Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Evidence that the Supreme Court needs to hear more cases.

Back in 2009, the New York Times published a story about how the Supreme Court hears significantly fewer cases than it did in the 1970s and 1980s. From a Minnesota standpoint, the article is interesting because it quotes former University of Minnesota Law School and current Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras. As the graph in the story shows, the court used to hear around 150 cases and now they hear 80. Combined with having the summers off, this seems like good work if one can get it.

While I am sure there are sound public policy reasons for hearing fewer cases, I think we have reached the point that the justices have too much time on their hands. As the Odd Clauses Blog noted, the other day Justice Scalia gave the citizens of Wyoming a new name. In his dissent in Montana v. Wyoming, refers to the citizens of Wyoming as "Wyomans." Justice Scalia does so because he thinks that Wyomans "deserve better" than to be called Wyomingite. This is apparently because Wyomingite is also, according to the 1957 edition of Webster's dictionary that Justice Scalia cites, a type of lava.

Setting aside the irony of using "man" to describe all the citizens of the "Equality State"(Given that Wyoming was the first state to allow women to vote, perhaps Wyominger or Wyomian would be better), doesn't Justice Scalia have better things to do than ponder the best thing to call the people of Wyoming? Also, if the Justice's clerks have time to track down a Webster's dictionary from 1957, they may not have enough to do.

1 comment:

  1. Scalia's "word-coining" is what passes for humor among a certain set -- not particularly funny to most people, faux-erudite, and inappropriate in the adjudication of legal claims (if understandably human).

    And it is folks like him, judges, who are to use "common sense and judicial experience" to evaluate whether a plaintiff's claim is "plausible" under the Iqbal/Twombly pleading standard.

    "Common sense" has no actual meaning. "Judicial experience" includes penning quips, matching wits, and work in chambers in near-complete disconnect with the experiences of the litigants whose cases are being adjudicated (and, in many cases, thrown out as "implausible").


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