Home » News » Liberty + Leadership Podcast – Katie Barlow on Covering the Court

Liberty + Leadership Podcast – Katie Barlow on Covering the Court

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Katie Barlow ’10 is a lawyer turned journalist who hosts “In the Courts with Katie Barlow” on Fox 5 DC in addition to producing content for the SCOTUSblog’s 217K avid TikTok followers as Social Media Editor. Katie is also the co-founder of Circuit Breaker, a website focused on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

In this week’s of the Liberty and Leadership Podcast, Roger and Katie discuss her journey from journalist to lawyer back to journalist, the inner workings of the Supreme Court, what Originalism means, the importance of good writing, and her love for both TikTok and the theater.

Katie was a member of TFAS’s Journalism and Communications 2010 program and is a graduate of the University of Georgia. She has a J.D. from Georgetown University. The Liberty + Leadership Podcast is hosted by TFAS President Roger Ream ’76 and produced by kglobal. If you have a comment or question for the show, please drop us an email at podcast@TFAS.org.

 


Episode Transcript

The transcript below is lightly edited for clarity.

Roger Ream [00:00:00] Hello and welcome. I’m Roger Ream and this is the Liberty and Leadership podcast, a conversation with TFAS alumni who are making a real impact in politics, public policy, government, business, philanthropy, law, and the media. Residents of Washington, D.C. might recognize today’s guest. We’re joined by Katie Barlow, Fox 5, DC’s chief legal correspondent and a member of the TFAS Journalism and Communications class of 2010. Katie is an expert on all things surrounding the Supreme Court of the United States. At Fox 5 DC, she provides expert reporting on legal issues and hosts In the Courts on weeknights at 11:30 p.m.. When she isn’t on TV or publishing articles, she’s often seen breaking down Supreme Court rulings on SCOTUSblog’s Tik Tok. Katie’s commitment to reporting on the key legal issues of our time distinguish her as a leader in the journalism community and someone we’re proud to claim as one of ours here at TFAS. Katie, thanks so much for joining. I’m looking forward to discussing your time with TFAS and your journalism career. Katie, thank you so much for being with us today on the Liberty and Leadership podcast.

Katie Barlow [00:01:23] My pleasure. I am so excited to join you.

Roger Ream [00:01:27] Well, I have to tell you, several of my colleagues were thrilled when I told them I had to run over to the studio to record this podcast because they’re all big fans of yours. And I think a lot of people in the D.C. area at least will recognize you from your work at Fox 5 DC, as well as probably your other work covering very important issues at the Supreme Court, the federal district court and elsewhere. So thanks for joining us today.

Katie Barlow [00:01:55] My pleasure. And I keep busy, that’s for sure.

Roger Ream [00:01:59] Yes. Yes. Well, we’ll talk. Why don’t we just start? I’d love to just talk a little bit about your upbringing, your background. I know you’re from Georgia. Was it Augusta where you grew up?

Katie Barlow [00:02:10] My grandmother grew up in Augusta, actually. My mother grew up in Athens, and I grew up in a town about an hour north of Atlanta called Cumming. But most of my family lived in Athens, so Athens is kind of home to me. It’s where I went to college. But yes, born and raised in Georgia all the way through college. My parents were teachers in Forsyth County and then I went to the University of Georgia for undergrad, which happened to be a mile down the road from where my grandparents lived. So that was a delight for me.

Roger Ream [00:02:45] Well, that’s good to know, because my daughter, but more importantly, my three grandsons live in Cumming, Georgia, so I go there often.

Katie Barlow [00:02:55] That’s too funny. That county has really exploded in the last 30 years. And the evolution, not just politically, I mean, there are books to be written about that county politically, but it just has grown immensely as has Georgia.

Roger Ream [00:03:12] Yeah, the roads are all being widened and they’re adding new roads and new developments. And it’s a interesting place to navigate when I’m down there. So sometime along the way at the University of Georgia, you discovered The Fund for American Studies summer program at that time at Georgetown University. How did you come across it and what kind of motivated you to come to Washington?

Katie Barlow [00:03:35] So when I was nine years old, my mom married my stepdad and instead of them taking a honeymoon, they took a family moon and they took me to Washington, D.C. And we stayed at the Hilton right next to Georgetown Law School, which is also right next to the Capitol. Many folks maybe don’t know, but the law school is far off from the main campus.

Roger Ream [00:03:56] Right.

Katie Barlow [00:03:57] And so I fell in love with it, got somehow in my silly nine-year-old brain that that’s something that I wanted to do. And I wanted to come back one day. And one thing you may learn about me is that once I get something in my head, I have a tendency to ferociously go after it, whether for better or worse. You know, I kind of shut out all other future options at that point and kind of went steady ahead towards that goal. So I always wanted to end up in D.C. and that was kind of every step of my path after that was ultimately trying to get there. And so when I was in college my junior year, I was president of the student body at Georgia, a very busy, very intense year. And so I didn’t get to spend as much time focusing on what I wanted to do professionally. So I thought I would spend my final summer in college kind of doing what I could to get ready to try and go to law school and to go into journalism. And so I was just, you know, Googling everything I possibly could. Should I go into journalism? Should I go into something with politics and most of my friends at the time were going to work on the Hill. And that was something I actually was going back through old emails the other day and I was trying to do that too. And I’m so grateful that I didn’t and that I found TFAS. And when I found it, I remember the moment that I found it Googling and I thought, Oh my God, a program exists that combines journalism and politics. That’s exactly what I want to do. I’m going to apply and fingers crossed. And I got lucky and was able to participate in the program. And that summer changed my life.

Roger Ream [00:05:34] Oh, yeah. You interned at WTOP Radio here in Washington, if I’m not mistaken, I was told by our journalism director that you aced all three courses you took. That may be privileged information I’m giving out due to the Privacy Act, but he said you’re a top straight-A student and a great participant in the program. Did the internship help prepare you for your career and what you’re doing in journalism after that?

Katie Barlow [00:06:01] I mean, that internship that summer laid the foundation for everything. I already knew that I wanted to do something with legal journalism. I was kind of modeling my career trajectory at the time after a few women who had gone to law school practiced and then become journalists, reporters. And so I got lucky enough. I got to WTOP. It was radio, of course, but I said, Hey, I’m a broadcast major. I like TV, too. Is there anything I can do with a camera? And they started sending me around doing, you know, as much camera footage as I could on local stories. And then Dave McConnell, who was, you know, a decades long Capitol Hill correspondent for WTOP, everybody in Washington knows his voice, willingly allowed me to come shadow him. And he was so busy on the Hill that summer because there were so many stories happening. This was 2010. There’s so many laws getting passed that when Justice Kagan’s confirmation came up, he couldn’t do it all at once. And he said, hey, do you want to go, you know, sit in and listen on this and give me reports at the end of the day? And I said, Are you kidding? That is literally the greatest thing that I could imagine spending my time doing. So I got lucky enough to be there this summer that there was a confirmation. I got lucky enough to be put with Dave and I got lucky enough that Dave was so busy that he let me go sit. And so my job that summer was to sit in on Justice Kagan’s confirmation hearing. And I think I got Twitter for the first time for that very occasion. And I was literally, you know, live tweeting the hearings back in 2010. And for me, that’s what I do now. I mean, I just sat and live, tweeted Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearings. So that really started everything.

Roger Ream [00:07:47] Yeah. Well, that’s wonderful to hear. I, of course, love hearing those stories about the value of that summer experience. But it’s clear, you know, unlike many students that come to our program who are trying to figure out what to do in their careers, you had a pretty set idea that you wanted to combine journalism and law when you were an undergraduate or even before that. And that’s an interesting intersection. You’ve really accomplished a lot there. You worked after law school at Georgetown. You worked in a law firm and I understand did a lot of corporate and international work. And then how did you get back into journalism from law? You kind of started it while you’re in the law firm, right?

Katie Barlow [00:08:29] Yeah. It wasn’t the smoothest path and I have learned that it never really was for any of the folks that I kind of was modeling my career after. But I worked at a law firm here in Washington, D.C., but was based in London, actually. So a lot of my work at the law firm was international in scope. And so for a kid from Georgia, it let me travel the world and see the world in a way that I would have just never had the opportunity to do. And so I was very grateful for that experience. And I loved the practice of law. I loved my coworkers. I loved the work that we did. I found it interesting and engaging and challenging. But I told them from the very first day that I interviewed with this law firm that I would leave them one day for journalism, which, you know, in law school, a lot of people tell you, you know, just play the role, just, you know, act like you’re there for the long haul. And I didn’t follow that route and got lucky enough that they took me in. And so them knowing that kind of helped lay the foundation for later in my legal career after a few years where I said, look, I would like to start writing some on the side, I would like to start this podcast. I got an opportunity to do this national political podcast. And I also founded a website covering the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which is a very important federal appeals court. And luckily, the law firm said, yes on all fronts. That’s not necessarily something that law firms allow their associates to do. And then I also started doing some TV heads, giving some legal analysis on things, of course, then related to law firm clients at the time and had to run all of that by conflicts. But my law firm was very encouraging of me. And so I really was going to leave the law earlier than I did, but I was on a couple of cases I was really enjoying and so ultimately left in February of 2020. And I had all of these other things going on. I had podcasts, I was writing, I was doing TV hits. And then, of course, as we all know.

Roger Ream [00:10:40] The pandemic hit, right?

Katie Barlow [00:10:41] My timing could not have been worse. But thankfully, I had planned financially working at the firm all six or seven years. And I had privilege enough to be able to plan financially, to be able to  kind of hobble through for a year or two with work, wondering how long it would take me to actually get a full time job in journalism and knowing I would have to start from the ground and work my way up again. And so luckily I had that preparation and you know, for a few months I was just scrapping things together. I was freelancing and I went down to Georgia and covered the Senate runoff. And I was writing pieces for different publications. I was doing TV heads, I was doing podcasts. You know, I was just kind of taking whatever I could from the house as we all were. And then Fox 5 called me in to start doing a legal analysis for the Amy Coney Barrett confirmation and our relationship, I could talk more about how that grew, but that’s really kind of how all that started.

Roger Ream [00:11:48] Well while we’re on that, it seems somewhat unusual for a local television affiliate to have someone who specializes like you do in the law and in the courts. Maybe not unusual because it is a Washington, DC based affiliate, but that’s brave of them and very admirable that they have someone with your kind of background and expertise to cover those issues.

Katie Barlow [00:12:15] I’ll tell you, the folks, the leaders here are so thoughtful and as you said, brave and willing to take risks. And I’m certainly one of them. I mean, as you said, that’s not a ready made position in most local news outlets. And I’m so grateful for their creativity and their willingness to kind of step outside the box with me and our relationship started, really is me just doing you know, they called me on to talk about one or two things and then I called them and I said, Hey, I’m looking for a job, you know, is there anything? And at first the answer was, no, we don’t have anything. And I had asked every shop, you know, around, and I had talked to a lot of folks and really not many stations were willing to put me on TV without what’s called package writing experience. You know, you need to put together a two minute package with video and audio and tell your story. And top markets just won’t give you the time of day unless you have that for the most part. But they did. And they let me start doing what’s called a talk back, where a camera guy would come meet me, usually at the Supreme Court or DOJ or somewhere. And I’d just talk with the anchors for 2 minutes and kind of build up that skill set, build up the relationship with our audience here. And then finally, when a freelance position opened up, I was able to have a little bit under my belt, but they still took a risk on that, too. And I’m not sure anyone else would have done that except for the folks here. And I’m forever grateful for them.

Roger Ream [00:13:48] And we’ll come maybe come back to that. But before that you were doing this SCOTUS Tik Tok blog or program and I mentioned in the introduction. But tell us more about what that is.

Katie Barlow [00:14:03] Yeah, so I’m still with SCOTUSblog. Thankfully, the Fox 5 team allows me to keep doing that. So SCOTUSblog, I’m biased because I work with them. But it’s one of the preeminent sources for news on the Supreme Court and SCOTUSblog started about 20 years ago with Tom Goldstein and Amy Howe and they became just the absolute source for all things Supreme Court. We cover every single case that comes before the court. Not everyone does that. Most journalists cover, you know, a subset, and they cover every single piece of it. They cover, you know, the filings, the oral argument, the decision before, during and after. And they also have every single filing in every single Supreme Court case. So we’re not only a source for the public, but we’re a source for media outlets and reporters as well. They can come get everything they need on SCOTUSblog. And so I started working with them in 2020 as a part of all of the things I was cobbling together as their media editor. And that did not include Tik Tok in the beginning. But our founder, Tom Goldstein said, I think you should consider Tik Tok. And at first I thought, I really don’t know about this. Like, you know, that app is not for learning. And boy, was I wrong. There is such a hunger for learning and understanding, especially when we’re talking about an institution that just is not as transparent as other parts of Washington. And so I started doing those Tik Tok’s. We had early success and now we have built nearly an audience of a quarter million folks who just enjoy learning about the court and engage and ask questions and are really smart. And it’s, you know, a lot of gen-z but also all ages. And so that’s really fun for me.

Roger Ream [00:16:02] Yeah, that’s great. Well, you’ve been covering the court during a very important and contentious period. Certainly, there are calls for, you know, breaking up the court in various different ways, adding justices. You know, it’s been contentious mostly because of the Dobbs decision, but the confirmations have been contentious for probably 40 years now. Let’s talk a little bit about the way the court operates. Do you feel that the court should be more transparent and say let cameras into the arguments? And of course, that might put you out of work. I don’t know.

Katie Barlow [00:16:49] No, I have strong opinions on this. I, in fact, ran a special episode, we recently launched it a TV show with Fox 5 called In the Courts this just 30 minutes of legal news. And one of the first things I asked is can I do a special episode on cameras in the courtroom and I end the show with a minute long monologue admitting my bias in that conversation. But I absolutely think that there should be cameras in the courtroom. It is the head of the third co-equal branch of government. They make tremendously important decisions and the American public deserve to have access to that should they want it. And there are a whole host of benefits. And look, I understand there are arguments on both sides. I think some of the benefits are, you know, bringing the court into the classroom, especially as more people are talking about it. We can better understand it. Students can learn about it. Teachers can teach about it. Advocates who go before the court for the first time, the court may be better served with those advocates can watch and learn a little bit. And I just believe the American people deserve to have access to this institution. They deserve to be able to see it and not have to travel to Washington, D.C.. Book a flight, book a hotel room, then get up at the crack of dawn and wait in line and hope to be one of the lucky 100 individuals allowed inside the room watching the court do its work. However, I understand that bringing a camera in the courtroom, the justices are hesitant. They worry that it could pose security risks. I’m not sure that many people could pick all nine of the justices out on the street if they were walking past them. Perhaps more so now, but not necessarily. And that it would invite not only the advocates to grandstand or play to the cameras, but even, you know, I believe Justice Kennedy made the point when he was asked about this in the Senate that you always and maybe it was Justice Breyer, you always hope and think that your colleague on the bench is asking a question because they’re just trying to get to the bottom of an issue. But having a camera in the courtroom may at least make you think twice about why they’re asking that question in that way. And I hear, you know, a lot of the arguments against, but I think that it is 2022 and it is time to invite the American public into that room.

Roger Ream [00:19:25] Not too many years ago, The Fund for American Studies started a Law Fellows program and we now have about 30 law students who come to Washington every summer, and they have clerkships, associate ships, internships of various kinds in the legal profession. They hear from a lot of mix of federal judges and other people in the legal profession, but they also take one course through the Scalia School of Law at George Mason that focuses on different theories of originalism primarily. I’ve only learned recently that there are competing theories of originalism. And in fact and after hearing some of the recent confirmation hearings, I was ready to say we’re all originalists now, but we just take a different approach to it. But have you given much thought to this debate going on today about whether, you know, how justices should consider cases and whether they should look at some sort of originalism to adjudicate it or come to a decision in a case or whether they should apply some other standard in looking at how to determine the outcome of a case before them?

Katie Barlow [00:20:38] Well, as a lawyer, I certainly have my thoughts about that. But as a reporter, you know, I don’t have a preference or a value judgment on how they do what they do. But I do think the most important piece of all of it is a clear communication to the public of what their method is, what that means, how it works, and how it plays out practically. And I think the American public is engaging more in confirmation hearings. They’re learning more about these theories of the application of the law and interpretation of the Constitution. I’m not sure how much we talked about original while the concept hasn’t, you know, been around in its current form for that long. But, I’m not sure how much the American public even talked about that 20, 30 years ago. And so what I think is important from a reporter’s perspective and from a transparency perspective, is that we educate the public so that they understand what that means, so that they understand when their senators are voting on a judge who uses the originalist method of constitutional interpretation, they understand the outcomes that could flow from that and the outcomes that have flown from that, from the current members of the court. And that’s what I see my job as both at SCOTUSblog and with Fox 5 is helping the public understand how the court works, how the justices go about their work. And these terms, that are kind of hard to understand are amorphous. As you said, there are different versions of originalism just trying to explain to the public the best I can what the rules of the road are and how they work. My one of my favorite segments that we have on the show is WTF Legal Jargon and it’s explaining words like originalism and these legal terms of art that are purposefully inaccessible to a broad swath of the American public. Yet they are subject to what they mean on a daily basis because of the impact of the court’s decisions. And so I feel lucky that I get to do that now and I hope that the rest of my career is helping to do that so that the American public understands what originalism is. When a judge says, I’m an originalist and this is what I mean by that.

Roger Ream [00:23:12] Yeah, it seems like there are a lot of people who don’t understand that a judge isn’t always ruling in a way that’s consistent with his policy preference or her policy preference. They’re making a ruling based on the circumstances of the case and what the law says. So they jump to the conclusion that this judge liked the outcome of a case that he’s ruling on or she’s ruling on. And that’s not always the case. They’re following the law. But I think your point, your general point is so important that we need more in the classroom education about the courts, not just the Supreme Court, but how the courts operate. And as you know, having two parents who were teachers, you know, it seems like civics and all these areas just need to be strengthened in our education system.

Katie Barlow [00:24:02] I agree. I think we have seen even in the last couple of elections the way that the media and the public have discussed a lot of what’s happening and the reactionary headlines have betrayed just a fundamental lack of civic education. And I’m not sure that the two years of the pandemic helped us any with that. But I just I think it’s so important.

Roger Ream [00:24:31] You mentioned earlier that when you were looking for a position, you picked up the phone and called people at WTOP to say, do you have a job open? That is a great story and great advice, I think, for students who come to our program today. You know, we had 275 some students this summer and many of them are here to kind of figure out what to do in their careers. And we taught them how to network, how to find mentors, how to try to answer many of those questions. But that kind of advice of just call places and say, are you hiring anyone? Well, I mentioned some leadership advice or a career advice you might offer to students today who are coming going to be coming out of college soon to kind of how to figure out what direction to go or find their place in the job market.

Katie Barlow [00:25:20] Yeah, well, I typically give two pieces of advice and the first to your point, it’s okay to not know what you want to do and it’s okay to not have it all figured out, which is the opposite of where I was, and to give yourself grace. And in sorting that out and not pigeonhole yourself. But in doing that, don’t be afraid to ask to send an email to pick up the phone to people who are doing exactly what you want to do, to places who are doing the work that you’re interested in, or to places that are, you know, doing the work, not necessarily the work that you’re interested in, but are in the field that you’re interested in and see if you can find a way to pitch yourself there. I talked to a lot of journalism students from Georgia who are coming up to D.C. and don’t necessarily want to go work on the Hill. They’re interested in, you know, animal rights or they’re interested in the environment or something like that. But they also want to do media. And so I tell them, well, go find three nonprofits or groups or institutions or whoever that are doing that work. And why don’t you take a look at their social media profile, see what they’re lacking, and pitch yourself and say, Look, I know you guys don’t have this. Can I come do this for you for this summer? You know, find holes or opportunities in the places where you’re interested in the type of work that they do and see if you can you can carve out room for yourself to create something that they don’t have, because then you’re creating value for them and you’re showing creativity right off the bat. And don’t be afraid to make those pitches, even if they don’t have the capacity to pay you as an intern or take you on as an intern. Just showing that interest is impressive to the folks who you want to be having that conversation with anyway. So that’s one piece.

Roger Ream [00:27:15] That’s excellent advice.

Katie Barlow [00:27:18] The second most important piece of advice that I try to give to anyone is learn how to write and learn how to write well. Because even in broadcast, you know, we’re on TV and a lot of things are off the cuff. And you might think that that’s not a huge part of what we do. Writing is so critical to every job, personally and professionally. For the rest of your life, you will use the tool of the pen to ask for a raise, to make that initial pitch email, trying to get the job in the first place, to communicate who you are, why you’re doing what you’re doing and where you’re trying to go. And of course, in the law, it’s critically important to be able to write simply and clearly and translate things for judges and juries. But it’s important for all professionals and in your personal life too, arguably. So learn how to write and learn how to write different types of things, write emails, you know, write copy for a pitch for a client, write briefs. If you’re going that route, write you know, articles, if you’re going the journalism route. It’s important to be able to express your point clearly and succinctly and eloquently for the rest of your life. And so do as much as you can to hone your craft of writing. Take writing classes. Don’t be afraid to take harsh editors on in your life. Ask for multiple edits. Do multiple edits. It’s just so important.

Roger Ream [00:28:53] Well, I know you’ve mentioned that when you aren’t doing your work, you love to run. You love solo international travel, which is fascinating. You also love theater. Did you do theater when you were in high school or college?

Katie Barlow [00:29:09] I did.

Roger Ream [00:29:13] That must have been a valuable thing to do that has helped you later.

Katie Barlow [00:29:18] Yes. I was a huge theater nerd in high school. And there’s many, many made a Twitter joke about the theater to law pipeline and the theater to journalism pipeline. There are a lot of us.

Roger Ream [00:29:31] Did you have a chance to do, was it Ten Angry Man or To Kill a Mockingbird or play the role of a lawyer?

Katie Barlow [00:29:40] We did. No, I never played the role of a lawyer, actually, that’s funny. We did some of the classics though we did All My Sons and all of those things, but I just deeply enjoyed that part of growing up. And the experience stayed with me. And one of the happiest places I am now is thankfully now that we’re all back in a crowded theater watching that art play out before me, I just love it. I love it so much every time. My husband’s from New York. Every time we go up, I try and steal away for a couple of hours to go see a show whenever I can. So I absolutely, really huge, huge theater nerd and we live now on the corner near a theater. And it is just one of the greatest privileges of my life to to walk a couple blocks and go take in its community, but just go take in a show. But I also love running. I also love travel. Not so much solo anymore because I now have a wonderful husband who I love and loves to travel with me. But when I was at the law firm, I would work a lot internationally. And so I would find a way to, you know, get some of my own time abroad and travel on my own a little bit or use some of the many, many miles that develop to go take trips. And when you’re in your twenties in the city and not dating anyone, it’s not the easiest to get your friends to take the same vacation days or to get your schedules to match up. And so I finally said, Well, I’m just going to go do it by myself. And that took a little bit of courage.

Roger Ream [00:31:29]  A lot.

Katie Barlow [00:31:30] Yeah, but then once I did it once, it got easier. And there’s so much to be said about learning to navigate the world by yourself. There’s so much to be said about doing it as a woman. I think there are some dangers, especially internationally, depending on where you are. But I just thoroughly enjoyed it and I got to go all over. You know, I spent two weeks in Thailand by myself and went to France and Italy and just really got to it all mine. And I worked a lot in Dubai, so I got to explore the UAE a good bit as well. So I just I love it. And you learn more about the world and your mind just inevitably opens up so much more when you can explore that way. And I was very privileged to be able to do that.

Roger Ream [00:32:19] Well, let me explore one more topic related to the court. It was, you know, this summer when the very controversial decision of Dobbs came out from the court and other difficult decisions. I had a group of our students together for breakfast and I asked them, I said, Are you having really heated arguments in the dormitories over hot topics like, say, recent Supreme Court decisions? And I got this response from a student that said, no, we aren’t. We’re just listening to each other and hearing each other’s different views on these topics. And I thought, that’s perfect. That’s what I want to hear. But certainly that’s not the case in the country today. It’s very divided. There are arguments that the Dobbs decision could perhaps lower the temperature a little by sending that issue to the courts, back to the states, rather. Obviously, it’s going to play out in the elections, it appears, after, you know, some primaries this week that seem to indicate that. My more general question is, you know, do you see the courts playing a role going forward and in somehow trying to bring our country together? Or are the courts part of everything going on in the legislature, executive branch that seem to be tearing us apart?

Katie Barlow [00:33:48] Oh, that’s a good question. I don’t think they see themselves as doing anything other than the work of the court and the work of the law and letting the chips fall how they may after the decisions are made. I suppose the chief and the justices find it important that the American public, have faith in the institution, because as a number of them have said, you know, they have no sword. No police force, no purse, no ability to enforce their decisions. But for the American public’s faith. And willingness to abide by them. And so the public’s perception and belief and faith in the court is critical. And so to some extent, I think they are generally aware of that, not so much bringing the country together, but keeping the faith in the institution, I think is probably one of the North stars for the court, not that would lead them to decide one way or the other, but they do as a general matter or have as a general matter, decided things incrementally, little bits at a time. Of course, many will argue that that Dobbs was not that, but many argued that Roe was not that. And so there will always be a debate over the substance of the decisions. I think that the court is ever mindful of the country being as divided as it is, but them still needing to garner and maintain the faith in the institution. I personally believe that bringing cameras in the courtroom and allowing people to see them do their work would help with that. But I also see the other argument that it could certainly hurt as well. You know, having a video clip that you could clip for 30 seconds and making that fodder for a nightly news show could certainly stir the pot and stir the American public’s perceptions and ramp up, as you said, the divisiveness that we’ve seen with other areas of the institutions that we rely on to do the work of the country.

Roger Ream [00:36:12] Covering the court, as you have the last few years or more than just the last few years. But how good are you at predicting the outcome of cases?

Katie Barlow [00:36:21] It depends. We had a good idea that when the court took on Dobbs that they were going to move the ball there. And after oral argument, it very much looked like there were five votes to overturn. Of course, all of this is easier said in hindsight now that we have the decision. But Amy Howe, who’s a reporter at SCOTUSblog, who is quite brilliant, you know, wrote some excellent analysis to that effect and is usually quite good at breaking down when it’s clear from either oral argument or taking a case on where they’re going. I think the same thing can be said for affirmative action. That’s coming up this next term. The court is going to weigh in cases out of the University of North Carolina and Harvard about consideration of race in the admissions process, which the Supreme Court has said is acceptable as long as it’s a part of a holistic review. But now the court has decided to take this case on. So it seems clear that they have something more to say on the topic. It’s hard to imagine that they would take on a more expansive role of the consideration of race in admissions. So it seems the court’s interested in constraining the consideration of race or saying something to that effect. But, you know, we’ll learn more from oral argument, but you can kind of glean where the court’s going. Based on some of the tea leaves, but you never know.

Roger Ream [00:37:47] Yeah and they may have a case coming their way on whether the president has the authority to cancel student loans. It sounds like, given the recent news on that topic.

Katie Barlow [00:37:58] Yeah, there was a lot of chatter about that yesterday legally. I mean, I’m not steeped in the legal issues about what exactly the Department of Education had the authority to do. But there was a lot of discussion about that yesterday that I found interesting. I’m going to have to read more about what the arguments are there.

Roger Ream [00:38:17] And the last thing I wanted to ask was about whether there’s lasting impact on the court from the leaking of the Alito opinion.

Katie Barlow [00:38:27] Well, look, I don’t work at the court and I certainly can’t say for sure, but I think we’ve heard from the justices that that’s absolutely the case. You know, I think Justice Thomas said something to the effect of you’re kind of always looking over your shoulder. And Justice Kagan has lamented, you know, the public’s perception of the court and how that turns. And I think something like that just fundamentally shifts the dynamic and the personal relationships of the justices and the people who work at the court. And it’s impossible for it not to when it’s, you know, such a rare earthquake like occurrence. I imagine this term that the clerks, you know, they have a new set of clerks who have started the term is only a few weeks away. And I imagine they got a very stern talking to. But it’s also hard to imagine that it not affecting the justices work with each other, you know, willingness to send each other drafts and things like that. It’s just hard to imagine that it doesn’t affect the day to day.

Roger Ream [00:39:33] Well, thank you so much for joining us today, Katie and thank you. We’re proud of you being a TFAS alum from the year 2010. Any parting advice you would have for students who might do this program in the future?

Katie Barlow [00:39:48] Absolutely. Do it and take advantage of every single part of D.C. that you can over the summer and feel free to email me if I can ever be helpful. It’s my privilege to help get back to something that really, as I said, changed my life.

Roger Ream [00:40:04] Thank you. That’s very kind of you to offer and to share that. So it’s been a pleasure to have you with us and we’ll look forward to seeing you on Fox 5 DC and reading you and seeing you on Tik Tok as well. Thank you.

Katie Barlow [00:40:19] Thank you.

Roger Ream [00:40:21] Thank you for listening to the Liberty and Leadership Podcast. Please don’t forget to subscribe, download, like or share the show on Apple, Spotify or YouTube or wherever you listen to your podcasts. If you like this episode, I ask you to rate and review it, and if you have a comment or question for the show, please drop us an email at podcast@TFAS.org. The Liberty and Leadership Podcast is produced at kglobal Studios in Washington, D.C. I’m your host Roger Ream and until next time show courage in things large and small.


About the Podcast

TFAS has reached more than 46,000 students and professionals through academic programs, fellowships and seminars. Representing more than 140 countries, TFAS alumni are courageous leaders throughout the world forging careers in politics, government, public policy, business, philanthropy, law and the media.

Join TFAS President Roger Ream ’76 as he reconnects with these outstanding alumni to share experiences, swap career stories, and find out what makes their leadership journey unique. With prominent congressmen, judges and journalists among the mix, each episode is sure to excite your interest in what makes TFAS special.

If you have a comment or question for the show, please email podcast@TFAS.org.

View future episodes and subscribe at TFAS.org/podcast.

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