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WASHINGTON — A cornucopia of inside information about cases, as well as the daily trivia of life at the Supreme Court, went on view Thursday as the Library of Congress released the exhaustively detailed papers of the late Justice Harry Blackmun. Initial forays into the files indicated that Blackmun, who retired from the court in 1994 after 24 years as a justice, cooperated extensively with the authors of the controversial 1979 book “The Brethren” and that the court in his time was the scene of numerous vote changes that altered the outcome of major cases. In 1992, shifts by Justice Anthony Kennedy turned Planned Parenthood v. Casey from an anti-abortion ruling to one that upheld Roe v. Wade and changed Lee v. Weisman from a decision that upheld middle school graduation prayers into one that found such prayers violate the First Amendment’s establishment clause. Kennedy’s switch in Casey was first reported soon after the ruling was issued, but the disclosure on the religion case appears fresh. Among the more than 530,000 documents released Thursday was Blackmun’s FBI file, which details the investigation into the 1985 episode in which a bullet crashed through a window in Blackmun’s Arlington, Va., apartment. The FBI concluded that the bullet had been fired from across the Potomac River in Georgetown, and its downward trajectory made the chances that it was aimed at Blackmun specifically “very remote.” Scholars, journalists and “line sitters” began waiting outside the Library of Congress Madison Building at 6 a.m., and by the time the doors opened at 8:30, more than 30 people were waiting for access. Blackmun, who died in 1999, directed that his papers would be made public on the fifth anniversary of his death. The New York Times and National Public Radio were given exclusive early access, and their reports began appearing Thursday morning. But that did not discourage other journalists from mining the files for items of interest. Minneapolis Star-Tribune reporter Rob Hotakainen arrived at 7 a.m. in search of “Minnesota tidbits” from the justice who lived most of his early life in St. Paul. He was not disappointed. Blackmun’s file on “The Brethren” was a popular destination because of the continuing mystery over who offered the book’s authors behind-the-scenes insights into the court under late Chief Justice Warren Burger. The book caused a furor, and Burger among others complained that clerks and justices had revealed self-serving secrets in violation of their obligations to keep court deliberations private. Blackmun himself has pinpointed the late justice Potter Stewart as the primary source for authors Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong, but Blackmun’s files confirm that he, too, was a willing source. Memos in the file indicate that Blackmun spoke more than once with Armstrong, and encouraged former clerks to do the same — though through his secretary he warned one clerk that “he should not underestimate Scott Armstrong as he is a very smart reporter.” Several former clerks contacted Blackmun after being approached by the authors in 1978 to find out if Blackmun wanted them to decline. But Blackmun sent word that he approved their talking with the authors. In one memo, an unnamed aide to Blackmun reports calling one of the justice’s clerks to say that “the other clerks have talked to Scott Armstrong as well as the justice himself, and that the justice has no objection to his seeing Mr. Armstrong.” Armstrong on Thursday confirmed that Blackmun spoke with him. “We divided up the justices, and he was one of mine.” But Armstrong, now executive director of the D.C.-based Information Trust, says, “I don’t feel comfortable saying what he did or did not do.” The file on the 1994 case Callins v. Collins, in which Blackmun declared his opposition to the death penalty, offered revealing details of the justice’s decision-making process. Clerks apparently wrote virtually all the opinion in advance, leaving blank spaces and waiting for the appropriate death penalty case. At one point, the blanks were filled in for Texas death row prisoner Gary Graham, whose case had become a cause celebre. But it was ultimately filed in a more routine case as a dissent from the denial of review for another Texas inmate, Bruce Callins. “From this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death,” Blackmun’s dissent declared. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Kennedy’s turnabout saved Roe v. Wade –Blackmun’s most famous opinion, declaring in 1973 that women have the right to abortions. When the justices took their first vote in a private conference in Casey, Kennedy voted to overturn Roe. But he later switched and joined Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and David Souter in a “troika” writing a joint opinion that preserved the abortion right with some restrictions. But in Blackmun’s chambers, the development was viewed with suspicion. Stephanie Dangel, the Blackmun clerk handling the case for him, wrote a memo to Blackmun. “Given the middle ground that they have taken, I fear the decision may have the effect of removing abortion from the political agenda just long enough to ensure the re-election of President Bush and the appointment of another nominee from whom the far right will be sure to exact a promise to overrule Roe,” Dangel wrote. President George H. W. Bush was defeated by Bill Clinton in November 1992, and Clinton appointed two justices — Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer — who support Roe. In another memo on the Casey case, Dangel reports to Blackmun that Kennedy objected to Blackmun’s reference to Chief Justice William Rehnquist in his concurrence as “the chief,” rather than “chief justice.” Wrote Dangel: “While I have my doubts as to whether he deserves to be called �justice’ on this one, I guess there’s no need to ruffle feathers needlessly.” In the final version of Blackmun’s concurrence, Rehnquist is referred to as the chief justice. Still another memo by Dangel refers to the fact that “evil Nino” had not yet circulated his dissent in the case — referring to Justice Antonin Scalia. Dangel, now a Pittsburgh, Pa.-area lawyer and writer, said Thursday that at the time emotions at the court were running high. “There’s no avoiding the fact that the court had become politicized on the issue.” She adds, “The vast majority of the memos are pretty dry. These do stand out. I have mixed feelings about them coming out.” One of the richest resources in the files was one containing notes sent between justices while on the bench. “Harry, the court took the wrong turn today in the Free Exercise case in my view. It pains me,” Justice O’Connor wrote on April 17, 1990, the day the court handed down Employment Division v. Smith, which said Oregon could punish members of a Native American church who used peyote in religious rituals. O’Connor concurred, but wrote separately, and Blackmun wrote a dissent. A 1992 note from Justice Byron White was a sarcastic jab at fellow justices who pounce on lawyers with early and frequent questions during oral argument. “Harry –Five minutes went by before the first question. That’s a record, at least for the last few years.” In 1993, Blackmun sent a note to Chief Justice Rehnquist remarking that the court’s legal counsel must not have much work to do, because he had been in the court watching all the oral arguments that week. Rehnquist’s tart reply: “There is probably enough work for 1 1/2 rather mediocre lawyers in the legal office — one could do it alone, but there is not enough for two.” The context is not clear, but in 1975, Rehnquist — then an associate justice — sent Blackmun a bawdy limerick: “There was a young girl from Cape Cod, who thought little kids came from God. But it wasn’t the Almighty who lifted her nighty. It was Roger the Lodger by God.” Blackmun also wrote notes to himself during oral argument, such as the time in 1990 when Rehnquist from the bench corrected a lawyer who had used the incorrect word “irregardless.” Blackmun’s verdict on Rehnquist: “Judicial peevishness.” Legal Times associate opinion editor Evan P. Schultz contributed to this report.

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