Christian Schneider

Author, Columnist

Category: Courts (page 2 of 2)

The Voters Should Keep Speaking

With the Supreme Court race in our rear view mirror, the usual hysterics are taking place with regard to how we select our justices. According to Jay Heck from Common Cause, \”This was the most nasty, negative, demoralizing statewide election in Wisconsin history. . . . This is about as low as you can go.\”

Consider me among those not \”demoralized.\”

The election of conservative Judge Mike Gableman has set the media on fire. Much of the reaction resembles the state being hit by a hurricane, not the state electing a conservative Supreme Court justice. The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign\’s Mike McCabe, who must have a heck of a cell phone plan with all the calls he gets from state newspapers, said \”\”Wisconsin is in the midst of a hostile takeover of its court system.\”

This article from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel goes on to quote SEVEN individuals who think we should completely overhaul our system of electing judges. Not content with just that pitch for campaign finance reform, the paper today also ran an editorial describing the Supreme Court race, titled \”Tawdry and Despicable.\”

Naturally, had Butler won, we wouldn\’t be hearing any of these calls for blowing up the system – everything from eliminating free speech to publicly funding elections to doing away with elections altogether. Everything would be golden until next year, when the balance of the Court would be up again.

But there are some interesting facts that the Journal Sentinel seems to leave out. Take, for instance, the results of the last four Wisconsin Supreme Court races:

2000: Conservative woman defeats liberal man (Sykes v. Butler)

2003: Conservative woman defeats liberal man (Roggensack v. Brunner)

2007: Conservative woman defeats liberal woman (Ziegler v. Clifford)

2008: Conservative man defeats liberal man (Gableman v. Butler)

Could it be possible that Wisconsin voters simply prefer conservative justices? Is there even a remote chance that the people who voted wanted their justices to adhere to a strict reading of state law?

In fact, it could be that all those \”scary\” ads had little to do with the race. The Sykes and Roggensack races were low-profile elections, yet the conservatives won in each case (Sykes by a nearly 2 to 1 margin).

Consider also the 2006 elections, when Republican J.B. Van Hollen won the race for Wisconsin Attorney General amid a Democratic tidal wave. How could this be? Could it be possible that voters are actually sophisticated enough to know what they want from specific elected offices? If voters knew what they were doing, that would ruin the whole fairy tale about how they are unduly influenced by campaign advertising, and how they\’re not qualified to pick judges.

Put simply, you want a conservative to keep bad people from doing things to you, but you want a liberal when you want to do things to bad people. (Oil companies, pharmaceutical companies, Dick Cheney)

Yet the state media can\’t comprehend the fact that in electing Gableman, they were only doing what they have done for the past decade – electing a conservative. It doesn\’t matter how much people spend or how much press coverage there is of the race.

Had Gableman lost the election, conservatives certainly would have been bummed out. But how many would be calling for an overhaul of the electoral system? Answer: none. When Democrats and liberals are elected, the Right lives to fight another day. Fortunately, they have enough class to refrain from insulting the will of the people.

For Gableman, the Work Now Begins

As everyone knows by now, Burnett County judge Mike Gabelman beat incumbent Justice Louis Butler in a race for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court last night. Butler should have known he was in trouble when he got a call from Paula Abdul telling him he \”looked gorgeous.\”

Interestingly, the people who seem to be most stunned about Gableman\’s victory seem to be Gableman\’s own supporters. While people who backed Gableman certainly agreed with his stated judicial philosophy, he never demonstrated a grasp of the issues most important to the Court. This was due, in part to the race\’s misleading focus on criminal justice issues. It is also due to the fact that Gableman often eschewed actual debate with Butler in favor of calling him a \”judicial activist.\” In the candidates\’ final debate, Gableman answered virtually every question with the words \”judicial activism,\” rather than explaining any of his own positive philosophy. (He crossed the line the next day at the dry cleaners – when asked if he wanted extra starch, he accused the dry cleaner of legislating from the ironing board.)

Yet despite any misgivings supporters had about Gabelman\’s electability or the campaign he ran, the bottom line is that he won. So it\’s hard to argue tactics – clearly his campaign knew what they were doing. But it doesn\’t make it any less shocking that what was essentially a second-tier candidate ended up on the Supreme Court in a year that was supposed to be dominated by liberals.

So now the blueprint for winning a Supreme Court seat is pretty much set. Criminal justice, criminal justice, criminal justice. The best advice I can give Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson for her 2009 race is to get a picture of her beating a homeless crack addict with a billy club, ASAP.

As for Butler, he actually seems like a good guy. In debates he was composed, knowledgable, and personable. Yet for all of his charm, he never seemed to grasp the problems voters might have with a justice
that disregarded the plain meaning of the law as often as he did. In his final TV ad, he bragged about ruling in favor of widows of men killed in the Miller Park construction accident. He stood up for children \”hurt by unsafe products.\” (Presumably the ridiculous lead paint case.)

While it\’s wonderful that these widows and children were able to get some kind of relief, it still leaves one question: what was the law? Being a justice isn\’t about handing out Christmas presents to the aggrieved. It\’s about interpreting the statues as written by the Legislature. Certainly, I would be appreciative if Louis Butler could get me in a hot tub with Natalie Portman. But I\’m fairly sure there\’s no law authorizing such a meeting. (Mental note to self: begin lobbying Legislature for such a law.)

Voters likely saw that Butler\’s presence created a Court majority run wild. In fact, his mere presence on the Court was an affront to the voters. After Butler lost to Justice Diane Sykes by a 2-to-1 margin initially, Governor Doyle ignored the will of the electorate and appointed Butler to the bench anyway. This was the judicial equivalent of mooning the voters.

Butler is smart and capable, and his punishment will be to move to a high-class law firm and make five times as much money as he made on the Supreme Court. So while it may hurt his feelings that he lost to Fred Flintstone now, he\’ll do just fine. (In the final debate, you could see on Butler\’s face that he couldn\’t believe they got this guy to run against him.)

But now that he\’s on the Court, Gableman will have to prove that he was worthy of all the support he received. He has to display an intelligence and grasp of the issues that seemed to be lacking in his campaign. In short, he has to bloom where the voters planted him.

Electing Judges: Save us from the Horrors of Democracy

The candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the government, upon vital questions affecting the whole people, is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court.., the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their government into the hands of that eminent tribunal.

– Abraham Lincoln, First Inaugural Address

 

Wisconsin government has been infected by a poisonous presence. Apparently, this corrosive phenomenon is so dangerous, it has prompted one of the largest newspapers in the state to call for a constitutional amendment to eradicate it. And what exactly is so damaging to our democracy?

Well…democracy, actually.

Disillusioned by the spending in and tone of the state’s recent Supreme Court elections, the Wisconsin State Journal has repeatedly called for justices to be picked by an “impartial” committee, rather than by popular vote.[i] They argue that the concepts and rulings handled by the Court are far too complex for your average voter, and submitting judges to common elections is a vulgar way of picking such sacred positions. According to supporters of “merit” selection, picking judges via election is like painting a Matisse with crayons.

In their four (to date) editorials pushing such a “merit” system of picking judges, the State Journal repeatedly cites the need for “qualified” judges who don’t “appear” corrupt. Yet they cite no judge currently on the bench who they consider unqualified as a result of being picked by popular election, and they can’t name a single court action or decision handed down that is the result of this supposed “corruption” that would lead them to disenfranchise every voter in Wisconsin. Apparently they believe that one of these days, the produce manager at your local grocery store is going to slip by a confused electorate and end up on the high court.

The conceit inherent in their position lies with their elevated view of the Supreme Court. Supporters of appointed judges apparently believe in the concept of “judicial supremacy,” which gives the Court heightened importance over the other two branches of state government. Yet one must ask the obvious question: Why is democracy acceptable when picking legislators, who write hundreds of new laws each year, but not judges, who will rule on a fraction of a percent of those laws? It would seem that the 132 legislators who write all of our laws and formulate budgets would be much more susceptible to corruption. Why bother electing them?

A system of picking judges via backroom dealing runs counter to the very principles on which our government is founded. One doesn’t have to read too far into the Declaration of Independence to find that our government derives all of its powers from the “consent of the governed,” not from “people who the State Journal thinks are swell.”

In fact, one of the harshest criticisms of the court system as it currently exists is the extent to which it is insulated from public opinion. Interest groups can often convince sympathetic judges to enact new laws that would never make it through the legislative process. For instance, Wisconsin voters in 1993 approved a constitutional amendment to ban casino-type Indian gaming in the state. In the 2004-05 term, the Wisconsin Supreme Court interpreted the strict ban on gaming expansion to mean tribes could offer any types of gambling they wanted – the exact opposite of what voters had approved. This year, voters will be able to offer their opinion about whether that case was decided correctly. Yet proponents of the “merit” system would deny the public that opportunity, thinking that somehow silencing citizens makes for a fairer Court.

The true irony in the State Journal’s argument is that any change to the way judges are picked would have to be made via constitutional amendment – which, of course, must go before the full public for a vote. So the voters would have to go to the polls and affirmatively vote away their right to determine how their laws are interpreted. Then again, the paper thinks you as a voter are easily confused, so maybe they think we’d pass such an amendment. In fact, given the importance of constitutional amendments, maybe we shouldn’t leave those up to voters, either. Perhaps we should just appoint a “nonpartisan” board to determine what our Constitution says, instead of suffering through those messy elections.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the State Journal’s crusade is the role that the paper itself plays in setting the tone of judicial elections. Recent paper articles pertaining to the ongoing judicial election have dealt solely with each campaign’s charges and counter charges. So while the newspaper decries the “mudslinging” in judicial races, they gobble up the candidates’ press releases like fried cheese curds. Perhaps the Wisconsin State Journal could begin to remedy the poorly informed electorate by actually reporting on something other than what the candidates and third party spenders tell them to.

Instead, their solution is to shield our virgin eyes from the horrors of democracy, as if we are all incapable of judging candidates rationally. Clearly, we are all simple-minded rubes who sit in front of our glowing televisions and take the advertisements we see literally. Discussion of a candidate’s judicial philosophy or past rulings is off-limits, labeled as “sordid” campaigning. It seems to be a risky proposition for a newspaper to repeatedly accuse its own readers of being incapable of having an opinion about how the laws under which they choose to live are interpreted.

In 1903, voters approved expansion of the Wisconsin Supreme Court to seven elected judges, via constitutional amendment. That year, the Dane County Bar held a meeting to pick the judicial candidates it thought were most “qualified” to serve, in an attempt to bully voters unto supporting their preferred picks.

At the time, one strong voice ripped the Dane County Bar’s maneuver, pointing out that their supposed “nonpartisan” recommendations were all loyal soldiers in the LaFollette administration. To wit:

“The Madison Democrat diverts itself from day to day in forecasting judges. It gives names by the dozen, all ardent workers in the LaFollette vineyard for years. They have earned their reward, intimated the Democrat. It indicates that unconsciously the public is losing the solemn sense that long attended the investiture of the ermine. Meanwhile, the work of projecting the “organization” into every nook and cranny of the state goes forward.”

If only the Wisconsin State Journal still stood up for the rights of the voter like it did on March 25th, 1903.

-March 6, 2008
[i] Puzzlingly, one of these editorials attempted to make the case that democracy isn’t really all that important, since most judges begin their tenure as appointees, anyway. Apparently, appointing judges will help fix a broken system where most judges are already appointed. How does it benefit the system to do more of what the paper thinks is a bad thing?

Supreme Disinformation

I hate to beat a dead horse (see previous post), but come on, Wisconsin State Journal.

Here\’s yesterday\’s headline with regard to the State Supreme Court race:

Gableman Won\’t Retract Letters

The dust-up is about a letter sent by Judge Mike Gableman that references a vote cast by Justice Louis Butler to free a convicted sex offender. Butler claims the charge is unfair, since the individual was never freed. Gableman counters that the fact the offender was never released had nothing to do with Butler\’s vote – in fact, the sex offender was retained in spite of Butler\’s vote, not because of it.

Either way, it\’s pretty clear what the State Journal thinks about the dispute. Naturally, it\’s incumbent on Gableman to \”retract\” the letters, since the paper likely thinks they\’re so unfair. The presumption of wrongdoing is always with the conservative candidate, who then must \”retract\” whatever point they were trying to make. The headline could have easily been written thusly:

\”Butler Defends Vote to Release Sex Offender\”

Fat chance of that. Anyway, lest this become just another conservative sour-grapes screed about the \”liberal media,\” (too late, I know), there is a broader point to all this.

The State Journal has been breathlessly editorializing about how Wisconsin should do away with elected judges, and go to a \”merit based\” system, with judges being picked by some \”impartial\” board. (Perhaps as \”impartial\” as the State Bar.) They believe that the political process is clearly much too crude to pick \”qualified\” judges, despite not being able to offer a single example of how any sitting justice isn\’t \”qualified.\” Say what you will about the jurisprudence of Louis Butler and Annette Ziegler, but they are both most certainly qualified to be on the high court.

The irony here is, when given a chance to actually cover a Supreme Court race, the State Journal does nothing but cover the most political of issues in the campaign. In a sense, they are themselves contributing to the disinformation that they so fervently decry. We can\’t elect judges because they get such bad information during a campaign, but they get such bad information during a campaign because that\’s all they\’re willing to cover.

Where are the stories analyzing Mike Gableman\’s philosophy as a judge? Where are the stories analyzing Louis Butler\’s reasoning in lead paint lawsuits? It\’s not like there\’s not an extensive paper trail on both these guys that might serve as a blueprint for their future jurisprudence. Instead, it\’s easier to sit back and wait for their press releases to hit your inbox.

In a sense, the State Journal is right – the public does get slanted, ill-informed facts during a judicial campaign. Only it\’s not the candidates and interest groups that are spreading the misinformation.

The Best Headline Money Can Buy

It wasn\’t until Saturday that I realized there was a newspaper sitting in my driveway. This concerned me, since I do not subscribe to a newspaper. It turned out that it was Friday\’s Wisconsin State Journal.

This has happened before – a paper just shows up in my driveway, unsolicited. I asked my wife how that is any different than littering. If I didn\’t ask for it, how can paper companies just show up and throw stuff at my house? Maybe I should show up at the State Journal offices and dump off an old couch I\’ve been trying to get rid of. My wife said it\’s not any different than getting junk mail, but I objected to that comparison. For one, the postman doesn\’t show up and throw your junk mail all over your front yard.

Anyway.

As I opened this interloping newspaper, I noticed a big headline on the front page:

\”Gableman\’s Appointment Questioned\”

Wow, that must be pretty big news with a headline that prominent. I wonder what neutral, independent, well-respected third party is questioning Judge Mike Gableman\’s appointment to the Burnett County Circuit Court?

In fairness, the article does point out that it is the \”left-leaning\” Greater Wisconsin Committee that has made this accusation. (To say the GWC \”leans\” liberal is like saying Richard Nixon \”leans\” dead.)

But the damage is done with the headline alone. The chances of this headline ending up in a television ad down the road now stands at 95 percent. The only thing that would prevent this headline from showing up on your TV screen at home would be if a picture surfaced of Gableman dressed in traditional Somali garb.

This is one of the reasons nobody should really be all that choked up about the Capital Times newspaper ostensibly going under. The only purpose that paper served was as a headline factory for left-wing campaigns. Of course, nobody in Milwaukee or Amery or Wausau knows what the Capital Times is, so when a clipping of one of their headlines showed up in a TV ad, people statewide falsely assumed it had a modicum of credibility. Wisconsinites may recall Governor Jim Doyle\’s bogus ad accusing Mark Green of \”corruption.\” One of the headlines featured was one from the Capital Times that read \”Mark Green\’s Lawlessness.\”

The true irony of the article lies with the Wisconsin State Journal\’s breathless cheerleading for campaign finance reform. In editorial after editorial, the State Journal urges limits on what outside groups can spend on campaigns. Yet, the only thing that really makes this story newsworthy is the amount of money the GWC is spending on spreading it around. Thus, by reporting this story, the State Journal is carrying water for an evil third party, who it believes shouldn\’t otherwise be able to speak during a campaign. If the Wisconsin Restaurant Workers Association were to issue a statement that accused Justice Louis Butler of being a bad tipper, it probably wouldn\’t be covered. However, if they spent $200,000 on an ad buy saying the same thing, it may sneak its way into the paper. (It would also mean that we\’re all probably tipping too much.) And thus, the cycle is complete.

So congratulations to the Greater Wisconsin Committee on this big victory. You paid a lot of money for that headline, make sure you enjoy it.

Dead Book Walking

I\’m just about finished with Jeffrey Toobin\’s \”The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court,\” which purports (as the title suggests) to be an inside look at what makes the U.S. Supreme Court tick.  It\’s an entertaining read, but can hardly be considered a serious examination of the Court, given the baseless opinions Toobin offers, and the factual errors even I was able to pick out.

For instance, on page 234, Toobin criticizes Justice John Paul Stevens thusly:

\”His intense patriotism prompted the most out-of-character vote of his judicial career, when he sided with the conservatives in the famous flag-burning case of 1989.  In his dissent in that case, Stevens said burning the flag was not protected by the First Amendment, because \’it is more than a proud symbol of the courage, the determination, and the gifts of nature that transformed 13 fledgeling Colonies into a world power.  It is a symbol of freedom, of equal opportunity, of religious tolerance, and of goodwill for other peoples who share our aspirations.\’\”

Naturally, Toobin thinks that \”out-of-character\” for the reliably liberal Stevens means \”wrong.\”  Fair enough.  But he is actually incorrect in saying that Stevens \”sided with the conservatives\” in the case.  (In fact, since he acknowledges that the Texas v. Johnson case is a \”famous\” case, he should have figured people could easily look it up.)

In Texas v. Johnson, the majority opinion was written by the liberal Justice Brennan, who was joined by justices Marshall, Blackmun, Scalia, and Kennedy.  Dissenting were Chief Justice Rehnquist and justices O\’Connor (the hero of Toobin\’s book), White, and Stevens.  Of the \”conservatives\” on the Court, Scalia and Rehnquist split (I, personally, happen to agree with Scalia).  Even the moderate Republican appointees, O\’Connor and Kennedy, split.  So in his rush to paint conservatives as willing to suppress free speech rights, Toobin gets his votes exactly wrong.

There are a number of these errors in the book that intend to make the Court\’s conservatives look like intellectual lightweights, guided solely by partisanship.  Toobin\’s treatment of the 2000 Bush v. Gore case is particularly troublesome, as he repeatedly asserts that the Court badly mismanaged the case – without even paying lip service to the arguments for the Court agreeing to take it up.  It\’s almost as if he forgot the national circus that the repeated vote counting in Florida caused, and he can\’t conceive of the Supreme Court\’s role in wanting to rectify the situation.  And he broadly asserts that the reason the Court took it up was purely partisan – without offering even a shred of evidence.  Justices Scalia and Thomas are particularly portrayed as buffoonish, while much more ink is given to the \”deep thinking\” and \”thoughfulness\” of Breyer, O\’Connor and Souter.

A number of Toobin\’s errors have been chronicled in depth on other blogs. 

That all being said, it is a good read, especially if you want a perspective on the big cases of the past 15 years.  But I hate being stuck in a situation where I have about 100 pages of a book left to read, and I\’m not exactly sure whether I\’m going to be getting factual information the rest of the way home.  I feel obligated to finish, since I\’ve invested the time to get this far, but I\’m skeptical of what I\’m being told (from what I understand, I\’m about to learn how Samuel Alito is the root of all evil in the U.S. judicial system, so I\’m bracing myself.)

SIDE NOTE:  Toobin advances the tired and commonly-used idea that conservatives on the court are exercising their own brand of \”conservative judicial activism.\”  I would suggest reading Rick Esenberg\’s Wisconsin Interest piece on \”activism\” versus \”restraint\” if you inexplicably have found yourself making this argument.

Baby Name Overturned

Between members of the U.S. Supreme Court, there has recently been a spirited debate about the role foreign law should play in instructing our High Court.  Justices such as Stephen Breyer argue that foreign law has a place in influencing U.S. decisions, while Antonin Scalia believes that foreign law shouldn\’t play a role in how we interpret our laws.

After reading this story, Scalia\’s case just got stronger.

Court says baby can\’t be named \’Friday\’

ROME (AP) — What\’s in a name? If the name is Friday, shame and ridicule, according to Italian judges who forbade a couple from naming their child like the character in \”Robinson Crusoe.\”

\”They thought that it recalled the figure of a savage, thus creating a sense of inferiority and failing to guarantee the boy the necessary decorum,\” the couple\’s lawyer, Paola Rossi, said Wednesday. The couple are considering appealing the decision to Italy\’s highest court, she said.

Mara and Roberto Germano, whose son was born on Sept. 3, 2006, had the boy named and baptized Venerdi, Italian for Friday. Even though the boy was not born on a Friday – it was Sunday – his parents liked the name, said Rossi.

\”They wanted an unusual name, something original, and it did not seem like a shameful name,\” Rossi said in a telephone interview. \”We think it calls to mind the day of the week rather than the novel\’s character.\”

Since city hall officials are obliged by law to report odd names, the matter ended up before judges in Genoa, the northern Italian city where the couple live.

Last month, an appeals court stated that Friday falls into the category of the \”ridiculous or shameful\” names that are barred by law, as it recalled the native servant in Daniel Defoe\’s novel.

The judges wrote that naming somebody Friday would bar him from \”serene interpersonal relationships\” and would turn the boy into the \”laughing stock of his group,\” according to a report in La Repubblica this week.

Voting Irregularity

I went in to vote this morning, and noticed that the woman in the booth next to me had her seeing eye dog with her.  However, she didn\’t have any other human in the booth helping her out.  So exactly what role was the dog playing there?  It\’s not like the dog was pointing to the ballot and telling here where to fill in the marks.  I didn\’t hear the dog saying \”Pssssst…. vote for Clifford here.\”

Of course, dogs are more likely to vote for Linda Clifford, given her long lineage in the Clifford political family.

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Dancing on a Volcano

In 1939, legendary French director Jean Renoir released “Rules of The Game,” a film that still frequently resides at the top of many “Greatest Movies in History” lists. The film was a madcap satire of French society in the late 1930s, portraying the governing class as crude, oversexed, and naïve to the realities of the world.

When the film was released, France was on the brink of entering World War II. Renoir’s portrayal of French culture as infantile and elitist clearly conveyed a message to the public that they didn’t want to hear. At the film’s debut, a riot ensued, with some patrons setting fire to newspapers in an attempt to burn the theater down. During the War, the film was placed on a government list of banned movies, as it was supposedly bad for the public’s morale.

In Renoir’s eyes, too little attention was paid to the serious issues that plagued society, such as the impending World War. In a 1966 interview, Renoir quoted a poet who said it was like they were “dancing on a volcano.”

When watching old movies, it is often jarring to realize how little things change over time. America in 2007 is still at war, yet you’re assured of a spot on the news if you’re a dead Playboy playmate, a bald pop-star slattern, or a homicidal diaper-wearing astronaut.

In Wisconsin, voters will select a Supreme Court justice on April 3rd. Thus far, none of the public debate between candidates has even approached how either of them would serve as a member of our highest court. Instead, we get charges that one justice didn’t disclose a relationship with a bank in some small claims cases, followed up by a bogus complaint filed by a special interest that purports to oppose special interests.

Then we’re treated to an equally irrelevant counterclaim that a candidate’s campaign workers lied to some cops who asked them where they were from. It’s gotten so ridiculous that one television station thinks it’s relevant that one of the candidates made some calls to a ski resort using her office phone.

Both campaigns would probably go through the usual verbal contortions to say that the above examples show their opponent’s “trustworthiness,” or “ethics.” In fact, they don’t show us anything at all.

They don’t show us what each of the candidates thinks about the constitutionality of Wisconsin’s school choice program, which gives low-income African American children a chance to escape Milwaukee’s failing schools. They don’t show us how the candidates would constitutionally justify unlimited gambling in Wisconsin, just years after citizens thought they passed a constitutional amendment banning expanded gambling.

They don’t show us how the Constitution allows someone to now sue a company in Wisconsin for actions that may have taken place 100 years ago, and that may or may not have caused their injuries. They don’t show whether the candidates read the constitutional right to “to keep and bear arms for security, defense, hunting, recreation or any other lawful purpose,” to mean “depending on what neighborhood you live in.”

They don’t tell us how one of the candidates would decide a case on free speech restrictions being pushed by a campaign finance reform advocate who is helping her get elected. They don’t tell us what authority the Court has to write entirely new laws, such as the mandate that all juvenile interrogations be videotaped.

On April 3rd, Wisconsin voters could end up picking the swing vote on the State Supreme Court based on issues that are painfully superfluous to actually being a justice. Voters could neglect issues of historical importance to pick a justice based on whether we like her nails. And when the volcano erupts, we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves.

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