For all of their esteem as the “swing” members of the court, the reputations of both former Justice Sandra O’Connor and current swingman Anthony Kennedy should forever be diminished by their having made up the majority. As John Paul Stevens said at the end of his memorable dissent:
…[T]he majority of this Court can only lend credence to the most cynical appraisal of the work of judges throughout the land. It is confidence in the men and women who administer the judicial system that is the true backbone of the rule of law. Time will one day heal the wound to that confidence that will be inflicted by today’s decision. One thing, however, is certain. Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year’s Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law.
Fallows’ suggestion of term limits or a compulsory retirement age seems perfectly reasonable to me. I know full well that at my age I shouldn’t be permitted to operate heavy machinery, use sharp knives or radically alter the political, social and economic landscape by means of arbitrary and partisan judgments handed down with no respect for either established precedent or good manners.
And yet Clarence Thomas, if he so wishes, will be on the Supreme Court till the day he dies, no matter how decrepit or deaf or bug crazy he becomes, sitting on his fat arse day in and day out on the public dollar, catching the odd three hour cat nap between intermittent bouts of comparing toy soldiers with Sammy Alito, giving Roberts wedgies, giggling behind the bench because Scalia wrote “boobs” on every page of his case brief, and conspiring to destroy the fabric of society.
I don’t dispute that extreme age sometimes brings great wisdom, or that compulsory retirement would have robbed us of the later careers of many fine jurists – Brennan and Marshall and Stevens spring to mind. Nonetheless, and in the absence of any statistical evidence to support them (because it’s time for a drink and I can’t be bothered finding it), I think the arguments for the change are good ones.
If the only effect of mandatory retirement was ridding America of the ridiculous spectacle of judges defying age and illness and boredom merely to keep a seat warm until there is a new President, then it would be worth it. We would still, happily, be able to gossip about which judge looks ill, which is always such a satisfying discussion to have over several bottles of scotch after an exhausting day trying to peg Skittles at Kennedy from the public gallery and not get caught.
The Supreme Court needs new blood, new ideas and, frankly, the odd judge who was born after the Eisenhower administration. Courts should (as much as possible) reflect the aspirations and the diversity of the society they serve, which is a little hard when three quarters of the bench doesn’t know or care what IUDs or DVDs or CFCs are.
I suspect that mandatory retirement would assist in this regard, not least because every year more and more women (pdf) (and with any luck more non-white, non-straight, non-bigoted persons) are managing to lie, cheat and backstab their way into the corner offices and onto the bench (they are lawyers, after all). There’s a good chance that some of those new judges might come with a uterus and a conscience attached.
Of course, changing the rules for the Supreme Court would require a constitutional amendment which, even if it got up, would probably be held to be unconstitutional by a 9-0 decision of the Supreme Court applying the doctrine of Faciens quod volo, canes feminam. Still, a girl can dream.
Fallows also has up a number of fine posts on the filibuster, including this good summary of its history, which he ends with this:
For now this last thought, from a reader with family ties to George Norris, the long-time “progressive Republican” U.S. Senator from Nebraska:
[My ancestor] Senator Norris filibustered the old fashioned way, as it were. (His stand that no politician should invest in any asset except US bonds to avoid any bias also contrasts sharply with politicians today.) I did want to point out that, if the Democrats lose the Senate, then I predict that the Republicans will simply change the rules*, thus eliminating the problem. At that point they will cheerfully switch sides, and then ram it down the throat of the Dems. My favorite line of Krugman’s is that the Republicans “are serious men”, by which he meant that they played a tougher, and longer, game than their opponents.
* To clarify, changing rules during a session requires a 2/3 vote, but it is generally understood that every two years, at the start of each new Congress, each House can set rules for itself by majority vote.
The Republicans will not only change the rules, they will boast about how they got rid of the filibuster those dreadful Democrats were always using to subvert the will of the people, at least until they lose control of the Senate again, at which time the filibuster will become a vital tool for liberty which those dastardly Democrats have been suppressing.
Because Republicans are perfidious, pernicious pricks, and lying is what they do best.
Image: A Judge Going to Court – Thomas Couture (1815-1879)
Well, kiddies, I’ve always tried to give you the unvarnished truth, and now I have to say that I cannot go along with the lies any more, despite the handsome retainer that John Cole pays me each month to maintain his massive deceptions.
I suspect that some of you may even have managed to read between the lines and discern the truth behind today’s posts by the lovely Mr Levenson and the even lovelier Ms ABL where they pretended that they weren’t aware of John’s birthday.
I don’t blame them for being so unconvincing. It’s hard to maintain a tissue of lies for so long.
I imagine it’s particularly difficult for John. After all, he spends so much time running down to that little house with the odd color scheme – posing Tunch and the dogs in the window and scattering around the pasta that his head chef made that morning, just so he can take photos of them all for his little blog – that I wonder he has time to enjoy the 42 room mansion he and his poor wife actually live in.
As such, it’s time for all of us to come clean about this evening.
The reality is that John has taken some of the millions he has made from running Ann Coulter promotions and those disturbing Pamela Anderson boob ads from last year, and has flown most of the US blogging community to West Virginia for his birthday bash.
And let me tell you, it’s going off.
I’m on some particularly good dutch e that DougJ smuggled back from Amsterdam in one of his very secret orifices. It’s finally kicking in after I managed to escape from Kay who bailed me up in the butler’s pantry and would not shut up about how she took all that money you nice people raised for her to go to Netroots Nation and blew the whole lot on a Louis Vuitton handbag.
Thankfully Anne Laurie managed to put her evening book chat on automatic schedule before she got too tanked on the 1982 Pol Roger. Mind you, Mistermix tried to give her a glass of the 1983 and she pegged it at his head, so she’s still sober enough to know the good stuff from the crap we let the servants steal.
ABL is up on the roof of the pool house for some reason, and none of us have been able to convince her to come down. However, she has both Lily and a bottle of John’s 50 year old Laphroaig for company, so she doesn’t seem too unhappy.
Dan Savage and his girlfriend are currently doing a very convincing imitation of FDR and Eleanor – I’ll leave it up to you to guess which one is which – after which Mr Levenson has promised us that he’s going to tell a very rude story involving Isaac Newtown and a watch with a dildo in it.
DougJ, Denis and Tim slipped David Brooks a Mickey Finn and when I last saw them they were taking him down to the summer house by the lake. They were each carrying baseball bats, so I hope that sweet Mr Brooks hasn’t been the victim of a revolutionary outrage.
No one has seen Andrew Sullivan since Ross Douthat arrived and there are suspicious cries of passion coming from the master bedroom. After all, Ross does have that sexy beard – but that may just be my filthy mind working overtime.
Rosie also seems to have disappeared, but I’m sure the fact that Jonah Goldberg has passed out in the bathtub in the third bathroom and that there are muffled squeaks coming from under him is just a coincidence.
John and Jane Hamsher are in the kitchen and while I wasn’t able to listen in from behind the refrigerator for too long, I’m sure all Jane’s talk about setting fire to the pool house was just in fun.
Finally, I’m sure you will all be pleased to know that Tunch is well. He’s ensconced in his bedroom and everyone is taking him regular offerings of whole barbecued lambs. After all we wouldn’t want him getting annoyed or half the bloggers in America might get eaten, and then how would you all know what to think?
Anyhow, my dears, that’s the real and unvarnished truth.
If you’ll excuse me, I’m off to piss on Jonah Goldberg’s head again before he wakes up.
I’ll leave you with this highly inappropriate video. NSFW if your work doesn’t like male gogo dancers in their underwear and phallic innuendo. I don’t like the song much, but I find the rotating naked buttocks oddly soothing, and it will help you visualize what the first half of the party has been like.
Cheers! Oh, and Happy Birthday, Mr Cole!
[Cross posted at Balloon Juice.]
In which correspondence with Jarndyce and Jarndyce regarding Donald Trump’s Birth Certificate is displayedPosted: April 17, 2011
As you may recall, last night I told a little story about Donald Trump.
I didn’t think it was a particularly important little story, although I now realize the fact that the Donald’s mother was both unmarried and a legal citizen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland at the time Donald was born in Mexico might put a little dent into his claim to be a “natural born” American citizen.
I was surprised therefore when, at about 3pm this afternoon, Jesus (my nurse, not God) stuck his pretty head around my door and told me that I had a visitor – a Mr Tulkinghorn.
Mr Tulkinghorn was loitering in the common room. He introduced himself as a paralegal from a firm of lawyers called Jarndyce and Jarndyce – although I’ve never seen a paralegal with face tattoos, a spiked dog collar and a hook for a hand before. He handed (hooked?) me the badly punctuated and poorly edited letter which I reproduce in full below.
After I had read his little missive, I told him exactly where his owners could shove his letter. He started to wave his hook menacingly, so I set Marge Albrechtson onto him and the last time we saw him he was running out the door screaming for mercy, with Marge in hot pursuit brandishing an angry squirrel in each hand.
Now I have to go and write my response to Messers Jarndyce and Jarndyce.
I think I might send them a nice fruit cake with a laxative surprise.
I will not be silenced.