Chief Justice John Roberts spoke at the University of Nebraska College of Law in Lincoln, Nebraska on Friday, and then he attended the barn burner of a game on Saturday night where the Huskers defeated Miami. See here. At roughly the same time, Justice Clarence Thomas spoke in Tyler, Texas, prompting editorial praise: “When U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas spoke at The University of Texas at Tyler, he spoke softly. He spoke without rancor, without partisanship and without demonizing his opponents.”
If you read the news coverage of these events you will see that the Justices each took pains to distinguish the Third Branch from the political branches of government. A reader of that coverage would, unless he or she was a terrible cynic, come to realize that the Supreme Court is radically different from the Executive and Legislative branches of government both in terms of the quality of the decision makers and how they do their work.
The Justices are brilliant and serious people. Despite their substantive differences, they like each other. They are humble despite their accomplishments. They are funny in a wry and self-deprecating manner. They honestly believe that none of them are partisans. They like football and steak just like many of us do. They also don’t mind a beer or two. While they are happy to be liked, they don’t campaign for public acclaim or acceptance. Every decision they make is accompanied by a reasoned analysis, rather than political mumbo jumbo.
When the Justices take time to come to the sticks and speak quietly about their work, they do enormous good for the institution of the Supreme Court. Here’s hoping that they continue to see more tumbleweed in the years to come.