So much news, so little time! Today's news report will focus exclusively on goings-on over at One First Street, but even with that limitation, there's still too much to cover.
Where shall we begin? Well, let's start with the bad news.
1. Chief Justice Rehnquist hospitalized. As everyone knows by now, Chief Justice Rehnquist has been hospitalized since last Friday for thyroid cancer treatment, which included a tracheotomy over the weekend. For news coverage, collected by the indefatigable Mr. Bashman, click here and here.
This distressing news came as quite a shock to Article III Groupie, seeing as nothing in the Chief's horoscope for this month suggested medical problems. Chief Justice Rehnquist is in the thoughts and prayers of A3G, and she joins her colleagues throughout the blogosphere in wishing WHR a speedy recovery.
A3G's heart also goes out to a very special circuit judge, as well as to Michael Passaportis and his WHR co-clerks for OT 2005. She can't imagine what they must be feeling right now. If A3G landed a Supreme Court clerkship, and then her justice was hospitalized with serious illness before she started her clerkship, you can be certain that she would be maintaining a bedside vigil for her future boss, a defibrillator panel in each hand. "CLEAR!"
2. Supreme Court speculation. Chief Justice Rehnquist's latest health problems will only increase the Supreme Court speculation that has reached a fever pitch in the past few weeks. Indeed, as Linda Greenhouse reports here, "Liberal groups said they hoped to use the Rehnquist news to prod uncommitted voters to choose Senator John Kerry," with last-minute e-mail campaigns capitalizing on this unfortunate development already in the works.
Is A3G the only one who thinks this is in extremely poor taste? She has a feeling that her friends over at Nomination Nation, who have declared their intention to "temporarily abstain from discussing who might fill the potential vacancy with the hopes that the Chief mades a swift recovery," would agree.
Since the issue of Supreme Court succession is already on the table (and was even before the unfortunate news about the Chief), A3G will comment, albeit briefly. News articles about possible nominees in Bush and Kerry administrations abound--visit How Appealing for the latest links, or check out this article by Dahlia Lithwick. After reviewing some of the various short lists floating around, A3G had this reaction: Both sides have a surfeit of excellent candidates. The real issue is: How can one choose between the short-listers, especially candidates with similar appeal? Here are some suggestions for how to choose between pairs of comparable candidates:
(a) Judge Sonia Sotomayor (2d Cir.) versus Judge Sandra Lynch (1st Cir.). If John Kerry wins the election and wants to appoint a woman to the Court, these two judges are leading candidates. In terms of a method for choosing between them, the answer is so obvious as to be cliched: mud wrestling!
Judge Lynch, the "five minutes ago" judicial diva of Robing Room Report, is no pushover. But Judge Sotomayor, who made it all the way from the mean streets of the Bronx projects to the hallowed halls of 500 Pearl Street, is much tougher than A3G originally reported. If she were a betting gal, A3G would say the odds are three-to-one in favor of "Sonia from the Block" making the "Yankee Ice Princess" eat a mouthful of wet soil.
(b) Judge Alberto Gonzales (White House Counsel) versus Judge Emilio Garza (5th Cir.). If President Bush wants to appoint the first Latino justice, he will probably be choosing between these two jueces. Just as they did with the kid from Tegucigalpa, Hispanic interest groups will criticize the Hispanic "inauthenticity" (i.e., conservativism) of either candidate.
(c) Judge J. Michael Luttig (4th Cir.) versus Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson (4th Cir.). If President Bush wants to please the conservative wing of the Republican Party, he can nominate one of these two men. Both are conservative, white male jurists from the Fourth Circuit. Neither adds to the diversity of the Court, so choosing between them is largely about competence.
Some scholars have analyzed judicial competence by asking, "Who would win a tournament of judges?" A3G says, "Good idea!" If liberals criticize the Fourth Circuit for dispensing "medieval justice," then why not pick between Luttig and Wilkinson by having them do battle in a jousting tournament! (Their clerks can serve as their squires, helping them into their armor and handing up their lances.)
3. Underneath Their Robes--ICK! As reported here and here, retail giant Wal-Mart canceled its order for America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction, by Jon Stewart and the writers of the Daily Show, after learning "there were naked Supreme Court judges lurking inside."
(Oops, sorry to get your hopes up! The book does not contain actual photographs of the Naked Nine. A more precise formulation, used in the CNN piece, would be: Wal-Mart canceled its order for the book "after executives learned that it contained a photo of nine naked, aged bodies, each with the superimposed head of a Supreme Court justice.")
5. Justice Breyer, A3G's Favorite Liberal Justice. Of the four justices in the Court's liberal wing, Justice Breyer is the most independent-minded. (Some of you are thinking, "What about Justice Stevens?" But A3G said "independent-minded," not "loopy.") Not a political hack, Justice Breyer votes with the conservatives when he believes they have the better of the argument. And he should be commended for his intellectual honesty, as demonstrated by his very interesting recent comments questioning his own ability to be impartial back when he voted in Bush v. Gore.
A Person Too,