Chris Geidner October 27, 2016
Chris Geidner is the legal editor for Buzzfeed News and is based in Washington D.C. In 2014, he won the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association award for journalist of the year.
The self-proclaimed “law dork” spoke with SCOTUSDaily about getting to know the Supreme Court and what we should be most closely tracking in OT16.
How long have you been covering the Supreme Court?
I guess my first term that I covered cases was the October 2009 term. There were two cases, Christian Legal Society v. Martinez and Doe v. Reed, that were heard in the spring of 2010 that I covered while at Metro Weekly.
How has covering the court changed in that time?
It’s changed in that I’ve gotten to know the court better. I’ve gone from covering solely LGBT issues to covering everything that the court does, the ins and the outs of the court. The Supreme Court is still one of the harder areas to break into because it isn’t as online, as accessible as some other entities, and so it takes a little bit of time just to get used to all of the different peculiarities.
Why does following the Supreme Court matter? Why should we care?
The easy answer is that the court’s decisions influence every aspect of people’s lives. But following the cases that the court takes and the personalities on the court also gives a lot of insight into where the country is at any given moment and adds to a full understanding of what is happening in the other branches, as well.
Is there a need to reform the court?
There are obviously lots of things the court could do to be more transparent, to make things more accessible. For example, Buzzfeed’s work with the death penalty has led me to the realization that when executions are proceeding and last minute death penalty stay applications are coming in, if we don’t post that filing online, odds are it will not be published anywhere. The Supreme Court docket system is such that those stay applications often don’t even appear on the docket until the next day. And so we take it upon ourselves at Buzzfeed to try and post every filing that comes in for death penalty cases.
What should we be most closely tracking in OT16?
The Senate. I think that the story of a court in waiting is, in a lot of ways, what the story of the October 2016 term is going to be.
Do you have any predictions for this term?
Of course not.
Without naming names, can you describe your favorite current Supreme Court justice in three words?
I don’t think I can. I don’t think I have a favorite. I like elements of several who I find to be exceptionally intriguing. The truth is I’ve only been doing this for six years, and I’m just getting to a point where I’m really understanding a lot of what’s involved in their thinking and their process. I’m still figuring it out, honestly. Come back to me in 2020 – I’ll give you an answer then.
What has been your most memorable moment covering the Supreme Court?
I think it was being in the court for the Windsor and Perry arguments, and then being in the court for the Obergefell arguments and realizing how much had changed in such a short time. If you look back at the Perry arguments, it was clear that the court was still really uncomfortable with this idea of same-sex couples marrying, at least as a national principle. When you went into the court in 2015 for the Obergefell argument it was a really different world. Mary Bonauto got up there and had what appeared to be a fairly easy time of convincing a majority of the court that that principle – which she had a tough time convincing a majority of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to enact a dozen years earlier – was something that the court should guarantee nationally. I don’t know when there will next be a day like that at the court.