Dear Walter and Paul:
I am on skates today between decisions this morning at the high court and the Kagan hearing which has just begun—a state of affairs that I referred to yesterday as a “nerd sandwich.” Just a few preliminary notes on this morning’s court session: Ruth Bader Ginsburg was in attendance despite the death of her husband last night. The lawyers and press corps in attendance were aflutter with bow ties in tribute to Justice John Paul Stevens’ signature style. The chief justice read a letter praising Stevens for having served for one-sixth of the court’s lifetime, for his rigor and integrity and genuine collegiality. Stevens responded, as Tony Mauro notes, with a letter of his own that he prefaced with the comment that “when he joined the Court in 1975, a letter like his could have been addressed to ‘Dear Brethren.’ But with two women on the Court, Stevens decided ‘Dear Colleagues’ would be appropriate.” Then he thanked his colleagues and said: “If I have overstayed my welcome, it is because this is such a unique and wonderful job. I wish you all the best.”
The drama surrounding Ginsburg’s loss, Stevens’ last day, and the Kagan hearings about to open wasn’t all of it though. There were a lot of strong opinions and passionate dissents today. Justice Breyer read aloud from his dissent in the Chicago guns case and in the Public Co. Accounting Oversight Board case. Justice Stevens read from his concurrence in Bilski, scolding the court for its “timid disposition” of the case.
I was struck by the length of Justice Alito’s summary of his opinion in McDonald and equally struck by the fact that he pointedly argued that this was the view of the Second Amendment necessary to protect the newly freed slaves. Justice Breyer’s dissent was equally lengthy, as was his summary of his dissent.
More on all this later as I try to absorb the Kagan hearing and McDonald at the same time.