Supreme Court reporter to speak Thursday

Seminars at Steamboat series starts with The New York Times' Adam Liptak

Blythe Terrell

If you go

What: "The Roberts Court in the Obama Era" talk by Adam Liptak, put on by Seminars at Steamboat

When: 5 p.m. Thursday

Where: Strings Music Pavilion at Pine Grove and Mount Werner roads

Cost: Free, donations welcome at door

More information: http://www.yampavalley.i.... Find Liptak's work online at

— The New York Times reporter Adam Liptak took a few minutes out of a busy Tuesday to discuss his speaking engagement in Steamboat Springs.

Liptak, who reports on the Supreme Court for the Times, was monitoring the Senate confirmation hearings of court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor on Tuesday. Despite the big news, he’s headed to Steamboat and will speak Thursday as the first in the lineup of the Seminars at Steamboat.

Liptak attended Yale University, where he later got his law degree. He practiced law for 15 years before joining the Times as legal reporter, and he’s covered the Supreme Court beat for about a year. He plans to speak Thursday about the court’s role and his reporting on it.

“I want to talk a little bit about what it’s like to cover this interesting and somewhat inaccessible institution called the Supreme Court,” Liptak said. “So part of it will be to talk about the odd journalistic task of covering an institution that in one way is quite secretive and in another way has some really significant public aspects like arguments and decisions.”

Liptak said he expected the Senate to confirm Sotomayor as a justice. He said she probably wouldn’t turn the tide in the court.

“She leans in the liberal direction, and the person she’s going to replace is David Souter, so for the most part it’s a one-to-one replacement that won’t fundamentally change the makeup of the court,” Liptak said.

Liptak also covered the nominations of John Roberts Jr. and Samuel Alito Jr. and the investigation into the disclosure of the identity of Valerie Wilson, an undercover Central Intelligence Agency operative, according to a release from Seminars at Steamboat.

Bob Stein said he thought Liptak would provide insight about how the court could affect Steamboat on a local level. Stein is on the board of the Seminars at Steamboat and arranged for Liptak to participate in the series.

He said he heard Liptak speak in Washington and was impressed.

“He’s a terrific speaker; he’s an engaging speaker,” Stein said.

Also, Liptak has a hefty endorsement as an expert on the court, he said.

“The New York Times is one of the preeminent national newspapers in the country, and they would not pick him as their Supreme Court reporter : without his being extremely qualified,” Stein said.

Some of Liptak’s favorite pieces came in a series he did last year called “American Exception,” which discussed how American law differs from that of other parts of the world. He was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting for the series.

Liptak also is pleased with work he’s done about the large number of life sentences meted out in the United States, as well as work with another reporter about how campaign contributions to judges might influence their decisions. Those pieces are available on The New York Times’ Web site,

Liptak said he hopes those who attend his talk Thursday leave with an improved understanding of the Supreme Court’s function.

“I hope they get a better sense of the role of the court in American life and how much it can affect their daily life,” Liptak said.

Other speakers in this summer’s series are former U.S. Rep. Phil Sharp, president of Resources for the Future; Paul Tagliabue, former National Football League commissioner; and Alice Rivlin, the first director of the Congressional Budget Office and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

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