chapter  13
24 Pages

The Public Got Strange and Distorted Views of the Court and Its Rulings

Observers have remarked from time to time that public opinion plays a particularly important role in American culture. Although the perception certainly applies to constitutionalism, it has been less commonly noticed in that regard. A complex relationship between the Supreme Court and the press has been at the core of the conundrum. From the 1790s until the 1960s, both the Court and the news media created barriers to public knowledge of constitutional change: the Court by acts of commission and the press primarily by acts of omission. Every week the Supreme Court staff mails out several hundred copies of opinions to prisoners who might be affected by a Court decision. The Supreme Court does receive spontaneous mail, an impulse that could tell a fair amount about both the public’s constitutional concerns and the Court’s customary disdain for public opinion.