The Supreme Court oral argument season for October Term 2009 has ended. That means it’s time to name this term’s Funniest Justice – the jurist who earned the most laughs this term.
And, as those of you who have been following the tally all year know, there is no need for a drum roll. This one was a blowout:
Earning 77 laughs during the oral argument season – nearly half the total number of laughs earned by the justices – Justice Antonin Scalia is the winner and three-peat champion. (It may be more than a three-peat, but DC Dicta has only been around for three years to count).
Scalia demonstrated why he dominated this contest during yesterday’s oral arguments in Doe v. Reed, a case considering whether the release of petition signers’ identities is constitutional.
“What about just wanting to know their names so you can criticize them?” Scalia asked petitioners’ attorney James Bopp, earning the first of his four laughs that day. “Is that such a bad thing for democracy?”
“Well, what is bad is not the criticism, it’s the government requiring you to disclose your identity and belief,” Bopp replied.
“But part of the reason is so you can be out there and be responsible for the positions you have taken (so) people can criticize you for the position you have taken,” Scalia said.
“Then why don’t they require both sides if that was the purpose?” Bopp asked.
“What do you mean, ‘both sides’? The other side hasn’t signed anything,” Scalia said, drawing more laughter. “When they sign something, they will be out there for public criticism as well.”
“Okay,” Bopp said. “But this is a one-way street.”
“Oh, this is (so) touchy-feely,” Scalia said to more laughs. “Oh, so sensitive.”
Here is the final tally:
Justice Antonin Scalia: 77
Justice Stephen Breyer: 44
Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.: 26
Justice Anthony Kennedy: 8
Justice Samuel Alito: 6
Justice John Paul Stevens: 3
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: 1
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: 1
Justice Clarence Thomas: 0 (Thomas has maintained oral argument silence since Feb. 22, 2006)