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Scalia v. Ginsburg, a musical saga

Reading hundreds and hundreds of pages of casebook  Supreme Court  opinions usually makes law students’ eyes glaze over. But one student read the dramatic written legal interplay between Justice Antonin G. Scalia and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and it was music to his ears.

For Derrick Wang, a recent Maryland’s Carey School of Law grad and a musician, it all started with a dissent by Scalia.

“I realized this is the most dramatic thing I’ve ever read in law school … and I started to hear music — a rage aria about the Constitution,” Wang told NPR’s Nina Toenberg. “And then, in the midst of this roiling rhetoric, counterpoint, as Justice Ginsburg’s words appeared to me — a beacon of lyricism with a steely strength and a fervent conviction all their own. And I said to myself, ‘This is an opera.’ ”

That opera, called “Scalia/Ginsburg,” (which Ginsburg revealed in May was in the works) is now complete and will debut in the fall at the University of Maryland, and will be presented next spring at the Washington National Opera. The justices themselves got a sneak preview from Wang last month after the court issued its final decisions of the term.

More here from NPR.

Heard in Ginsburg’s chambers: “I do”

Though the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court are quite busy during the late spring months drafting the last opinions of the term, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg took a little time out to conduct another ceremony this weekend.

The justice served as wedding officiant to Morgan Deann Ortagus and Jonathan Ross Weinberger, who tied the knot in the justice’s chambers at the Supreme Court Saturday, according to the New York Times. More here.

Coming soon: Scalia and Ginsburg, the Opera

Supreme Court buffs who have long followed the drama and unlikely friendship between Justices Antonin G. Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg can take heart: the story is being put to music.

“There is now being written an opera called ‘Scalia-Ginsburg,’” Ginsburg said last week during an appearance at the spring meeting of the American Bar Association Section of International Law in Washington, according to a Federal News Service transcript from the event. (FNS is a sister company to Lawyers USA.)

The justices, who lie on opposite sides of the Court’s ideological spectrum, are close and have been known to travel, ring in the New Year, attend the opera together. Once the justices were even featured in a performance by the Washington National Opera. Soon, it’s their story that will be set to music.

“One of the principal arias is “Meet Giamano Nino,’” Ginsburg said.

Latest SCOTUS accident: Breyer falls off bike, breaks shoulder

He may not quite be the Funniest Justice, but the argument can be made that Justice Stephen G. Breyer is the most accident-prone member o f the U.S. Supreme Court.

Breyer broke his shoulder Friday in a fall off of his bicycle near the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington – his second serious biking accident in the last two years and his third overall.  He’s recovering from reverse shoulder replacement surgery at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and is expected to be released early this week, according to the Supreme Court’s Public Information Office.

In 2011, Breyer broke his collarbone while bicycling near his home in Cambridge, Mass. Back in 1993, Breyer interviewed with then-President Bill Clinton for a Supreme Court post while still recovering from broken ribs and a punctured lung suffered when he was hit by a car while bicycling in the Bay State. Clinton nominated Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg instead, but Breyer got the nod from Clinton a year later.

Breyer has also suffered other unrelated misfortunes recently, including being robbed at machete-point in the Caribbean and having his Georgetown home burglarized in 2012.

Breyer is not the only justice to suffer accidental injuries. Justice Sonia M. Sotomayor suffered a broken ankle after taking a spill at an airport during her Senate confirmation process in 2009. And in 2011, DC Dicta spotted Sotomayor limping into the courtroom during oral arguments, propping her leg on a footrest behind the bench and occasionally wincing in pain. The court’s press office later confirmed to DC Dicta that the justice “was experiencing some knee/ligament discomfort,” although no cause was provided.

More recently, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg fell at her home and suffered broken ribs last year. In 2009 Ginsburg suffered a bad reaction to medication and fell off her chair while aboard an airplane – a month after fainting in her chambers.

The Funniest Justice, week 12: Skimming for laughs

During oral arguments yesterday in U.S. v. Windsor – the challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act – Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg asked the attorney for the law’s defenders whether denying federal marriage recognition to same-sex couples legally married under state law was  “diminishing what the state has said is marriage.”

“You’re saying no, the state said two kinds of marriage; the full marriage, and then this sort of . . .  skim milk marriage,” Ginsburg said, drawing – for the first time this term – laughs from the audience, according to the Supreme Court’s official transcripts.

And with that, for the first time since DC Dicta began tallying the justices’ laughs-worthy comments, every single justice is on the board (most years it was the usually-silent Justice Clarence Thomas who always had the goose egg).  This week, Justice Antonin G. Scalia was again the top laugh earner, adding five more to his sizable lead.

Here are the standings after 12 oral argument weeks:

Justice Antonin G. Scalia: 48

Justice Stephen G. Breyer: 38

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.: 11

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy: 9

Justice Sonia M. Sotomayor: 7

Justice Elena Kagan: 7

Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr.: 3

Justice Clarence Thomas: 1

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: 1


Ginsburg’s early birthday bash

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg doesn’t officially turn 80 years old until Friday, but she got the party started over the weekend.

During a birthday bash held Saturday in Ginsburg’s honor, members of the Washington National Opera presented the eldest member of the U.S. Supreme Court – and avid opera fan – with an ivory shawl, a replica of that worn in the new production of Bellini’s “Norma,” according to the Washington Post. Then tenor Corey Evan Rotz serenaded the justice with an aria as guests including NPR’s Nina Totenburg and high court litigator Miguel Estrada looked on.

Ginsburg: No plans to retire

She will turn 80 next month, but Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is still brushing aside any notion that she intends to step down from the U.S. Supreme Court any time soon.

“I will stay in this job as long as I can do it full steam,” Ginsburg said at an appearance before the San Diego Association of Business Trial Lawyers Friday, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

But during her speech, she echoed the sentiment expressed by many of her colleagues: a desire for the end of partisan battles in the Senate over judicial confirmations. “I’m hoping there will be members of Congress who will say enough,” Ginsburg said. “We are destroying the United States’ reputation in the world as a beacon of democracy, and we should go back to the way it was, and the way it should be.”

Catch more Supreme Court news on our Supreme Court Report.

Supreme fashion plates

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was recently honored by Glamour magazine, and on Monday, Ginsburg brought some glamour to the bench.

Those who attend Supreme Court oral arguments regularly already know that Ginsburg has a fondness for accessorizing – she has an array of white lace jabots that she likes to switch up from day to day to add some flair to her black robe. But on Monday, Ginsburg made a fashion statement with a new piece of bling around her neck.

The folks at the Washington Post’s Reliable Source column got the scoop on Ginsburg’s new bauble. It was a Banana Republic lace bib necklace that Ginsburg received in the gift bag at Glamour’s “Women of the Year” awards.

Perhaps Ginsburg was emboldened to make bolder fashion statements on the bench by her colleague Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who can usually be seen donning shiny dangling earrings and cuff bracelets while grilling attorneys in the courtroom. Lately Sotomayor also has been wearing a more tailored, slimmer fitting black robe during arguments instead of the traditional pleated tent-like style.

Ginsburg gets Glamour-ous treatment

You may not expect to see one of the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court in the pages of a glossy fashion magazine. After all, their clothes are usually obscured by those black robes. But Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg graces the pages of the latest issue of Glamour. And the publication is focused not on the justices’ frocks, but rather her career achievements.

In citing Ginsburg as one of its 2012 Women of the Year, the magazine turned to two of her colleagues to sing her praises. “More than any other person, she can take credit for making the law of this country work for women,” said Justice Elena Kagan, who called Ginsburg “an inspiration.”

Friend and sometimes judicial adversary Justice Antonin G. Scalia attested to Ginsburg’s persuasiveness. “She does it quietly,” Scalia observes, “but she’s very effective.”

The justices will issue orders and hear oral arguments Monday. Check our Supreme Court Report for all the latest news from the Court.

Ginsburg on the art of persuasion

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg says her job has required her to master the art of persuasion.

“None of us operating in that setting can hope to prevail if we try to be King or Queen. You have to accommodate to the views of other people,” Ginsburg said that a Yale University event Friday, according to the West Hartford News.

Ginsburg said she learned the skill as a litigator, taking on laws that promoted gender inequality. “The major problem that gender equality advocates faced in the ’70s was that the laws differentiating between men and women did so for a benign purpose – to protect women,” Ginsburg said, according to the report. “We had to show the court how these classifications are harmful to everyone. To men, to women and to children.”

Her favorite method of achieving that goal: evoking daughters. ‘‘I would try to get men to think not so much about what good husbands or fathers they had been but how do they want the world to be for their daughters,” she said, according to the AP.

For all of Lawyers USA’s Supreme Court coverage, check out our Supreme Court Report.