Airplanes / Aviation, Eyes of the Law, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, SCOTUS, Supreme Court, Travel / Vacation

The Eyes of the Law: Winged Justice

Why can’t we get one of these for the justices?

I have previously suggested that the members of the U.S. Supreme Court have a private jet at their disposal. The executive branch has Air Force One and Air Force Two. Isn’t the co-equal third branch of government entitled to “Air Force Three”?

I’m being quite reasonable. I’m not advocating for “one justice, one plane,” a la Reynolds v. Sims. I think it’s fine for the nine to share a single plane and divvy up the hours amongst themselves, not unlike customers of NetJets. Given the security threats faced by the justices — see, e.g., Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who has been robbed at knife point and victimized by a burglar — it would seem prudent to reduce their commercial flying.

So that’s the case in favor of “Air Force Three.” The case against: if the justices didn’t fly commercial, then we wouldn’t have fun celebrity sightings like this one….

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The day after she was spotted dozing off during President Obama’s State of the Union speech, despite the valiant efforts of fellow justices to nudge her awake and then physically prop her up, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was spotted in transit. She was traveling by a mode of transit that hasn’t been kind to her in the past: the airplane.

Have you ever had to slide down a plane’s emergency chute? Justice Ginsburg has. If you’re one of those people who reads the in-flight magazine during the safety demonstration, maybe you should pay more attention.

Despite that harrowing encounter, Justice Ginsburg continues to fly commercial. Yesterday I received this report from a source:

Just spotted RBG on the US Airways shuttle from DC to NYC. She was on the 4 o’clock shuttle to LGA and just disembarked. Two marshals (?) and an NYPD cop went onto the plane to bring her off.

The question mark reflects the ambiguity over who protects the justices. Sometimes it’s the U.S. Marshals Service, sometimes it’s local police, and sometimes it’s the Supreme Court Police. Here it sounds like a joint effort between the Marshals and the New York Police Department.

I asked how RBG was dressed (since her black lace gloves at the State of the Union were widely noted and admired). Said my source:

I almost didn’t recognize her because she was wearing a very stylish scarf over her head, Jackie Kennedy-style.

Finally, did she have any companions — a law clerk, perhaps?

I didn’t see anyone accompanying her (other than the entourage that greeted her), but it’s possible I missed someone.

What brings Justice Ginsburg to our fair city? I’m guessing she’s visiting her daughter, Professor Jane Ginsburg of Columbia Law School — the institution that RBG graduated from and taught at for several years.

Justice Ginsburg: any interest in getting back behind the podium? Your alma mater sure could use you!

UPDATE (2/14/13, 11:30 AM): 1. As it turns out, Justice Ginsburg was in town to be honored by the New York City Bar Association.

2. As noted by a commenter:

To be fair, Air Force One and Air Force Two are not physical planes, they are just the titles given to the planes that happen to be carrying the President and Vice President, respectively. So, if you want to just start referring to the planes boarded by SCOTUS judges as “Air Force Three,” go right ahead.

You can read more at Wikipedia.

Obama’s speech didn’t excite Ginsburg [In the Loop / Washington Post]
Caption Contest: What Did the President Say to the 6 Justices at the State of the Union?
[Josh Blackman’s Blog]

Earlier: The Eyes of the Law: Justices Who Are Slumming It
Justice Ginsburg Evacuated From Plane at Dulles
Columbia Con Law Debacle Creates 200-Person Class That Angers Students

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