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Santa Maria Sun / Canary

The following article was posted on March 4th, 2014, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 52 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 14, Issue 52

Supreme jerks

I sort of feel that calling the U.S. Supreme Court justices jerks is akin to saying something blasphemous in a lightning storm. If I’m around somebody who does it, I take two steps away to make sure I’m not collateral damage when the blast comes.

I’m not saying that the justices are gods on high, smiting anybody from their lofty perches. But I do admit that they’ve got some, you know, power in the system. And if I were to ever find myself standing in front of them, I’d prefer to not have a written record of my attitude tipping their personal scales of justice out of my favor.

That being said, I can’t resist pointing out that they seem to be real jerks.


Since longtime local protestor Dennis Apel recently found his own self in front of the highest court in the land due to protesting where some official-types told him he couldn’t legally protest, I started pecking my way through a transcript of the proceedings, just to see if I could find the seed of something interesting.

Erwin Chemerinsky argued on Apel’s behalf, and often found himself on the receiving end of some conversations that would make me dizzy. Of course, I’m not a lawyer, but I’d think anyone would be frustrated to be cut off and spun around like a reluctant dance partner, as happened here, when Chemerinsky was responding to a comment from Justice Samuel Alito:

“MR. CHEMERINSKY: Obviously, the fence is significant, in terms of answering the government’s concerns with regard to national security. I think the fence is also important to go, to Justice [Sonia] Sotomayor’s point, with regard to the functional approach. My answer to your question—

“JUSTICE [ANTONIN] SCALIA: Excuse me. What about the portion of the base on the other side of the road easement, where the government does have exclusive possession?


“JUSTICE SCALIA: Is that okay? That’s still base.

“MR. CHEMERINSKY: But what’s interesting, as was pointed out—

“JUSTICE SCALIA: Yes or no, under your theory?”

Did you see that? While Chemerinsky was responding to one justice and referring to another justice’s question, a third justice jumped in—and just as he was saying, “My answer to your question.” My blood pressure is going up just reading this.

Or take another exchange I found:

“JUSTICE SCALIA: You keep sliding into the First Amendment issue, which is not the issue on which we granted certiorari. We’re only interested in whether the statute applies.

“MR. CHEMERINSKY: But, Your Honor, in interpreting the statute, it must be done so as to avoid constitutional doubts. That’s why the First Amendment comes up. Also, of course, as this Court repeatedly has held, Respondent can raise any issue that was raised below to defend the judgment, which is also why the First Amendment is here. But, Your Honor—

“JUSTICE SCALIA: You can raise it, but we don’t have to listen to it.”

He may be right, but what a jerk!

Actually, in looking these over, it seems like Scalia is the main jerk when it comes to being smug and cutting other people off. Perhaps I spoke to hastily in calling all of the justices jerks.

And let that be on the record if and when I find myself awaiting judgment from the big nine. I think one of you is a jerk. The rest of you are merely annoying.


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