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Are those boxers or briefs under your robes? So far, that question appears not to have been asked of or answered by Supreme Court justices. But it may only be a matter of time. During 2007, perhaps liberated by a more media-savvy new chief justice, the usually invisible robed ones stepped out as never before. And it was not just Justice Clarence Thomas on his book tour. Justice Stephen Breyer appeared on a National Public Radio quiz show, and Justice John Paul Stevens gave his first television interview ever to ABC News (after President Gerald Ford’s funeral). Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg talked with Debra Bruno of Legal Times about her law school days. Topping them all: Revelations, approved by retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, that her husband, John, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, had developed an attachment to another woman at the care center where he lives. “A citizenry that knows the justices will have more respect for their work,” says David Garrow at Cambridge University. Personality matters, The New Republic‘s Jeffrey Rosen agrees, but he still urges justices to keep “a measure of distance” from celebrity culture. That distance remains in three key areas, with no change likely soon: Health: Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. has offered no public report on his health since he was briefly hospitalized in July for a seizure near his Maine summer home. Roberts’ stinginess with information is exactly how justices through history have handled health issues. Recusals: Justice Anthony Kennedy recused in two cases involving government payment of private school special education tuition. Like most colleagues he won’t say why, but with the other justices split 4-4, the larger issue may never get resolved. Television: “We don’t want it!” Kennedy told the Senate Judiciary Committee, hoping to thwart moves to force the Court to allow cameras into its proceedings. No final action yet on Capitol Hill.
Tony Mauro can be contacted at [email protected].

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