As the first day of oral argument on October 4 draws near, the Court will reassemble for its annual “Long Conference” on September 27 and the investiture of Elena Kagan on October 1. Somewhere amid this preseason activity, the justices will pose for their class picture, taken only when a new justice joins the Court.
The Oyez Project has these photos going all the way back to the early Chase Court of 1865. Through the class pictures, the Court’s institutional continuity is set before us in plainly human terms. Young men and women share the stage with their elders, only to become elders themselves. Sometimes a single justice links generations disappeared and developing, such as John Paul Stevens, William J. Brennan, William O. Douglas, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Stephen J. Field.
Naturally, all eyes will be on Justice Kagan for this year’s class photo, as they were on Justice Sotomayor for last year’s. But a question for both comes to mind: neck doily or no neck doily? For Sotomayor’s investiture and the class photo, she wore the neck doily–or jabot–that Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sandra Day O’Connor had long donned. Sotomayor kept the jabot on for Citizens United, her first oral argument, but when the Court reconvened a month later, she had done away with the doily for the unadorned black robe.
So will Sotomayor reapply the doily for this year’s class photo? And what about Kagan? Going without it is not without precedent: although O’Connor introduced the jabot, she went without it for every class picture until Ginsburg joined the Court. But surely neither Sotomayor nor Kagan will want to return Ginsburg to her lonely doilihood of the O’Connor-Sotomayor interregnum.
Speaking of Ginsburg, this year’s photo will be her first seated in the front row. Given her diminutive height, another question emerges. If her feet don’t touch the ground, will she bring back the Fuller Foot Pillow?
A few months back, Washington Post ran a contest called, “America’s Next Great Pundit.” I entered. But rather than do as prompted and write about the issues currently before us, I decided to have fun with the future. I got rejected.
Take some of the cast of characters with a grain of salt. But as to the other characters, turn over your hourglass and pay heed to how the grain of salt turns into a sturdy pile of sand.
Justice Antonin Scalia, the 85-year-old senior member of the Supreme Court, held a press conference yesterday to announce his retirement. Stooped over and weakened by three heart-attacks, he symbolized the conservative Court’s decline.
The iconic jurist had hoped to retire upon the election of Senator Eric Cantor (R-Va) to the Presidency. The votes, however, weren’t there.
“Now I know how [former Justice] Bill Brennan felt,” the Justice chuckled, alluding to the liberal lion Scalia often battled during his early years on the Court. Thirty years ago, the elderly Brennan suffered a stroke and promptly sent his letter of resignation to a President on the opposite end of the political spectrum.
Sources close to President Cory Booker report that he will make good on the campaign promise to nominate Barack Obama to the first vacancy on the Supreme Court. Booker’s declaration relegated his Democratic Primary competitors to meek “me too’s” and helped catapult the former New Jersey Governor over incumbent President Biden at the polls.
At a dinner in Tehran with former Iranian President Mousavi commemorating the tenth anniversary of the fall of Ayatollah Khamenei, Obama told reporters that after five years of democracy promotion abroad, he’s ready to return to Washington for a new challenge should Booker nominate him.
“Iran is our ally and has helped make Iraq and Afghanistan the stable states they are today. Global nukes are approaching zero. Israel and Palestine are partners in peace. We’ve gotten a lot done. But look, the law is my first love. And I’ve got a legacy to protect back home.”
But those hoping Obama will unite with Justice Diane Wood, his second Court appointment, to reconstitute the long-lost, full-throated liberal wing of the court will be disappointed.
“My health care legislation has been turned into a money pit. My Wall Street regulations have turned into financial straitjackets. After Justice Kennedy retired, my economic-based affirmative action reforms and abortion-control legislation have been in danger.”
Cantor’s quixotic campaign and its landslide defeat finally nailed the coffin on Scalia’s brand of conservatism, but the contested Democratic nomination points to Booker and Obama as the new vanguard of restraint against the Biden administration’s excesses.
If Obama can get his Tehran comments past the progressive members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Scalia can satisfy himself with the irony that the liberal messiah of 2008 will be resurrected as the figurehead of new conservatism.