In an attempt to show that she is capable of doing a quick, hit-and-run post, Article III Groupie proffers this brief update for UTR News and Views. Here are a few things that have caught her eye recently:
[N]ine Supreme Court justices have just spent another summer like vacationing Greek gods, frolicking among us, blending right in.
"What do U.S. Supreme Court justices do each summer?" you ask. A good question, raising, implicitly, a better question: What do they do, ever? Where do they live? What do they read? What are their favorite shows? Do they speak in declarative sentences around the dinner table - or only in strings of Socratic hypotheticals?
Hmm--this all sounds très UTR, no? Could Ms. Lithwick be a reader of these august pages?
Lithwick proceeds to shed light on how the Nine Immortals spend their summer vacations:
So how do the justices spend their summers? Some travel to exotic locales, where they get paid lots of money to teach at fabulous seaside summer law school programs. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg taught at Hofstra University law school's program in Nice, France, this summer, while Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist taught at Tulane's program at Cambridge.
Shunning travel and speeches, Justice David Souter - the man who says cameras will be rolled into the Supreme Court only over his dead body - hightails it home to New Hampshire each summer, where, like Punxsutawney Phil's New England cousin, he'll hide out until the first Monday in October. Justice Souter will under no circumstances be found in a Louisiana duck blind, where Justice Antonin Scalia is rumored to spend his summers hunting with his pal Dick Cheney.
Moreover, that rumor is totally unfair to Justice Scalia.
Duck season in Louisiana doesn't start until November.
Perhaps the most emblematic justice is Clarence Thomas, who spends much of his summer touring the country in a used bus that's been converted into a luxury motor home. That bus is the perfect symbol for a man who won't read newspapers, or engage audiences that don't share his ideology. It allows him to roam the country, hermetically sealed and unreachable inside a moving fortress.
Lithwick concludes with the following observations about federal judicial anti-celebrity:
Supreme Court justices beg to be forgotten. They still believe that their sole authority rests in the myth that they are oracles. That's why it's not in their interest to remind you that you'll be picking the next Supreme Court with your vote come November. We forget that appointing judges may be the single most important thing a president does - it's easy to forget it when they've fixed it so you can't even pick Anthony Kennedy out of a lineup. (He's the guy who looks like Ken Starr.)
Lithwick is quite right concerning the desire of most Supreme Court justices, as well as federal judges in general, to remain anonymous. This allows them to perpetuate the fiction that they are "oracles," dispensing justice in completely impersonal fashion. Well, think of "Underneath Their Robes" as performing a public service, by stripping judges of their anonymity and reminding the legal profession and the public that "federal judges are people too."
To be sure, UTR does put federal judges on a pedestal. Not unlike the supermarket tabloids, which simultaneously glamorize and embarrass the stars of pop culture, UTR has a similarly double-edged outlook on judicial celebrities. On the one hand, UTR adopts a worshipful attitude towards federal judges, seen in features like the Superhotties of the Federal Judiciary contest. On the other hand, UTR exposes the flaws and foibles of federal judges, to show that they are “just plain folks,” like you and me. This can be seen, for example, in the "Justice Is Blind" posts, which collect blind items of federal judicial gossip.
It's this second aspect of UTR's approach to the federal judiciary--the shining of the disinfectant of sunlight into the chambers (and the homes) of federal judges--that makes UTR a force for good in the body politic. UTR encourages its readers to take a closer look at the people who lie behind "the judicial power of the United States." By going "underneath their robes" to look at these jurists as human beings, UTR makes clear that they are mere mortals who make mistakes, as do we all. Federal judges are not oracles, nor are they infallible gods and goddesses (even if they do, to be sure, come pretty darn close).
Article III Groupie thanks Lithwick for taking her readers on this little voyage "underneath the robes" of Supreme Court justices. And despite disagreeing with her politics, A3G can't help but admire Lithwick's smart, funny, and highly engaging writing, both for the Times and for Slate.
3. Finally, combining UTR News with "Courthouse Forum: Letters to Article III Groupie," A3G has a few follow-up items on the previous UTR News post, prompted by reader correspondence.
(a) As Article III Groupie originally stated in this post, "it is only a matter of time before the Elect [i.e., Supreme Court clerks] go on to become federal judges themselves." If you disagree with this statement, consider the following observation, tendered to A3G by a certain federal judicial superhottie:
"The brainy Judge Lynch," discussed in UTR News and Views in connection with his presiding over Lil' Kim's criminal case, "clerked the same Term as AK--OT '76. In fact, it was a year where a number of the other clerks became federal judges: Judge Kenneth F. Ripple (7th Cir.), Judge Diane P. Wood (7th Cir.), Judge William A. Fletcher (9th Cir.), Judge J. Thomas Marten (D. Kansas), and former Judge Kenneth W. Starr (D.C. Cir.).
Wow! A3G did not know that. Pretty neat, huh? It sounds like OT '76, which united a gaggle of talented youngsters before they became superstars, was sort of like the federal judicial equivalent of School Ties, the 1992 film that featured the likes of Brendan Fraser, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and Chris O'Donnell, well before they turned into the celebrities they are today. (Yes, A3G realizes that O'Donnell is a bit washed up, but he was a hot property in Hollywood for a while.)
(b) And here's an informative letter from Article I Sycophant about the author of the funny tax court opinion highlighted in the last News and Views post:
Article III Groupie,
Thank you for featuring that Tax Court literary masterpiece, Calarco v. Commissioner (T.C. Summary 2004-94), in your August 23 post. It's with a sad heart I admit I had lost faith of finding anyone deserving of esteem in the desolate wilderness that is the Article I judiciary. But that wonderful opinion, which I stumbled upon only due to your shout from the rooftops, has infused me with the light of a life-changing realization: the Article I judiciary may yet have a judge worthy of a fan.
Thus, your sweet and humble servant, Article I Sycophant, desirous of learning all she could about this judge whose writing has reawakened such hope in her soul, set upon the Internet in a quest for discovery. Aided by a little ingenuity and her trusty Lexis ID, she unearthed knowledge that would make even Article III Groupie purr with delight all the way down to her Jimmy Choo Shoes.
Calarco's author is none other than Judge Mark V. Holmes of New York, and he is assuredly most worthy of praise:
--He clerked for one of the Elect, a modern-day Shakespeare, even the hottest of the Judicial Superhotties: Judge Alex Kozinski of 9th Circuit fame.
--In his pre-robes life, Judge Holmes argued his case against the U.S Government pro se before the mighty Judge Guido Calabresi. Guido hailed this soon-to-be-Article I jurist as both "fresh" and a "young man." Holmes v. United States, 85 F.3d 956,957 (2d Cir. 1996).
--Judge Holmes was a precocious lad, graduating from Harvard College at 19. He then enthralled his classmates through his quick wit and ready charm when attending the University of Chicago Law School. He graduated from that fine institution at 22.
--He's the subject of rumor, if not innuendo: Word on the street is he's a former Jeopardy! champion. Sources also say he's quite the whiz at softball, regularly hitting them out of the park, and plays a mean third base. Unfortunately, these tidbits have not yet been confirmed.
What am I to conclude but that Judge Holmes is the One I've been seeking, that lone bright star in the Article I judicial firmament? Perhaps he's enough of a cutie (or even - dare I say - a hottie?) that his star blazes so brightly as to intensify the brilliance of all those around him, thus lifting Article I judges everywhere to a higher, more laudable sphere.
Thank you, Article III Groupie, for you have given this lost and wandering fan a judge to follow, a judge to adore, even a judge to fanwank; for that, I am truly grateful.
--Article I Sycophant
As always, Article III Groupie thanks AK, A1S, and her many other readers for their information and insights.