On The Job Of A Supreme Court Justice

Justice Antonin Scalia has a question; how can the people of the United States of America expect he or his clerks to read a law as expansive as the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act of 2010? It is a relevant question at the least, and one that has been thrown down as a gauntlet by conservatives opposed to the law they call Obamacare since the very beginning. At least one GOP Member of Congress brought the full printed version of the law to the podium to demonstrate his point as, apparently, something with a lot of words is necessarily bad.

The Bible has close on a million words, and Biblical “scholars” have a lively debate trying to figure out which ones are relevant to Christians in this century and which are meant to be ignored. I suppose, in the interest of being reasonable, that if the document is divinely inspired that it doesn’t have to pass the length test. Perhaps we should ask Justice Scalia? In any case, all of this talk of length has got me asking a question more important than whether size actually does matter; just how big is Obamacare?

I keep hearing about a 2,700 page monstrosity, but when I look up the law I find that it only has 955 pages. I also find that the Affordable Care Act is printed in the same format as all federal legislation is; 2″ margins all around and 14 point font. In fact, try copying a page of the law and pasting it into Word; you will find that a typical page has about 500 words, and some substantially less. That means that the law comes out to something less than 500,000 words. One half of one million is still a lot, you might say, and I would agree. But in law and business, as in life, context is everything. Is 500,000 words too much to expect of folks that get paid to read and evaluate laws?

At around 1,000 words per opinion, and with hundreds of opinions written, Justice Scalia himself is at least as verbose as the law he refuses to read. He has written as many books as J.K. Rowling although, in fairness, his were undoubtedly shorter than her last three. Speaking of Ms. Rolling, millions of Americans substantially less well read than Justice Scalia and his clerks, have read the last three books of the Harry Potter series. Those novels, it turns out, tip the scales at more than 500,000 words. Those millions who have read them, by the way, didn’t get paid to do so. Justice Scalia does in fact receive a substantial salary, excellent health insurance, and a lifetime guarantee of work, all under the auspices of him reading and giving judgement on the laws brought in challenge before his bench.

Lazy, flippant, petulant, and entirely too powerful for the amount of work he is willing to offer the people of the United States of America. Just 25 more words that describe Antonin Scalia, Justice of the Supreme Court. And one more…


The Rational Middle is listening…

2 thoughts on “On The Job Of A Supreme Court Justice

  1. Interesting point Bill…no, I wouldn’t hold my breath. The term of office is established by the Constitution, and would thus require an amendment to change. We have yet to seriously approach changing the rules of the Senate…rules that support polarization by forcing super-majorities to pass bill. Such rules reform would only require a 60 vote super-majority to pass, and that isn’t close. Pushing a successful amendment on any topic is, I think, a distant fantasy at best.

  2. Very nicely put. I’d like to suggest that in a polarized society, lifetime tenure for the Supremes isn’t a great idea. They should have to get their ticket punched by the Sente every ten years or so.

    I’ll hold my breath, shall I?

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