In response to my post this weekend regarding Justice Ginsburg, Demosthenes commented that “Justice Ginsburg is a cool character, there’s no doubt about that. People underestimate her at their own peril.”  Those words resonated with me. Indeed, you know the feeling of astonishment when something reveals itself and you think, “How obvious!”

I am sorry if this seems weird, but you have probably become accustomed to the weird if you read this blog.  But here’s the deal: Ginsburg looks and acts like my grandmother, Almeda. In many ways, my grandmother, who I adored, was much like Ginsburg. Extraordinarily smart and tough, but tiny and frail too.

I remember my grandmother explaining why her little left arm was withered and why she had only a claw for a left hand. After falling and breaking her arm, and suffering an open fracture, she was taken to the hospital in an ambulance drawn by horses. When the doctor set the fracture, he made a mistake. Among other things, her wrist was fixed inward and the five fingers on her left hand were entirely immobile and permanently flexed. For the many decades that followed, Almeda would negotiate life like a small bird with a busted wing.

Several years after she turned 90, my uncle called and asked me to come out to California to see Almeda. He wanted me to talk her into going into a retirement place because, although she was cognitively as bright as ever, her gait was becoming unsteady and with only one arm he feared what would happen if she fell. As the oldest grandson (I was 40 then), George, my uncle, thought Almeda might listen to me.

After I arrived, Almeda, who by then was 93 or something of that vintage, made us drinks.  She had a gin martini. She smoked her one cigarette for the day as we talked and drank on her patio. She said she knew why I had come, but she wasn’t moving. And that was that. So we spent the weekend talking about books and politics. On Sunday morning, before I was to leave, we shared the Sunday LA Times over English muffins, real butter and coffee.

And that’s why the talk of Ginsburg at 80 being too old really pisses me off. I shoulda known. Thanks for prompting the insight Demo!*


*Demosthenes is a helluva good writer.  With other excellent writers, he also blogs about the practice of law in South Florida at Attorneys at Blah a not so judicious journal of law and life in South Florida.

The inexcusable silliness of Garrett Epps

In addition to teaching law students creative writing and constitutional law, Garrett Epps, a former reporter with the Washington Post, is a student of judicial body language.  Please take a look at his piece that ran yesterday in the Atlantic.  It is entitled, “Justice Alito’s Inexcusable Rudeness; A justice of the Supreme Court should not act like a high schooler on the bench; when the target is a fellow justice, the offense is even greater.

Assume Justice Alito did exactly what Epp alleges.  That is, while Justice Ginsburg was summarizing her dissent on Monday addressing his majority opinion, “Alito pursed his lips, rolled his eyes to the ceiling, and shook his head ‘no.'” Why should anyone care?

The Justices are human beings and very weary ones right about now.  A grimace, grin, nose wrinkle, ear tug, eye roll, a silent “no” and the like in response to your colleague’s dissent from an opinion you worked your butt off to craft is hardly worth writing about in the Atlantic–unless, of course, you teach creative writing and you really don’t like someone.  God, how I hate Washington.


PS  Several times, I have had occasion to spend a little time with Justice Alito. He strikes me as a serious but painfully shy man.  Several times, I have had occasion to spend a little time with Justice Ginsburg.  Reserved but gracious, she strikes me as someone who needs no defenders.

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