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March 1, 2006
Asleep On The Job

Apparently, the duties of oral arguments at the Supreme Court no longer engages Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The controversy over Texas redistricting apparently didn't generate enough interest to keep her attention (h/t J. Crater):

The Supreme Court had put the Texas cases on the fast track, scheduling an unusually long two-hour afternoon session.

The subject matter was extremely technical, and near the end of the argument Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dozed in her chair. Justices David Souter and Samuel Alito, who flank the 72-year-old, looked at her but did not give her a nudge.

The court has struggled in the past to define how much politics is acceptable when states draw new boundaries to reflect population shifts.

I know the idea of a two-hour meeting might seem long to AP reporters and some jurists, but in the real world, we have business meetings that go on all day. Most of us manage to stay awake, and we're not tasked with creating legal precedents that will define the structure of our democracy. (Usually, we're tasked with cutting costs while maximizing profit ... and we still manage to stay awake.)

Keeping awake for two hours of discussion should be a minimal expectation not only of the American public, but for both parties bringing the case to the Court. How can either party feel satisfied that the court has a clear understanding of their position when one of its members slept through their explanations?

Had this happened with Justice Scalia or Justice Thomas, it would have been front page news at the New York Times tomorrow. The AP manages to bury it around paragraph 16. The AP wouldn't have softened the blow with the silly disclaimer about the subject being "extremely technical" with one of the conservatives, either; these are lawyers and judges, and "technical" comes with the job. If Justice Ginsburg can't make it through two hours of argument, she should consider joining Justice O'Connor in retirement.

UPDATE: The Washington Post doesn't bother to report it at all. Neither did the New York Times.

UPDATE II: Actually, as CQ reader Hoystory notes, the Post does report this, although in a Dana Milbank column and not in its news report on the court. He estimates that Ginsburg's nap lasted fifteen minutes.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 1, 2006 11:14 PM

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