Legal Music to Your Ears: The Golden Era of Podcasts

Cara L. Gallagher, Weekend Contributor

RudyTo say I follow the courts like most people follow professional sports would be an understatement. Court watching is my spectator sport and I’m one of its biggest (nerdiest?) fans. It’s taken me years, but in June of 2013 I had my Rudy-moment when I stepped out of the stands and onto the field. That was the summer I first covered the Supreme Court for C-SPAN. Since then I’ve sat in the front rows covering the decisions in the final weeks of the Supreme Court’s term, created my own blog on the Supreme Court, interviewed Court experts like Jonathan Turley and SCOTUSblog founder Tom Goldstein, and I continue to teach and write about the courts. I’m a SCOTUS junkie who has Google alerts set to “Supreme Court” and “circuit court,” Hootsuite streams set to monitor the latest #SCOTUS news, and bookmarked pages of sites like this blog and Howard Bashman’s  The only time I can’t feed my addiction is when I have to operate heavy machinery, liking driving and biking to work.  Recently my commute to and from work just got so much better thanks to two new legal podcast series I’ve discovered.

Podcasts, glorious podcasts! Not since the days of the fireside chats have people been so eager to listen to radio stories. This Golden Age of podcasts is in its nascent stage thanks to the sudden mainstream popularity of NPR’s Serial series. If you have even a minor interest in Law & Order and/or true crime mysteries, you should probably stop reading now and go download Serial. When you’re done, or if you’re like many people and you’ve already caught up on the most recent episode, consider getting your next fix by downloading Dahlia Lithwick’s Amicus podcasts.

Lithwick, a veteran Supreme Court reporter for, has seven podcasts that are only 20-35 minutes long and cover current Supreme Court cases, books written by the Justices, and the personalities on the bench. She breaks down the cases in highly accessible ways for a broad audience and hosts experts who highlight the constitutional or statutory questions in each case. The most recent episode explained the arguments in a 1st Amendment free speech case about potentially threatening Facebook posts (Elonis v. U.S.) and whether  shipping company UPS has to give a pregnant employee the same accommodations as one injured on the job (Young v. UPS). A previous episode highlighted Reuters court reporter Joan Biskupic’s new book on Justice Sotomayor.  For the more seasoned legal listener, consider downloading Jeffrey Rosen’s, another GW Law professor and founder of the National Constitution Center, podcasts. Rosen’s podcasts are not new and are a bit longer, but the point-counterpoint debates in many of the episodes are impressive showdowns between legal experts and lawyers.

Happy listening!

The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.

Follow Cara on Twitter @SupremeBystandr

11 thoughts on “Legal Music to Your Ears: The Golden Era of Podcasts”

  1. Great post. Just bookmarked both your suggestions. Now nerds like me have something to listen to at the gym! 🙂 Keep up the great work, Cara.

  2. Well written – and appreciate the podcast recommendations, having just finished the Serial podcast. You’re right, this does seem (not that I would remember) like a 21st century rendition of the famous Fireside chats.

  3. Cara, welcome to Weekend Contributor-ship!!! Am thrilled that you are on-board. Looking forward to reading your articles about The Law and especially SCOTUS. It’s what this blog is about.

  4. Welcome Cara. What do you think of this?

    “One of the most egregious sections of law I’ve encountered during my time as a representative: It grants the executive branch virtually unlimited access to the communications of every American.”

    Washington, D.C. – In a sneak attack on the civil liberties of all Americans, the Intelligence Authorization Act for 2015 was rushed to the House floor with a dangerous Senate amendment added to section 309 with virtually no debate.

    The legislation was scheduled for only a “voice vote,” which means that it is simply declared “passed” with voice votes and no record.

    This is considered the simplest and quickest voting method, not what one would expect from such an important piece of legislation. For most pieces of major legislation, a roll call vote would be the standard operating procedure.

    Thankfully, Representative Justin Amash, when catching wind of what was transpiring, went to the House floor to demand a roll call vote so that everyone would have to have their vote recorded.

    The fact that this important piece of legislation was handled in this way indicates that this was done intentionally to sneak it past the public eye. It becomes even more suspicious when you realize that it was done concurrently with the CIA torture report being released and the Gruber hearing.

    It seems clear there was an effort made to slip the vote by without having to answer to the American people, as Congress is well aware that Americans do not want to be spied upon by their government after the revelations by Edward Snowden.

    Congressman Justin Amash stated that when he learned this bill was “being rushed to the floor for a vote… I asked my legislative staff to quickly review the bill for unusual language.”

    What he says next should raise red flags for every American citizen.

    He claims what his staff discovered was:

    “One of the most egregious sections of law I’ve encountered during my time as a representative: It grants the executive branch virtually unlimited access to the communications of every American.”

    The bill in question is H.R. 4681. (Sec. 309)

    Rep. Amash wrote a last minute letter to all of his colleagues in Congress to implore them to vote “NO” on H.R. 4681.

    Here is the text of that letter:

    Dear Colleague:

    The intelligence reauthorization bill, which the House will vote on today, contains a troubling new provision that for the first time statutorily authorizes spying on U.S. citizens without legal process.

    Last night, the Senate passed an amended version of the intelligence reauthorization bill with a new Sec. 309—one the House never has considered. Sec. 309 authorizes “the acquisition, retention, and dissemination” of nonpublic communications, including those to and from U.S. persons. The section contemplates that those private communications of Americans, obtained without a court order, may be transferred to domestic law enforcement for criminal investigations.

    To be clear, Sec. 309 provides the first statutory authority for the acquisition, retention, and dissemination of U.S. persons’ private communications obtained without legal process such as a court order or a subpoena. The administration currently may conduct such surveillance under a claim of executive authority, such as E.O. 12333. However, Congress never has approved of using executive authority in that way to capture and use Americans’ private telephone records, electronic communications, or cloud data.

    Supporters of Sec. 309 claim that the provision actually reins in the executive branch’s power to retain Americans’ private communications. It is true that Sec. 309 includes exceedingly weak limits on the executive’s retention of Americans’ communications. With many exceptions, the provision requires the executive to dispose of Americans’ communications within five years of acquiring them—although, as HPSCI admits, the executive branch already follows procedures along these lines.

    In exchange for the data retention requirements that the executive already follows, Sec. 309 provides a novel statutory basis for the executive branch’s capture and use of Americans’ private communications. The Senate inserted the provision into the intelligence reauthorization bill late last night. That is no way for Congress to address the sensitive, private information of our constituents—especially when we are asked to expand our government’s surveillance powers.

    I urge you to join me in voting “no” on H.R. 4681, the intelligence reauthorization bill, when it comes before the House today.

    Justin Amash
    Member of Congress

    This bill will allow information gained from domestic spying by the feds, in the name of “terrorism,” to be transferred to local law enforcement for criminal investigations without any type of court order, subpoena or warrant.

    This is one of the most drastic changes in U.S. law in our lifetimes and has the potential to turn the U.S. into a true police state.

    When the feds take what is claimed to be a means of fighting “terrorism” and use it as means of forwarding criminal prosecutions against American citizens, without any court order or warrant, we are on the brink of total tyranny.

    We urge everyone to call their Representative and let them know that you do not support H.R. 4681… tell them NO new domestic spying powers!!

    Please help get the word out and share this information with your fellow Americans!

  5. Welcome again and I will listen to the podcasts. Maybe Prof. Turley should consider a podcast??

  6. Ok, now I don’t feel so strange being a CSpan junkie, lol. The Senate is in session again today. It’ll make for good listening all day as I bake Christmas goodies for the family.

  7. Just added your blog to my list of ones I read. I like your writing style. And, I love to bust on Cub fans. That said, Epstein may end those days. Dallas Green tried hard, but came up short.

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