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Ruthie's REMs render a Supreme yawn

By Michael M. Bates
web posted March 13, 2006

Feeling drowsy recently, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg took a 15-minute nap. That would have been unremarkable except it occurred while the court was in session, hearing arguments on a congressional redistricting case. The justice's snooze wasn't mentioned by the three broadcast networks' evening news programs that night. Deep in its report on the court's session, the Associated Press gently noted:

"The subject matter was extremely technical, and near the end of the argument Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dozed in her chair. Justices David Souter and Samuel Alito, who flank the 72-year-old, looked at her but did not give her a nudge."

I don't blame them. If either had touched the flaming feminist, he probably would have ended up on the wrong end of a citizen's arrest. Right after receiving a kung fu kick.

Ruth Bader GinsburgNor do I fault Justice Ginsburg for catching some ZZZs. Viewing the tasseled loafers – I'm speaking here of the style of footwear, not the caliber of shysters - on constant parade in front of her, case after case, must have a soporific effect stronger than counting sheep. Not many cases feature an appearance from non-soporific legal philosophers such as Anna Nicole Smith to break up the monotony.

There's also the possibility Justice Ginsburg was so ill she couldn't stay awake. Or that she doesn't really need to listen to oral arguments since she already knows how she'll rule regardless of the discussion. If Ruthie isn't the most dependable court liberal, she'll certainly do until one comes along. How many other justices want to ditch Mother's Day because it perpetuates dangerous sexual stereotypes?

Perhaps her dozing off didn't merit the attention of the three broadcast networks. There's only so much available time and it would have been reprehensible for them to interrupt their wall to wall coverage of Vice President Cheney's crucial hunting accident.

The genuinely deafening silence came from other liberal sectors. We can only contemplate the firestorm that would have ensued had the napper been another justice. You know, someone like Clarence Thomas or Antonin Scalia.

President Ronald Reagan was widely excoriated for occasionally nodding off. Long before he actually fell victim to Alzheimer's, he was accused of having the disease. A Washington Post columnist snidely titled a book, Sleepwalking Through History: America in the Reagan Years. So if it had been Thomas or Scalia asleep in public, the reaction would have been predictably harsh and swift.

Democratic chairman Howard Dean would have been foaming at the mouth. On second thought, that's not a good example. Democratic chairman Howard Dean is always foaming at the mouth.

This would really have gotten Howlin' Howie going though, demanding that impeachment proceedings be initiated against the justice and, of course, President Bush for not preventing the siesta.

Tying the event to global warming, former Vice President Gore would recommend referral to the International Criminal Court as a possible violation of the Kyoto Protocol. Oh, and he'd demand another recount in Florida.

Bill Clinton would hold a press conference in Dubai declaring that such judicial misbehavior could never take place among his friends in the United Arab Emirates. Senator Hillary would stand next to her husband, nodding furiously as always with her patented bobble head routine.

Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid, flanked at a press conference by Senators Kerry and Kennedy, would announce their intention to conduct a thorough investigation of the entire matter. Senator Kennedy would express particular concern that alcohol may have been involved.

Filmmaker Michael Moore would begin production on his newest movie, Fahrenheit 66 (the perfect temperature for sleeping). Actor George Clooney would issue a warning that dozing justices are a direct threat to all Americans' civil liberties and George W. Bush is just like Hitler.

Talk show hosts would have mined the incident for jokes for a month. Editorials would have demanded the judge's resignation or removal from the bench.

Fortunately for Justice Ginsburg, she's a liberal and so different rules apply. She is safe from such attacks and won't need to lose any sleep over the episode.

Mike Bates is the author of Right Angles and Other Obstinate Truths. This essay appeared in the March 9, 2006 Oak Lawn Reporter.


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