Lyle Denniston Leaves SCOTUSblog

His departure leaves SCOTUSblog without full-time credentials, but not without a plan.

Photo Credit: Rpogge via Wikimedia Commons
Photo Credit: Rpogge via Wikimedia Commons
Photo Credit: Rpogge via Wikimedia Commons

About once a year, usually during the high season for Supreme Court decisions in the spring and early summer, SCOTUSblog, the popular, well-regarded and essential chronicler and translator of the high court’s decisions, becomes itself the subject of a story.

“Why it’s so hard for SCOTUSblog to get Supreme Court press credentials” reads the headline of a Poynter post from 2012. “Why can’t SCOTUSblog get a credential?” asks CJR in 2014. “Access denied: The fight for SCOTUSblog” reads a Hill piece from last year.

For SCOTUSblog, it’s been less of an imposition than it has the potential to be, largely because Lyle Denniston, who is credentialed independently of the blog, has been the workaround. On Saturday, Denniston announced he is leaving the blog.

“It has been a fabulous trip, since February 2004, when my then-latest attempt at retirement proved—as usual—to be premature,” he wrote in a post announcing his departure. “In those twelve-plus years, SCOTUSblog has become a standout in legal journalism.”

And yet, though Denniston himself has credentials, SCOTUSblog’s lack of standing frustrated him as well:

I have but one regret, and it is that I was unable to persuade the traditional journalists who control the credentialing for Congress that I was as independent as they feel they are, and that journalism can take unusual new forms and still be journalism.

Denniston, who will be “expanding [his] role in covering the Court for Constitution Daily, the blog of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia,” would use his own credentials, from his ties to WBUR, and later as an independent blogger, to get the goods for SCOTUSblog.

Denniston’s departure will leave the publication without a contributor with full-time credentials, known as a hard pass. The plan, publisher Tom Goldstein tells FishbowlDC, is to use day passes, which, as the name implies, gives reporters one-day access to the Courtroom and pressroom. This is something SCOTUSblog has used occasionally in the past, but now they’ll be scaling up, relying on a day pass for daily access throughout the next term.