Eyes of the Law

Justice Samuel Alito

Justice Alito: no blueberry pancakes for you!

I’m a big fan of Justice Samuel Alito. He’s a brilliant thinker, a tremendous writer, and an incisive questioner (as I learned arguing before him when he sat on the Third Circuit, and as anyone can learn from listening to audio recordings of Supreme Court arguments). I’m also a devotee of his delightful wife, the stylish and vivacious Martha-Ann Alito.

This past weekend, the Alitos returned to his alma mater, Yale Law School, where Justice Alito, Justice Clarence Thomas, and Justice Sonia Sotomayor received the Yale Law School Association’s Award of Merit for their contributions to the legal profession. The three justices then participated in a lively and insightful conversation, skillfully moderated by Professor Kate Stith (and live-tweeted by yours truly; see @ATLblog and @DavidLat).

Members of the audience expressed admiration for Justice Alito and his sly sense of humor. But beyond the ivory tower, not everyone admires the justice — or even has the ability to recognize him.

Earlier today, Justice Alito got bounced out of a brunch joint….

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I have homework to do tonight.

– Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, during a post-show panel discussion at the Sunday night performance of Arguendo, explaining why she couldn’t stay very long.

(If you’d like to check out Arguendo, a SCOTUS-themed show that’s now playing in D.C., there’s a discount code for ATL readers: WMATL, good for 15% off on Friday nights, Saturday matinees, and Sunday evenings. Visit the Woolly Mammoth website to order tickets. Enjoy!)

One could argue that justices of the United States Supreme Court are underpaid. After all, their former law clerks get wooed with $300,000 signing bonuses upon leaving One First Street, which is more than what the justices earn in a year (as just noted by The Economist).

Despite being arguably underpaid, the justices still like to shop. In recent weeks, we’ve seen Justice Sotomayor checking out olive oil in Annapolis and Justice Kagan hitting the Apple store in Georgetown.

The court’s first woman member, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, has more time on her hands since retiring. Through an organization she founded called iCivics, she’s advocating for improved education about civics, a cause that’s near and dear to her heart.

Even though she’s supposedly “retired,” the super-energetic Justice O’Connor remains exceedingly busy, occupied by iCivics work, sitting by designation in circuit courts, and promoting her new book (affiliate link). But she still has some free time — including time to go to the grocery.

Let’s hear from a tipster, plus see some photos….

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It’s sure been a long week for the justices of the Supreme Court. Like any girl who just wants to relax after a rough couple of days, Justice Sonia Sotomayor went on a shopping spree. Her Honor treated herself to some retail therapy after bringing gay couples the joy of joint federal tax returns.

Where did she go, and what’d she buy? Perhaps a pair of peep-toe pumps? We can only hope…

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We should have known that the Fisher opinion was going to be a letdown — a “great big dodge,” as my colleague Elie Mystal put it. Instead of readying herself for an historical moment, Justice Elena Kagan spent yesterday doing some window-shopping.

Where did she go, and what merchandise did she check out? Here’s an eyewitness report….

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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….

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Or lunch. Specifically, what Chief Justice John Roberts had for lunch yesterday, and where….

UPDATE (12:00 PM): And with whom JGR might have dined. See the update appended near the bottom of this post.

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I once observed that federal judges are “the closest thing this nation has to an aristocracy.” If that’s the case, then justices of the United States Supreme Court are royalty — or maybe even deities, gods, and goddesses who walk among us (and occasionally crash into us, too).

Alas, it seems that two members of SCOTUS didn’t get the memo. They are comporting themselves in public in ways that are inconsistent with the dignity of the Article III judiciary.

This is a bipartisan problem. One of the offenders comes from the left side of the Court, and one comes from the right….

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Here’s a fun little judicial sight-ation from the weekend. On Saturday night, at around 9 p.m., Justice Elena Kagan was spotted in the elevator of the luxury apartment building in downtown D.C. that she calls home.

According to our tipster, Justice Kagan was wearing “mom jeans.” And carrying a pizza.

The 112th justice of the United States Supreme Court, carrying her own pizza? This is a scandal of the highest order.

A few years ago, we were traumatized by the sight of then-Judge Michael Chertoff carrying his own takeout lunch (see here, item #4). But he was a mere circuit judge, and Elena Kagan is a Supreme Court justice.

Shouldn’t Justice Kagan have one of her clerks deliver pizza to her on Saturday night? It diminishes the dignity of the entire federal judiciary to know that an associate justice of the Supreme Court has to fetch her own pizza.

So, let’s get to the important part: What brand of pizza does Her Honor favor?

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Alas, Justice Ginsburg wasn’t spotted slurping down noodles at Tony Cheng’s. Rather, Her Honor was in D.C.’s Chinatown for a theater performance, which is more her speed. (She also loves the opera, of course.)

The Eyes of the Law celebrity sighting took place on Friday evening. Our eyewitness reports:

RBG spotted at the theater! It was opening night of the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s “Free for All” production of Twelfth Night at Sidney Harman Hall (yes, as in Rep. Jane Harman’s husband), across from the Verizon Center in D.C’s Chinatown.

The “Free for All” is an annual event in which the Company puts on a free Shakespeare show for Washington for a couple weeks in the summer.

Free theater is nice and all, but Justice Ginsburg doesn’t need handouts. She and her late husband, Martin Ginsburg, revealed assets worth as much as $45 million at the time of her most recent financial disclosure.

So, did our correspondent get to chat with Justice Ginsburg?

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