CNN's Toobin Plays Up Scalia's 'Overwhelmingly White Male' Clerks

February 19th, 2016 3:46 PM

On Friday's CNN Newsroom, Jeffrey Toobin somehow thought it was necessary to point out that Justice Antonin Scalia's 120 Supreme Court clerks — many of whom were waiting for his casket to arrive at the Court — consisted of "an overwhelmingly white, male group." Toobin made this statement as the camera zeroed in on eight individuals who all appeared to be white, as they stood vigil in front of the Court [see screen capture at right]. However, moments later, a different camera shot showed a middle-aged Asian male clerk lined up with three female clerks, along with a clerk who appeared to be African American [see screen capture below].

Minutes after Toobin's eyebrow-raising remark, justice correspondent Pamela Brown provided a beyond skin-deep detail about Scalia's clerks: [video below]

PAMELA BROWN: Well, certainly, a very somber scene here at the high court — as you see, members of the court police are standing here waiting for the casket to arrive; and behind them, many of Justice Scalia's former clerks are here. He had 120 clerks over his three decades here as a justice at the Supreme Court. Some of them are lined up outside. Presumably, some of his family members — we know that Paul Scalia — Father Paul Scalia, who is a priest, will be leading the private ceremony today. He is expected to be in attendance. Some of his former clerks will be the honorary pallbearers — including Paul Clement, a former solicitor general. And also, interesting, as we look at the former clerks lined up here: many people don't know this about Justice Scalia, but over the years, he — he liked to have at least one liberal clerk to help challenge his opinions. And so, presumably, some of those former clerks will be here as well.

The CNN legal analyst certainly has made no secret of how he viewed the now-deceased Supreme Court justice. He labeled Scalia a "1950s social conservative" during an October 2013 segment on Anderson Cooper 360. Toobin blasted the jurist as a "Fox News Justice" in an April 2015 column for The New Yorker.

Two months later, on the day that the Court legalized same-sex "marriage," the liberal pundit referred to Scalia as the "get off my lawn justice," and claimed that there was "outward bigotry" in a dissenting opinion he gave in an earlier LGBT-related case in 2003. Less than a week after that decision, Toobin also asserted that Scalia's dissent was "unprecedented in its vitriol," and added that "his level of hostility and ridicule of his colleagues was unlike anything I have seen in 20 years of covering the Court and really a different level of magnitude in terms of his abuse and contempt for his colleagues I'd ever seen before."

The transcript of the relevant portion of Jeffrey Toobin's reporting during CNN Newsroom's live coverage of the arrival of Justice Scalia's casket at the Supreme Court on February 19, 2016:

CAROL COSTELLO: Good morning. I'm Carol Costello, live from the U.S. Supreme court. We can see a ceremony is about to get underway, as we await the arrival of the casket of Justice Antonin Scalia. All of those people lining up are his former law clerks.

I want to bring in Jeffrey Toobin. He's the expert in all things Supreme Court — and it just looks beautiful, right?

[CNN Graphic: "Soon: Scalia's Casket Arrives At Supreme Court"]

JEFFREY TOOBIN: It is really. It is a physical symbol of how close law clerks are to their — to the judge they serve. Many of — Supreme Court law clerks go on to prominent positions in the legal community. In that group, among them, are possible Supreme Court nominees themselves — people like Paul Clement, who clerked for Justice Scalia. He was President George W. Bush's solicitor general, and a prominent advocate before the Supreme Court. He's in that group. Jeffrey Sutton, another prominent judge on the Sixth Court of Appeals, is there. Paul Cappuccio, who is the general counsel to our parent company, Time Warner — Time Warner — is in that group, but I don't see them there.

It is — I think you have to say, as you can look — an overwhelmingly white, male group. Justice Scalia — almost all of his clerks were white men, as you can see, in that group. And they are awaiting the arrival of the hearse in — in a few minutes, I think—

COSTELLO: Yeah — in a few minutes—

TOOBIN: If tradition holds, the justices themselves will appear on the stairway to pay their respects publicly—

COSTELLO: And just a word about how many law clerks there are — because, keep in mind: Justice Scalia was — what? Appointed in 1986 by President Reagan—

TOOBIN: '86 — right—

COSTELLO: So all of them representing a different era, right?

TOOBIN: Right — and many of them are now — you know, law clerks tend to clerk for the Supreme Court two years out of law school, but — so that means they're in their late 20s. Those people who are — who clerked 30 years ago are in their mid and late 50s. So, this is an entire generation of — of prominent lawyers. Each — each justice has four law clerks. So, it's four every year times 30 years. That's 120 people. That's — that's a lot of lawyers.