Category Archives: Law: The Supremes

Statutory Interpretation for Biologists

Tongue no doubt firmly in cheek, a biologist suggests that the Florida legislature accidentally legislated celibacy this week.

Among (many) other things, the statute in question says that

A person may not:

Knowingly engage in any sexual conduct or sexual contact with an animal;

(In its infinite wisdom, the Florida Legislature had never before the current moment gotten around to legislating on this important subject.)

People are animals, hence sex with humans must be banned, right?

Any blog post that makes fun of this year’s unusually dire Florida Legislature is OK with me, but I have to put in a few words for the law here, even at the price of spoiling the joke.

Yes, it’s time to roll out Nix v. Heddon, 149 U.S. 304 (1893), in which the Supreme Court of the United States had to decide whether at tomato is a fruit or a vegetable for purposes of the Tariff Act of March 3, 1883. There were good arguments for ‘fruit': after all, to a biologist, a tomato is clearly a fruit. But the Supreme Court made short work of that claim:

Botanically speaking, tomatoes are the fruit of a vine, just as are cucumbers, squashes, beans, and peas. But in the common language of the people, whether sellers or consumers of provisions, all these are vegetables which are grown in kitchen gardens, and which, whether eaten cooked or raw, are, like potatoes, carrots, parsnips, turnips, beets, cauliflower, cabbage, celery, and lettuce, usually served at dinner in, with, or after the soup, fish, or meats which constitute the principal part of the repast, and not, like fruits generally, as dessert.

In short, in figuring out legislative intent in the absence of a definition in the statute itself, courts look to the ordinary, common, meaning of words and not their scientific meaning unless something in the context suggests otherwise. In SB 344, it’s pretty clear that when the Florida legislature — yes, even this year’s model — says “animals” it is not referring to us nor even to itself.

Posted in Florida, Law: Everything Else, Law: The Supremes | 6 Comments

Zoopreme Court

Have a look at Zoopreme Court. Here’s a sample, Warren E. Bearger (Chief Justice 1969 – 1986):

Posted in Law: The Supremes | 2 Comments

Justice Thomas’s Disclosure Problem

Crooks & Liars goes to town on the unfolding Supreme Court disclosure scandal: Clarence Thomas “Forgot” 20 Years of Disclosure? Really?. The author argues that there might even be felony exposure under 18 USC § 1001. I’m a little dubious, although it’s not the sort of law I do so I welcome comments from those who know this stuff.

And even if it’s theoretically right, there’s surely about a zero percent chance that the Obama Justice Department would act, or that the Tea Party House would indict.

Although I have to say that this all reminds me of the classic Steve Martin routine

(Apologies for the silly cartoon version, but it is all I could find on YouTube.)

Posted in Law: Ethics, Law: The Supremes | Leave a comment

Speechless

Wordless Editorial from the Tuscon Citizen.

(Via Barbara Brandon).

Posted in Law: The Supremes | 2 Comments

A New Way to Think of Supreme Court Justices

john_marshall.jpg
In a faculty seminar earlier this week, a (female) colleague said, apropos Chief Justice Marshall, that he “is the only Supreme Court Justice I would have liked to date.”

This is, to me, a wholly new way to think of Supreme Court Justices.

Any other candidates?

Posted in Law: The Supremes | 1 Comment

Sotomayor Quits the Belizean

Sotomayor quits women's club after GOP criticism – Yahoo! News

Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor resigned Friday from an elite all-women's club after Republicans questioned her participation in it. Sotomayor said she resigned from the Belizean Grove to prevent the issue from becoming a distraction in her confirmation hearings.

Meanwhile, in the lucky-in-her-enemies dept., Judge Sotomayor was snubbed by Senator Inhofe:

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) is dead set on voting against Sonia Sotomayor's nomination. In fact, he's so certain of his position that he refuses to even meet with her.

Sotomayor has been meeting privately with Senators over the last few weeks, but when it was Inhofe's turn, he declined.

Inhofe's spokesman explained that since the Senator has already decided to vote against the nomination, there's no reason to waste time on a sit-down discussion.

Earlier this week, Inhofe called his vote against Sotomayor a “foregone conslusion,” citing his vote against her nomination to a circuit court in 1998.

Given that he's about the craziest Senator not actually known to be guilty of a sexual peccadillo, this is a pretty good enemy to have.

Previous post: Sotomayor is Lucky in Her Enemies

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Sotomayor is Lucky in Her Enemies

Ed Meese, he of the “Experts Agree” T-Shirt, is back in the news today for his orchestration of the opposition to Sotomayor's Supreme Court nomination.

This news comes on the heels of the first possibly significant blot on her otherwise sterling record: it seems Sotomayor is a member of an all-woman club, the Belizean Grove. This is an issue because the Code of Judicial Conduct bans memberships in groups that practice invidious discrimination. The defense that discrimination by the relatively less powerful against the more powerful is not “invidious” cuts little ice with me. The defense that no men have actually attempted to join is a closer call. It's probably true, so it's technically sufficient. But it's also the same defense used by men-only and whites-only and {fill in the blank}-only clubs for decades, as they sat secure in the knowledge that no one would bother trying given formal or informal rules limiting membership.

So, Ed Meese's intervention comes at a very fortunate time for Sotomayor.

Posted in Law: The Supremes | 6 Comments