Monday, January 23, 2006

Dork-out for SCOTUS

Tomorrow the US Senate votes on the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Judge Samuel Alito. Unless he busts into the Senate chamber smoking a formaldehyde-soaked joint which he then uses to set fire to an American flag while his heretofore secret gay lover gets an NEA grant to ban handguns, he's a shoo-in.

I'm no fan of Alito, but I dearly loved the exhaustive coverage by NPR of his and John Roberts' confirmations. Daily wrap-up podcasts? Yes please! And of course with NPR coverage of matters judicial comes the Voice, NPR legal affairs correspondent .

Oh Nina, how I thrill to the sound of your arch, mannered tones. How I exalt at your veiled sarcasm. How interesting to discover that not only did you break the (non-)story of Douglas Ginsburg's pot-smoking during his Supreme Court nomination, but that your stories about Anita Hill's accusations led to the re-opening of hearings on Clarence Thomas. How I hang on your every word when you re-enact Supreme Court proceedings.

Seriously, I love the way she reads them. I imagine her in front of the microphone with little Supreme Court Justice finger puppets, waggling them in turn as she performs as Justice Kennedy, Souter, et al. You just know that she puts much more incredulosity in there when she relates one of O'Connor's pointed questions to the lawyers. Nina is so awesome, she has a permanent seat in the Supreme Court press box right next to the sketch artist. She was on The Colbert Report last week and I got waaaay too excited when she played the saucy minx to Colbert's uptight blowhard. Hee!

My level of dorkitude over the Supreme Court is such that I was shocked, shocked I say, when I read that 57% of Americans couldn't name even one Justice at a time when there were two seats to fill on the bench and the Bush administration had to pull Harriet Miers' nomination. I've known for a long time now that I'm far from the average American, this is even more statistical proof. From the survey cited above, "The percentage of Americans who can name all nine current Supreme Court justices, statistically speaking, is zero. The percentage of Americans who can name eight or more of the nine current Supreme Court justices also statistically rounds to zero." Great, I (and others like me) round to zero. Sigh.

During my trip to Washington DC several years ago, the coolest thing by far was the tour of the Supreme Court building. Since the Court wasn't in session, we got to sit in the chamber. Friggin' sweet.

Among the interesting things I learned:

- There is a seating section for the general public and a separate one for lawyers who'd been admitted to the Supreme Court Bar.

- William Howard Taft is (and will likely remain) the only President to go on to serve on the Supreme Court

- When Justices pose a question to the lawyers arguing in front of them, it's usually a roundabout way to send a message to the other Justices.

- Ruth Bader Ginsburg argued in front of the Court several times years before ascending to the bench.

- During their weekly private meetings, the newest member of the court has to get up and open the door if someone knocks. Breyer's been doing it for 11 years. Now it will be Alito's turn.

- There really is a basketball court in the building. It's the highest court in the land. Ba-dum bum, crash!

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