Noted lawyer, editor Dahlia Lithwick details SCOTUS history in Constitution Week event

The MSNBC contributor came to campus as part of a series of events tied to Constitution Week.

Savannah Peifer, Social Media Manager

Longtime lawyer and reporter Dahlia Lithwick leaned on 20 years of Supreme Court coverage to speak to the campus community on internal tensions, public legitimacy, and women in law. 

As part of Constitution Week, Lithwick served as the keynote speaker at an event called “Women, the Courts and Shifting the Notions of Liberty” in the Lifelong Learning Center Thursday.

The event coincides with the Sept. 20 release of Lithwick’s book, “Lady Justice Women, The Law, and the Battle to Save America.” Lithwick held a book signing later in the afternoon.

Her decades-long journalism career includes work in various outlets including the New York Times, Slate, and the Washington Post. 

Lithwick spoke on freedom of the press, which is guaranteed in the Constitution. “Journalists are protected by name in the Constitution,” she said. “And that is because the work of the press was deemed by the founders to be so seminal, so essential to liberty and freedom.”

She was one of the first people FAU journalism instructor Ilene Prusher contacted after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. 

“Dahlia has a way of connecting dots that might have seemed disparate,” Prusher said, “[and she] helps us bring the larger picture into sharper focus.” 

Lithwick participated in a panel with USA Today investigative reporter Daphne Duret and Joseph Van de Bogart, an attorney who specializes in election law and public interest litigation.

Political science professor Kevin Wagner moderated the panel, asking Lithwick, Duret, and Van de Bogart about their opinions and knowledge of the operations of the court system.

Wagner asked panelists about the parameters by which Supreme Court justice should make their sweeping judicial decisions. Bogart believes the operation of the Supreme Court is to rule on the written law, regardless of the response from the general public.

Lithwick noted what she believes is an unprecedented level of tension between Supreme Court justices. 

“We’ve never seen in my time covering the Court this level of intramural distrust, and intramural real willingness, I think, to air dirty laundry in front of the public,” she said.

Lithwick believes the people give power to their government. She mentioned some inherent limitations of the Supreme Court, which has very low approval numbers according to NBC News.

In short, she feels much of the American public may not see the Court as a legitimate and apolitical institution, and that notion concerns her.

“The Supreme Court has no real power,” Lithwick said. “If the Supreme Court issues a ruling, and the people hate it, the people do not have to abide by it.”

Savannah Peifer is the Social Media Manager of the University Press. For more information regarding this or other stories, email her at [email protected] or DM her on instagram @ginger.savvy