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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Dinner Conversation: SCOTUS Style

LawBlogger Editor's Note: This post is from Andrew Cohen, the Legal Analyst of the excellent blog Politics Daily. This is a fantasy recounting of a potential conversation between the Justices of the United States Supreme Court on the occasion of Thanksgiving Day, 2010. Cohen's humorous and tastefully irreverent insight is spot on; he also mentions several of the cases and issues covered by this Blog over the past year. Having stood before this august body of jurists last June, this blogger could actually see this conversation taking place. Enjoy:

The nine learned Americans, six men and three women, six Catholics and three Jews, all of them over 50 and one of them black, sat down for a traditional Thanksgiving meal. They said their prayers, they shook hands, they passed around the food, and then, as is their custom, they took turns speaking. There was no one else in the room.

“We have a lot to be thankful for,” John said solemnly. “We’ve survived another year, we’ve done our work as best we can, we still generally like each other on most days, and the Republic has not fallen apart. It’s a shame our brother John, Mr. Stevens, isn’t with us this year – I’m sure he’s watching football somewhere and glad to be rid of us – but we welcome Elena to the table and hope to share many more meals with her. Incidentally, I’d like to take a second to note that this meal is sponsored by the good folks at Citizens United. Citizens United, the corporation that’s been treated like a person for nearly one one-hundredth of a century.”

Antonin was the next to speak. "I am thankful, too, for the many freedoms I enjoy. The freedom to hunt. The freedom to speak. The freedom to yearn for a simpler time when there weren't so many constitutional amendments. The freedom to make all those liberal pantywaists apoplectic every time I open my mouth or draft an opinion. What a great country this is. Pass the yams, would you, Sam? Shoot, I've got gravy all over my shirt."

Then it was Anthony's turn. As usual, he was seated near the center of the rectangular table. "I am thankful," he said, "for my fellow Republican-appointed federal judges, the ones who spoke out last week against the Senate's refusal to confirm the president's judicial nominations. Even with life-tenure, it takes courage to do that. Incidentally, does anyone here want to borrow my Sharia Law Handbook? I'm boning up on it in the event the Oklahoma case reaches us, but I can always spare it for a night and start in again on Albanian law."

Next it was Clarence who, as usual, was seated to Antonin's right. "You starting again with that international law junk, Tony? Good lord," Clarence said. The other dinner guests were stunned. Clarence hadn't spoken like this in years. "I am thankful for being here. Whoever thought a fellow like me would end up sitting at this table for 20 years? But most of all I am thankful to my lovely wife, Virginia, for always having my back, even after all these years and all these allegations. She's the best and I plan to tell her that in court when her tea party group gets here as a litigant challenging the new health care laws."

"You are lucky, Clarence, to have your spouse," said Ruth. It was her first such meal without her beloved husband, Martin, who passed away this past June. "I think about my Marty all the time. I am thankful for all the wonderful years we spent together and for all the good graces we were given. I am thankful also for having Sonia and Elena here to watch the Lifetime Channel with me. It was lonely there for a while, especially after David and Bill stopped watching with me."

It was at this point in the dinner that Samuel, one of the younger members of the clan, shook his head and mouthed the words "not true." But it was not yet the time for him to speak.

It was instead Stephen's turn. "I am thankful for Amazon.com," he said, referring to his new book about the law. "Kidding. I'm getting just as much play on it from bookstores." Stephen had a habit of turning to look directly at his chums when he'd talk and he did so again on this night. "I am thankful for the rule of law, even when we don't explain it as clearly as we should to the American people. And I am thankful for our old friend Sandra, who has been so courageous in speaking out against judicial elections. Remember those fruit cobblers and lemon tarts she used to make for us?"

Sam spoke next. He was seated between Antonin and Clarence. "I am thankful for all the ordinary people out there who understand the Constitution," he said. "I am thankful for the American Spectator, for all the good food and talk a few weeks ago. And I am thankful for Roy Halladay, pitching that gem for my Phillies last month. If Roy Halladay ever has a case before the court, I am voting for him. Hey, John, can you please pass me the stuffing? Incidentally, as a reminder, today's turkey and all the trimmings are brought to me in part by the good folks at Citizens United -- Citizens United, the corporation that's been treated like a person for nearly one one-hundredth of a century."

Then it was Sonia's turn. It was her second such meal and she finally had decided to say something. "How can you people eat all this bland food all the time? Where are the arroz con gandules and pasteles y pernil?" More seriously, she went on: "I am thankful I don't have to hear about Frank Ricci anymore. I am thankful I don't have to be the last person to speak at every conference anymore. But mostly I am thankful I was finally able to rent out my apartment in New York City. In this economy, boy, you just never know."

Finally, Elena, the youngest, took her cue. "I am thankful this year for my new job and for the nice things that Miguel Estrada said about me this summer. I am mostly thankful, though, that I'll never have to sit through another lecture from [Oklahoma Sen.] Tom Coburn. Hey, speaking of food -- Tony, would you please pass the chicken lo mein?"

LawBlogger's final thoughts:  It sure would be nice if our Michigan Supreme Court Justices could be as civil as this fictional depiction of the SCOTUS justices.  Unfortunately, the yawning chasm within our state's high court has been all too public with secret tape recordings, press conferences and censure votes.

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