Raymond Chandler, yesterday
Not for the first time, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. showed his apparent affinity with detective fiction writers this morning. Last October, in Pennsylvania v. Dunlap, he wrote several paragraphs in the style of genre detective fiction. This time around, in Dean v. United States, he adopted the tone of a narrator in a crime TV show, c. 1960, when announcing the decision from the bench.
“This is the case of the bumbling bank robber,” was his introduction to the story of Christopher Dean. The convicted felon claimed his sentence for attempting to rob a bank should be reduced because, yes, he did discharge his gun, but, your honor, he didn’t mean to.
Not surprisingly, the court wasn’t too sympathetic, ruling 7-2 against Dean. Roberts, with tongue in cheek, had some advice for other wannabe bank robbers:
Those criminals wishing to avoid the penalty for an inadvertant discharge can lock or unload the firearm, handle it with care during the underlying violence or drug trafficking crime, leave the gun at home, or – best yet – avoid committing the felony in the first place.
Justice John Paul Stevens, who turned 89 last week, had a wide grin on his face this morning as he listened to Justice Antonin Scalia talk about Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie. The two celebutantes (Hilton and Richie, that is, not the justices) were the “stars” of Fox “reality” show The Simple Life. Scalia mentioned them as he read a summary of his majority opinion in a major obscenity case arising out of Richie saying “fuck” and “shit” at the Billboard awards in 2003. A year earlier, Cher also said “fuck” at the event. Both episodes got Fox TV into trouble.
Stevens seemed to be amused when Scalia recounted Richie’s comments. Scalia first noted to a hushed courtroom that he would not himself say the naughty words (“what we will call the f-word and the s-word,” was his way of putting it).
“Ms. Hilton began their interchange by reminding Ms. Richie to “watch the bad language,” but Ms. Richie proceeded to ask the audience, “Why do they even call it The Simple Life? Have you ever tried to get s-word out of a Prada purse? It’s not so f-ing simple.”
Scalia and a majority of the court concluded that the Federal Communications Commission was within its rights to find Richie’s conduct offensive. Apparently, that was for the swearing, not for her lame attempt at humor.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer unwittingly sparked mass tittering at the U.S. Supreme Court this morning when one of his stream-of-consciousness questions went a little off course.
It was during the oral argument in a high-profile case over whether the strip search of a 13-year-old schoolgirl was constitutional. School officials in Safford, Ariz., suspected the girl, Savana Redding, of hiding prescription-strength pills on her person, possibly in her underwear.
Breyer was attempting to put a hypothetical question to the girl’s lawyer about how common it is for students to be partially undressed while at school, such as when they are changing for gym class. But, as the transcript shows, it all went a bit wrong.
“So what am I supposed to do? In my experience when I was 8 or 10 or 12 years old, you know, we did take our clothes off once a day, we changed for gym, okay? And in my experience, too, people did sometimes stick things in my underwear.”
He stopped in his tracks as the entire courtroom dissolved into laughter. Then he attempted to dig himself out:
“Or not my underwear. Whatever. Whatever. I was the one who did it? I don’t know.”
Whether or not the question was purely hypothetical remains unknown.
In today’s Baltimore Sun, your blogger has this commentary on how President Barack Obama can shape the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Browsing Twitter for Supreme Court related feeds, your blogger came across an account said to be that of a certain Antonin Scalia. It features slightly amusing (but mostly profane, unfunny) posts about life on the court. The writer clearly follows the court’s activities fairly closely. There’s even a reference to a long-running Navajo Nation case decided earlier this week, in which Scalia wrote the majority opinion. The court ruled against the Navajo Nation in a mineral rights case so obscure even SCOTUSblog hardly mentioned it.
“Yes! screwing the Navajo Nation on coal leases AGAIN! Even Souter and Stevens concur, but say they’re not through regretting it. Pussies!”
Other posts are in a similar vein:
“Schooled Alito on his puppy-ish need for approval. Pointed out that ‘boxers or amicus briefs?’ isn’t funny.”
Most of the posts are considerably more puerile. “Scalia” currently has 51 followers on Twitter. Interestingly, “Scalia” himself is following just four other Twitterers, including Thomas Jefferson and someone called HotAmishChick.