September 7, 2005

Should Chief Justice Roberts keep the gold stripes on the robe?

Underneath Their Robes asks and answers:
Here are some points for and against Chief Justice Roberts keeping the gold braid stripes. On the one hand, the modest and unpretentious John Roberts might want to dispense with the pomp and blend in with his fellow justices, placing greater emphasis on the "equals" part of the Chief Justice's status as "first among equals." On the other hand, Chief Justice Roberts might want to retain the gold bars as a tribute to his predecessor and mentor. Removal of the stripes would constitute a repudiation of Rehnquist's sartorial legacy at the Court.
I say he should keep the stripes as a tribute. The tribute rational will tend to cancel the tendency to call it pompous. But then I liked Rehnquist having the stripes. It never seemed that pompous to me. It seemed more like he didn't take himself deadly seriously — which is what the plain black robes are about. He was inspired by an opera! I'm thinking he thought why must everything always be so somber and sober. And then he does something fun and people act like he's a big stuffed shirt? What a drag to be a judge! I think Roberts better use those stripes to keep his spirits up. And underneath: plaid pants!

By the way, that UTR post is full of interesting links and comments, including an attempt to answer my question about why Souter, alone among the Justices, declined to issue a statement on the death of Chief Justice Rehnquist. No one seems to have a good answer, so it's an occasion to make up reasons, in the style of a Letterman Top Ten list.

IN THE COMMENTS: Especially good comments here, including more than one Top Ten list and some alternate suggestions on how Roberts could glamorize his robe. And what's stopping the rest of them from fooling around with the uniform?

35 comments:

Paul said...

What stops each justice from changing their own robe? Is there something? A rule for the rest of them?
Why not plunging necklines for the women and general stars and hats for the guys - no i'm not trying to be smart, I've never understood why he changed tradition. For what purpose? And why can't the others do it?

reader_iam said...

Maybe he could just take half off -- wear stripes on just one side or something. Oh, dear, though ... what side to keep on????
BIG smile!

Mark the Pundit said...

How bout making the stripes a hot-pink? Boy, if you thought the NYT photos raised eyebrows...

Freeman Hunt said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Brendan said...

Those Queery Eye guys would have a field day.

Ruth Anne Adams said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wave Maker said...

Because Rhenquist's addition of the stripes was whimsical, and because Roberts himself clearly entertains and practices whimsy, Roberts should do whatever he wants with the stripes, provided that it is motivated by whimsy.

Steven said...

Drop the stipes! Go with gold stars! Four on each sleeve for the Chief, three for the seniormost Associate Justice, two for the next six Associate Justices, and one for the juniormost Associate Justice.

Freeman Hunt said...

Beadazzler maybe?

Gerry said...

Given that Souter *did* issue a statement following the passing of Justice White, and given that Souter *did* talk to a reporter about Rehnquist's death without saying a single phrase that could be considered a form of a eulogy or tribute, and given that Souter had been in touch with the Court enough that the spokesman knew enough to say that a statement would not be forthcoming, I am going to assume that there was some animousity, at least in one direction, in their relationship.

Robert said...

If there was some animosity, then Souter ought to be ashamed of himself. When an intimate enemy of yours dies, the decent thing to do is to mouth the damn platitudes. If you just can't bring yourself to do that, then you Clinton it and you write technically true phrases which nonetheless are positive in tone, which people can choose to gloss as praise. ("Chief Justice Rehnquist had a great effect on the Court, and even those of us who did not always agree with his reasoning had to admire his eloquence.")

vnjagvet said...

Beautifully done, Robert. Justice Sutor is a rare public individual about whom very little is known. The "stealth candidate" has become the "stealth Justice". This episode only adds to the mystery.

Gerry said...

But I did not follow the suggested meme.

10) Doesn't know how to use Microsoft Word.

9) Found a Valentine's card to Mother Souter from "Your admirer in Chief".

8) Gold stripe envy.

7) Rehnquist never paid their bet on the Red Sox/Yankees series.

6) His death means more stories about Republicans wanting "anyone but another Souter."

5) Rehnquist's last words: "Say anything bad about me and Snuggles the fabric softener bear gets snuffed."

4) Never forgave Chief for not being "Deep Throat".

3) No, the other "Deep Throat".

2) Was off on a Silly Putty bender.

And the #1 reason Souter did not make a statement regarding Rehnquist's death...

1) Too busy voting for Mig on Rockstar INXS.

A.M. Mora y Leon said...

I vote for the stripes.

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks for all the great comments!

stealthlawprof said...

Not sure I'm in the league with Gerry's top ten, but here is another set of possibilities:

10. The dog ate his statement.

9. Thought seven statements should suffice.

8. Still waiting for circulated drafts – mail is slow at the farm.

7. Tied up advising Ray Nagin on hurricane relief.

6. Expected to be able to join O’Connor and Kennedy in a joint opinion.

5. Never had to do this on NH Supreme Court.

4. Making secret wedding plans.

3. Busy re-reading Chase’s opinion in Calder v. Bull, hoping to remember if he is supposed to agree with it (see Stenberg concurrence) or disagree with it (see Seminole Tribe dissent).

2. Sore over not getting nod to be CJ.

1. Ran out of toilet paper on the farm, so Court stationery is needed for other important projects.

Robert said...

I can't believe it took me this long to think of this Souter reason:

Too busy worrying about eminent domain proceedings on his house.

Troy said...

Robert's should go with epaulettes and medals -- "I am the very model of a modern major-general!"

Robert's nod to Gilbert and Sullivan, however would be misinterpreted (or disinterpreted?) by the NYT as gay.

Sloanasaurus said...

The Justices should, from time to time, dress in throw-back uniforms (similar to baseball). Perhaps roberts can make everyone wear wigs, or tights with ruffles.

ziemer said...

i have nothing original to contribute here:

i'm just here to say i agree wholly with the statements of both wave maker and robert. there's nothing more that i can add (actually i could add alot about justice souter, but that will have to wait for a post in which it would be relevant).

Deena said...

No stripes!

Stripes have already been done. We like them because they are a fashion statement, don't we? Say you were part of a book club that rotated throwing parties every week. It would be gauche to show up at your party wearing the exact same dress the hostess wore at the previous week's party.

The moment the stripes went on, the black robe stopped being a uniform. Therefore it's unseemly to copy Rehnquist's outfit.

Goesh said...

I think a plain, unadorned crown would be in order here - Good King Bob has a nice ring to it. Long live the King! May he smite Liberals!

Paul said...

Okay, I just caught the fine irony in comment#2.
On the right for conservatives, left for liberals.
In fact I think Joe Biden and Arlen should force the candidate to pick a robe before the vote which would give clear indication of their beliefs thereby saving huge amounts of time and precious oxygen.
Unless, they came in like Souter, I mean, it would require honesty.

Smilin' Jack said...

Comic opera costumes are the perfect attire for these nine jokers who spend their time parsing the penumbral emanations of a centuries-old piece of parchment.

Unfortunately, the hilarity is somewhat diminished for the rest of us by the fact that their decisions affect our lives.

PatCA said...

Lose the stripes. He should set his own course. Rehnquist had a Gilbert and Sullivan vibe, Roberts, a Copeland.

Beldar said...

The late judge who presided over the 80th District Court of Harris County, Texas, in the early 1980s was locally famous for wearing a brilliant crimson robe, which he said traced back to a custom of the ancient Roman courts. He also, for a time, required the lawyers who appeared in his court to address and refer to each other as "Doctor," based on our having Juris Doctorate degrees; this caused a fair amount of confusion, especially when medical doctors were on the witness stand. Alas, a state judicial conduct committee eventually reigned in these particular idiosyncrasies.

Another Houston judge, the late John R. Brown, former Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, was also famously colorful. Judge Brown always dressed up as Santa to host a Christmas party for the local federal judges and their staffs, and was rumored to come by his ruddy red nose by liberally spiking the eggnog. Even outside the holidays, though, Judge Brown was a snappy, moddish dresser. The story is told that once, as all of the assembled Fifth Circuit judges were preparing to march into the en banc courtroom in New Orleans and were adjusting their robes, the late Judge Elbert Tuttle — observing Judge Brown's under-the-robes ensemble of pale blue polyester slacks, mustard-yellow shirt, and white tie, belt, and shoes — exclaimed, "My God, John, you look just like an Easter Egg!" Unfortunately the bailiff had just thrown open the door into the courtroom, so that Judge Tuttle's stage whisper was heard throughout — presenting a severe challenge to the solemnly assembled advocates.

Freeman Hunt said...

In the current fashion of sparkly graphic t-shirts with words, how about "Red Hot Justice Served at Bob's" in sparkle paint?

Troy said...

Red Hot Justice??? Perhaps he just wear briefs that read "amicus" in glitter on the front and "Texas v. Lawrence" on the back.

Freeman Hunt said...

Troy, you made me laugh out loud while someone was headed into my office. :D

How about if he added one of those high, standing collars like this:

http://www.megorama.com/images/fullsize/46_982888857.jpg

Maybe gild the edges.

reader_iam said...

Paul, thanks!

The left/right thing--complete with your examples--was exactly the point I was making, and the very first reaction that came to mind.
As an aside, although I live in Iowa now, I was a resident of Delaware for close to 25 years (though not a native, actually of some importance at the time my family moved there). As a kid, recently relocated there, I remember meeting Sen. Biden for the very FIRST time shortly thereafter. At that time he was basically at the start of his political career (and, LOL, more than a decade younger than I am now). The State of Delaware, especially then but even now, is really more of "small town" in significant ways.

Furius George said...

Since he's Chief - shouldn't he wear a ceremonial headdress and use the axe chop to open of sessions? I can feel the NCAA bubbling over as I type this.

CurbYourDog said...

Keep the stripes, Chief Justice Roberts! Traditions get their legs somewhere, this one may as well start here and now.

I've been thinking, though, and it seems that there really should be some ornamentation that sets all nine of the Justices apart from the thousands of other federal and state judges. Hmmm, what letter does "Supreme Court" begin with?

Amadeo said...

Because of CJ Roberts' youthful clean-cut look, it shouldn't matter whether the drab black robe is emblazoned with stripes or not.

To keep as a tribute? What, like those ribbons, ads, signs, etc., athletes have on their uniforms, as they parade on national TV?

Wouldn't that cheapen it?

Palmetto Neocon said...

Hillarious. Really fun reading these comments. In response to Freeman Hunt, its better than him wearing a White Sheet...:)

Kent said...

Why not plunging necklines for the women

There goes my appetite.