The judiciary was largely upstaged yesterday by developments from the other two branches: the Democratic takeover on Capitol Hill, and the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense.
But the Supreme Court was still doin’ its thing yesterday, hearing the cases of Gonzales v. Carhart and Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood. These cases raise the constitutionality of the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. So of course there was disorder in the court:
[O]ne man, clad in a shirt that read JESUS, entered the courtroom and sat in the spectator section midway through oral arguments.
Wake up, SCOTUS marshals!!! The guy might as well have worn a shirt reading “ARREST ME” — which is what they did, after this happened:
[D]uring the time allotted to [Priscilla] Smith, the pro-choice lawyer arguing on behalf of Nebraska abortion provider Dr. Leroy Carhart, the man erupted. “ABORTION!” he thundered in a voice that reverberated in the quiet and still courtroom. “REPENT OR YOU WILL PERISH,” he went on. He grabbed the arm of Carhart, who happened to be seated next to him, and pulled him to the ground.
As one would expect, the gracious and unflappable Chief Justice handled the interruption quite smoothly. He “drew polite laughs when he then offered Smith three extra minutes to make her case.”
Update: Or was it just an extra 30 seconds? See here and here.
The protester, a gent by the name of Rives Miller Grogan, was charged with violating 40 U.S.C. 6134. Here’s what that statute provides (robe swish: Orin Kerr):
It is unlawful to discharge a firearm, firework or explosive, set fire to a combustible, make a harangue or oration, or utter loud, threatening, or abusive language in the Supreme Court Building or grounds.
Professor Kerr: “That’s right: It’s illegal to make an oration in the Supreme Court building! So be careful out there, folks.”
Drama in the Court [MSNBC via FARK.com]
When Oral Argument Is a Crime [Volokh Conspiracy]
High Court Focuses on Medical Alternatives in Partial-Birth Abortion Cases [Legal Times via How Appealing]
Commentary: Kennedy vote in play on abortion [SCOTUSblog]
Title 40, United States Code, Chapter 61 [House.gov]