… current or former, and have you actually met your favorite, or any others that you have interesting stories about?
My favorite is Thomas, because whether I agree with him or not, his opinions usually have some amusing turn of phrase in them. For example, in his dissent (which I disagreed with) in Laurence v. Texas, he called it “an uncommonly silly law” that he would have voted against if he were a Texas legislator, but wouldn’t overturn, because the people have the right to be ruled by stupid laws, if they choose. I always enjoy reading his opinions. I also read a biography of him, a few years ago, and he seemed to be the type of guy I’d like to take a road-trip with in his RV. I’ve never met him.
Second favorite is O’Connor, whom I have met. I was at a social function with my mother that she was at, too, and they both grew up on farms. They both traded ‘growing up as poor farm kids’ stories, and it was very interesting to listen to. Turns out O’Connor had written an autobiography, and recommended that my mother read it. As soon as we got home, Ma went to the library for it, and I read it after she did. Interesting and amusing. Two thumbs up!
So, anyone else have any Supreme Court Justice stories to tell? Maybe I should have put this in MPSIMS. Mods, make your decision!
Scalia — Probably the best writer on the Court currently, although lately he seems have forgotten that “respecfully dissent[ing],” like tennis, is a game of controlled power. A skilled analyst and exponent of the theory of originalism (which theory, pace a lot of uninformed court watchers who know that they hate Scalia and haven’t studied law, actually has a good deal of intuitive appeal).
Breyer & Souter — The two current/recent justices that I generally find myself agreeing with most often.
Brandeis & Holmes — Of the historical justices, these are the two who I think are among the best writers (NOT CARDOZO). As to their judicial philosophy, it almost doesn’t matter, as these two have long ago won the day. Everybody agrees with them.
Honorable mention to Marshall and Story, I guess. Unfortunately, they both write like pre-20th century justices (i.e., awfully).
I love Scalia’s writing, but I don’t know if I agree that he’s only “lately” avoided respectful dissent. IMO, the guy’s written with a poisonous pen for quite a while. (Which, I admit, is one of the reasons I like him.) One of my favorite Scalia quotes comes from his 1993 dissent in Lamb’s Chapel v. Ctr. Moriches Union Free Sch. Dist., 508 U.S. 384 (1993).:
How can you not like comparing a constitutional test to a zombie/vampire, “frightening little children and school attorneys”? That’s wonderful.
My personal favorite justice is Byron White. Less because of his jurisprudence – which I think is underrated – and more because the dude was just awesome. He was awarded two Bronze stars for his service in the military. And he is also the only Supreme Court justice to have finished 2nd in the Heisman balloting, and then to have led the NFL in rushing. His senior year at Colorado, he led the nation in rushing – 243.6 yards per game – and set a record for all purpose yards that lasted for 51 years, until it was broken by Barry Sanders. And his nickname was “Whizzer,” which he hated, but which followed him throughout his life.
Most of the stories surrounding him seem to relate to the basketball court in the Supreme Court building, and the fact that White apparently had a penchant for leveling Supreme Court clerks with elbows during their friendly games.
I think there’s a good chance Byron White is one of the most well rounded people in American history. The guy was apparently just awesome at everything.
The only other anecdote I’ve personally heard about Supreme Court justices is that a friend attended law school courses overseas, and one of the instructors was Chief Justice Rehnquist. Naturally, a bunch of law students were too intimidated to ever talk to Rehnquist. So he started bumming cigarettes from the students as a way of striking up conversations with them.
I think that’s just adorable. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court having to resort to tricks to get people to hang out with him.
Met Scalia. He gave a talk at our law school and I was one of the students selected to meet with him in a small group for questions and answers and general hanging out. He’s a pompous blowhard with a hyperinflated ego, bad manners, and is an all around douche who seems to enjoy making an ass of himself.