Skip to main content

The Notorious RBG

So Ginsburg has spoken out against Donald Trump.

"I can't imagine what this place would be -- I can't imagine what the country would be -- with Donald Trump as our President."

Yes, this is very unusual. By way of comparison, Justices Douglas and/or Black, not to mention Chief Justice Warren, spoke in no such way about Richard Nixon in 1968. Surely they despised him, and saw his then-still-hypothetical presidency as a threat to their judicial legacy. But they retained what is considered proper judicial decorum in such matters.

For a sober, professorial, discussion of why Ginsburg was in the wrong and why the defenses of her comments are also "mostly wrong," go to PrawfsBlawg.

But of course this is the Justice widely known as the "Notorious RBG." If she's not going to be the court's badass, who will be?


  1. Here is an article titled, "The criticism of Ruth Bader Ginsburg ignores much of the nation’s history":

    In particular, it notes that, "In 1944, Justice William O. Douglas lost a convention fight to be Franklin Roosevelt’s vice-presidential candidate. Four years later, Douglas turned down Harry Truman’s offer to be his running mate, reputedly because Douglas wanted the top job for himself." That's not quite the same as criticizing (or praising) a candidate, but it could have raised similar conflicts concerning future cases that came before the Court.

    I do not endorse Ginsburg's actions, mostly because of the criticism that they have brought her. But, for three reasons, they don't trouble me much.

    First, because Trump is a threat to the Constitution and to our democracy, all justices, liberal and conservative, ought to be warning against him. If they all did, then they presumably none would recuse himself or herself from a case involving Trump.

    Second, Scalia and Thomas have spoken before the Federalist Society, and Scalia went hunting with Cheney (and then would not recuse himself). Why should liberal justices unilaterally disarm?

    Third, we all know that justices have political opinions, so why go through the charade of pretending otherwise? A judge would be incompetent if she could not separate her political biases from her legal analysis, and she would be unethical if she did not seek to do so. I realize that this argument would also justify a justice campaigning for a candidate, and that would seem to go too far. That's why I do not endorse Ginsburg's comments. But I think that far too much has been made of them.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. One more thing. To blatantly decide cases on the basis of one's political biases is far more serious than to state one's political biases. Yet the right-wing justices do the former regularly. They did so, of course, in Bush v. Gore, and that seems to have given them a license to continue to do so. Yet they have not faced even a small fraction of the criticism that Ginsburg has faced for her lesser crime.

    Recent examples of this action by right-wing justices are Thomas's and Alito's dissents in this past term's Texas abortion case. Their legal analysis was so specious that they could not have believed what they wrote. They dissented solely to express their opposition to abortion or their support for the Catholic church's opposition to it.

    Their opposition to abortion is so strong that they feel that their duty to stop it overrides their duty to decide cases according to the law. As Supreme Court justices, they could have legitimately dissented on the grounds that they believe Roe v. Wade and Casey to have been incorrectly decided. But they didn't. Instead, they dishonestly pretended that those cases did not demand the result that the majority reached.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Cancer Breakthrough

Hopeful news in recent days about an old and dear desideratum: a cure for cancer. Or at least for a cancer, and a nasty one at that.

The news comes about because investors in GlaxoSmithKline are greedy for profits, and has already inspired a bit of deregulation to boot. 

The FDA has paved the road for a speedy review of a new BCMA drug for multiple myeloma, essentially cancer of the bone marrow. This means that the US govt has removed some of the hurdles that would otherwise (by decision of the same govt) face a company trying to proceed with these trials expeditiously. 

This has been done because the Phase I clinical trial results have been very promising. The report I've seen indicates that details of these results will be shared with the world on Dec. 11 at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology. 

The European Medicines Agency has also given priority treatment to the drug in question. 

GSK's website identifies the drug at issue as "GSK2857916," althou…

A Story About Coleridge

This is a quote from a memoir by Dorothy Wordsworth, reflecting on a trip she took with two famous poets, her brother, William Wordsworth, and their similarly gifted companion, Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

We sat upon a bench, placed for the sake of one of these views, whence we looked down upon the waterfall, and over the open country ... A lady and gentleman, more expeditious tourists than ourselves, came to the spot; they left us at the seat, and we found them again at another station above the Falls. Coleridge, who is always good-natured enough to enter into conversation with anybody whom he meets in his way, began to talk with the gentleman, who observed that it was a majestic waterfall. Coleridge was delighted with the accuracy of the epithet, particularly as he had been settling in his own mind the precise meaning of the words grand, majestic, sublime, etc., and had discussed the subject with William at some length the day before. “Yes, sir,” says Coleridge, “it is a majestic wate…

Hume's Cutlery

David Hume is renowned for two pieces of cutlery, the guillotine and the fork.

Hume's guillotine is the sharp cut he makes between "is" statements and "ought" statements, to make the point that the former never ground the latter.

His "fork" is the division between what later came to be called "analytic" and "synthetic" statements, with the ominous observation that any books containing statements that cannot be assigned to one or the other prong should be burnt.

Actually, I should acknowledge that there is some dispute as to how well or poorly the dichotomy Hume outlines really maps onto the analytic/synthetic dichotomy. Some writers maintain that Hume meant something quite different and has been hijacked. Personally, I've never seen the alleged difference however hard they've worked to point it out to me.

The guillotine makes for a more dramatic graphic than a mere fork, hence the bit of clip art above.

I'm curious whe…