Previously Private SCOTUS Files Released to Public

Previously Private SCOTUS Files Released to Public

( – The inner workings of the US Supreme Court are often cloaked and kept from the public’s view. However, the Library of Congress recently released decades worth of documents that offer a peek behind the curtain, offering a glimpse of some of the backroom wrangling that occurs in the nation’s highest court.

Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens turned over decades of records he accumulated while serving on the bench to the Library of Congress shortly after he retired from public service. In 2020, the library’s archivist released a series of documents covering ten years, ending in 1984. Likewise, another batch covering the next 20 years was recently released. The remaining papers covering 2005 to 2010 are scheduled to go out in 2030.

The newly released documents cover several issues, such as the highly disputed 2000 presidential election, recount, and eventual victory of George W. Bush over his Democratic opponent Al Gore with the help of a favorable decision by the Supreme Court along party lines. The papers also reveal the high court’s concerted efforts to appear non-partisan in the “Clinton v. Jones” case, which was decided in 1997.

Stevens wrote the court’s opinion on the case, in which the nine justices unanimously ruled against Clinton, holding that he couldn’t claim immunity as president to avoid a civil lawsuit Paula Jones brought against him. She claimed that Clinton sexually harassed her during his time as the Governor of Arkansas.

The documents also show how some of the Supreme Court justices wanted to stick by each other in the decision. However, there was at least one justice, Antonin Scalia, that urged the others to avoid ruling on the issue, claiming it could lead to public distrust and tarnish the court’s image as an impartial entity.

It was important for the Supreme Court justices to keep everyone on board with the decision it was making. Ultimately, the high court’s unanimous decision in the high-profile case helped the justices avoid accusations of partisanship.

~Here’s to Our Liberty!

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