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SCOTUS Press Office Doesn't Proofread Student Newspapers

By Robyn Hagan Cain on April 15, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Lewis and Clark Law School Dean Robert Klonoff has an impressive résumé. According to the school’s website, he graduated from Yale Law School, clerked for the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and worked as an Assistant to the Solicitor General. He’s even argued before the Supreme Court eight times.

But he clearly doesn’t know that first thing about Supreme Court press policies.

On April 4, Chief Justice John Roberts joined Ninth Circuit Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain and District Judge Anna Brown at Lewis and Clark to judge a moot court competition. (That, in itself, is another accomplishment for Dean Klonoff, who told The Oregonian that he thought it was the first visit from a sitting chief justice to an Oregon law school.) The masses -- 500 strong -- gathered in the school's chapel to watch the competition. The panel declared a winner and offered feedback. The crowds disbursed, and everyone proclaimed the event a roaring success.

The only blemish on an otherwise shining moment was an article for the school newspaper, The Pioneer Log. Or, we should say, the lack of an article. School officials blocked publication of student reporter Anthony Ruiz's "glowing account" of the event, claiming that the Supreme Court press office had to give approval first, The Oregonian reports. (Brief thanks, Above the Law.)

That, of course, is simply ridiculous because the Supreme Court press office can't stop a paper from publishing an article about the Court.

It turns out that the kerfuffle was just a big misunderstanding.

The school spokesperson, Lise Harwin, said that the school assumed the court office wanted to review the story because it has reviewed promotional materials announcing the event. The Court's press office assumed they were getting a copy as a formality, and didn't realize that the school was seeking "approval."

And, while Klonoff said he told school reporters before the event that the Supreme Court office would need to check their stories for accuracy, he now concedes that it was a mistake. "The last thing in the world I would ever want to do is censor a student paper or exercise any sort of substantive review over what the students had written. I believe firmly in the First Amendment, and I know the Supreme Court does as well."

While Ruiz didn't get to publish his story as early as he would have liked, at least he learned an important lesson: The Supreme Court press office doesn't act as a fact checker for college newspapers.

Good to know.

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