Supreme Court

Now that the sex lives of Supreme Court justices have become grist for commentators, we are finally free to discuss a question formerly only whispered about in the shadows: Why does Justice Antonin Scalia, by common consent the leading intellectual force on the Court, have nine children? Is this normal? Or should I say ‘normal,’ as some people choose to define it? Can he represent the views of ordinary Americans when he practices such a minority lifestyle? After all, having nine children is far more unusual in this country than, say, being a lesbian.

– The Atlantic’s Michael Kinsley (via Political Wire)

Elena Kagan has the face that launched a thousand comparisons. TMZ thought she looked like Kevin James. The man wooing her via Craigslist thinks she’s a cross between Carrie Fisher, Laura Linney, and Bette Midler.

We polled you, and the results are in. Who is the winner of the Elena Kagan Look-Alike Contest?

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That’s the question the Supreme Court answered in the negative today, in Graham v. Florida. The Court’s opinion was by Justice Kennedy, whose vote usually controls on Eighth Amendment issues, and it was joined by the four liberal justices.

The case generated oodles and oodles of pages and a welter of separate opinions. Thankfully, the AP has a fairly clear and concise summary:

The Supreme Court has ruled that teenagers may not be locked up for life without chance of parole if they haven’t killed anyone.

By a 5-4 vote Monday, the court says the Constitution requires that young people serving life sentences must at least be considered for release.

The court ruled in the case of Terrance Graham, who was implicated in armed robberies when he was 16 and 17. Graham, now 22, is in prison in Florida, which holds more than 70 percent of juvenile defendants locked up for life for crimes other than homicide.

Florida: where it’s good to be an old person.

Interestingly enough, Chief Justice John Roberts — not known as a bleeding heart — agreed with the majority as to Terrance Graham specifically. Because he concurred in the judgment, the vote on the disposition of the case was actually 6-3.

The back-and-forth between the majority and the dissent gets quite heated at times. Justice Thomas wrote the main dissent, which Robert Barnes of the Washington Post described as “stinging.” But given the power that Justice Kennedy wields at One First Street, it’s generally unwise to attack him too harshly.

So the most snarky exchange did not involve Justice Kennedy, but took place between Justice Thomas and his soon-to-be-former colleague, Justice Stevens….

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There’s a long tradition of seeking Supreme Court love via Craigslist (see here and here). And the tradition continues.

From a Craigslist posting entitled 40-something SJM ISO Elena Kagan (we’ve added some links to clarify various references):

I’ve had a crush on you for almost twenty years (and you deservedly made fun of me when I got tongue-tied in front of you), but it never seemed appropriate to move on it. Either I was dating someone, or you were in another city…

But now! Our careers seem to have settled in DC. I’m single. Politico and Eliot Spitzer tell me you’re single. We have so much in common: I love the law (even civil procedure!) and can’t get enough of it. I like books and baseball and poker and New York City and Medici pizza. I admire Thurgood Marshall. Like you, I love the Federalist Society. My mother was the first bas mitzvah in her Orthodox synagogue, but I’m relatively non-observant. We disagree on some First Amendment issues, to be sure, but I’ll never ask you to watch a dogfighting video. Ok, you’re smarter than me, but I’m no slouch (like you, I turned down Yale Law), and I’m cool being Mr. Ginsburg to your Ruth Bader if you are.

This is not a joke. I am gaga for Lady KaGa. I understand you have other priorities in the next few weeks, and Andrew Sullivan and Glenn Greenwald would be scandalized if we started dating, but I’ve waited for you this long, I can wait until after the inevitable investiture. Just send me a signal: mention your love of the Mets in your opening statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and I’ll know to send you a dinner date invitation for the first Friday in October. We’ll go for Chinese food at a restaurant better than City Lights.

Finally, some suspense for the Kagan hearings: Will she mention the Mets? Tune in and find out.

We interviewed the Craigslist poster about his wacky plan….

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Le Fou and Le Kagan

Solicitor General Elena Kagan is a woman to be respected. She’s a product of Princeton, Oxford, and Harvard Law School. She’s one of the Elect (OT 1987 / Marshall). She’s taught at two of the nation’s top law schools and served as dean of one of them. She’s America’s lawyer, and if confirmed this summer, she’ll become the 112th justice of the U.S. Supreme Court — and the fourth woman to hold that position.

She’s inspiring.

She inspires in other ways too, though. Ever since photos of her started gracing websites and newspapers across the land, she has inspired comparisons to numerous other people and fictional characters when it comes to her looks, ranging from Kevin James of King of Queens to Kathy Bates.

She just has one of those faces. BuzzFeed picked up on our post about who she looks like and came up with a list of 24 people she resembles.

Let’s settle this. Who does she MOST resemble? Vote, after the jump.

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Now that the question of Elena Kagan’s sexuality has been settled (kind of), critical attention seems to be turning to her lack of judicial and litigation experience. Although ABA President Carolyn Lamm tells NBC that she doesn’t think “not being a judge is particularly persuasive one way or the other,” some Republican senators have expressed concern over the fact that she’s never warmed a bench.

It’s not as if Kagan doesn’t know what a courtroom looks like, though. She clerked on the powerful and prestigious D.C. Circuit, for the legendary liberal J. Abner Mikva, and then spent time at One First Street, clerking for Justice Thurgood Marshall (OT 1987). As solicitor general, she’s argued before the High Court a half dozen times (although she wasn’t able to win over the Five of the Nine in Citizens United v. FEC).

But hey, at least she has a law degree. Not that she needs it to sit on the bench at One First Street…

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We’ve had plenty of unnamed sources insisting on the heterosexuality of Solicitor General and Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. The most notable was the anonymous administration official who told the Washington Post that Kagan isn’t gay, in response to an online column by conservative blogger Ben Domenech claiming otherwise.

But there have been other such sources. I previously mentioned one, a Clinton Administration official involved in vetting Kagan when she was nominated to the D.C. Circuit, who insisted to me that she’s straight. Marc Ambinder of The Atlantic cited “[p]eople who know Kagan very well” in reporting that she’s not gay.

Now we have an identified individual going on the record to say that the Divine Miss K enjoys the big D. From Politico:

Elena Kagan is not a lesbian, one of her best friends told POLITICO Tuesday night, responding to persistent rumors and innuendo about the Supreme Court nominee’s personal life.

“I’ve known her for most of her adult life and I know she’s straight,” said Sarah Walzer, Kagan’s roommate in law school and a close friend since then. “She dated men when we were in law school, we talked about men — who in our class was cute, who she would like to date, all of those things. She definitely dated when she was in D.C. after law school, when she was in Chicago – and she just didn’t find the right person.”

A denial that the likely 112th justice of the Supreme Court is a devotee of Sappho? This is just… so… ridiculous. But fun! God bless America.

And there’s more….

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Will confirmation hearings remind Kagan of the Pit of Despair?

UPDATE: Vote in our Elena Kagan Look-A-Like Contest here.

Every time we write about Solicitor General Elena Kagan (and we’re writing about her quite frequently since Obama tapped her for the Supreme Court), our readers immediately begin commenting on her looks.

That is not unusual in these parts. Men and women are often superficial. Rather than analyzing her law review articles or performance before the High Court in Citizens United v. FEC, people focus on her face. More specifically, the resemblance her face bears to other faces: Kevin James, a character from the Princess Bride, and Carrie Fisher, among others.

You people are shallow, sad creatures…

But we are too. We’ve written before about how attractive lawyers do better financially than their looks-challenged counterparts in the private sector, and unattractive people’s tendency to migrate out of law firms and into government and public sector jobs.

We’ve also commented specifically on Kagan’s looks. Lat is a devoted fan:

Solicitor General Kagan, you’re quite pretty. There’s a reason you made our list of law school dean hotties, back when you were dean at Harvard Law School. You have great skin, a dazzling smile, and a girlish glow. You definitely possess assets that merit accentuation.

A few years back, Kagan was nominated for our Law School Dean Hotties contest. Now we’re devoting an entire contest to her: the Elena Kagan look-a-like contest.

We’re accepting submissions in the comments, and choosing finalists based on those with the most “likes.” A photo essay on suggestions so far, after the jump….

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This morning I attended a very interesting panel discussion sponsored by the Yale Law School Center for the Study of Corporate Law, Citizens United: Mountain or Mole Hill? Because the talk was sponsored by my rather left-leaning alma mater, I expected the answer to the question presented to be “Mountain” — and not just any mountain, but Mount Doom.

I was pleasantly surprised. The deeply thoughtful discussion pointed more in the direction of “Mole Hill.” This was especially surprising given the liberal bona fides of the three star panelists:

  • Floyd Abrams, the longtime Cahill Gordon partner and celebrated First Amendment lawyer, who argued in the case for Senator Mitch McConnell (as amicus curiae, in support of Citizens United);
  • Heather Gerken, the J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law at Yale Law School, and a leading scholar of election law and voting rights; and
  • Samuel Issacharoff, the Reiss Professor of Constitutional Law at NYU School of Law, and an expert in voting rights and civil procedure.

Both Professors Gerken and Issacharoff worked on the Obama campaign. And we all know what President Obama thinks of Citizens United.

But what did this eminent trio of panelists have to say about the case?

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Now that the fabulous Elena Kagan has been officially nominated to succeed Justice John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court, some folks have been wondering: What does the future hold for the unsuccessful shortlisters? Let’s consider them, one by one.

1. Judge Merrick Garland (D.C. Cir.): The brilliant D.C. Circuit judge — practically a “tenth justice” himself, due to his ridiculous success in feeding his clerks to the Court — could be considered for a future vacancy. He’s young enough, at 57, and the Garland clerk mafia is strong, with representation in the White House counsel’s office and other D.C. power centers.

Garland is the SCOTUS candidate who would be most appealing to conservatives, so his chances of appointment are directly proportional to Republican representation in the Senate. My advice for Judge Garland: vote Republican.

2. Judge Sidney Thomas (9th Cir.): The well-regarded Ninth Circuit judge’s appearance on Obama’s short list surprised some, but it really shouldn’t have. Sid Thomas is very smart and very liberal, and he would add diversity to the Court (as a Montanan, non-Ivy Leaguer, and Protestant).

“Sidney Thomas is being thrown around in case [Justice Anthony M.] Kennedy steps down in the next two years,” a D.C. insider involved in the nomination process told me. “As far as we can tell, Obama likes [Sid Thomas] and wants to introduce him as a possibility to make him more palatable next time around.”

If Justice Kennedy, 73, were to leave the Court, it would be without any West Coast representation. Nominating Judge Thomas — a member of the Ninth Circuit, just like AMK was before his elevation — would remedy that.

My advice for Judge Thomas: pray for Justice Kennedy to have a heart attack.

3. Judge Diane Wood (7th Cir.): It pains me to say this, because I adore Judge Wood, but this go-around was her last best chance at the Court. This July 4, Judge Wood will turn 60, viewed by some as the upper bound for a nominee in terms of age. As one of my friends observed on Facebook, Wood is on her way to becoming the liberal version of Judge Edith Jones, whose numerous unsuccessful appearances on shortlists led Slate to dub her “Susan Lucci in judicial robes.”

My advice for Judge Wood: enjoy Chicago. Or pray for ill to befall Justice Ginsburg very, very quickly — if RBG leaves soon, you might still have a shot.

In addition, I have a rather significant CORRECTION, concerning some speculation I passed along last night. The rumor was that Daniel Meltzer, the deputy White House counsel who recently announced his resignation to return to the Harvard Law School faculty, harbors a grudge against Kagan — because she beat him out for the HLS deanship — and that Meltzer therefore lobbied against her nomination to the Court.

So…. just how wrong was I about tension between Kagan and Meltzer?

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And a correction: Kagan and Dan Meltzer are besties.

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