief the life and turbulent times of chief Justice John Roberts after a break. She'll talk about Roberts concern for the courts reputation and his controversial decision on the Affordable Care Act. Also, Maureen Corrigan reviews the new novel by Layla. Lemme I'm Dave Davies, and this is fresh air support for this podcast and the following message. Come from subzero, refrigeration, wolf cooking and cove dishwashing. Here's head demonstration. Chef Joe Hasbro on the benefits of gathering around a common table, one of the beautiful things about the chef is that I can use those resources to bring people together around a delicious meal. This is what food doesn't allow you to have these wonderful moments of human interaction. Coke create and live deliciously with subzero wolf end cove. Visit subzero dash wolf dot com. Our guest is CNN legal analyst Joan bisque who's written the new biography. The of US supreme court chief Justice John Roberts during his confirmation hearings. He was emphatic about saying that that you know, judges aren't politicians. We don't make partisan decisions. We're umpires calling strikes and balls in. It's the right thing to say when you wanna get confirmed to what extent is it is it a is it a deeply held belief on his part. I think he does believe that to an extent. But I also think it was very much of a slogan. He used it went in his interview with President George W Bush when he was being interviewed for the job, and the president responded to it very well and the public responded to it when John Roberts was there. But there is no strike zone. Judging, you know, they're all sorts of factors are built into it. And John Roberts knows that. It's not just, you know, an easy set of measures on whether something is constitutional or not a lot of interpretation. Is there a lot? There's a lot of. Of judging in judging, and we know from his record that he's looking at many things he's not just looking at the black letter law. So I think it was a convenience slogan to us at the time, but judging is much different than being an empire. Right. And I think there's a related thing that arises in the con- political context of the day, which is that, you know, this is a time when partisanship was growing and has continued to grow. I wondered was he concerned that the court not be an agent of partisanship that it that it moderate debate rather than, you know, making it more extreme and contentious, Dave right from the start that was one of his main messages that the judiciary is different from the elected branches in one of his first speeches. He talked about that when people would ask what do you want folks to understand most about the supreme? Court. He said the most important thing for people to understand is that we are not part of the political branches you wanted to separate the court from the executive branch and the congress in effect put it above the other two to say, we we are not going to respond to constituencies. We're gonna rule the way the law dictates and in one early appearance. He said, you know, basically, if people don't like it there's not much they can do short of impeachment one way to implement that. As a Justice is to rule narrowly on issues rather than broadly. I mean, we don't don't look for opportunities to make sweeping changes in policy, right? That's right. Can about companion view to his idea that judges are different that they're above the politics of the day is that they're going to move incrementally and early on he talked about trying to build consensus among his. Colleagues. So that they could have not just a lot of five four rulings, but as many just as possible to sign on, and he said the way to do that is to rule narrowly and not move the law much, you might remember during his confirmation hearings. He talked about trying to avoid jolts in the law, and he he advocated measured steps now in some areas of the law. He has done that in other areas of the law. He is actually not done that. But those are two of his main messages, you can't label US Republican or democrat. You can't label us Bush judges or Trump judges, and we are going to try to have more consensus here than divisions and the others record clearly of the court under Roberts kind of pushing policy in the direction in conservative directions on voting rights and on money in politics. I mean, the citizens United decision had a profound effect on the way campaigns are financing the country, and you also point out I forgotten this. But there was this. This case that came out of West Virginia where a coal company executive had donated three million dollars to a committee supporting a state supreme court Justice, which then cast the deciding vote on a fifty million dollar jury verdict affecting that coal company. It certainly seemed like a case of conflict of interest. Roberts said, no, it's okay. Where where do do his views about the influence of private money in politics? Come from. He has said that he is the strongest first amendment Justice there. He believes that more speech. More money is for the better. Let everyone have his or her say, and you have his or her say through through money and that West Virginia ruling that you referred to. He was in the minority. Anthony Kennedy was the one who wrote the opinion saying that that West Virginia judge should have recused because of a conflict of interest. And John Roberts took the lead for the dissenters. So that was a case that had the intersection of his view that there's no problem with money, and politics, but also his view that there should be public confidence in judicial integrity. And we shouldn't be second guessing it even when the facts of that West Virginia matter certainly undercut it conservatives found a lot to like in John Roberts S chief Justice. And then there was the case challenging the Affordable Care Act. And this is a really fascinating chapter of the book. I mean, the justices held three days of arguments, right, which is quite unusual. And it appeared that Roberts was going to join the majority in striking down the act. What happened? Okay. So they go into their private conference. No secretaries, no assistance. No law clerks just the nine what we find out. I is how they vote we find out in late June of two thousand twelve that he has joined the liberals in this stunning decision to uphold President Barack Obama's signature domestic act and everyone thinks how did that happen? But no one realizes at the time that actually what went on behind the scenes is that he had switched his vote. In fact, he switched his vote twice. But he had initially voted to strike it down. And behind the scenes, he started to have second thoughts, and he comes up with an alternative rationale based on Congress's power to tax in other words, because the individual mandate was you know, the penalties for violating the individual healthcare mandate collected by the IRS. So you can treat it as a tax. And that was a way. For him to uphold it, that's right? So much of the focus early on Dave had been on Congress's power to regulate interstate commerce, and in that view, John Roberts remained insistent that congress had overstepped its power. And as I say he changes vote not just on the individual mandate. But this other critical provisions involving Medicaid, and the end result was a lot of anger among the conservatives on the court that they felt betrayed by him. And some puzzlement on the part of the liberal justices about why he would do this. And you know, I talked to a majority of the justices at the time this happened. And then I talked to a majority of the justices as I was working this out to try to figure out why did John Roberts do this? And I can't give you a single answer. But I think in tw- intertwined with all of this is his concern. For the legitimacy of the supreme court perhaps his own legacy. He knew about the problems with the healthcare system. He had represented insurance companies. He was aware of how long it had taken congress to pass this kind of law, and he moved in this direction. I think with many factors in mind, and it has certainly affected the public's view of John Roberts. So he thought it's a big economic issue of public health issue. Congress's will up to have some weight, and he didn't want the court to look like a partisan hammer. That's true. We were in an election year in two thousand twelve this looked like a battle between Republican appointee John Roberts and democratic President Barack Obama he didn't want that. He felt that. If there was any way that the court could uphold this and he found a way through Congress's taxing power itchy go that route. But it does add another dimension to this man who insist. That he's deciding cases only based on the law and only calling balls and strikes as an empire would. But it was not without cost in terms of distrust among his brethren on the right wing, the positive side is that it has given him a reputation in the public mind Wien more moderate, and I know that people still approach him and thank him for doing that. Because we know how important healthcare is to Americans Joan biscuit, fix new biography of supreme court. Chief Justice John Roberts is called the chief. We'll talk more after a short break. This is fresh air support for this NPR podcast and the following message. Come from better help better help offers licensed professional counselors who specialize in issues such as depression stress, anxiety and more connect with your professional counselor in a safe and private online environments at your convenience, get help at your own time and your own pace schedule secure video or phone sessions. Plus chat and text with your therapist. Visit better help dot com slash fresh air to learn more and get ten percent off your first month. It's a fear Eisenberg host of NPR's asked me and other March was women in history month, and we've declared April is women in comedy month kicking it off from the Netflix series Russian doll. We've got actor grittily and co creator, Leslie Hedlund, plus Reta from NBC's parks and recreation and many more start listening this Friday. We're speaking with Joan bisque fix she's done Legal Affairs reporting for Reuters in the Washington Post. She's currently illegal analyst for CNN her new biography of supreme court chief Justice John Roberts is called the chief two different court. Now, most for most of his tenure as chief Justice Justice, Anthony Kennedy was there who was sort of a swing vote between the conservatives and the liberal he has now been replaced by Brad Kavanagh. So it's more conservative court. And it was interesting to hear President Trump say about his controversial, you know, emergency funding for the border wall that he expected, you know, there would be a lawsuit, and he would lose in the trial court, but sooner or later, it would get to the supreme court. And he was essentially saying, you know, that that's my home court. It's game set match there. They're going to I'm going to win. There is he right? Now. And in fact, the more he says that I think it's more the more Donald Trump talks about how the court is on his side, the more he's going to drive John Roberts to the left. Because the last thing John Roberts wants to do is to appear that he's reinforcing. Donald Trump's notion that judges will automatically rule in the favor of the president who appointed them. We saw John Roberts come out with his rebuke of Donald Trump last November when he said, you know, we do not have Obama judges or Trump judges Bush judges or Clinton judges what we have our dedicated judges trying to do their best. Irrespective of who appointed them John Roberts has new control without Anthony Kennedy. He had to negotiate with Anthony Kennedy. Appease Anthony Kennedy spent a lot of time trying to twist his arm on cases because Anthony Kennedy held this key vote. But with with his new control comes new dilemma. How he votes is going to determine how outsiders the public the other branches see the supreme court. So that's a new burden on him. And for a man who from day one one to say, we are not political now in the mix is probably an effort to counter, the stereotyping that Donald Trump has done with the federal judiciary. You have some fascinating stories in the book about Justice Roberts disputes with Justice soda, your and particularly her willingness to talk about her roots as a Latina growing up in the Bronx. And and how it gave her an understanding of the effects of ethnic and racial discrimination. And in one of the things that occurred to me as I read your book is how how diversity matters and background patterns. I mean, John Roberts grew up in a in an fluent background. And it seems that he excelled because he worked hard, and he was mostly in an atmosphere with other white students, but he did better than they did because of his own hard work, and dedication, and perseverance. So I think his own experience tells him I didn't get any breaks I earned what I have this business about, you know, discrimination. There's a sense of which I wonder if it just doesn't correspond to his experience intuitively, whereas Justice Sotomayor says, yeah, I mean, I feel this. I'm just wondering I don't know if you reflected on that. And whether it it argues for more diversity in the judiciary. You know, I think he just nailed something there. Dave. I don't know if you recall from the book where I write about a two thousand thirteen speech that John roberts's given back at his prep school Lago mare. And he talks about the importance of persistence, and he says the single most important key to success is persistence. You just have the have the drive to press on it's more important than money than looks than talent than skill persistence. Will get you where you want to go. And I thought first of all he had all those other things, and he certainly was persistent. But as you draw the contrast with Sonia Sotomayor, she'd probably say, well, I don't think a lot of people. I knew in the Bronx could solve all their problems merely based on persistence. So I do think you have two different attitudes about what it takes. And what the benefits and disadvantages are as somebody. Is trying to succeed their differences generate lots of tension at the court know, there's an interesting journalistic question from me here as I as I read the book, I mean. There's an awful lot of public material that you, but you sat down with Justice Roberts like several times. What six or seven times eight times in the end. Okay. And a lot of it. I gather was off the record you wanted the benefit of his thinking on any basis. But I'm just kind of wondering how you work that out. How you let it seep into your insights without betraying the terms of a conversation. That's off the record. Yes. He let me visit him in chambers. A total of eight times over many hours. It turned out to be, you know, about twenty hours, and they were they were tough conversations because he was so incredibly guarded there were leading to go over what I could use when I couldn't use that sort of reinforced my idea of him is certainly very controlling. But I I wanted to I wouldn't have with two goals to overriding goals. One is I wanted to find out more about his life. I mostly wanted to find out about his, you know, his childhood the influences on his life is mother and. His father just what he thought of things. But then I also wanted to run by him what I'd gotten from the other justices in my conversations with them. And I wanted to let him know some of my conclusions in where I was going. So that I could get him to respond, and I wanted to you know, test is views on race, which is big part of this book. I wanted to test is views on you know, what had happened in the ObamaCare dispute, which is a part of this book. So I was seeking information. But I was also trying to understand him better. So even though the bulk of the conversations were off the record. They still helped me understand him and tried to get into his head is much as I could with someone who was so guarded. But as a journalist, I don't I don't prefer obviously off the record or on background conversations. Because I can't take the information out into the public sphere and tested. I often think that it's it's almost a licensed to get a subject to sort of steer me in a wrong direction perspective. Yes. Exactly. So what I would do. I would I was constantly trying to assess the information I was gathering in the sessions, you know, trying to test out with other justices and with the record and with former clerk. So it was it was let me just put it this way. When I was with Antonin Scalia for that biography. I had twelve on the record interviews and everything was very straightforward. He owned everything he said, you know, what you see was what you got with chief Justice John Roberts. He was a much tougher stub subject start to finish. But I wanted to I wanted to. Get an see him on whatever terms. He would let me in. And in the end, Dave he said to me he ended up cooperating far more than I had anticipated. But there was still so much that I couldn't use. I certainly couldn't use things as quotations. And I couldn't use some information from childhood that I wanted in some of his responses on these cases, but spending time with him one on one over so many hours was instructive. I I can't resist asking you what you told him that other justices said about him that surprised him. Oh, well, I had to be so careful I head because of course, you. I would right at the top of my notepad. Dave, remember, you're there to get information. Not to reveal information because he is such a skilled lawyer, obviously that I knew he was trying to draw out from me, you know, who I had spoken to what I had gotten from individual justices that I you know, I wasn't going to reveal who the source was of different things. So there was a real dance going on between us Joan biskupic. Thanks so much for speaking with us. Thank you Joan cubic is a legal analyst for CNN. Her new book is the chief the life and turbulent times of chief Justice John Roberts coming up Maureen Corrigan reviews, the new novel by Layla, lemme this is fresh air support for this podcast and the following message. Come from the alumni association of the university of Michigan dedicated to fostering, meaningful connections and supporting the success of Michigan alumni at every stage of life from helping you land your first job to. Connecting you with former classmates with the alumni directory to keeping you informed on all things. You have 'em with the Michigan alumnus magazine, the alumni association is that there for what comes next to learn more. Visit UM alumni dot com slash NPR, Leyla amuse historical novel. The Moore's account was a finalist for the twenty fifteen Pulitzer prize for fiction her latest novel. The other Americans is a story. That's very much of this historical moment. Our book critic, Maureen Corrigan has a review Leyla Lalla new novel is called the other Americans, and it's likely to jump start some timely book group discussions about the American experiment, specifically about how different types of people feel less visible in this country because of their ethnicity class race or citizenship status. The other Americans is an ambitious political novel that relies on old fashioned storytelling to get. Messages across Lalla me conjures up a murder mystery across cultural romance, an immigrant saga war stories and family dramas. Every short chapter here is narrated by a rotating cast of characters each of them sealed off from one another by misunderstanding. And sometimes justifiable fear all of this makes for somewhat ungainly novel, and yet whenever the separate stories intersect and the characters find common ground, the effect is heartening you feel like the promise of America can still come through after all like so many other American novels from the great Gatsby to the bonfire of the vanities and beyond. The other Americans uses the device of a car accident to throw together characters who wouldn't otherwise run into each other late. At one night. A Moroccan immigrant named Driscoll Rowley closes up his diner in a small town in the Mojave desert. He starts to cross a darkened intersection to get to his car when he's fatally hit by another car that doesn't stop. We hear the account of Driss 's death secondhand from his youngest daughter, Nora Nora is a jazz composer, who's moved to Oakland to separate herself from her family, particularly her old world mother who thinks she has her head in the clouds and should become a dentist like her older sister. There's one witness to the hit and run an undocumented man, who's terrified of coming forward and being deported to Mexico. It's another man named Jeremy a sheriff's deputy Iraq war vet and former classmate of nora's who finally cracks the case in a compl-. Unexpected turn of events along the way, he becomes attracted to Nora, and she sort of reciprocates as Nora observes death has a way of disturbing long established patterns. That's a very quick aerial view of the sprawling plot here. One of the only things that unites these various characters is that they all feel squeezed economically. Sometimes that frustration sours into resentment of the other that greasy spoon diner, for instance, that the hardworking Driss owned and turned into a tourist attraction sits next to another relic of Americana. A dilapidated bowling alley owned by an old white guy who's predictably bidder that the nineteen. Fifties have come and gone and left him in the dust. He's undeniably a stereotype, but Lalla me works hard to complicate most of the other characters here in particular ensuring that no one not even the murder victim is eligible for sainthood Lalla me's last novel. The Moore's account was. Is celebrated for its mastery of voice specifically that of its main character a sixteenth century Moroccan slave by allotting what amount to soliloquies to so many disparate characters in the other Americans Lalla me ups the ante here with uneven results. For instance, Jeremy's descriptions of his romantic feelings for Nora his wonderment about the way love could crack you open and make you bear. Your deepest self is the kind of prefab declaration you here in a hallmark movie. But Nora our main and most textured character speaks with a spare angry authenticity late in the novel. She's accepted to a prominent music festival when she arrives she's promptly mistaken for another darker skinned woman, and then one of the wait staff for you. Years. Nora tells us I had wanted to be included in one of these prestigious venues, and now that I had finally been admitted into one I felt out of place. I was caught between the contradictory urges of running away and proving myself. Should I stay or should I go? That's one of the core. Questions. Lalla me's characters ask themselves in relation to their jobs, their families and America itself what the other Americans lacks in artistic consistency. It makes up for in narrative energy and political engagement speaking as a reader that's more than enough to make me stay Maureen Corrigan teaches literature at Georgetown University. She reviewed the other Americans by Layla, lemme on tomorrow's show, the deepening crisis in Venezuela where desperate shortages of food electrical power and medicine have compelled an estimated three billion people to leave the country. Many on foot we'll speak with the New York Times. Nick, Casey about the political standoff in the country, the US role in the conflict and the prospects for change. Put can join us. Fresh Air's executive producer is Danny Miller. Our technical director and engineer is Audrey Bentham. Our associate producer for digital media is Molly seavy nesper. Roberta shorrock directs the show for Terry. Gross. I'm Dave Davies.

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