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Associate Injustice

I've always thought of California as the nation's trend-setter, not New Hampshire. We try not to show where the nation is going, but where it should. That's one reason I think it's good that we hold the first presidential primary; we help sort the wheat from the chaff, and force those who would be president to do a bit of retail politicking and reveal a bit more of themselves and their character than they would wish.

But it turns out we just might be setting a trend in other areas, including one where I really wish we weren't.

New Hampshire has a County Superior Court judge named Patricia Coffey who's in a bit of hot water. She is accused of dozing off during a trial over which she presided, a trial that concluded with her sentencing the defendant to 23 to 46 years in prison for several sexual assaults. Judge Coffey is facing disciplinary action, a process that could end with her being suspended from the bench -- or worse.

But what happens when that happens in Washington, and the jurist in question happens to be on the United States Supreme Court?

The Supreme Court is known as "the court of last resort," and it is the one court for which there is no appeal. Its decisions are final -- unless overturned by itself or a Constitutional amendment. There are no mistrials declared, no reviews of its procedures or actions. and the only check on the justices is the "big gun" of impeachment by Congress -- a procedure undertaken exactly once in history, over 200 years ago, and Justice Samuel Chase was acquitted.

So, what should be done about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg falling asleep on the bench during one of the most important political cases to reach the court in years?

That's irrelevant. Nothing can be done. Justice Ginsburg is on the bench until she chooses to step down, or the Congress removes her -- and that is NOT likely to happen. The only thing that can be done is for her colleagues to impose some informal pressure on her to either straighten up and stay awake, or step down. And in this instance, neither Justice Souter or Justice Alito -- who sit beside her -- bothered to rouse her.


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Comments (11)

I wouldn't wake her up. Gi... (Below threshold)
George:

I wouldn't wake her up. Give everybody more time to see that she is sleeping.

Even when she is awake, she is not listening.

Maybe she was making a poli... (Below threshold)

Maybe she was making a political statement?

Can you freaking imagine th... (Below threshold)
JD:

Can you freaking imagine the outrage this would have produced had that been Justice Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, or Alito ?

As long as her lefty clerks... (Below threshold)
Master Shake:

As long as her lefty clerks are awake, they can still give her opinion to her.

There's nothing that can be... (Below threshold)

There's nothing that can be done, of course. A lifetime appointment is just that. There have been times in the past when one of the Supremes grew so feeble and senile that the other justices agreed not to count his vote if it was close. This can go on for years.

It could have very well bee... (Below threshold)
Beth:

It could have very well been that Scalia and Alito wanted everyone to see that she was napping. Maybe this is a more frequent occurance than we know about.

When I was in 1st grade, my teacher would doze off during reading circle. She'd call on a kid to read, and then her head would bob. Sometimes the poor kid ended up reading the entire time (which is a big deal for a 1st grader). Finally a kid told her parent (a nurse) who gently came in and asked what the problem was (how different from today, right?) Come to find out, the teacher had undiagnosed diabetes (the parent talked her into going to the doctor, and that's when she was diagnosed and treated).

Maybe Ginsberg isn't just being lazy or sleepy or whatever. Maybe she's sick. (no, that's not wishful thinking... I don't wish anything like that on anyone.)Just tossing out that idea...

There is certainly a whiff ... (Below threshold)
Socratease:

There is certainly a whiff of hypocracy here, but keep things in perspective. In the case of a trial judge, the court proceeding is where everything happens. In the Supreme Court, most of the activity is in the chambers where the briefs are studied, research is done, and the opinions are written. The oral arguments aren't unimportant, but they're much less so than in a trial.

I think Ginsberg will be le... (Below threshold)
K:

I think Ginsberg will be leaving soon. Various reports say she is failing. And the reports don't seem to be disputed.

But as far as this matter is concerned I con't care.. Some judges say frankly that oral arguments on appeals aren't important to them; they want to work from written material. If anything startling gets said she will be told of it anyway.

Many countries allow no oral arguments on appeal.

Maybe she's dead but Jennif... (Below threshold)
moseby:

Maybe she's dead but Jennifer Love Hewitt's titties haven't helped her cross over yet.

She wasn't sleeping, she wa... (Below threshold)
adele:

She wasn't sleeping, she was just 'resting her eyes'.

Get off her case; she's jus... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

Get off her case; she's just doing research to see if justices really need to hear oral augments or if they can just read the record after they make up their minds.




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