I did. Once.
It had been written by then-Chief Justice William Renquist. The Times had printed all of it for some reason. I say “some reason” because I don’t remember what it was about.
But whatever it was, it angered me. The decision seemed illogical. So I decided to read how Renquist managed to get to that decision.
I started to read the way I usually read things. Which is fairly fast. After a couple of paragraphs, I had not been able to make sense of anything. It was clear to me Renquist had written goobledegook (borrowing a word John Roberts once used to decry an unpartisan method for redistricting — which was anything but “gobbledegook.”)
Renquist’s “gobbledegook” was legal gobbledgook. This is how you write legal stuff no one is supposed to understand: you write endless sentences, interspersed with phrases tangled up in obscure “legal” terminology, and then you trip on a staircase while holding those pages and they all fall any which way and you’re pressed for time so you pick them up in any order and dash out of the house.*
*Rarely would I credit Woody Allen for anything but right there, above, that scene came from his first screenplay, What’s New, Pussycat?
I was particularly angry at that decision and, consequently, was particularly annoyed that Renquist wrote it in what I considered a deliberately strained effort to be inexplicable to the regular American citizen.
Ergo, I started again at the top and slowed down to a reading crawl. I was determined to understand what he was saying, to get an explication.
And I succeeded. I managed to unknot the mess he’d made out of our language and pin down his logic.
There was no logic.
At the end of this miserable read was his decision. But until the decision, Renquist shamelessly leapt over crevasses — which, had he any integrity, he would’ve fallen into — in order to reach his conclusion.
That’s when I lost my long-held belief that Supreme Court justices were always the intellectual cream at the top of the Rule of Law.
As a justice, Renquist was sleazy. But at least he worked hard in his nearly incomprehensible writing to try to fool us into thinking he had brains and education, while we didn’t. He was, of course, deeply contemptuous of us ordinary citizens, but still he must have worried that we’d figure him out and toss the contempt right back at him. He made that effort, anyway.
What I’ve read of the current SCOTUS decisions by Alito and Thomas are the opposite. Their decisions are not rational, not profound, not obfuscating; they don’t pretend to be.
Never mind the Constitution. Never mind the scam job called “originalism.” You know, that nonsense conservative legal mediocrities invented to overturn our laws and say we must live by the rules set out in a 4900-word document signed over 230 years ago. (The document that glaringly did not have the word “god” in it.)
It’s my guess that the conservative legal mediocrities who came up with “originalism” were getting fussed that rational legal scholars kept pointing out that along with “god,” our original Constitution incorporated slavery and failed to incorporate women.
So they changed that dopey theory into another dopier one: “historicism.”
Now, any law, any human right not specifically mentioned in the original Constitution can’t be accepted if “history and tradition” did not accept it.
Unlike Renquist, I have great respect for your intelligence so won’t bother to note how many, many, many aspects of our contemporary lives did not win historical mention or approval, oh, say, 200 years ago…because they didn’t exist.
Here’s how Alito is lazy. Instead of working at disguising the emptiness of his decision, he just assigned his clerks to dig out every historical disapproval of or punishment for abortion. Their criterion for that search is stated on the first page of the decision:
Next, the Court examines whether the right to obtain an abortion is rooted in the Nation’s history and tradition and whether it is an essential component of “ordered liberty.” The Court finds that the right to abortion is not deeply rooted in the Nation’s history and tradition.
…”the Nation’s history and tradition,” when Blacks and women had no rights because they did not have the vote.
I’m now handing this over to you for evisceration. I’m kind of nauseous and must get something to soothe my tummy.