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A 'Mea Culpa'

Nina Totenberg Steve Barrett/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Steve Barrett/NPR

I have always believed in correcting mistakes, especially bad ones. In my wrap-up piece at the end of the Supreme Court term, I quoted Northwestern University law professor John McGinnis as one of several conservative scholars highly critical of the court's decision on the Voting Rights Act. In my telling, he called the decision "as singular a failure as I've seen in the history of the Supreme Court." But I inadvertently misused the quote, which came from his appearance on a panel at the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.

McGinnis used those words to describe the court's decision in the Defense Of Marriage Act case, not the Voting Rights Act decision about which he was also critical but not nearly as sweeping in his condemnation. I listened to the whole panel but apparently got confused in my notations about what McGinnis was talking about at about an hour and 10 minutes into the panel.

All the other quotes in my piece were from interviews that I personally conducted. This one was not, and my error illustrates why I should have been doubly careful.

I deeply regret the error and apologize to McGinnis and to listeners.

I owe a salute to professor Kevin Walsh at the University of Richmond Law School, who caught the error.

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