June 25, 2012

How did Jonathan Turley come up with 19 as the best number of Supreme Court Justices?

We're all wound up waiting for the Supreme Court to announce its new decisions this morning, so let me while away some of the remaining minutes brooding about that WaPo article we were talking about last night. Let's talk, specifically, about Turley's homing in on the number 19.

Wikipedia has an article on the number 19, which includes mathematical info like "19 is the aliquot sum of two odd discrete semiprimes, 65 and 77 and is the base of the 19-aliquot tree." And "19 is a centered triangular number, centered hexagonal number and a Heegner number" — which looks like this:



That red dot could be John Roberts.

There's also significance to the number 19 in the religions Islam and Baha'i:
The number of angels guarding Hell ("Hellfire") according to the Qur'an: "Over it is nineteen" (74:30).

The Number of Verse and Sura together in the Qur'an which announces Jesus son of Maryam's (Mary's) birth (Qur'an 19:19).

Some people have claimed that patterns of the number 19 are present an unusual number of times in the Qur'an.

In the Bábí and Bahá'í faiths, a group of 19 is called a Váhid, a Unity (Arabic: واحد wāhid, "one"). The numerical value of this word in the Abjad numeral system is 19.

The Bahá'í calendar is structured such that a year contains 19 months of 19 days each (along with the intercalary period of Ayyám-i-Há), as well as a 19-year cycle and a 361-year (19x19) supercycle.

The Báb and his disciples formed a group of 19.

There were 19 Apostles of Bahá'u'lláh.
Not at the Wikipedia, but dredged up out of my memory: At the Million Man March, back in 1995, when Louis Farrakhan gave his long speech that bizarrely drifted into numerology, the number that he found so important was 19. He observed that the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorial are both 19 feet high, then adds 3 and 16 together — because Thomas Jefferson was the 3d President and Lincoln was the 16th — gets 19 and asked "What is so deep about this number 19?" You can go to the link and read if you want to know why 19 represents a pregnant woman + a "secret that has to be unfolded."

I don't know what put the idea of 19 into Jonathan Turley's head. It could be something mystical and nutty. Maybe he loves Adele's first album.

But I assume there's nothing mystical or artistic about Turley. I think he likes the number 19 because it's the smallest odd number that's big enough to make individual Justices inconsequential — to dilute their power to the point where they don't loom large as personalities and seem like mere humans.

Turley's last sentence says it: With 19 Justices, "the power of individual judges is diluted."

50 comments:

Roman said...

Turley, after little to no thought at all, pulled 19 out of his ass.

Saint Croix said...

19 represents a pregnant woman + a "secret that has to be unfolded."

Okay, that's freaking me out. 19 has always been my favorite number. Wow.

Paul Zrimsek said...

Please take me along when you slide on down.

Scott M said...

I think he likes the number 19 because it's the smallest odd number that's big enough to make individual Justices inconsequential

Why doesn't 15 or 17 work?

t-man said...

Maybe that was how old Turley was his first time.

Matthew Sablan said...

I just think its cute that he thinks having more justices will make the court less partisan.

Yeah. That worked for Congress.

Ron said...

After that first pic...I thought maybe he's a fan of Twister!

t-man said...

There are nine blue dots, six green, three yellow and one red. You just know that the blues would vote together, and the greens would band together with the yellows to combat the blues, leaving the red dot as the deciding vote.

Fen said...

Lets extend it to the Executive Branch. I think Turley would agree that one man should not wield all that power. Next election, pick the top 5 to serve as President, by committee?


/s

Saint Croix said...

Farrakhan is so retarded.

"Why are we standing on the Capitol steps today? That number 19 -- when you have a nine you have a womb that is pregnant. And when you have a one standing by the nine, it means that there's something secret that has to be unfolded..."

I can see a 9 representing a little baby in the fetal position, with his big head.

You could also say that 19 represents marriage. If the 1 is a man--ramrod straight--and the 9 is a woman, all curvy and flexible. (And with a baby!) Maybe that's why I like 19, it subliminally reminds me of marriage.

And I really do have a mindset that if you have a secret, I want to know what it is. I don't get that from a 1, though, or a 19.

It's funny about numbers, how we can get romantic about them, and pick our favorites.

D.D. Driver said...

Two theories:

ONE, he is telling the truth when he says:

While the best number is debatable, I believe that a 19-member court — roughly the average size of a circuit court — would be ideal. . . . A 19-member or so court has been shown to work efficiently where a larger court would likely be unwieldy. On appellate courts it is rare that one or two judges consistently provide the swing votes on all issues when they sit “en banc,” or as a whole.

TWO, it's rather obvious that 19 is twice the existing size (18) plus one (so you are not left with an odd number).

chickelit said...

Weren't there 19 9/11 hijackers?

Bill Harshaw said...

How many judges on the circuit courts?

Hagar said...

Turning the Supreme Court into a House of Lords is not going to help.

I am seriously annoyed by the AP headlines "Chairman Issa says no evidence against Obama." Then you read down the article, and what Issa said is that he has seen no evidence that the White House was involved in "Fast & Furious" when it went down. A very different thing, and the White House certainly is involved now.

I also object to Mark Strassman on CBS Evening News referring to George Zimmerman's "stand your ground defense," which neither Zimmerman nor his lawyers have ever claimed as it simply is not applicable to his case.

D.D. Driver said...

Rather: "not left with an even number."

Rob said...

Specific numbers are arbitrary. Much better would be a somewhat ambiguous statutory mandate, which could be interpreted by the courts in light of changing circumstances. Thus my proposal is to amend the Judiciary Act to provide for "lebenty-leben" Supreme Court justices.

Patrick said...

Leslyn's idea that 19 is an impossible cribbage hand makes as much sense as anything else.

Jon Burack said...

He probably wanted more than 19. But at 2 per persident, he realized he'd likely only get to ten more before Obamacare bankrupted the whole nation anyway.

chickelit said...

Ron said...
After that first pic...I thought maybe he's a fan of Twister!

Would that be when Justice Scalia goes "right foot blue, left hand red" and Justice Ginsburg counters with "left foot green, right hand yellow" until they collapse into an exhausted heap?

Michael K said...

Turley got an undeserved reputation as a moderate during the Clinton scandals. He is just another leftist law professor.

AJ Lynch said...
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AJ Lynch said...

Fen said:
"Lets extend it to the Executive Branch. I think Turley would agree that one man should not wield all that power. Next election, pick the top 5 to serve as President, by committee?"

Along those lines, I think what we need is a small president versus the disastrous transformation wrought by Obama. What do I mean by a small president? One who focuses on national defense, homeland & energy & environment security, infrastructure and highways, fixing soc security, fixing medicare and getting his nose out of most of the other areas he has gotten involved in over the last 60 years [i.e education,medicaid, federal unemployment, mass transit funding, student loans, housing guarantees, public housing].

D.D. Driver said...

While, I am agnostic on a larger Supreme Court I have long advocated for a much larger House of Representative (~10,000), which more closely approximates the not to exceed number of one representatives per 30,000 citizens number proscribed in Article I, Sec. 2.

At a minimum we should be up around 2,000. This would restore the ratio of voters to representatives that existed back in 1913 when we set current number 435. Our populations has quadrupled over that time, but the House has stayed the same. Thus, each voter has seen the influence of their vote erode.

Also, let's repeal the 17th Amendment.

D.D. Driver said...

Turley got an undeserved reputation as a moderate during the Clinton scandals. He is just another leftist law professor.

Moderate doesn't quite apply. Be he is not a paint-by-the-numbers leftist either. As far as I know he has not been a big cheerleader for Obamacare, either:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZUxcNXkTpNo

TMink said...

Man, progressives sure love those Court packin schemes when things don't go their way. Eh Franklin?

Trey

tim in vermont said...

Reminds me of this Kids in the Hall sketch

"Sir,you need no fewer than seven plungers!"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GgIp5WRkBwg

Hagar said...

A governing committee should not have less than five members, seven is optimal, but then everybody needs to be available. Nine allows for someone to be recused or the seat between appointments.

More than nine leads to futile squabbling and reduces the perceived importance of the office. We do want the Justices to be personally responsible for their opinions; not merely party members.

ricpic said...

It's interesting that FDR's court packing plan would have given FDR the power to add a justice for every seated justice over the age of 70 years and six months. In other words the plan did not specify that the court be expanded to a specific number. Dilute the power of the old fuddy duddies on the wrong side of history. That was FDR's plan. Now that old fuddy duddies Ginsburg and Breyer and depending on what day it is Kennedy are on the right side of history Turley should go for a reverse Roosevelt and propose adding a justice for the under 50 year and six months old justices. Since Sotomayor and Kagan are in their mid 50's the Turley plan wouldn't need immediate tweaking while forcing the next Republican prez to nominate near fuddy duddies. Then when the next Dem gets in the low age requirement can be lowered to 35 years and six months and the Dem can appoint one or two leftist near babies to the court! Sounds like a plan.

tim in vermont said...

Gee, what would happen to ObamaCare if the supreme court was the accumlation of the appointments of every president since Nixon?

Or every president since FDR?

I have a feeling it would be no different.

Pogo said...

Well maybe Turley's just a Steely Dan fan.

Hey Nineteen.

Richard Dolan said...

Turley's idea may be motivated by the same concerns as the FDR court-packing scheme, but also mimics in form (but not in intent) the English approach to the former Law Lords. Under English law, the number of Law Lords increased over time to 12, with provision for further increases. In 2006, the Brits ablished the Law Lords and set up the Supreme Court of the UK, with all sitting Law Lords automatically becoming members of he new court.

Some of the states had followed English practice in the early days of the Republic as well. In NY, for example, the Senate along with some judges acted as the highest court of errors and appeals until 1846. There was general dissatisfaction with that approach (having a large body act as a court), a reaction that was also common when our largest circuit courts were called upon to sit en banc. The Ninth Circuit -- by far the largest in terms of judges -- sits in demi-semi-quasi en banc today. It's an odd compromise -- the idea of en banc review is that the whole court sits to review a decision by a panel in a particularly important case. The Ninth Circuit now has a larger panel review a 3-judge panel's decision.

Turley's idea, if were anything more than partisan hackery, would have to deal with those considerations.

edutcher said...

That pic looks like Turley is still haunted by the fact he couldn't figure out Instant Insanity when he was a kid.

Or was it Rubik's Cube?

Anyway, the solution is add 3 Conservatives for every Lefty.

Daniel Ruwe said...

19 would mean that even if the 9 justices we have now voted as a bloc, the other ten would be able to overrule them. That's what I assumed the significance of that number was.

wyo sis said...

D. D.
I agree 17 must go.

edutcher said...

D.D. Driver said...

Also, let's repeal the 17th Amendment.

Probably ought to repeal all of them after the first 10 "0

ndspinelli said...

Althouse obviously isn't a fan of Hemingway.

ndspinelli said...

chickelit, And isn't 19 the name of an Adele album?

Jacques Cuze said...
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Jacques Cuze said...

Professor Turley has responded Professor Althouse, The Limits of Civility: How A Proposal On Reforming The Supreme Court Unleashed A Torrent Of Personal Attacks

In that post he discusses his long time opinion regarding court size, his long time opinion on the individual mandate.

I think you made an ass of yourself in your assumptions. (Cue Tony Randall)

While Althouse writes a conservative blog and has been something of a lightning rod in the past, I would have thought that she would do a little research before going after another professor. In reality, I am calling for the expansion of the Court despite the fact that I would agree with the anticipated decision from the Court striking down the individual mandate. It is precisely the opposite of what is being suggested. Even though I expect to be on the winning side, I still do not believe it should be left to a single swing justice. I understand that some bloggers are given to hyperbole like Althouse asking “If the greatest good is in the greatest number, why not 100? Why not 1000?” — even though the column addresses this question. It is the allegation that I am just making this proposal due to my opposition to the expected decision that is beyond the pale in my view.

wyo sis said...

Which doesn't address the question of timing.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

I think the goal here is to grant President Obama the power to immediately appoint two new Justices.

Obviously you could do that by performing a Spinal Tap and just dialing the 9 up to 11.

But 19 holds out the idea that Obama is appointing only 2 of the 10 new Justices, and many of the rest will go to a future and quite possibly Republican President.

D.D. Driver said...

As I said in the other thread, Ann's original post was both cheap and knee-jerk.

Especially since Ann is frequently on the receiving end of the broad brush treatment. You know, like this:

http://althouse.blogspot.com/2011/06/isthmus-columnist-emily-post-slimes-me.html

Ann owes an apology. Or she loses all sympathy from me when others distort her viewpoints just to attack her.

ndspinelli said...

Althouse gets pimp slapped by Jacques and Turley. The integrity of Althouse will be on display if and when she responds to this rebuttal.

Mark said...

@ Pogo; Perhaps he was just channeling for Paul Hardcastle.

Mark said...

@ Pogo; Perhaps he was just channeling for Paul Hardcastle.

Lance said...

Turley's last sentence says it: With 19 Justices, "the power of individual judges is diluted."

What nonsense. The Senate with 100 members concentrates tremendous power in the elite few that fill each party's leadership positions. The House with 435 members is even worse.

leslyn said...

Thank goodness this didn't come delivered printed on paper. It would have been such a waste of trees.

leslyn said...
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leslyn said...

I wrote my earlier comment before I read the comments in this post, so I gotta say:

Turley, if you read this, this Althouse blog post is even sillier than the first, but you gotta get over it.

Don't feed the squirrels.

gadfly said...

Calypso Louis Farrakhan brings us up to speed as to the significance of the number 19 in numerology. (Thanks Rush!)

RUSH: Now, here's the Million Man March sound bite from October 16th of 1995.

FARRAKHAN: In the background is the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorial. Each one of these monuments is 19 feet high. Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president; Thomas Jefferson, the third president. And 16 and three make 19 again!

RUSH AUDIENCE: (laughter)

FARRAKHAN: What is so deep about this number, 19? Why are we standing on the capitol steps today? That number 19, when you have a nine, you have a woman that is pregnant; and when you have a one standing by the nine, it means that there's something secret that has to be unfolded. Abraham Lincoln's statue: 19 feet high, 19 feet wide! Jefferson: 19 feet high, 16th and the third president, 19; standing on the steps of the Capitol in the light of the sun, offering life to a people who are dead!