Monday, September 24, 2007

Consensus and Transparency

Ever since the early 19th century, there has been a vigorous debate about whether the Supreme Court and other appellate courts are best served by consensus or transparency — by unanimous opinions written by the chief justice, which was John Marshall’s view, or by separate opinions in which individual justices make their disagreements clear, which was the view of Marshall’s distant cousin and archrival, Thomas Jefferson. Roberts has explicitly embraced Marshall’s vision. Stevens, however, takes the Jeffersonian view. “I don’t believe in suppressing dissent,” he told me. “If you disagree you should say so. . . . I just feel I have an obligation to expose my views to the public.”

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