Man Without Qualities

Monday, June 07, 2004

The Media Just Report What They Think Is Material

The Supreme Court just held that a 1976 federal law does allow some people to sue foreign governments - such as Austria - for such things as the return of property looted by the Nazis. That all seems fine, if dry and rather technical. No doubt the Justices got a lot of briefing about long-standing theories of foreign sovereign immunity and Congressional intent. But what's with the bizarre closing sentence in the Associated Press article - which the New York Times reproduces:

Justice Stephen Breyer, in a concurring opinion, said that Americans will still likely have to pursue claims in foreign countries first, and they may face other obstacles in U.S. courts, including statutes of limitations. Breyer is one of two Jewish members on the court.

Is this supposed to be some insinuation that Justice Breyer was influenced by his ethnicity consciously or, worse, unconsciously? Or that the case had special meaning to him because of his ethnicity? Or that the dissenters didn't vote with the majority because of their ethnicities? If any of those amazing insinuations was intended, it should have been spelled out.

Just why the heck was Justice Breyer's ethnicity noted at all? And if a need was felt at the AP to cite some irrelevant factoid about the man, why didn't the AP and the Times point out, for example, that Breyer is one of two members on the court appointed by President Bill Clinton. Or Breyer is one of two members on the court less than [insert favorite applicable age of Justices.] Or any number of other things.

Will the AP and the Times be running the same unexplained annotation of Justice Breyer's ethnicity if he separately concurs in, say, a Court decision construing the right of national banks to charge interest at rates they set independently of local and state regulation? One can hardly wait.

Comments: Post a Comment