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Based on his instinct, Goldstein's Akin Gump interns started tracking Sotomayor's record last summer, and last week Scotusblog examined 13 of her rulings as an appeals court judge. "What I do is profoundly boring to most people," he says.
A graduate of American University's law school, Goldstein founded a small firm -- soon joined by his wife -- in the third bedroom of their Northwest Washington home. He pursued his goal, to become a Supreme Court practitioner, by cold-calling lawyers in cases that might be headed for high court review. Goldstein was denigrated by more credentialed members of the bar as an overeager ambulance chaser, but the strategy worked: He has argued 21 cases before the Supreme Court. (Goldstein still finances his old firm, which includes his wife and remains at his home, now in Chevy Chase, a few doors down from Chief Justice John Roberts. The firm is an Akin Gump subcontractor.)
White House officials had asked to consult Goldstein on the court vacancy, but by the time he returned from a weekend in Paris, Obama had made his choice. Determined not to miss the action, Goldstein canceled a meeting in Los Angeles with a top producer about a reality series based on his life, the rights to which were bought by Sony Pictures Television. ("They must be smoking crack," Goldstein says.) A poker fanatic who plays with pots as large as $100,000, he also delayed plans to compete in the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas.
Goldstein believes Sotomayor will be easily confirmed "unless someone finds a love child." Having declared the nomination battle over on Scotusblog, the media's favorite court pundit may have to return to full-time lawyering, at least until the story heats up again.
Footnote: Scotusblog got shout-outs yesterday on both "This Week" and "Face the Nation." Not bad for a fairly dense legal blog.
Backstage With Obama
Brian Williams, who keeps an autographed copy of Warren Burger's Supreme Court on his office wall, was struck by what happened when he asked President Obama about the Sonia Sotomayor nomination.
"After I'd asked a cluster of questions, he went back," the NBC anchor says. "He hadn't exhausted the topic. They are clearly angry at some of the comments and coverage."
The interview, which made news, was part of a prime-time series -- "Inside the Obama White House," airing tomorrow and Wednesday -- that so far has produced 150 hours of tape. A tired-sounding Willliams, who covered the Clinton White House and was an intern in the Carter White House, was delighted at the level of access, which will continue with interviews tomorrow.
"There's stuff we've never seen of how the White House operates," he says. "We were pretty stunned at how much we were able to record and how natural events seemed to be."
He recalls "walking through the West Wing and Secretary Clinton drops by to see the president. To be in the hallway when the president walks by with a handful of M&Ms, popping them in his mouth as he goes to visit his chief of staff -- it was unbelievable. I don't think the expression 'took up residence' is hyperbolic." He also spent time with Michelle Obama and went out for burgers with the president.
Such specials are part of a 40-year NBC tradition, but Williams had to make the sale, a lobbying effort that began before the election. Chief of staff Rahm Emanuel allowed the network to record some senior staff meetings but, says Williams, "Rahm closed the door in front of our crew eight times."
While such behind-the-scenes programs tend to be positive, Williams hopes to highlight the sacrifice involved in staff jobs so viewers "will see White House aides as people. There's emotion in it, pathos, personality."