Good golly, Miss Molly! What was that all about? We blinked, and the Supreme Court rolled things back a century. Suddenly abortion is illegal, carrying guns in public is de rigueur, the Environment Protection Agency is a nullity and a Bible-thumping football coach at a public high school is entitled to pressure his players to pray on the 50-yard line. Justice Clarence Thomas, once mercifully quiet, is now making noise about revisiting the right to use contraception or to marry someone of the same sex.
Yep, faster than you can say Merrick Garland, there are three new right-wing justices in town, impatient to make their mark and to mobilize their fellow conservatives. For the sake of saving space, let’s just call them the United Trump Injustices (UTI). As Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus put it a few days ago, “This was the term the Supreme Court decided to ignore the speed bumps.”
Far be it from me to pretend to know what is going inside the cloistered high court, but I don’t think that it’s a lovefest these days. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a fearless truthteller, sent up a distress signal at oral arguments for the abortion case in December:
Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts? I don’t see how it is possible.
So now the court term is mercifully over before the Supremes could overrule Brown v. Board of Education. And predictably, a cry is now going up in the land for the Democrats to pack the Supreme Court with enough liberal justices to trump the Trumpies.
True, court packing didn’t go over well in 1937 when FDR decided that he needed as many as 15 new justices to neutralize the obstinate ones blocking his New Deal legislation. And true, Joe Biden will be a hard sell — he called court packing a “boneheaded idea” in 1983 and is still stubbornly against it, despite the political pickle he finds himself in. And true, the idea may not go over well in the Manchin fiefdom. But let’s show some team spirit! Even the hapless Susan Collins can read the writing on the wall.
Personally, I think FDR was stretching it by saying he needed 15 new justices. I figure that we’ll need only nine or ten more to treat the UTI. But at that rate of growth, let’s face it — we’re not going to be getting the law review crème de la crème. In fact, we may be scraping the bottom of the legal barrel by the time that we reach our quota. So I have a modest proposal:
Why not me?
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a bit rusty, after three decades as a journalist. But by some oversight, they still haven’t rescinded my J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School. Luckily, it will take an archeological dig to unearth my law school records. I graduated a century ago, as it were — in 1978 — the ink on my transcript has presumably faded to the point of being undecipherable.
Okay, it’s a fact that my grades in law school ranged from middling to embarrassing. I do remember getting one of my few (my only?) A’s in a Law and Psychiatry class, taught by a brainy psychiatrist, Dr. Andrew Watson. That will come in handy when the case of The United States v. Donald J. Trump crosses my SCOTUS docket.
(To be honest, I still feel guilty about having taken the seat of some nice young man who was bound for a cushy salary at some corporate firm. And yes, in those days, it was likely to have been a man. My class was 75 percent male. What can I say? I aced the LSATs; English majors are good at standardized tests.)
Let’s not overlook the fact that I am still technically licensed to practice law in New York — and I that I was an unhappy government lawyer for three tear-stained years during the Carter and Reagan administrations. So, sure, I could brush up on the particulars in my spare time. Does Stanley Kaplan offer a cram course for Supreme Court nominees?
One of the pleasures of being on the court will be sitting next to Ketanji Brown Jackson, the newest justice, who strikes me as a superstar-to-be. And naturally, I revere Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. (The Notorious RBG looks to me in the rear-view mirror like someone who should have retired early enough to save her seat for democracy’s sake, but who am I to give career advice?) It’s quite the hen party up there now, with three bona fide female feminist justices and one real-life Handmaid’s Tale nightmare, Amy Coney Barrett.
Rest assured, America — I will not be the worst justice in US history. Chief Justice Roger Taney has a lock on that title. He was the author of the 1857 pro-slavery decision in Dred Scott. I would call Dred Scott the most odious ruling in the annals of the court, but I don’t want to underestimate Justice Samuel Alito, who has shown a remarkable capacity to disregard human rights and the arc of the moral universe. Without me on the bench to keep him in check, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization could just be the tip of the Hindenburg.
So I humbly offer myself, Mr. President, for your consideration as a member of the supersized Supreme Court. You need not worry that my undistinguished track record in the legal world will hobble my decision-making abilities on the bench.
I will have no trouble deciding how to vote. I will do the opposite of whatever Clarence Thomas does, so help me God.