SCOTUS Breakpoint?

july, 2021

11jul3:00 pm4:30 pmFeaturedSCOTUS Breakpoint?Conversations on the Green3:00 pm - 4:30 pm

Event Details

The fifth virtual town hall of the season will bring together nationally recognized voices to discuss how SCOTUS’ recent and upcoming decisions impact our everyday lives.

Register here

The Trump administration’s signature achievement was the expansion of the Supreme Court’s conservative majority and the confirmation of hundreds of lower court judges, the capstone of conservatives’ 30-year mission to restructure the courts in their own image. Case by case, the Supreme Court has rewritten the rules that have long structured the way we live, how we are governed, how we worship, even who we are. Immigration. Health Care. Political representation. Reproductive and religious rights. . . It’s hard to find any aspect of daily life beyond the reach of the court’s sticky tentacles.

That’s spurred Democrats, who have tended to focus on individual decisions and appointments, to start making the court one of their touchstones. As one of the Biden administration’s first actions after taking office, the president in April appointed a commission to look at both the court’s structure and the way it operates and ordered it to issue a report within 180 days. Frustrated Democrat legislators, who see the Supreme Court’s conservative majority blocking their expansive agenda, soon joined the fray by introducing bills in both houses of Congress to shatter the right-wing judicial dominance by expanding the number of justices from 9 to 13.

In the July 11th program, some of the country’s most celebrated court watchers will explore the political maelstrom enveloping the court and how the decisions from its just-concluded session will impact the way we live.

The panel is led by Nina Totenberg, who has covered the Supreme Court for NPR for more than 50 years, making her name almost synonymous with the network. Although her reports regularly air on NPR’s acclaimed series All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and the Weekend Edition, she has contributed to a wide array of publications, including the New York Times Magazine, The Harvard Law Review, the Christian Science Monitor, and others.

Over the decades, she has provided one of the few windows into the court’s often opaque proceedings and deliberations. Her 1991 scoop on Anita Hill’s allegations of sexual harassment against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas led to the reopening of his confirmation hearings and ignited a national reckoning about sexual misconduct. She also is credited with breaking major stories about the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover, Supreme Court nominee Douglas Ginsburg, the Watergate Scandal, and the Iran-Contra affair.

Her reports on the court’s behind the scenes intrigue led Vanity Fair to describe her as the “Queen of the leeks” and Newsweek to single her out as NPR’s “crème de la crème.” But she also is well known for her work providing a pathway for women in journalism, which traditionally hired only men for serious new assignments. When late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was admitted to an exclusive social club that had rejected Totenberg, Ginsburg demurred and said, “a club that is too good for Nina Totenberg is too good for me too.”

Our second panelist is Louis Allan “Pete” Williams, the NBC Supreme Court correspondent and Pentagon spokesman known universally simply as Pete Williams. A former spokesman for Dick Cheney, both when he served in Congress and as Secretary of Defense, Williams has been at the center of myriad controversies but has earned a reputation as an anodyne and preternaturally calm workaholic.

“He was kind of a supercharged nerd with all his pens lined up in his pocket,” his brother, James, told Elaine Sciolino for a New York Times profile of the military’s frontman during the 1991 Gulf War. “His supporters and detractors acknowledge,” she wrote, “that his smooth delivery, his studious demeanor, his bland appearance, and his ease in front of the camera have made the American military seem kinder and gentler than in the days of the Vietnam War, even as he is central to the most restrictive arrangements for battlefield coverage since the Korean War.”

The winner of three Emmys and numerous other awards, including an honorary doctorate, Williams received widespread praise for his restrained, cautious coverage of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, making “NBC’s Pete Williams” trend on social media. “On a major story that has been defined by inaccurate and conflicting reports and wild speculation, Williams has been calm, diligent, and correct,” Dylan Byers wrote in Politico.

Our final panelist is Melissa Murray, a leading expert in family law, constitutional law, and reproductive rights and justice. The Frederick I. and Grace Stokes Professor of Law at NYU, which she joined three years ago, and the faculty director of the Birnbaum Women’s Leadership Network, Murray often tackles topics connecting social and cultural developments and debates in the headlines.

When a video producer was looking three years ago for an expert to discuss how the singer Beyoncé highlights social justice issues, she volunteered. “I was delighted to do it,” Murray says, “Beyoncé invokes feminism from the perspective of women of color and that really speaks to me as a scholar of feminist legal theory who thinks about where women of color enter into the conversation.”
A graduate of Yale Law School, Murray clerked for US District Judge Stefan Underhill in Connecticut and then-Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. She spent 12 years on the Berkeley faculty, eventually serving as faculty director of the school’s Center on Reproductive Rights and Justice and, from March 2016 to June 2017, as Berkeley Law’s interim dean.

Moderated by former NBC correspondent and national talk show host Jane Whitney, this interactive symposium, which begins at 3 p.m. on July 11th and runs 90 minutes, will be live streamed, allowing anyone with an internet-connected device to participate and ask questions. Tickets can be reserved for $25 at

All proceeds from Conversations on the Green events benefit local organizations including the Susan B. Anthony Project, New Milford Hospital, Greenwoods Counseling & Referrals, and the American Nurses Foundation Coronavirus Response Fund, which provides immediate assistance to those risking their lives during this crisis.

Conversations on the Green brings together nationally-recognized voices together to support its mission of educating and invigorating the American public through discussion of the country’s most provocative issues and ideas. Based in Litchfield, CT, COGs are interactive, Town Hall style forums allowing both the speakers and the audience to share experiences, perspectives and insights in an effort to build an ongoing conversation that strengthens community bonds.


(Sunday) 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm