Humor

  • June 28, 2013
    Humor

    by John Schachter

    Article III of the U.S. Constitution plainly states that members of the Supreme Court “shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour.” For so-called textualists or strict constructionists who believe in using the actual words of the Constitution to interpret its meaning the time has come to kick Justice Samuel Alito off the bench.

    I have a nearly 14-year-old son – also named Samuel, by the way. Ever since he was toddler, we have told him to show respect for his peers, teammates, friends and teachers, for young and old alike. (Even for his parents, hard as that message is to sell.) When he scoffs at others’ opinions, interrupts those sharing their thoughts or – most annoying of all – rolls his eyes when someone is speaking, we reprimand him for his “bad behavior.”

    Justice Alito apparently never learned this lesson. As a result his behavior on the Court (and sometimes outside it) is anything but exemplary. It seems that it’s not just his opinions and votes that are offensive, but that his treatment of colleagues and other esteemed leaders is equally odious.

    The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank chronicled Alito’s rude treatment of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg during the Court’s closing sessions, as he “visibly mocked” her during her reading of a dissent to one of his right-wing opinions. His eye-rolling also caught the attention of The Atlantic’s Garrett Epps, who called the behavior a “mini-tantrum” that “brought gasps from more than one person in the audience.”

    Milbank reported that Alito’s insolence extends beyond his ocular offenses aimed at Ginsburg. Days before as both Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor read from opinions in other cases Alito “demonstrated his disdain” for his colleagues by glowering, shaking his head and (it must be his signature move) rolling his eyes.

    Of course, all of this bad behavior comes on the heels of Alito silently yet snippily scolding President Obama during the 2010 State of the Union address when the president had the audacity to criticize the Court’s decision in Citizens United.

    When it comes to bad behavior, it doesn’t take an experienced jurist or constitutional scholar to “know it when [we] see it.” (It’s a lot easier to define than pornography.) So for those who believe in the words and text of the Constitution, let’s hear your call for Alito’s removal – or let’s hear your contorted reasoning why not.

    But you better not simply roll your eyes.

  • April 11, 2013
    Humor

    by John Schachter

    If “fracking” is one of the buzzwords in the energy policy world these days then “court fracking” might become a new legal catchphrase.

    Court fracking: (noun) the insertion of blatant politics into the judicial system to extract seats on the nation’s second most important court (i.e., the D.C. Circuit) eliminating one and dispersing others to dilute the potential impact of progressive jurists.

    Unlike President Franklin Roosevelt’s ill-fated court-packing scheme of 1937, this fracking plan comes from Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Charles Grassley (R-Iowa). During yesterday’s hearing on the nomination of Sri Srinivasan to the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Sen. Grassley announced that he was introducing legislation to reduce the number of seats on the D.C. Circuit – often called the nation’s second most important court – from 11 to eight. Two of the seats would be moved to other circuit courts while one would be eliminated completely.

    Today just seven of the 11 seats are occupied, although President Obama has now nominated two people for seats – the first of whom Republicans successfully filibustered over the course of three years! Caitlin Halligan in 2010, 2011 and again just last month saw her path to the court blocked by Republicans who apparently feared the presence of more progressive brilliant thinkers on a court currently composed of four Republican appointees and three Democratic ones. And, for good measure, Republicans also blocked a vote on Goodwin Liu in 2010 and 2011 for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

    Few objective court watchers could challenge Halligan or Liu on serious substantive grounds. Ideology is another matter. While Republican critics portrayed Liu as a rogue activist, his year and a half on the California Supreme Court since his failed federal nomination reveal him to be a brilliant, well-respected and impartial jurist. Halligan had strong support from some the nations’ leading legal minds – including former officials from the Reagan and George W. Bush administrations – yet Republicans characterized her as a virulent anti-gun activist rather than the esteemed legal thinker she has proven to be.

  • September 18, 2012
    Humor

    by John Schachter. This post is part of an ACSblog Constitution Day Symposium.

    Wanna know whom I feel sorry for? William Hill Brown, Sir William Herschel, and Father John Carroll. Each chalked up a noteworthy achievement, yet none receives the appropriate attention or accolades because of unfortunate timing. Students across this country – even students of history – would be hard-pressed to recognize any of these three gentlemen.

    Brown published the first American novel, “Power of Sympathy," in January 1789. In August and September that same year, Herschel discovered Enceladus and Mimas, Saturn's respective moon and satellite. And Carroll, in November 1789, became the first Catholic bishop in the United States thanks to his appointment by Pope Pius VI.

    But do we celebrate these fine achievements? Are we preparing to celebrate the anniversary of the first American novel, first Catholic bishop or discovery of Saturn’s orbits? No. Because 1789, in American books and minds, belongs to the U.S. Constitution. To the exclusion of other worldly events, 1789 is all Constitution, all the time. (Francophiles may note that French Revolution garners some worthy attention.) Thanks to the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) we actually celebrate 1787 -- when the Constitution was written and adopted by the Constitutional Convention -- more so than 1789 -- when the Constitution took effect. So this year is big, what with it being the founding document’s bicenvicenquinquennial. Or is it the quinta-semicentury? Or maybe the sesquicentennial-semicentury-quarterquell? OK, let’s just stick with the 225th anniversary.

  • July 3, 2012
    Humor

    by John Schachter

    When my son was maybe six years old, he learned an important life lesson: when you start an apology with the words, “I’m not really sorry,” it doesn’t count as an apology. Unfortunately, in his almost 63 years, Bill O’Reilly has yet to grasp that valuable rule.

    In late March, when the U.S. Supreme Court was hearing oral arguments on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, O’Reilly had ACS President Caroline Fredrickson on his show to “discuss” the issue. Much of the so-called discussion consisted of O’Reilly condescendingly lecturing Fredrickson with faulty analysis, but she was able to calmly explain how the taxing power could very well support the law’s constitutionality.

    O’Reilly staked his ground (and reputation) quite clearly when he said, “Ms. Fredrickson, you are going to lose and your arguments are specious … and it's going to be 5 to 4. And if I'm wrong, I will come on, and I will play your clip, and I will apologize for being an idiot.”

    When he returned to his show from vacation four days after the high court’s ruling, O’Reilly addressed the issue, which mainstream and social media representatives had been highlighting for days.

    I’m not really sorry,” he opened.

    “But I am a man of my word,” O’Reilly continued, showing no apparent recognition of the irony. “So I apologize for not factoring in the John Roberts situation. Truthfully, I never in a million years would thought the chief justice would go beyond the scope of the commerce clause to date and into taxation. I may be an idiot for not considering that.”

    (Childhood translation: “Billy, tell your sister you’re sorry.” “OK. I’m sorry … that she’s such a jerk.”)

  • February 22, 2012
    Humor

    by John Schachter

    “I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts,” Will Rogers famously retorted. In 2012, his aphorism applies to all the branches.

    This week’s satirical news source the Onion ran a story with the headline, “Disturbed Beltway Sources Report Congress Eerily Cooperative Today.” Among the highlights of the piece:

    “I don't know what's going on here, but I know I don't like it,” said Time political columnist Joe Klein, who watched C-SPAN in disturbed shock as the Senate proceeded quickly and smoothly on a federal judicial confirmation. “Something's off. Something is definitely off. It's almost as if lawmakers are putting the well-being of the country above their own self interest and hard-line party ideology.”

    “This can't be good for America,” he added.

    Who would have thought that the judicial nominations logjam would become fodder for political satirists? Unfortunately, the vacancy crisis is more than a laughing matter, with scores of unfilled seats on benches across the country limiting the access to justice that many Americans need and deserve. It truly is time for members of Congress to become more “eerily cooperative” and provide up-or-down votes on the many nominees awaiting action.