Veteran’s Day

Interesting Linda Greenhouse article on the earliest days of the Chief Justice John Roberts:

At the end of the first week of the Supreme Court’s new term, the justices assembled to discuss the week’s cases, and, following protocol, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. stated his own views first. Then, in keeping with the court’s tradition for the justices-only conference, the new chief called on the others, one by one.

He did so in order of seniority, referring to his colleagues in the most formal terms. First, “Justice Stevens,” followed by “Justice O’Connor” and then “Justice Scalia.”

Justice Antonin Scalia interrupted. “I will always call you Chief,” he said. “But to you, I’m Nino, and this is Sandra, and this is John.”

This vignette, described by Justice Clarence Thomas at a judicial conference in Colorado Springs late last month, is deliciously revealing of a Supreme Court in the midst of a generational shift. [….]

But by their very nature, these courtroom meetings were not meetings of equals. Now when John Roberts joins the other justices on the bench or around their conference table, he is not only their equal, but first among them.

Although Chief Justice Roberts has appeared at ease in the courtroom from the moment he took his seat on the first Monday in October, the transition can only have been dizzying. Just months ago, he was a court of appeals judge who took the subway to work. Now he is called for each morning and delivered home at night in a Supreme Court car.

By his choice, it is an ordinary car, a sport utility vehicle, in contrast to the limousine used by his predecessor, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist. The limousine has gone the way of the four gold stripes that the “old chief,” as the late chief justice is now almost universally referred to within the court, had added to each sleeve of his judicial robe. Still, the car and driver is a perquisite enjoyed by none of the other justices, who drive themselves to work in their own cars. [….]

Justice Thomas, whose silence on the bench has lasted for weeks or months on end, asked questions on two occasions during a single argument on Tuesday morning. [….]

One court official commented after the morning’s session, “They’re loose on the bench, and they’re loose behind the bench.”

The explanation for the court’s mood is no mystery. It is relief. The justices who lived through the long year of Chief Justice Rehnquist’s battle with thyroid cancer are survivors of a collective trauma, the dimensions of which are obvious only in retrospect.

Flash forward barely two months to an ordinary argument day in the courtroom, when a light bulb above the bench suddenly exploded with a jarring bang that brought court police officers to their feet. There was a tense silence before the benign explanation became clear. It was “a trick they play on new chief justices all the time,” Chief Justice Roberts commented.

The incident occurred on Halloween, not a day when the chief justice could linger in his chambers. He had to get home, where, disguised as Groucho Marx, this father of two young children greeted the neighborhood trick-or-treaters at his front door.

J. Thomas, speaking during oral arguments?! Gasp! Ch.J. Roberts dressing up, to take his little kids trick-or-treating? Wow. This is like an alternative universe Supreme Court.

Another “Pride and Prejudice.” While this time, Mr. Darcy isn’t played by dear Colin Firth, and Elizabeth Bennett is played by Kiera Knightley, hmm… Well, we’ll see. Dare I watch this one?

An ancient crocodile is found – or the fossil of it anyway – nicknamed Godzilla, it lived in the ocean. The Associated Press article on it strangely amused me. Maybe it was the headline that Yahoo (or AP?) had for the article: “Evidence of Huge Ancient Crocodile Found” – and the soundbites AP had pushed on the imagination:

“This animal was one of the latest members of its family and certainly the most bizarre of all marine crocs,” said Diego Pol of Ohio State University, one of the authors of the report.

Lead author Zulma Gasparini of Argentina’s National University of La Plata said the “animal’s anatomy is really a contrast with that of the other sea crocs that developed during the Jurassic,” about 135 million years ago.

The long narrow snout and small teeth of most crocs indicate feeding on small prey, Pol said, while Dakosaurus’ large serrated teeth indicate a carnivore that would have hunted large prey.

“This was a top predator that probably was 13 feet long and swam around using its jagged teeth to bite and cut its prey, like dinosaurs and other predatory reptiles did,” Pol said.

Scary. Roar!

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