Judge Harry Edwards (D.C. Circuit) has an interesting interview with the National Law Journal on the continuing sense of collegiality among federal appellate judges–even when they disagree strongly on case outcomes. This is not a new position for Edwards, who has championed the collegial perspective for many years. But on this Thanksgiving Day, when Americans take time to appreciate our common heritage and common blessings, it is a nice reminder that many on the bench try not to let their personal ideologies dictate their professional relationships.
Speaking to the Seventh Circuit Bar Association, Justice Elena Kagan told attendees that she was proud of the way the Supreme Court handled the prolonged vacancy crisis in the wake of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February 2016. She particularly praised Chief Justice Roberts for working to guide the Court toward a concrete resolution in cases which initially suggested a 4-4 split. From the Indiana Lawyer story:
During the 419 days the Supreme Court operated with an even number on the bench, the eight justices worked to find common ground so the court could issue majority opinions. Kagan said she and her colleagues learned to keep talking, listening and persuading as well as being open to persuasion.
She noted in a particularly polarizing time in American politics, the Supreme Court’s ability to find common ground offers a broader lesson.
“I think courts do model behavior,” Kagan said. “They teach people about reasoned decision-making and they teach people about collegiality. And when they’re working at their best, they also teach people about bridging differences and reaching agreement in places where you might not expect to find it.”