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Standing Committee of Correspondents: SCOTUSblog Fails to Demonstrate Editorial Independence

The journalists in charge of Capitol Hill press credentials for daily publications are standing firm on their decision to deny SCOTUSblog’s application, stating that the publisher fails the “fundamental test of editorial independence,” primarily because he and his law firm argue cases before the high court.  

During a brief Monday morning meeting, Standing Committee of Correspondents for the Daily Press Chairwoman Siobhan Hughes, a Capitol Hill reporter for the Wall Street Journal, asked the four fellow journalists on the committee if there was  a motion to reconsider the heavily scrutinized April decision.  

The reporters assembled in a meeting room on the first floor of the Capitol — employees of Stephens Media Group, the Washington Post, Bloomberg and CQ Roll Call — remained silent. In the month since SCOTUSblog publisher Tom Goldstein and veteran courts reporter Lyle Denniston appeared before the panel for a 90-minute public appeal hearing , none had changed their mind. Instead, they signed off on a letter to Goldstein that explains why SCOTUSblog fails to pass muster for the gallery’s standards of  editorial independence. The three-page letter , dated June 23, explains the three ways that SCOTUSblog fails to meet the requirements of Rule 4 of the standards for issuing a congressional press pass.  

Rule 4 states, in part, that applicants’ publications must be “editorially independent of any institution, foundation or interest group that lobbies the federal government, or that is not principally a general news organization.”  

Based on Goldstein’s role as both publisher with editorial control and Supreme Court lawyer, the letter states that SCOTUSblog fails the test of independence. They describe the award-winning blog as “editorially intertwined” with a law partner and a firm that lobbies the federal government.  

The letter states that SCOTUSblog would need to be independent of Goldstein and his law firm, Goldstein & Russell, because neither is principally a general news organization.  

Finally, the letter cites a 2013 interview Goldstein did with the American Bar Association, in which he stated that SCOTUSblog indirectly accounted for 75 percent of the law firm’s SCOTUS business. Asked to give ABA a sense of how much business he received “in dollars or percentage” from the blog, Goldstein estimated it contributed to “75 percent of the Supreme Court work that I get hired to do.”  

The journalists conclude that Goldstein uses the blog as a platform for publicity material about himself, “making the blog part of his personal brand.”  

Goldstein was not immediately available for comment Monday morning. He told CQ Roll Call he was tied up in SCOTUSblog coverage of opinions and orders issued by the court.