Skip to main content

When Nine Justices Were "Equally Divided," Part II

Image result for golf

To review, in the case on Kansas' ratification of the Child Labor Law constitutional amendment, the Justices appear to have taken three distinct votes. All nine justices voted in each of the first two cases. In the third, on the issue of whether the Lt Gov. of a state constitutes a legislator in the sense contemplated in the US Constitution, the justices split evenly, presumably 4-4.

And, not to keep you in suspense beyond necessity, the missing justice was ... James McReynolds.

Always listed as one of the infamous "horsemen" of anti-New Deal jurisprudence whose vote was predictable. In this case his vote must definitionally have been the swing vote.

Coleman v. Miller was the last case to be decided in the term. The term has lasted too long for McReynolds' taste, and when he believed it had been decided (though the Is had not been dotted) he took off on his summer break. The other Justices decided that a third vote was necessary only after his departure, and apparently it would have been impractical to try to call him back, so they just called it a tie.

Neat mystery solved. The only final note I want to add is a sentimental bit of verse occasioned by the issue of child labor, one which sticks in my mind for no good reason:

The golf links lie so near the mill
That almost every day
The laboring children can look out
And see the men at play.


Popular posts from this blog

England as a Raft?

In a lecture delivered in 1880, William James asked rhetorically, "Would England ... be the drifting raft she is now in European affairs if a Frederic the Great had inherited her throne instead of a Victoria, and if Messrs Bentham, Mill, Cobden, and Bright had all been born in Prussia?"

Beneath that, in a collection of such lectures later published under James' direction, was placed the footnote, "The reader will remember when this was written."

The suggestion of the bit about Bentham, Mill, etc. is that the utilitarians as a school helped render England ineffective as a European power, a drifting raft.

The footnote was added in 1897. So either James is suggesting that the baleful influence of Bentham, Mill etc wore off in the meantime or that he had over-estimated it.

Let's unpack this a bit.  What was happening in the period before 1880 that made England seem a drifting raft in European affairs, to a friendly though foreign observer (to the older brother…

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…

Francesco Orsi

I thought briefly that I had found a contemporary philosopher whose views on ethics and meta-ethics checked all four key boxes. An ally all down the line.

The four, as regular readers of this blog may remember, are: cognitivism, intuitionism, consequentialism, pluralism. These represent the views that, respectively: some ethical judgments constitute knowledge; one important source for this knowledge consists of quasi-sensory non-inferential primary recognitions ("intuitions"); the right is logically dependent upon the good; and there exists an irreducible plurality of good.

Francesco Orsi seemed to believe all of these propositions. Here's his website and a link to one relevant paper:

What was better: Orsi is a young man. Born in 1980. A damned child! Has no memories of the age of disco!

So I emailed him asking if I was right that he believed all of those things. His answer: three out of …