Friday, December 30, 2005

OMG! They're Human!

All except for one, our little doubting Thomas. Oh to be a fly on the wall.

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So, Guy Walks Up to the Bar, and Scalia Says... - New York Times
Justice Scalia was the funniest justice, at 77 "laughing episodes." On average, he was good for slightly more than one laugh - 1.027, to be precise - per argument.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer was next, at 45 laughs. Justice Ginsburg produced but four laughs. Justice Clarence Thomas, who rarely speaks during arguments, gave rise to no laughter at all.

Of course, what passes for humor at the Supreme Court would probably not kill at the local comedy club. Consider, for instance, the golden opportunity on Halloween this year when a light bulb in the courtroom's ceiling exploded during an argument.

It takes two justices, it turns out, to screw up a light bulb joke.

"It's a trick they play on new chief justices all the time," Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who joined the court that month, said of the explosion.


"Happy Halloween," Justice Scalia retorted.


And then, the kicker. "We're even more in the dark now than before," Chief Justice Roberts said.


On the other hand, in a January argument in a statute-of-limitations case, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy made an amusing observation about the absurdity of modern life.

"Recently I lost my luggage," Justice Kennedy said. "I had to go to the lost and found at the airline, and the lady said has my plane landed yet."
CBS had a show called First Monday, which was on Friday (Joe Mantegna, James Garner, Charles Durning and others) had some great dialogue and was all about the personalities of the justices. I enjoyed it even though I knew it would never get renewed.
The New York Times, building on Professor Wexler's pioneering work, analyzed the available transcripts for the term that began this October. The mood under Chief Justice Roberts has brightened, the analysis found, with the average number of justice-generated laughs per argument rising to 2.9 from 2.6 the previous term.

In the current term, the Times analysis found, there has also been movement in the funniness-of-individual-justices department. Justice Breyer has taken the lead, at 28 laughs, edging out Justice Scalia, with 25. They also tied in the largest-number-of-jokes-in-a-single-argument category, each squeezing five into a single hour.

Chief Justice Roberts made a strong early showing, coming in third, with 13.

"It looks like he'll be competitive," Professor Wexler said in an interview.

Justice Clarence Thomas continues to bring up the rear, with what is shaping up to be another jokeless term for him.
You would have thought he was tired of being in the rear. They have contests to be Miss Congeniality? What, do they Iron Chef the constitution? Play a little Deal or No Deal when it gets to be a judicial stalemate?

Not to be harsh, but Survivor didn't work out all that well last year.

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