Jeffrey Toobin Delivers Rosenberg Lecture

Winter 2009

One week before the presidential election, Jeffrey Toobin, CNN’s senior legal analyst and a staff writer for The New Yorker, came to Columbia Law School to review the Supreme Court of the past and present and make a few prognostications about the Court of the future.

Toobin, who was invited to the Law School to deliver the 11th annual Maurice Rosenberg Lecture, traced the history of the Court through the latter half of the 20th century—from Brown v. Board of Education, which held school segregation unconstitutional, to Bush v. Gore, which effectively made George W. Bush the 43rd president of the United States. Toobin was selected, in part, for his intimate knowledge of the Supreme Court. The writer penned the best-selling book The Nine, which takes a behind-the-scenes look at the Court.

Toobin predicted the next vacancies on the Court would be Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg ’59, David Souter, and John Paul Stevens. And President Barack Obama, he said, is likely to replace liberal-leaning departing justices with more of the same.

“Jeff Toobin has it pretty much right,” said Columbia Law School Professor Nathaniel Persily, “in that we should see a relatively balanced Court in the near future.”

Toobin was the first journalist to deliver the annual Rosenberg Lecture, which is usually reserved for judges and justices. Persily, who worked with the writer in 2002 for a New Yorker article on redistricting, said the decision to stray was intentional.

“I thought it would be useful to get someone who could speak about politics and the law,” said Persily, “and who would not be as restrained as judges are in talking about the law.”