Lazy Legal Reporting: The Supremes Hate Flood Victims

The AP's lead from a story on the Supreme Court:
"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."
The story is actually about the Court choosing not to grant certiorari to an appeal from a 5th Circuit decision ruling that the insurance policies at issue did not cover damage from floods. The Supreme Court did not opine on the correctness of the 5th Circuit in doing so, nor did it "refuse to offer help" to anyone or anything, since it is not in the province of the Supreme Court to "offer help" to parties, but simply to decide the legal issues before it.

Of course, the Court only grants certiorari to a select few (perhaps 1%) cases. There is no right to an appeal before the Supreme Court. In fact, most of the cases the Court takes are for the purpose of resolving splits in interpretation and jurisprudence among the Circuits or to clarify the meaning of new statutes or novel legal applications of old law.

Obviously it is sometimes necessary to simplify a decision for an AP story, but the language "refuses to offer help" definitely carries a negative connotation suggesting that the Supreme Court's sympathies were not with the flood victims. Readers who might not understand the law are left with a misunderstanding of what happened and why it happened. Clearly the AP reporter covering this case either (1) lacks an understanding of how the Supreme Court works or (2) lacks the objectivity required of his or her career. Either way, this person should be taken off the legal beat. Immediately. And replaced by me -- I'm waiting for a call, AP.

More on this stupidity here, here and here.