During oral arguments Tuesday in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, a case that challenges a federal law making it unlawful to provide “material support” to terrorist groups:
“Under the definition of this statute, teaching these members to play the harmonica would be unlawful,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor said to Solicitor General Elena Kagan.
“Well, maybe playing a harmonica is a specialized activity,” Kagan said. “I think the first thing I would say is there are not a whole lot of people going around trying to teach Al-Qaeda how to play harmonicas.”
“Well, Mohamed Atta and his harmonica quartet might tour the country and make a lot of money. Right?” deadpanned Justice Antonin Scalia. And laughter filled the courtroom.
Scalia is making this term’s Funniest Justice contest a runaway race at this point, earning five additional laughs this week and bringing his total chuckle count to 50.
Justice Stephen Breyer earned two laughs, and Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. and Justice Anthony Kennedy each added one laugh to the totals.
Here are the standings as of this week:
Justice Antonin Scalia: 50
Justice Stephen Breyer: 28
Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.: 18
Justice Anthony Kennedy: 7
Justice Samuel Alito: 3
Justice John Paul Stevens: 2
Justice Clarence Thomas: 0 (The oral argument silence that began after Feb. 22, 2006 continues)
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: 0
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: 0 (Despite the assist, the laugh goes to Scalia)