The Supreme Court has refused to offer help to Hurricane Katrina victims who want their insurance companies to pay for flood damage to their homes and businesses.
As if the choice in a case is simply going where your sympathies lie, and when the court decided not to take the appeal, the halls rang with evil laughter and mocking statements such as this: “We will extend no help to Katrina victims because we love to see them suffer and we love to support our evil twins, the insurance companies who steal from them.”
The Fifth Circuit, of course, simply enforced the insurance policies as written, and noted that the word “flood” included a flood caused by the breach of the levees in New Orleans, reversing a district court that disingenuously held otherwise. And the Supreme Court simply refused to make the appeal of that obvious decision one of the 1% of petitions for certiorari that it grants.
Update: Mark Obbie, while also critical of the lede, writes:
Seeing this through ideological goggles is a mere reflex, but it’s far too facile for its own good. I suspect what’s really at work here — and, like Frank, I’m merely guessing — is not bias or laziness, but instead an impulse to make legal news so reader friendly (or “relatable,” to borrow that loathsome phrase I’ve been hearing a lot lately) that we don’t worry ourselves with the “technicalities.”
Two points in response:
1) If the problem were merely one of media oversimplification (and I agree that oversimplification has a role here), rather than bias, then it would function as a random error, and one would see stories that oversimplify in ways that bias against trial lawyers as often as those that bias in favor of trial lawyers. We don’t. Not by a longshot. When the oversimplification happens, it almost always works to fit the story into reporters’ preconceived boxes, and those boxes have a slant.
2) As if to prove my point, Obbie makes light of my accusation of evidence of bias by titling his post “Liberal conspiracy?” Of course, I alleged no conspiracy: merely a lack of objectivity, a lack so non-obvious to Obbie that he mocks any recognition of it as tin-foil-hatted conspiracy theory. Obbie’s confirmation bias has previously caused him to miss signs of liberal bias.