This Carnival has many emanations from its penumbra!

The format of this week's Carnival of the Vanities is one of the wittiest I've seen. Host Matt Barr has ingeniously managed to enliste the help of the Supreme Court, by dividing the vast carnival into nine categories, each one presided over one of the justices. I so much enjoyed Matt's characterizations of the justices that I can't resist linking and quoting Matt's description of each one.

So here come de judges!

  • Anthony M. Kennedy:
    Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy is first up. The result of President Reagan pointing blindfolded at the Martindale-Hubbell directory after Robert Bork was borked and Douglas Ginsburg withdrew, AMK has delighted liberty-lovers and folks on the left with his opinions bolstering gay rights in Colorado, striking down a Texas law against sodomy, and voting for the death penalty for offenders who committed their crimes while 17 years old before he voted against it.

  • David Hackett Souter:
    Associate Justice David Hackett Souter, most famous for lending his name to the popular conservative expression "Alberto Gonzalez would be another Souter!", wrote the majority opinion in the recent Ten Commandments case that said you can't display them at the courthouse. No, not the one that said you can display them outside the courthouse, the other one. In response to Justice Souter's vote in the Kelo eminent domain case, a developer wanted the New Hampshire town where he lives to seize his house so the developer could build the "Lost Liberty Hotel." As with many libertarian ideas in America, nobody ever really followed through.
    (A crying shame, if you ask me.)

  • Stephen G. Breyer:
    Stephen G. Breyer will be the most junior member of the Court until Justice O'Connor's replacement is confirmed, sometime in 2007. As a Senate aide, Breyer helped draft the federal sentencing guidelines, which he then voted as a Justice to make advisory instead of mandatory. After all that work! He is distinguished recently by being the only Justice in both 5-4 majorities in the Ten Commandments cases -- one ok, one not ok -- and crafting what is expected to become the new four-pronged test for determining if religious displays on public property square with the Constitution. As Justice Breyer put it in a concurring opinion:
    My mother told me to pick the very best one, and you are not it.
    Hmmmm.... Never knew a judge was allowed to cite his mother. But I'm not complaining! Because, after all, Justice Breyer was kind enough to cite my apology for misusing loaded language.

  • John Paul Stevens:
    John Paul Stevens is the most senior Associate Justice (thanks, Parableman!) of the Court. It follows he's done the most damage! Justice Stevens wrote the majority opinion in Kelo v. New London, the eminent domain case, and Raich v. Gonzalez, the medical marijuana case, and co-authored one of the majority opinions (the philosophy of this Court is that if you can settle something in one opinion, you're not trying hard enough!) in McConnell v. F.E.C., the campaign finance reform case. But he'll be most fondly remembered for settling the thorny question of whether prohibiting carts on golf courses violates the Constitution of the United States. It does. Wouldn't you know!

  • Chief Justice Rehnquist:
    Chief Justice Rehnquist. Still here! As a Justice, legal history will remember WHR for reining in Congress' power under the Commerce Clause, beefing up state sovereign immunity, and protecting First Amendment freedom of association from the threat of dudes kissing. He also opposes mandatory retirement. Obviously! As a Chief, the Chief will be remembered as an efficient, consensus building administrator, a fastidious tradition follower, a wise and respected overseer of a presidential impeachment, and general in the federalist revolution. (What federalist revolution? That's a whole separate post!) Justice Blackmun famously wrote, "I cannot remain on this Court forever." Rehnquist is going to try!
    Perhaps life extension will be safe?

  • Clarence Thomas:
    Associate Justice Clarence Thomas is not yet exactly known for his majority opinions. (But what about... the Excessive Fines clause case? You see what I'm saying!) But he is becoming a darling of libertarians for his thoughtful dissents in cases like Kelo v. New London and concurring opinions like the one urging wholesale review of the Court's Commerce Clause jurisprudence in U.S. v. Lopez. Not to mention the Coke can thing! Many people (like these two, by way of example) would like to see CT elevated to Chief. Over Rehnquist's dead body!

  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg:
    Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg -- International Jurist of Mystery -- can wear a hat, don't you think! Former general counsel for the ACLU, Justice Ginsburg is the main character in a silly story making the rounds that she was personally recommended for the job by conservative Senator Orrin Hatch. Major opinions: Well, she wrote one in Bush v. Gore, but who didn't?

  • Antonin Scalia:
    Associate Justice Antonin Scalia has authored important majority opinions boosting our rights under the First Amendment (like R.A.V. v. St. Paul and Republican Party of Minnesota v. White), Fourth Amendment (such as Kyllo v. U.S.) and Sixth Amendment (like Blakely v. Washington), but more importantly, is a theocratic tyrant who wants to kill pregnant women and turn the rest of the country over to Pope Nazi McHitlerburton for reprogramming. Whichever! In terms of opinion authorship, Justice Scalia is still best known for his dissents, wherein he does things like accuse a majority of his brethren of having "a character of almost czarist arrogance." What does he really think? Who knows! He's inscrutable.

  • Sandra Day O'Connor:
    Impending Former Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor arrived at her decision to retire after thoughtful, careful consideration of the particular facts of her case, applying a six-pronged retirement test and noting that if you ask her again in 25 years, she will probably unretire.

  • Remember, those are just the descriptions of the justices. You really have to read each justice's posts to understand the inner workings of the system.

    Well done!

    I think Matt Barr (who has a law degree and works in the real estate appraisal and mortgage industry) has done so much work that he deserves a place on the court himself.

    posted by Eric on 07.21.05 at 12:06 PM


    Excruciatingly interesting this Supreme Court is and has been, I must say, whatever else you may or may not want to say about it (some of which might not be printable).

    In this interesting thread on the Supreme Court here in Dean's World, my friend Tom Hawkson (a.k.a., the blogger whom you know as Wince and Nod) asked:


    Thanks. I await your treatise on the spectra of jurisprudence theory. How many dimensions with it have?


    I replied:

    Dear Tom Hawkson, a.k.a. Wince and Nod:

    Thank you!

    As to a spectrum on jurisprudence theory, I can see 2 dimensions already:

    1) The horizontal or left-right dimension would be that of the "living Constitutionalists" on the left for whom the Constitution means whatever they had for breakfast that morning or whatever fits their agenda at the moment, usually "the Constitution = the New Deal + abortion + affirmative action + whatever else is currently fashionable".

    On the right would be "originalists" or "textualists" or "strict constructionists" or "dead/enduring Constitutionalists" (Scalia), or those who at least profess to be one or all of those things.

    2) The vertical dimension would be how they tend to interpret the Constitution in terms of individual rights vis-a-vis government powers. At the bottom would be those such as Robert Bork and, to a large extent, Justice Scalia, who see the Constitution as establishing small islands of explicitly stated and very limited individual rights surrounded by an ocean of virtually unlimited government powers.

    At the top would be those such as Randy Barnett or, to a large extent, Justice Thomas (and the Justice Kennedy of Lawrence &Garner but not since), who see the Constitution as establishing small islands of explicitly stated and stringently limited government powers surrounded by an ocean of inalienable individual rights, some explicitly stated, the rest implicit in the whole concept of "ordered liberty" and "retained by the people" (Ninth Amendment).

    You can guess where I stand on this spectrum."

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