Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Carnival of the Vanities (COTV) is one of those cool blog compilation things that circulates among different blogs every week and includes links that other people submit to increase readership. I hosted COTV #87 myself sometime last year when I was a blog toddler of sorts. One of the traditions of the COTV is to try and come up with some unique and charming way of organizing the links, something I failed at miserably when I hosted it. As I wrote then:

Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends, we’re so glad you could attend, come inside, come inside.

I thought about coming up with some really clever theme for this week’s Carnival. I thought about doing it like a real carnival barker, telling you what mysterious and amazing things await you behind the next door….but frankly, I’m so busy with work right now that I’m going to take the easy way out and just list all the submissions for you in the order they were sent to me. Think of it not as lazy, but as “minimalist”.

But the host of COTV #148, Matt Barr, came up with an absolutely brilliant theme, grouping the links together in 9 categories, each one named for a different Supreme Court justice. And his overviews of the justices themselves are priceless:

Anthony M. Kennedy

Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy is first up. The result of President Reagan pointing blindfolded at the Martindale-Hubbell directory after Robert Bork was borked and Douglas Ginsburg withdrew, AMK has delighted liberty-lovers and folks on the left with his opinions bolstering gay rights in Colorado, striking down a Texas law against sodomy, and voting for the death penalty for offenders who committed their crimes while 17 years old before he voted against it.

David Souter

Associate Justice David Hackett Souter, most famous for lending his name to the popular conservative expression “Alberto Gonzalez would be another Souter!”, wrote the majority opinion in the recent Ten Commandments case that said you can’t display them at the courthouse. No, not the one that said you can display them outside the courthouse, the other one. In response to Justice Souter’s vote in the Kelo eminent domain case, a developer wanted the New Hampshire town where he lives to seize his house so the developer could build the “Lost Liberty Hotel.” As with many libertarian ideas in America, nobody ever really followed through.

Stephen G. Breyer

Stephen G. Breyer will be the most junior member of the Court until Justice O’Connor’s replacement is confirmed, sometime in 2007. As a Senate aide, Breyer helped draft the federal sentencing guidelines, which he then voted as a Justice to make advisory instead of mandatory. After all that work! He is distinguished recently by being the only Justice in both 5-4 majorities in the Ten Commandments cases — one ok, one not ok — and crafting what is expected to become the new four-pronged test for determining if religious displays on public property square with the Constitution. As Justice Breyer put it in a concurring opinion: “My mother told me to pick the very best one, and you are not it.”

John Paul Stevens

John Paul Stevens is the most senior Associate Justice (thanks, Parableman!) of the Court. It follows he’s done the most damage! Justice Stevens wrote the majority opinion in Kelo v. New London, the eminent domain case, and Raich v. Gonzalez, the medical marijuana case, and co-authored one of the majority opinions (the philosophy of this Court is that if you can settle something in one opinion, you’re not trying hard enough!) in McConnell v. F.E.C., the campaign finance reform case. But he’ll be most fondly remembered for settling the thorny question of whether prohibiting carts on golf courses violates the Constitution of the United States. It does. Wouldn’t you know!

Chief Justice Rehnquist

Chief Justice Rehnquist. Still here! As a Justice, legal history will remember WHR for reining in Congress’ power under the Commerce Clause, beefing up state sovereign immunity, and protecting First Amendment freedom of association from the threat of dudes kissing. He also opposes mandatory retirement. Obviously! As a Chief, the Chief will be remembered as an efficient, consensus building administrator, a fastidious tradition follower, a wise and respected overseer of a presidential impeachment, and general in the federalist revolution. (What federalist revolution? That’s a whole separate post!) Justice Blackmun famously wrote, “I cannot remain on this Court forever.” Rehnquist is going to try!

Clarence Thomas

Associate Justice Clarence Thomas is not yet exactly known for his majority opinions. (But what about…the Excessive Fines clause case? You see what I’m saying!) But he is becoming a darling of libertarians for his thoughtful dissents in cases like Kelo v. New London and concurring opinions like the one urging wholesale review of the Court’s Commerce Clause jurisprudence in U.S. v. Lopez. Not to mention the Coke can thing! Many people (like these two, by way of example) would like to see CT elevated to Chief. Over Rehnquist’s dead body!

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — International Jurist of Mystery — can wear a hat, don’t you think! Former general counsel for the ACLU, Justice Ginsburg is the main character in a silly story making the rounds that she was personally recommended for the job by conservative Senator Orrin Hatch. Major opinions: Well, she wrote one in Bush v. Gore, but who didn’t?

Antonin Scalia

Associate Justice Antonin Scalia has authored important majority opinions boosting our rights under the First Amendment (like R.A.V. v. St. Paul and Republican Party of Minnesota v. White), Fourth Amendment (such as Kyllo v. U.S.) and Sixth Amendment (like Blakely v. Washington), but more importantly, is a theocratic tyrant who wants to kill pregnant women and turn the rest of the country over to Pope Nazi McHitlerburton for reprogramming. Whichever! In terms of opinion authorship, Justice Scalia is still best known for his dissents, wherein he does things like accuse a majority of his brethren of having “a character of almost czarist arrogance.” What does he really think? Who knows! He’s inscrutable.

Sandra Day O’Connor

Impending Former Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor arrived at her decision to retire after thoughtful, careful consideration of the particular facts of her case, applying a six-pronged retirement test and noting that if you ask her again in 25 years, she will probably unretire. She will go down in history as the most famous Justice never to be innately afraid to ask for directions or to lose her car keys once a week. A grateful nation salutes her!

Now if that doesn’t make you laugh, two things are likely true. A) you’re not a geeky court-watcher like me, and B) you’re reading the wrong blog. The real test of a blogger, to me, is when I read something they’ve written and think, “Dammit, why didn’t I think of that?” Matt Barr passed that test with flying colors. Great stuff.

Comments

  1. #1 John
    July 22, 2005

    Sigh, it is official

    I am a major geek.

  2. #2 Jason Kuznicki
    July 22, 2005

    Wow, yes. I laughed my ass off at those.

  3. #3 Kira Zalan
    July 26, 2005

    So much for poetic justice. Justice Souter’s influence in his community shielded him from his own ruling. No other rational justification can be found.

    Thankfully, the legislative branch is now busy at work attempting to shield private property rights from the Supreme Court ruling. It seems that the two may have switched roles, with the House defending the Constitution, and the Supreme Court writing new laws.

    I thought I saw Alice the other day! Or maybe it was Justice Souter -skipping in Wonderland, immune to and above the laws he passes.

  4. #4 Ed Brayton
    July 26, 2005

    Kira Zalan wrote:

    So much for poetic justice. Justice Souter’s influence in his community shielded him from his own ruling. No other rational justification can be found.

    Well, that’s oversimplifying things just a bit. Actually, the whole exercise of trying to seize Souter’s house, brilliant as it was in making an important point, was oversimplifying the Kelo decision. The decision did not say that a company could ask the local authorities to take your property and give it to them instead and that this could be done as long as their use of it would generate more revenue than your use of it. The decision went into a good bit of detail on the types of circumstances in which this outcome might be allowed, particularly the need for such a property seizure to be done pursuant to a legitimately passed public development project. Now I don’t think that protection is nearly adequate, obviously, and I am fully opposed to the decision. But let’s not pretend that it said something it didn’t. It did not say, and did not mean, that someone can just call up city hall and say, “Hey, I wanna put up a hotel on this corner, go take away that guy’s property and give it to me and you’ll make more taxes on it.” It’s not quite that simple. Still, I think the whole thing was a brilliant bit of guerilla theater to make an important point about property rights.