The Supreme Court has included good writers and bad writers during the past two centuries, but the literarily challenged justices have always had a comfortable majority. In the Court’s early days, one of its clumsiest writers was Samuel Chase, who, in addition to being impeached for excessive partisanship, had a weakness for random italics.
Legal circles have been abuzz for the last eight months with the news that Justice John Paul Stevens had hired only one law clerk to begin working this summer. This move, Supreme Court watchers observed, strongly suggested that Stevens’s thirty-fifth term at the Court would be his last. As journalists and scholars begin contemplating his place in history, Stevens himself has not-so-subtly attempted to burnish his judicial legacy. In a series of interviews over the last few years, Stevens has repeatedly attempted to portray his views as fundamentally unaltered since he joined the Court.
This piece is from our archives: It was published on May 20, 2009. In March, 2008, Martha Nussbaum, a law professor at the University of Chicago, traveled with Judge Diane Wood to a conference in India. The topic was affirmative action in higher education, and before the conference began, they went to Kolkata to meet women leaders who were gathered to talk about how women should claim their legal rights. "Diane borrowed half of my Indian wardrobe and came in like an Indian woman," Nussbaum recalls.
On November 27, three weeks after the citizens of California ratified the California Civil Rights Initiative, Judge Thelton Henderson of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco enjoined Governor Pete Wilson from enforcing it. Invoking a Supreme Court decision from 1982, Washington v. Seattle School District No.
On December 14, 1994, a federal judge in Los Angeles enjoined the state of California from enforcing Proposition 187, which would deny health, education and welfare benefits to illegal aliens and their children. The case eventually may reach the Supreme Court; and Governor Pete Wilson has called on the justices to overturn a 1982 decision, Plyler v.
By nominating Stephen Breyer to the Supreme Court, the Democrats have, however reluctantly or inadvertently, weaned themselves from Warrenism at last. Over the past four decades, as the excesses of the Warren Court provoked the equally ideological excesses of the Rehnquist Court, liberals and conservatives have accused each other of politicizing the judiciary.
Last week's j.e.b. decision should have been the dramatic highlight of an otherwise dull Supreme Court term, especially for those who have been waiting for Ruth Bader Ginsburg to find her voice. The outcome of the case, which forbids prosecutors from peremptorily excluding jurors on the basis of sex, was never really in doubt.
Having peered behind the red velvet curtains of the Rehnquist Court, the press now tells the embarrassed justices that they have nothing to be embarrassed about. But after spending last week in the Marshall archives, I sympathize with William Rehnquist's fears. The portrait of the justices that emerges from their internal correspondence is not, in fact, particularly flattering.