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      Philadelphia Speaker Series

      Jeffrey Toobin Entertains at Philadelphia Speakers Series

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      Philadelphia Speakers Series

      Delaware Law School students Zachary Schnapp, left, and Randi Guzsaly join Jeffrey Toobin at the Philadelphia Speakers Series.

      The Philadelphia Speakers Series recently welcomed author and CNN analyst Jeffrey Toobin, who considered the evolving loyalty justices on the U.S. Supreme Court display toward their own political agendas.

      While the court has often been thought of as a safe haven from the irrationalities of politics, Toobin's remarks wandered through the makeup of the court over time and demonstrated its modern tilt toward political extremes.

      "We have a polarized Supreme Court, a polarized Congress and a polarized electorate," he said of the current state of affairs.

      Toobin is best known for his books, The Oath and The Nine, which chronicled the inner workings of the Supreme Court. He began his career clerking for a federal judge and later served as associate counsel to Lawrence Walsh during the Iran-Contra affair and Oliver North's criminal trial. Today, he provides legal analyses on high-profile cases for CNN and The New Yorker.

      Today's Supreme Court is made up of four liberal Democrats, four conservative Republicans and Justice Anthony Kennedy, a swing-vote moderate. Their votes are largely predictable. Toobin said it wasn't always this way.

      For example, he recalled how Republican President Richard Nixon made four appointments to the court. "Republicans of the 1970s were utterly different from today," Toobin said. They were moderates, but not socially conservative or overly religious. Three of the four Nixon appointees voted in the majority on Roe v. Wade.

      "That would be completely impossible on today's Supreme Court," he said.

      The shift began under President Ronald Regan, who Toobin said was lobbied by Edwin Meese, his attorney general, to appoint justices that would promote a conservative agenda. At the time, young lawyers Samuel Alito and John Roberts had arrived in Washington and were paying attention. Today, Roberts serves as chief justice and Alito is considered one of the court's most conservative voices. Republican President George W. Bush appointed both of them to the court.

      "If you look at the Roberts court, they have been much more aggressive than conservative courts in the past," Toobin said. "These are different kinds of conservatives."

      Citing two notable exceptions – the court's support for gay marriage and the Affordable Care Act – Toobin said what's next for the court is anyone's guess. "That, of course, depends on who leaves," he said.

      The next installment of the Speakers Series happens Nov. 27, when journalist and author Cokie Roberts comes to Philadelphia. Roberts is best known for her role as a senior news analyst for NPR. She is also a regular roundtable analyst on This Week with George Stephanopoulos and serves as a political commentator for ABC News.

      The next Philadelphia Speakers Series will feature Cokie Roberts November 27, 2017.


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