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Reason #4,962 Why Newspapers Matter Or Why Justice Gorsuch Is On The Cafeteria Committee

April 10, 2017

Where would a story like this fit into the world of television news?  With time limits and the way consultants micro-mange content the following from the Washington Post does two things.  First it makes for a really great news story that is timely, insightful, and humorous.  The second thing this story does is confirm yet again why newspapers matter.

No one could have known it at the time, but at the end of last summer, Justice Elena Kagan gave Neil M. Gorsuch a face-to-face tutorial on what it means to be the Supreme Court’s newest justice.

It starts in the kitchen.

“I’ve been on the cafeteria committee for six years. (Justice) Steve Breyer was on the cafeteria committee for 13 years,” Kagan said at a Colorado event where she was being interviewed by Gorsuch and Timothy M. Tymkovich, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.

Gorsuch and Tymkovich both were on President Trump’s list of potential Supreme Court nominees at the time, and it just so happened that they asked what it was like to be the most junior justice.

Kagan is a storyteller, and knows this is a topic that audiences usually eat up, so she played it for all it was worth.

The junior justice has three unique responsibilities, she said. But in recounting them, she always starts with the fact that the newest justice is assigned to cafeteria duty and keeps it until the next justice is confirmed.

“I think this is a way to kind of humble people,” she said during the “fireside chat” at the elegant Broadmoor resort in Colorado Springs. “You think you’re kind of hot stuff. You’re an important person. You’ve just been confirmed to the United States Supreme Court.

“And now you are going to monthly cafeteria committee meetings where literally the agenda is what happened to the good recipe for the chocolate chip cookies.”

The justices eat lunch together on the days when they hear oral arguments, Kagan explained. 

“Somebody will say, ‘Who’s our representative to the cafeteria committee again?’ Like they don’t know, right? And then they’ll say, ‘This soup is very salty.’ And I’m like supposed to go fix it myself?”

You might guess it was not the first time Kagan has told the story. But, as she says, she’s worried about the cookies and the soup since 2010–her biggest contribution has been to install a frozen yogurt machine–so who would begrudge her?

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