Who is the Supreme Court's Brutus?

July 6, 2012 Topic: Politics Blog Brand: The Buzz

Who is the Supreme Court's Brutus?

Some say the recent Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act sets a bad precedent for Congress's ability to levy taxes. But the court is also close to setting a precedent of leaks to the press about its internal decision-making process.

Writing in the Washington Post, columnist Charles Lane chastises the sources inside the Supreme Court who provided inside details on the decision to Jan Crawford of CBS. Her recent article alleged Chief Justice John Roberts switched his decision in the case.

Lane naturally wonders about the identity of the "Cassius and Brutus" leaking from inside the court but doesn't speculate too much. Still, he hints that the leaks may come from the conservative ranks of the court, perhaps from those bitter over Roberts's "betrayal" of the other conservative justices. This would be consistent with Crawford’s sources, who allege that the conservative justices unsuccessfully attempted to woo Roberts back to their side once he switched to the side upholding the law, seemingly in the face of pressure from the media and the Obama administration.

Other reports, including one from Salon, posit another "Brutus" as the source and contradict Crawford's assertion that Roberts was not involved in what eventually became the conservative dissenting opinion. Lane is asking the right questions when he wants to know who the sources are. And the Salon report calls into question the veracity of Crawford's sources. But no matter who has the story right, it appears that someone inside the court is leaking information in an effort to discredit the other side. And it's possible that this troubling saga may not be over yet.

Lane's analysis of the leaks is notable because it points to what may be an uncomfortable reality: the public assumes the Supreme Court operates apolitically. But after a ruling many pundits suggested saved the court from allegations of partisanship, these leaks show that the court isn’t immune from politics after all.