My Google Alerts are meant to feed me bloggable nuggets. I have some that reliably turn up good material. But the ones for Supreme Court justices regularly turn up stories like this. I'm not picking on Ruth Bader Ginsburg here. But when justices go out and give speeches at law schools they say anodyne things like: "The benefits of a diverse student population are not theoretical but real."
Oh, yes, maybe Justice Scalia will say something cutting, but it will be the same cut we've heard before.
All the same, I'm not asking them to be more interesting. It's not their job to amuse me. In fact, I think they are required to be that special, judicial kind of boring.
Oh, let me be that special, blogger kind of predictable and reprint this anecdote I tell at the beginning of an article called "Late Night Confessions in the Hart and Wechsler Hotel" (47 Vand. L. Rev. 993 (1994)):
Chief Justice Rehnquist visited my law school last year to deliver a lecture entitled "The Future of Federal Courts." The University Theater filled: overdressed alumni in the front rows, respectful students in the balcony, camouflaged professors here and there. I sat in the middle and hunched over a folded-up sheet of legal paper. I scribbled notes and hoped for some insight into the tangled mass of problems I had made my life's work. Would the Chief Justice perhaps explain the Court's new habeas corpus jurisprudence? I wanted a little accounting for Butler v. McKellar, in which he had denied federal court relief to a man who faced the death penalty after a conviction based on a confession that the Court's own case law would, without question, exclude.Maybe in the style of an evolving Constitution, the judicial norms change -- even though they retain that sober feeling. It would have been surprising in 1993 if Rehnquist had opined on racial diversity, and now it seems utterly conventional for Ginsburg to say "The benefits of a diverse student population are not theoretical but real."
The Chief told some jokes, elaborated on his ties to Wisconsin, and discoursed at length about the workload of the courts. The issues were neutral, administrative, managerial, structural.
"Did he say anything provocative?" asked a colleague who had missed the speech.
"He never got any more provocative than to say he's against diversity."
My friend was shocked. "He's against diversity!?"
"Diversity jurisdiction," I said, realizing she was not a proceduralist.