Shannon Bream March 2, 2017
Shannon Bream joined Fox News in 2007 as a Washington-based correspondent covering the Supreme Court. She also serves as anchor of “America’s News Headquarters,” and is a rotating anchor for “FOX Report.” She spoke with SCOTUSDaily about her love affair with the Supreme Court and why she’s on a mission to get more people to love SCOTUS too.
How did you get your start covering the Supreme Court?
I was a practicing lawyer years ago and did that for a few years before I started working in local media in Florida and eventually transitioned into working in journalism full-time. I was working at the local NBC station in Washington, D.C., when I met Brit Hume, who was looking for someone to cover the Supreme Court. When I initially met him at a speech he was giving, I expressed my interest in coming to work for him at Fox. He was very polite, but a little bit standoffish. But once he found out that I was a lawyer, it flipped a switch. He immediately said he needed somebody to cover the Supreme Court, and over the course of several months I wound up at Fox. I feel really blessed to use my legal background along with everything I love about journalism.
What is it about the Supreme Court that you love, and how long this love affair has lasted?
I think I fell in love with the court when I was in law school. In one of our third-year classes each student was assigned the role of a justice, and we would alternate. You really got to get into the reasoning they had behind the decisions they made, and you got to take on their logic and how they came to their conclusions. It was a really interesting way to learn the personalities of the justices and have a greater appreciation for what they actually do. What I’m always trying to share with people is that what the court does actually impacts your life every day. You may not be able to name one of the nine—currently eight—justices, but they make decisions that affect everything from the taxes you pay to the schools your kids attend to how you use your personal property.
I’m kind of on a mission to make sure that people understand that it does matter.
Did you have a favorite justice when you were doing that exercise?
I didn’t really become a fan of any one justice in particular. I became a fan of the entire court and its process. It was such a learning experience for me to really dig in and follow the reasoning and writing of each justice who weighed in. The justices all have such distinct personalities. Whether you think you would line up with them personally or ideologically, I find that it really doesn’t matter. You gain such a respect for what they do and the gravity of what they do.
I’ll have people say to me, “Oh, they only hear arguments a couple of times a month, and then they’re off…What are they doing all the time?” They are deciding matters of great historic importance, and there’s so much research and writing and advocacy behind the scenes. They lobby each other; they try to change votes. I think there can be a really well-done TV show on how this works, and maybe that’s the way you get people more engaged. I don’t know how easy it would be to do it accurately, but I think if people really understood what was going on behind those closed doors they would have more of an interest.
I like that — a Supreme Court TV show. We should put a pitch together.
We should start casting now.
Are any changes that you would like to see at the Supreme Court?
Because so many politicians and public figures are very interactive with their interested viewers or constituents on social media now, I think it would be fascinating to see how the justices would interact online. Whether it’s Facebook or Instagram, just sharing pictures or sharing thoughts, I think if people knew more about their personalities they’d be more engaged.
I know it’s a tricky proposition but I look at Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett. He really gives people a different view of what a state supreme court justice can be like. They can be serious and intellectual and brilliant but can also be very funny. So, I don’t know if it will happen in my lifetime, but I would love to see some of the justices on social media.
It was Justice Kagan who said earlier this week during oral arguments that everyone’s on Twitter these days and when I read that I thought to myself…but are you on Twitter, Justice Kagan?
You wonder secretly if some of them are. They may be like my husband who has an account so he can follow all kinds of people that he cares about, but he doesn’t tweet. And we have other people at Fox who are personalities who want to be able to look around without being detected, so maybe some of the justices are doing the same.
What are some of the challenges you face translating Supreme Court cases and issues live on TV?
I think there are pros and cons. You have the immediacy of TV, but then somebody hands you a 50- or 100-page opinion, and the number one thing is getting it right, which is really difficult, especially when you have concurring opinions and split opinions and multiple dissents that have to digest as quickly as you can. You’re in a pressure cooker when you’re on live TV. I want to make sure what I’m saying is not too wonky and that people understand why it matters to their life. So accuracy and real-world impact – those are the two things I’m trying to communicate on television, and it’s a real-time experience for everybody involved, which can be frightening.
Frightening, but fun.
Oh, absolutely. It’s the biggest adrenaline rush! I don’t plan to drop out of planes – there’s no skydiving for me…not going to wrestle alligators – but I would say the adrenaline level is the same as the final day of the Supreme Court term when you get those opinions, and you have to quickly digest and communicate them.
Okay, so no wrestling alligators for you. Got that.
No. No, no, no. And I grew up in Florida where that’s a thing!