‘Injustice 5, Justice 4’

The Atlantic

This headline, borrowed from a New York Times editorial, pretty well sums up the news media’s portrayal of a May 29 Supreme Court ruling that an Alabama woman suing her former employer for sex-based pay discrimination had not filed her claim within the congressionally prescribed time limit.

In The Times, that headline could only refer to one grouping: The usual four conservatives plus sometime-conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy voting down the usual four liberals. With Bush-appointed Justice Samuel Alito writing the majority opinion, and Clinton-appointed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg reading her dissent from the bench and urging Congress to "correct" the Court, this rather technical case, Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber, instantly became a magnet for media moaning of the barbarians-at-the-gate genre.

"The Supreme Court struck a blow for discrimination this week," The Times began. The Court "has read the law so rigidly that it has misread life," chimed in the Los Angeles Times. The Washington Post‘s front-page news report devoted (by my count) four paragraphs to the nuts and bolts of the decision, four and a half paragraphs to the majority’s analysis and supportive quotes, and 17 and a half paragraphs to Ginsburg, her dissent, and other critics. "A harsh and rigid reading of the law … striking for its lack of empathy," Ellis Cose complained in Newsweek. He seconded the American Civil Liberties Union’s charge that this was an "astonishing decision" by an "activist court."

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