May 31, 2007

Is Justice Ginsburg reading dissents from the bench because she's passionate or because she's political?

Linda Greenhouse is highlighting Justice Ginsburg's decision to read two of her dissenting opinions from the bench this year. In both, Ginsburg spoke for herself and the other three liberal Justices (Stephens, Souter, and Breyer), and both dealt with issues of concern to women (Carhart, the "partial-birth" abortion case, and Ledbetter, this week's employment discrimination case).

Greenhouse portrays Ginsburg's actions on the emotional level. Not only were the dissents "forceful" -- aren't they all? -- but Ginsburg herself was "passionate and pointed."
To read a dissent aloud is an act of theater that justices use to convey their view that the majority is not only mistaken, but profoundly wrong. It happens just a handful of times a year. Justice Antonin Scalia has used the technique to powerful effect, as has Justice Stevens, in a decidedly more low-key manner.

The oral dissent has not been, until now, Justice Ginsburg’s style. She has gone years without delivering one, and never before in her 15 years on the court has she delivered two in one term. In her past dissents, both oral and written, she has been reluctant to breach the court’s collegial norms. “What she is saying is that this is not law, it’s politics,” Pamela S. Karlan, a Stanford law professor, said of Justice Ginsburg’s comment linking the outcome in the abortion case to the fact of the court’s changed membership. “She is accusing the other side of making political claims, not legal claims.”

The justice’s acquaintances have watched with great interest what some depict as a late-career transformation. “Her style has always been very ameliorative, very conscious of etiquette,” said Cynthia Fuchs Epstein, the sociologist and a longtime friend. “She has always been regarded as sort of a white-glove person, and she’s achieved a lot that way. Now she is seeing that basic issues she’s fought so hard for are in jeopardy, and she is less bound by what have been the conventions of the court.”
(White glove? Not "kid glove," meaning careful and gentle, but "white glove," which I think is generally used to refer to luxury services provided to the rich. Who wears the white gloves in a "white glove building"? The doorman, not the residents. [ADDED: There's a lot of discussion in the comments about the phrase "white glove."])
Some might say her dissents are an expression of sour grapes over being in the minority more often than not. But there may be strategic judgment, as well as frustration, behind Justice Ginsburg’s new style. She may have concluded that quiet collegiality has proved futile and that her new colleagues, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., are not open to persuasion on the issues that matter most to her.
In other words, it's not an expression of emotion, but a sophisticated political move, intended to get Americans excited and involved in the Court's work -- so they'll see what's at stake. Nothing wrong with that, and I don't mean to say it's not lofty and profound to care about who gets chosen to wield Supreme Court power. It is. Greenhouse's piece subtly conveys the impression that an extremely reserved woman has finally overcome her reticence and spoken up and that this means the majority has erred badly in its understanding of the law. That in itself is a political argument leading the readers to think that Ginsburg must be right and that the fact that she is in the minority on the Court is a problem that needs to be corrected.

ADDED: This post is getting a lot of action in the comments, and I feel as though I ought to spell out something maybe I'm being too subtle about. I think this piece unwittingly demeans Justice Ginsburg as a woman by portraying her as meek and emotional. The idea that she of all people would speak up is supposed to give dramatic weight to her opinion in the cases. The fact that her opinion supports the interests of women may -- for some people -- eclipse this other matter of concern to women, and I want to drag it back into the light.

Justice Ginsburg is a strong, accomplished jurist who is and has always been the equal of the other Justices. She's no purer or less political than the others and no more driven by emotion. If she chooses to read her dissenting opinions about women's issues aloud and provide material for Supreme Court journalists to stir up readers with bathetic pronouncements that she's "found her voice," what I see is a smart political move by an adept legal thinker who knows what the stakes are and wants to affect the game.

Here's Tom Smith who clerked on the D.C. Circuit when she was a judge there:
You had to admire Judge Ginsburg's obvious intelligence, and she seemed like a nice lady. But the idea that she was somehow less political than any other judge is just silly. She was very political. They all were. Some cared more about the law than others, and Ginsburg cared about the law. But there was no question that on a case involving sex discrimination or labor unions, you would be a fool to bet against a liberal outcome if she were the swing vote. She was a nice lady, but she also knew how to rip somebody a new one, if you will.... The idea that she is some kind of elegant, delicate flower who has been forced by the big, bad conservatives to descend into the hurly burly of the political rough and tumble is a complete fantasy of the New York Times and Linda Greenhouse. That is to say, utter rubbish.
Go over there and read the whole thing.

112 comments:

Bissage said...

That’s an odd use of the expression ”sour grapes”, isn't it? Has Justice Ginsberg decided to quit the court since she's decided she doesn’t want to be in the majority, after all?

IIRC, there’s a story about Thurgood Marshall interviewing a law clerk applicant by asking, “Do you like writing dissents?” The applicant responded, “Uh, yeah sure, I guess so.” Marshall barked, “Good. You’re going to write a lot of them!”

paul a'barge said...

Oh please, Justice Ginsberg, please please please ... resign.

Simon said...

Reading this inane puff piece, I just can't help thinking back to Joan Biskupic's speech in Milwaukee about how wonderful trad media is because it's all about the facts and doesn't try to lead its readers or display its own biases. The piece exists for one reason and only one reason: not because reading a dissent from the bench is unusual, but because Ginsburg's decision to use that device to underscore her disagreement with the ruling is a convenient proxy for Greenhouse to underscore her disagreement with the ruling.

SGT Ted said...

Ginsberg was just mad that the court didn't change the law to reflect her political opinion. It instead followed the law. The law was clear in setting the deadlines to file suit. Any change to it needs to be addressed by the Legislature, not the USSC.

"Womens rights" is not a blanket excuse for the courts to ignore the law.

Emy L. Nosti said...

It's a shame women seem to be pretty screwed with this Court.

Re gloves, what I thought of (and I'm at least a generation or two removed from this era so I could be entirely mistaken) is the high society kind of white gloves that women used to wear. You know--refined, ladylike, quiet and submissive.

George said...

"Whatever else may be said about the Supreme Court’s current term, which ends in about a month, it will be remembered as the time when Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg found her voice, and used it."

That's the lead from the NY Times story.

It makes the Justice sound like a kindergartener.

I am woman. Hear me find my voice and use it.

janine said...

white-glove

Pronunciation: (hwīt'gluv', wīt'-), [key]
—adj. Informal.
1. meticulous; painstaking; minute: a white-glove inspection.
2. immaculate; spotless; sterile: a white-glove environment. Also,white'-gloved'

In third grade, I learned to use context to figure out the meaning of words. How would she achieve a lot from the use of luxury services? I'm glad I don't use you for analysis.

The Drill SGT said...

While I don't sign on to the rest of Emy's statements, she reads the white glove reference as I do, to a point.

When I was growing up in the 50-60's my Great Aunt, a retired San Francisco lady of fairly modest means, did not generally go out except in a knit suit, hat and white gloves.

I would have use "genteel" rather than "submissive" though. She was not submissive to anybody. quite the opposite, but she was polite to everybody. times change in more than one respect.

Victor said...

That evil Greenhouse. Tweaking our minds.

Gimme a break - you are reading waaaaaay too much into this, 90% of Americans couldn't care less who dissented on what much less what Justice read their dissent from the bench.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Greenhouse's piece subtly conveys the impression that an extremely reserved woman has finally overcome her reticence and spoken up and that this means the majority has erred badly in its understanding of the law.

This sort of reminds me of a friend who has this tendency to argue in a louder voice when he deems that he’s on the losing end of the debate. So in a similar fashion, if her written dissent doesn’t measure up, perhaps a dramatic reading of it will sway the bench?

And is it really a good thing to get Americans involved in the SC work? After all I’m of the belief, naive that it may be, that the SC justices liberal or conservative review cases dispassionately and don’t really think one way or the other as to what popular opinion has to do with it. If not, then perhaps we dispense with Presidential nominations and tedious confirmation hearings which end up becoming an abortion debate and simply put them on the ballot.

Bo Steed said...

Victor: relevance is not a function of mathematics. What if 50% of Americans were able to pry themselves from the couch and tee-vee and did actually care about things such as the rule of law? If a professor of law cannot opine (or "read into," to use your formulation)about the significance of Supreme Court dissents, then who can? Personally, I would rather Professor Althouse posted on these subjects than the cleavage of flowers and females.

Mortimer Brezny said...

The idea that Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a former Supreme Court oralist, is quiet, is just dumb. As an advocate, she has more feminist precedents under her belt than men have balls. This is not a submissive woman, so the notion that she has been silently walking a step behind her male peers on the Court for years is as ludicrous as most radical feminist historiography. That Greenhouse thinks she can con the public into believing Ginsburg fits the meek and oppressed stereotype that leftist politics seek to cultivate only proves that this "puff piece" is in reality agitprop. As an aside, Ginsburg does like to wear long, white gloves. That's just a fact. It's the kind of intimate detail you learn about one of your idols, and Greenhouse is certainly engaging in idol worship in this piece. The only thing missing is a quote from Reva Seigel.

Richard Dolan said...

The demands of narrative are really getting out of control with this sort of "analysis." The passionate/political dichotomy here is less than helpful.

Take the "political" explanation. If the reading of a dissent (usually it's only a partial reading of the opinion) was intended as a "political" act, what's missing is that there is no "political" audience in the courtroom to hear or witness the supposedly "political" event. Politics, as conventionally understood, just isn't the kind of Zen-like experience that Greenhouse seems to have in mind. The premise of the article is that Ginsburg concluded that she can't convert CJ Roberts or Alito to her point of view, and so has to take some other action to express her strong disagreement. OK. If that's it, then one would think that the act of dissenting, rather than the act of reading the dissent, would be the key. In all events, who is in the courtroom to hear her read the dissent, and thus be moved to take political action (assuming any is available)? Except for the handful who happen to be there -- none of whom knew in advance that the case had even been decided, let alone what the outcome was -- everyone in a position to take "political" action learns Ginsburg's views the old-fashioned way (i.e., reading, not hearing). None of us even gets to hear the quiver in her voice -- if there was one. Instead, we just get to read articles like this one.

No doubt, the reading of any dissent is intended to dramatize the justice's disagreement with the majority's decision. But the majority already knew that -- the text of the dissent makes it clear to them long before the decision became public. Nor is anyone who might be moved by whatever power that little drama may have even in the courtroom to witness the spectacle. (Again, the unreachability of her colleagues on these issues is the premise of the whole thing.)

Professor Karlan's comment -- “She is accusing the other side of making political claims, not legal claims” -- is especially bizarre given the two dissents Ginsburg chose to read. One was an abortion case -- even Ginsburg has previously acknowledged the (how to put it delicately?) thinness of the constitutional argument supporting Roe/Casey. The other was a Title VII case where the majority applied a settled rule for determining the accrual of a claim, and declined to adopt an exception for an arguably exceptional class of discrimination claims. If there is a problem there, the political branches are better placed to adopt such exceptions, and decide how "exceptional" the class of claims that Ginsburg was championing really are. It's a bit arch to complain that the Court's deference to the existing statutory scheme, and its decision not to impose its own "fix" on a statutory problem, was "political". To say the same about the Court's deference to the political branches in the abortion context is really Twilight Zone stuff.

SteveR said...

You mean SC justices have agendas? Say it isn't so. Its bad enough that a reporter for the NYT seems to....

Wasteland Fan said...

I think it was a political act by Justice Ginsberg to read her Ledbetter dissent from the bench. But, I think the political act was to bring attention to the final substantive paragraph of that dissent, wherein she invites Congress to overrule the majority opninion as it has done in the past to the Court's restrictive civil rights decisions. She was publicly lobbying Congress; or, at least, publicly encouraging others to do so by bringing special attention to her dissent.

Fen said...

Well... at least she didn't fall asleep on the bench again.

Kirk said...

"So in a similar fashion, if her written dissent doesn’t measure up, perhaps a dramatic reading of it will sway the bench?"

And if that doesn't convince, what next--interpretive dance?

Doyle said...

Greenhouse's piece subtly conveys the impression that an extremely reserved woman has finally overcome her reticence and spoken up and that this means the majority has erred badly in its understanding of the law.

Wouldn't Ginsberg's speaking up only suggest that she (Ginsberg) feels the majority has erred badly?

And couldn't that be fairly construed as a "legal" position on Ginsberg's part rather than a "political" position on Greenhouse's?

I mean this is supposed to be what you're good at, and yet you can't seem to do any better than half-assed accusations of liberal bias. At least this keeps you away from the students, I guess.

Thorley Winston said...

“What she is saying is that this is not law, it’s politics,” Pamela S. Karlan, a Stanford law professor, said of Justice Ginsburg’s comment linking the outcome in the abortion case to the fact of the court’s changed membership. “She is accusing the other side of making political claims, not legal claims.”

Sometimes the best way to determine what a leftist is doing is to look at what they accuse other people of doing.

Emy L. Nosti said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeff said...

"Greenhouse portrays Ginsburg's actions on the emotional level. Not only were the dissents "forceful" -- aren't they all? -- but Ginsburg herself was "passionate and pointed.""

The key here is that leftist thought privileges feelings above facts. Being "passionate" equals being right. Emotive reasoning is why they advocate ignoring laws if they "feel" wrong, like immigration laws or same-sex marriage laws. Rather than seeking to change a law through legislative action, it's so much easier and more satisfying to have your mayor declare a law "unjust" and then proceed to break it.

If it feels good do it!

Ann Althouse said...

Janine: I'm not quite sure what you're saying, but if you're criticizing me, you're off. A "white glove inspection" is done by the supervisor of maids. You stroke a white gloved hand over a surface that was supposed to have been dusted to see if there's any grime left. It's a housecleaner's job.

Emy L. Nosti said...

drill sgt & mortimer: after I posted, I decided submissive was slightly strong too (though it was in reference to white gloves, not Ginsburg herself--I don't claim to know beans about her in-court behavior before Bush Sr.). I considered going for something like "diplomatically striving for change, but with care not to ruffle feathers too much." Didn't quite capture the double standard of direct confrontation, which, if avoided, is IMO slightly submissive.

Regardless, this seems to be saying Ginsburg is being much bolder, the opposite of submissive...so it didn't seem wildly off from the author's intention.

Doyle said...

if you're criticizing me, you're off.

By definition! I don't care what the dictionary says!

janine said...

I literally pasted in the definition for you. Yes, Anne, the word's meaning comes from so-called white glove inspections are given by the supervisors of maids but it has come to mean meticulous attention to detail, which makes sense in the sentence. Your creative interpretation, on the other hand, is perfectly cromulent.

P. Rich said...

At heart, Ginsburg is a lefty radical feminist inclined toward judicial activism, so of course her decisions are correctly based on law and anything to the contrary reflects some foul bias. Her waspish demonstration would be laughable if it were not so generally shopworn and transparently trite.

Beth said...

So Ginsburg is a radical lefty wildeyed feminist who votes from her political activist leanings, but it's just naked bigotry to point out that the five justices prevailing in Carhart are all Catholic.

arthur said...

"Now she is seeing that basic issues she’s fought so hard for are in jeopardy, and she is less bound by what have been the conventions of the court."

This quote says it all. Ginsburg isn't there to dispassionately interpret law. She's there to fight for her issues!

EDH said...

Ruth, Linda, Janine... Ann.

MEEOOW!

Or is that sexist?

Fen said...

/snags janine's thesaurus:

cromulent: fine, acceptable

Beth: So Ginsburg is a radical lefty wildeyed feminist who votes from her political activist leanings, but it's just naked bigotry to point out that the five justices prevailing in Carhart are all Catholic[?]

Are the catholic judges proselytizing from the bench?

SteveR said...

janine, while you are posturing yourself as an intellectual superior to the host, start by getting her name right. D'oh

Simon said...

Emy L. Nosti said...
"It's a shame women seem to be pretty screwed with this Court."

The court didn't "screw[]" women in this case. Congress is screwing them by maintaining so short a filing period. I'm not saying that Justice Ginsburg is wrong that the short filing period is out of kilter with reality, and I'm not saying that you shouldn't be angry that the statute's limitations confine its ability to serve its purpose. But your anger is misdirected: all the court did here was to apply the most reasonable interpretation of the text. If that interpretation is unfair to litigants (and I really don't think this was a close case, the statutory interpretation question is pretty easy, in my view), then that question of substantive justice should be left to Congress. Courts don't have free license to right every wrong incipient in the United States Code.

It has been maintained that the majority let the plain text override the general purpose of Title VII. That is certainly true, and that is precisely what should have happened. But even if that weren't so, even if the ruling were to rest on purposivist foundations, while the general purpose of Title VII is to remedy discrimination, the specific purpose of the filing period is precisely to limit the time period in which cases should file. Thus, even if the court had set aside the text and adverted to purpose, "it is a commonplace of statutory construction that the specific governs the general." Morales v. Trans World Airlines, 504 U.S. 374, 384 (1992). So the court would still have had to come out the way it did in a purposivist inquiry. The only way for it to come out as Ginsburg wanted was to adopt the logical endpoint of Justice Breyer's theory (see S. Breyer, ACTIVE LIBERTY (2005)): abstract to the most general purpose of the statute, determine the most just result within the compass of those purposes, and eliminate any contrary text that gets in the way. That isn't ajudication, it's legislation; while purpose and intent can throw light on ambiguous text, purpose is not law, and when confronted with clear text the court must adopt the result demanded by the text, a fortiori when (as here) there's an unbroken line of applicable precedent militating the same result.

Simon said...

Fen:
"Are the catholic judges proselytizing from the bench?"

I think that's basically Prof. Stone's point, yes. And if not his, then it's the point of most of those who criticized Carhart on those grounds.

Peter said...

Uh, sorry, Ann, I love you and your blog, but I can think of two references of white gloves:

Miss Manners, in her gloriously funny (and useful) Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior mentioned that, aside from Sunday best clothes, she missed white gloves the most. They were the tip of the iceberg of (what ninnies today call "bourgeois") manners.

Also, white glove inspections were (in)famous in the U.S. and Royal Navies. You even get to see Admiral James T. Kirk use one in Star Trek II to Mr Scott's amusement. Proponents would say it enforced discipline, others would say it created mindless drudgery.

So, yes, "white glove" could be read as characterizing Ginsburg as genteel (probably the best word for white gloves as they come from the same place: the British aristocracy and their untitled, but still gentle-born, descendants).

Oh, and I agree: this is a non-news, human-interest puff piece. It is riddled with the writer's opinion like a cancer.

janine said...

Sorry, her names not Anne. I stumbled here from memorandum and I couldn't believe that she took a time out on a well-written piece to underscore a point that is objectively wrong. It's funny. I ignore typos all the time, but that's sooo wrong and sooo on purpose, I had to speak. I am done now.

gabriel sutherland said...

/channeling Droz, as portrayed by Jeremy Piven

That's not a protest. It's a cry for help.

hdhouse said...

janine...

you r the first to use cromulent on this blog...i'm sure...

welcome. your point is well taken. watch out for the snakes in the gress.

gabriel sutherland said...

Justice Ginsburg made her career out of broad challenges to the law. At the time, a court existed that cheered these broad challenges in case after case. Chief Justice Roberts has led the court towards more narrow challenges.

This clash will get worse over time. Ginsburg doesn't like the line of questioning posed by Roberts in oral arguments. Justice Ginsburg might as well hang 'em up. The Chief Justice isn't going to change.

Steve S said...

Simon: I really don't think this was a close case, the statutory interpretation question is pretty easy, in my view

I'm not a lawyer, but I don't understand why the statutory interpretation is so apparent. From my reading of news articles, the statute says the claim must be raised within 180 days "after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred."

So "occurred" seems to the pertinent part of that sentence; the majority thinks "occurred" refers only to the discrete decision to change the woman's salary, and not to the ongoing payment of that salary.

It would seem to me if that were the intent, the word to use is "commenced" -- "after the alleged unlawful employment practice commenced" means that the clock begins with the decision to change the employee's pay in an allegedly discriminatory manner. In the absence of that kind of clarity, it seems to me that the more reasonable interpretation is that the discrimination is occurring with each paycheck, since obviously the employer (allegedly) intends to discriminate against the employee with every subsequent paycheck and not just the initial one, and so their discrimination is "occurring" on an ongoing basis.

What makes it so clear in your view that the interpretation should go the other way?

Cedarford said...

Mortimer - As an advocate, she has more feminist precedents under her belt than men have balls. This is not a submissive woman, so the notion that she has been silently walking a step behind her male peers on the Court for years is as ludicrous as most radical feminist historiography.

And for what it's worth, about as much as your point is, Scalia has set more precedents undermining the courts usurping the Peoples Prerogatives through their elected officials than Ruth has tits.

Funny thing is, Scalia is famously close to Ginsburg - likes her and respects her - even if she is a ACLU plant. Scalia considers Ruth the heir of some great liberal thinkers on the Court.

Unlike Sandra Day O'Connor whose later opinions were vapid, dilettantish, ungrounded in logic, and Scalia took cruel pleasure in eviscerating in dissent after dissent.

If Scalia drove O'Connor into retirement, perhaps it was considered as good riddance to an unserious Justice..If Ginsburg leaves, her intellect and her standing for a tradition going back to Brandeis would be regretted by many. Even those outside the liberal camp.
But after nearly 50 years, the damage 4-5 Ginsburg-like lawyers did, culminated in Roe, to American democracy means we hae to end the days of the activist Court.
**************

Beth: So Ginsburg is a radical lefty wildeyed feminist who votes from her political activist leanings, but it's just naked bigotry to point out that the five justices prevailing in Carhart are all Catholic[?]

No, it would be naked bigotry to presume Catholics think alike, just like it would be bigoted to say all Jews think alike, or that Clarence Thomas is bad and evil because he doesn't take the official "black leaders" Party Line.
**************
Anyways, I'd miss one Ruth Ginsburg, but I'd hate to see her stay and have Prez Hillary appoint 2-3 just like her. So.....I am ready and happy if she does resign and a Centrist replaces the ACLU Representative.

Steven said...

Lt. Weinberg: "I strenuously object?" Is that how it works? Hm? "Objection." "Overruled." "Oh, no, no, no. No, I STRENUOUSLY object." "Oh. Well, if you strenuously object then I should take some time to reconsider."

This is a simple attempt by Greenhouse to give Ginsberg's opinion greater weight than 4 votes. Liberals always seem to think that the vote of one who feels "passionately" should count for more than those votes of we who operate on plain old logic.

dave in boca said...

Another tack the relentless leftardo Greenhouse could have taken---hectoring crone with sleep apnea occasionally awakens to blurt nonesense.

Makes sense to me anyway. She should resign.

From Inwood said...

Linda Greenhouse writes

“Whatever else may be said about the Supreme Court’s current term, which ends in about a month, it will be remembered as the time when Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg found her voice, and used it.

*************

“In the latest case, she [Justice Ginsburg] summoned Congress to overturn what she called the majority’s 'parsimonious reading' of the federal law against discrimination in the workplace.”

In so writing, Ms G, IMHO, is writing an advocacy brief rather than a fair & balanced news report.

And are we to believe that Justice Ginsburg has been silent all the time she’s been on the Court?

Now I don’t have a copy of the transcript of Justice Ginsburg’s oral comments from the bench but I doubt that it was as heavy-handedly hectoring as Ms Greenhouse would have us believe. For example, Ms Greenhouse, as a lawyer, should know that dissenting SCOTUS justices do not, in legal jargon/argot/buzzwords “summon” Congress to “overturn” SCOTUS decisions. Congress is a separate Branch of Government & does its own thing. Now, of course, many decisions do contain wording to the effect that Congress can remedy the effects of such decision if it wants, but there’s no “summons”.

In her written dissent Justice Ginsburg, after noting her dissenting opinion that the decision is “incompatible with the Statute’s broad remedial purpose” points out that “the ball is in Congress’s court [um, “court” poor choice of word?] ...the legislature may act to correct the Court’s parsimonious reading of Title VII." This is hardly the more disrespectful purple prose in Ms G’s article, the demanding “I summon you to overturn”.

And anyway, is this new Ginsburg approach not a welcome sign of humility? Haven’t we been told by the NYT that since the justices were chastened in the ‘30s the Court has been the “Keeper of the National Conscience” & thus who needs a legislature subject to the whims of the profanum vulgus? Government By Judiciary for us elites, my dears. And now today the NYT has an editorial demanding that Congress “undo this damaging decision”. Depends on whose ox…, I guess. The Grey Lady has up to now been scoffing those rubes who'd even suggest legislation designed to “undue” any of its favored decisions.

And Beth, gee, even Ms Greenhouse & today's NYT editorial missed your discovery that this is really about Ginsburg, J. vs. the Catholics!

dave in boca said...

Make that "nonsense," or gibberish, for that matter. After the Bork affair, the Republican wimps in the Senate voted this superannuated bomb-thrower onto the SCOTUS--unanimously.

Read Bernie Goldberg's "Crazies to the Left of Me, Wimps to the Right."
Sums up what I feel about The Lindsay Graham/John McCainFeingold wing of the soon-to-wither GOP.

Ann Althouse said...

Janine: Good for you for cutting and pasting from the dictionary. I'm explaining the connotations of the words as defined in the dictionary, not disagreeing with anything you've cut and pasted. You are off. Admit it.

The phrase used was unwittingly demeaning to Ginsburg as a woman as were the article's references to emotions. How much do I have to spell it out for you? You're are actually wrong here. Think a little before you write or cut and paste or whatever it is you do.

I suspect you swing freely because you are sure your politics are right and mine are wrong.

Blizzardlane said...

Feel free to Google "white glove manners" and see if it refers to the service class or the wealthy.

Really.

Ann Althouse said...

Peter: I agree that there is a secondary meaning to "white glove" having to do with very conventional women from an earlier era. The "Kelly Girl" temp secretaries wore white gloves as a trademark, associating themselves with conservative, upper class women. I consider this reference vaguely sexist too (though the person using it did not at all mean to come across as sexist).

Doyle said...

No one knuckles down and insists her opponent is a vicious partisan better than Ann.

Lesser hacks might back down over a fairly straightforward question of usage on which he or she is demonstrably wrong.

But not the Divine Ms. Althouse! Only she has the requisite huevos to condemn the dictionary citation as mere "cutting and pasting" unworthy of serious nonpartisan debate.

Mortimer Brezny said...

Cedarford,

I never mentioned Scalia and I was not attacking Ginsburg. I was pointing out that she is a skillful and legendary Supreme Court litigator who has changed the law in concord with her vision. She is not a shrinking violet, by any stretch of the imagination. I was paying her a compliment, much as historians who call Alexander the Great "fearless" or "formidable" to acknowledge his achievements without also condoning warfare.

I would suggest you learn to read.

Fen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fen said...

jane: It's funny. I ignore typos all the time, but that's sooo wrong and sooo on purpose, I had to speak. I am done now.

I'm just curious why you found the need to use cromulent when fine or acceptable would do. Is it one of those "expand your vocab - use this new word three times today" games? If so, thats cool. If not, then what motivated you?

Ann Althouse said...

Fen, why are you asking the supercilious, imperious, petulant Janine a question? Don't you know she's done here.

Doyle said...

"Cromulent" is a made-up word from the Simpsons.

Fen said...

So she intended to be insulting because Ann didn't see things her way? How sophisticated.

Doyle said...

What about your pretending to know what cromulent meant? Isn't that even less sophisticated, and funnier?

dan said...

I'm picking up a "swan song" vibe. If this is theater, and especially if it's theater scripted and directed by Madame Justice, then seems to me we're just about at Act Five, Scene Two. I wish Justice Ginsburg well and although I seldom agree with her, in truth I wouldn't feel the least upset if she stays on for many more years; on the other hand, I am highly partisan about my need for compelling C-Span drama, and this Fall might be most interesting if in fact she's bringing the curtain down. (Wild speculation cap now off.)

Cedarford said...

I never mentioned Scalia and I was not attacking Ginsburg. I was pointing out that she is a skillful and legendary Supreme Court litigator who has changed the law in concord with her vision. She is not a shrinking violet, by any stretch of the imagination. I was paying her a compliment, much as historians who call Alexander the Great "fearless" or "formidable" to acknowledge his achievements without also condoning warfare.

I would suggest you learn to read.


And for what it is worth, Mortimer, I never suggested you mentioned Scalia, and if you had bothered to think, you would notice that I paid Ginsburgs intellect respect considering her in the Brandeis tradition.

I'd suggest you learn to read before your ascribe your comprehension deficiencies to other posters.

Bruce Hayden said...

Simon: I really don't think this was a close case, the statutory interpretation question is pretty easy, in my view

I'm not a lawyer, but I don't understand why the statutory interpretation is so apparent. From my reading of news articles, the statute says the claim must be raised within 180 days "after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred."

So "occurred" seems to the pertinent part of that sentence; the majority thinks "occurred" refers only to the discrete decision to change the woman's salary, and not to the ongoing payment of that salary.


The problem with that would be that you could argue that someone who has worked at a company for 40 years and was hired in at a lower salary due to her sex could sue for the effects today of that discrimination 40 years ago. But that would effectively gut the statutory time limit. What would be the purpose of putting that time limit in the statute if it could be avoided by claiming ongoing effects from the discrimination?

Add to this that her interpretation might have resulted in a slippery sloe with a lot of different statutes of limitation. For example, someone defaults on a promissory note that calls for payment of interest. The statute of limitations is three years. So, even though the holder presumably can't sue on the principle, should he be able to sue for the last three years of interest a decade down the road?

One counterveiling priority is that of judicial efficiency, closure, and certainty. Society has an interest in knowing that a matter is closed after the statute of limitations has run. Ditto for claims for discrimination here. Ginsburg would ignore this for the simple justification that she doesn't think that it is fair to some preferred class of plaintiffs.

Mortimer Brezny said...

If Greenhouse is right, Althouse must have found her "womanly voice," because she has a new picture up.

Simon said...

SteveS:
This is a long answer, but it's hopefully quite concise. (It's also, ironically enough, brief enough as to require brushing over several important points, but I'm willing to sacrifice specificity for brevity in this context.) In the abstract, Ledbetter presents an easy question for me because I have a theory of law and jurisprudence, so when I approach a legal question, I have a criterion: I know what I'm looking for and how to find it.

The Constitution tells us what federal law is: as applicable here, a law is anything approved by both houses of Congress and signed by the President that was within the legislative power of Congress and which does not infringe on constitutionally-guaranteed rights on its face. Thus, even if the original understanding of the "judicial power" vested in federal courts does not of itself tell a judge how to approach a law, the structure of the Constitution does: the law is that which is voted on by Congress and signed by the President - which is the text, not the purpose that animated the text. That isn't to say that Judges can't look at the purposes that animated a statute, only that they may not elevate those purposes above the text and structure of a law.

As I alluded to above (noting that while Title VII has a purpose, so to does the filing period), one can read the purposes of a statute on several levels of generality. Even if there is unaminity in Congress as to the purpose they wish to accomplish, a statute represents the collision of an abstract purpose with the practical need to balance competing interests. I don't deny that statutes have animating purposes, but I would argue that the text represents the compromises and limitations of the general purpose that Congress has settled on in order to win approval by both houses and the President. You'll see this principle in action over the next few weeks, in fact, when several competing bills are introduced to obsolete Ledbetter: all will share the same purpose, but will seek to do so in different ways, re-balancing Title VII's compromises in different ways. Consequentially, a statute is a vehicle for its purpose, but the statute's purpose doesn't transcend the statute's text and structure, but rather, is necessarily limited and confined by them. That is, definitionally, what legislating involves: deciding the reach of the law, compromising with one another and with practical reality.

Thus, in very general terms, the role of a judge is that faced with a statute, where the text is clear, judges should apply the text. No construction should contradict or eliminate the text, in part or whole. When the text is unclear, as it often is, a judge should look first to precedent: has this question already been clearly answered in a way that is a reasonable interpretation of the text? Even absent controlling precedent, does prior precedent announce principles that produce (or decide between) a reasonable construction in this case? If not, then consider the overall structure of the law, its interpretation by federal and state courts and executive agencies, and, yes, its purpose. If one faces two possible constructions, both textually plausible, but one is at odds with the clear purpose of both the sum and the parts of the statute, pick that one, unless prior precedent dictates picking the other. My objection to purposivism isn't that I don't think purpose can disambiguate ambiguous text, but rather, that it is usually used precisely to go around unambiguous text. An all, what one is looking for is either the most reasonable interpretation of the text, cabined by structure, tradition and purpose.

When I apply those principles to Title VII and to this case, the result is not difficult to decide, for three reasons, each of which is independently sufficient to affirm the Court of Appeals' ruling.

First, because the statute requires both intent to discriminate and an action; individually, neither an employment practice nor intent to discriminate violates Title VII - only when they are coupled does it become actionable. If I intend to discriminate against my employee John Doe but never get around to it, I haven't violated Title VII. If I give John's sister, Jane Doe, a pay raise but deny one to John, without any discriminatory intent, I haven't violated Title VII. Only when intent and action are coupled is there a Title VII claim. As Justice Scalia would say, perhaps that seems formalistic, but the law is about form.

So, the text of the statute both implicitly (§ 2000e-2(a)) and explicitly (§ 2000e-2(e)(1)) requires the coupling of intent and action (itself a venerable enough principle of law - criminal liability, for example, requires not only an act (actus reus) but intent (mens rea), see Morisette v. United States, 342 U.S. 246 (1952)). Yet the test urged by Ledbetter would uncouple precisely the elements that Title VII requires to be coupled as the basis for a claim: the act of cutting a paycheque is a quite separate act from the determination as to the value of that paycheque. Indeed, it would be rare for a large company's payroll department to even be involved in the process of setting an employee's wages.

Under Ledbetter's theory, it would not matter if the discriminatory act was carried out by a previous owner; it would not even matter that the discrimination was carried out in a clandestine fashion by an individual officer of the company, without any knowledge or sanction on the part of the company. All that would matter is the action, disconnected from any intent to discriminate. Thus, I would regard it as axiomatic that the discrete act of discrimination must at least be one in which the employee's salary is reviewed (although even this may not suffice absent a showing of actual discriminatory intent), not merely when the results of a previous decision are applied by a monthly conversation between an employer's payroll computer and an employee's bank's computer.

Second (and closely related), although the general purpose of Title VII is to prevent discrimination, Congress clearly could not have (and in fact did not) simply direct that employers pay all employees the same amount. Thus, although Title VII has a general purpose, there are competing interests to balance in effecting that purpose; the practical need to balance such interests and the need to find compromises acceptable to at least 51 Senators, 218 Representatives and one President result in that which actually becomes law: the confining of a general purpose by the use of specific text. Thus, specific sections of Title VII have their own purpose within the general purpose, that of narrowing the scope to which the general purpose is implemented as law -- and as Justice Stevens explained some years ago in a prior Title VII case, “it seems clear that … [imposing a filing period] represented a judgment [by Congress] that most genuine claims of discrimination would be promptly asserted and that the costs associated with processing and defending stale or dormant claims outweigh the federal interest in guaranteeing a remedy to every victim of discrimination.” Mohasco Corp v. Silver, 447 U.S. 807, 820 (1982). That may not be a good balance, it may ignore certain realities of how discrimiantion operates in practise (as Justice Ginsburg's dissent suggests), and it may even be a foolish balance. Nevertheless, that's what Congress decided (and in fact reaffirmed in 1972 when it doubled the filing period).

So we can see that Congress has chosen, for better or worse to limit the period in which Title VII claims can be brought. But under Ledbetter's theory, that limitation evaporates (or at best, becomes vestigial). Instead of having a claim for only 180 days after an act of discrimination, under Ledbetter's theory, an employee has a claim at any time they are employed and thereafter 180 days after the last time they receive a paycheque.

This point is best illustrated by a hypothetical. Suppose you work for Boeing for thirty years, being paid monthly on the last day of the month. You then announce you're leaving, and on your last day - which is in the first week of whatever month, so you'll be getting a prorated paycheque three weeks later - they throw you a big party. At the party, the person who hired you says that he's got a confession to make. He had discretion to increase or decrease starting pay by 10% based on his judgment of applicants' experience and qualification; he never told anyone else this, and certainly no one in Boeing's management, but when you interviewed with him, he'd just read, you know, Andrea Dworkin, Germaine Greer, whoever, and was filled with righteous anger at the men of the world. Striking a blow for social justice, he deflated your starting salary by 10%, discriminating based on your gender. On these facts, setting aside questions of whether the filing period can toll (and if so whether it can toll for thirty years), do you still have a claim until 180 days after the last day of that month when your final paycheque is cut? The position that Ledbetter and the Ledbetter dissenters would have had the court adopt would have to hold that the answer is "yes," because every paycheque cut since that initial hiring draws from a poisoned well, and thus you can always recover until you've left. This makes a mockery of a provision Congress plainly intended to operate as a de facto statute of limitations (see Zipes v. Trans World Airlines, 455 U.S. 385, 393 (1982) (holding that Title VII's filing period operates "like a statute of limitations," and is thus "subject to waiver, estoppel, and equitable tolling").

And finally, third (to save the shortest point until last), even if the statute were not clear, there is a line of applicable precedent which gives a reasonable construction to the statute, and stare decisis demands it be followed. The court explains that line of precedent (and I do it but faint justice in my summary here). The court's precedents foreclose Ledbetter's argument, as the majority explains.

So -- that's why the case is very easy for me to decide: because the theory advanced by the petitioner fails every part of my view as to how judges should inquire into the meaning of a statute. It is defeated by the plain meaning of the text and by simple application of the maxim that the specific governs the general to purposivism, it would render a virtual nullity one section of the text, and it cuts against established precedent which is itself a reasonable interpretation of the statute. I don't disagree that Congress should amend Title VII, but to be clear, it should do so recognizing that it is cleaning up its own mess, not correcting a mistaken interpretation by the court.

blake said...

To get off even further, "cromulent" means "fine, acceptable" in the context of something that's obviously bogus.

The statue Jedediah (or was it Jeb?) Springfield bore the phrase "A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man" (or something).

When a teacher from out of town questions the word "embiggens", the other responds with "It's a perfectly cromulent word."

As a result, it's nearly impossible to tell whether the word is being used genuinely or sarcastically without a lot of context.

To quote The Simpsons further, one apathetic teen cheers and the other one asks him, "Are you being sarcastic?" To which he responds, "Dude, I don't even know any more."

Steve S said...

Simon, thanks for your reply. (Also long in response here, sorry.) To your three main points:

1. I'm not convinced that the action is uncoupled from the intent when you consider the continued execution of the discriminatory decision to be considered part of its "occurrence." The intent is achieved through the monthly payment of the unfairly reduced salary, even though of course the monthly transaction of producing a paycheck does not involve a reconsideration of that decision.

By way of analogy, suppose I run a bus company and decide on January 1 not to permit X people to board my bus (where X represents a protected class). Joe, a member of X, tries to board the bus and I tell him he's not allowed. He tries every day and every day I tell him no. On July 1, after 181 days of trying, he figures out that I'm denying him because he's an X, and he files a claim charging me with discrimination, under a regulation that has a similarly worded statue of limitations as Title VII. I argue that his suit must be dismissed because it's been over 180 days since the "alleged unlawful practice occurred." After all, every day that I deny him the right to board my bus is merely the continued execution of a decision made 6.1 months ago. I apply no discretion when he seeks to board each day. I'm not reconsidering my decision; I'm merely senselessly implementing it, like the way a computer prints a paycheck.

He responds that the discriminatory practice occurs every time I deny him the opportunity to board the bus. Because the practice of the discrimination results in him having to walk to work. That seems persuasive to me (uh-oh, I can't even persuade myself). And that seems pretty close to the situation where your paycheck is always (allegedly) illegally less than it should be, as the discriminatory practice occurs every time your pay is below what it would have been had you not been discriminated against.

Unlike the Ledbetter case, suppose a plaintiff wasn't retired, but was early in her career, and discovered a discriminatory pay decision only a year before. And that she was to continue working in that company for 30 years to come? Wouldn't that mean for the next 30 years she would be subject to a discriminatory act, because her paycheck would always be too low relative to what it would have been under a nondiscriminatory pay scheme? (Of course she could quit, but that's beside the point.) I don't raise this hypothetical to point out that the statute of limitations should be longer, but rather to explain why I'm not persuaded that the occurrence of the discrimination starts and ends with the pay decision. It starts there, but it certainly doesn't end there.

2. Agreed that Congress passed language which imposed a limit on when claims can be filed, but the way I read the text of the statute, they didn't do a very good job of it. I see your point that to interpret the limitation in the Boeing example as allowing the person to file the claim 30 years later essentially eviscerates the statute of limitations, but the thing that makes a mockery of Congress's intent is not this interpretation, but rather their poor wording of the law. After all, consider the alternative: suppose that it was almost impossible to identify the discriminatory act when it is narrowly construed to be only the specific decision about the pay raise, and consequently no claims of this form of discrimination can be brought because they are always identified too late. Wouldn't that make a mockery of Congress's intent to prevent discrimination? And is that enough of a reason not to make that interpretation?

(Note that that is not my reason: I don't think she should be allowed to file her claim because to prevent her is contrary to Congress's intent to limit discrimination. I make this point only to suggest that an argument that not to interpret the statute in this manner subverts Congress's intent re. a time period doesn't seem too persuasive to me. At least not when the language of the statute seems fairly clear to me.)

3. I'm not familiar with the precendent (and don't have time today for further research), so I accept your analysis here.

I guess it strikes me, layperson, as that if Congress intends to apply a statute of limitations for redress of a type of discrimination that is by definition ongoing in its execution, they have the responsibility for wording that SOL precisely enough that when it begins is beyond interpretation. They didn't do that, and to me the more reasonable interpretation of when it starts based on how they wrote the law is: when the discrimination is occurring, and not just when it was initially triggered.

Emy L. Nosti said...

LOL, oy! This is the last time I comment on a law-related post! I can't (and don't want to try to) compete with law students/lawyers/people who read & understand the full text of the case. Or maybe I just need to have a linked page of disclaimers--far too much is being read into my comments. So far, I'm an angry far-left feminazi who thinks I know all that about how Ginsburg behaved before I was born, have analyzed the case thoroughly, and that I know what the hell "a purposivist inquiry" (okay, okay, the context was sufficiently helpful--but I'm not sure I've even heard that word before).

ANYWAY, I'm not angry so much as concerned (maybe I should be though); all I'm saying is I expect that, given a murky situation that reasonable judges could disagree on, e.g. overturning Roe after 30 years...women will not prevail with this Court. 9 times out of 10, or more. But again, that's just my prediction.

Feel free to make more assumptions about me, if you must. I've got work to do.

(Fen: re cromulent when acceptable or fine would be cromulent, thank you. I was going to say it but bit my tongue.)

Ann Althouse said...

Emy: I thought you wrote an excellent comment. I was going to say so before!

Emy L. Nosti said...

Eh, I don't get no respect! (Not that I expected it, so thank you.)

I'm starting to empathize with your carelessly branded "conservative blogger" image.

(Ugh, what happened to that work I was supposed to start???)

Simon said...

Steve:
"I'm not convinced that the action is uncoupled from the intent when you consider the continued execution of the discriminatory decision to be considered part of its "occurrence." The intent is achieved through the monthly payment of the unfairly reduced salary, even though of course the monthly transaction of producing a paycheck does not involve a reconsideration of that decision."


Certainly within the context of this case, though, the process of paying the employee doesn't involve any consideration or intent. Goodyear's employees were (presumably, are) paid based on a merit system, with periodic reviews to determine eligibility for a raise; the act of determining how far up the salary ladder an employee should rise happens at discrete intervals, and these pay-setting acts - in direct contrast to the issuance of a paycheque - involve both an opportunity for disciminatory intent and an act (the granting or witholding of a raise). There is no suggestion that wages are thereafter reconsidered until the next performance review, and there is no suggestion - unlike Bazemore - that Goodyear's salary ladder itself has discriminatory intent. Thus, even if this isn't the inexorable command of Title VII (which I think it likely is, although I think my position can survive admission that other contructions are at least possible), then at a minimum it makes far more sense, in my view, to regard the pay-setting decision as the discrete act, because it's the only point in the pay cycle at which discriminatory intent and action to implement it are coupled.

This point is sharpened when one considers the consequences of Ledbetter's argument: if I buy the company, and continue to maintain the same payrates as the previous owners, I have no intent whatsoever to discrminate, yet under Ledbetter's theory, I'm still liable - for 180 days after each paycheque I cut for her - for any disparity that can be traced back to a previous discriminatory act years before I bought the company. (I'm not just making this latter point up - Ledbetter's counsel was specifically asked about it at oral argument, and conceded as much to the Chief Justice and Justice Kennedy.) Thus, in a very real sense, the intent requirement would be made optional: as long as at some point in the past someone had intent to discriminate, I'm liable.

This reasoning of course limits Ledbetter to similar facts - in a situation where an employee does not automatically receive the same paycheque month on month between annual reviews, however (any professional whose paycheque is calculated individually from billable hours with discretionary performance-related pay, for example), I might be willing to accept each paycheque as starting the clock on those facts, precisely because the paycheque does involve consideration rather than the automatic application of a neutral salary ladder or other scale system.


In terms of your bus hypothetical, I suppose you can argue that you're simply implementing the policy, automaton-like, but I don't think that'll fly. That situation involves precisely the individualized opportunity for reconsideration absent in the issuance of a paycheque.


"[S]uppose a plaintiff wasn't retired, but was early in her career, and discovered a discriminatory pay decision only a year before."

Well, in a situation like that, I would assume that the filing period would toll. The court has held specifically that Title VII's filing period can be subject to tolling, Zipes, supra, and (concededly in dicta) said that even absent explicit Congressional authorization, tolling is appropriate "[w]hen application of the doctrine is consistent with Congress' intent in enacting a particular statutory scheme." Bowen v. City of New York, 476 U.S. 467, 479 (1986).


"[T]he thing that makes a mockery of Congress's intent is ... their poor wording of the law. After all, consider the alternative: suppose that it was almost impossible to identify the discriminatory act when it is narrowly construed to be only the specific decision about the pay raise, and consequently no claims of this form of discrimination can be brought because they are always identified too late. Wouldn't that make a mockery of Congress's intent to prevent discrimination? And is that enough of a reason not to make that interpretation?"

Yes to the first, no to the second. It's as true today as it was in 1791 that "[n]othing is more common than for laws to express and elect more or less than was intended." The remedy for unwise or badly-written laws lies not in Article III, but in the First Amendment and Article I: if Congress is incompetent, replace it with a Congress that isn't and have them change it. :p

I mean, as I noted above, several Democrats have said they'll introduce bills to change the filing period, and I think that's very much appropriate, although I'm somewhat piqued that these bills are being premised on the idea that the court got it wrong rather than that Congress placed a limitation on Title VII actions which just hasn't panned out in the real world. Some of those bills will probably be useless, some will be pandering or posturing (some will be all three - watch for Obambi's contribution), but I think at least one of them stands a chance of not being completely foolish and wining passage. Of course, the swift repealing of the Federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban and Don't Ask Don't Tell, and the passage of their "hundred hours" agenda, certainly speaks to the ability of Democrats to move their legislative agenda through Congress. ;)

Seven Machos said...

Man, you criticizers have missed the point. Greenhouse, in her own political efforts, demeaned the excellent advocacy that Ginsburg has done in her legal career and, I would add, on the bench.

I don't agree with Ginsburg much at all. But to paint her as some usually wimpy little girl who is some kind of victim -- which is what Greenhouse does -- is simply wrong. Ginsburg would argue most everyone here into disgrace and submission. Too bad for her she came out on the losing end of a decision. She can deal with it. She'll suck it up.

I'd like to see this same kind of article written about Clarence Thomas, who, as we all have been told frequently, never even speaks from the bench. It will never happen.

Simon said...

Emy L. Nosti said...
"I can't ... compete with ... people who read & understand the full text of the case."

That's never stopped Simon Lazarus, so I don't see why it should stop you. ;)

"all I'm saying is I expect that, given a murky situation that reasonable judges could disagree on, e.g. overturning Roe after 30 years...women will not prevail with this Court."

Well, within the parameters of your example, what you mean is that born women will not prevail on a court that would overrule Roe. On the other hand, the new generation of women who are not killed in utero might, in due course, disagree with you about whether they "prevailed" in this court.

(I think that as a pure matter of descriptive reality, however, Roe-Casey is in no danger of being overruled - I just don't think Roberts and Alito have it in them, although I'd be delighted to be shown wrong.)

Simon said...

I'd like to see this same kind of article written about Clarence Thomas, who, as we all have been told frequently, never even speaks from the bench. It will never happen.

Great point - where was this article from Greenhouse when Thomas read his Stenberg and Hamdan dissents from the bench? "The court's silent man finds his voice," perhaps? You didn't read that story, I suspect, for precisely the reason I identified in my 10:15am comment, above: because while this article uses Ginsburg's dissent as a proxy for Greenhouse's own dissatisfaction with the ruling, Greenhouse had no use for that device in reporting on cases she agreed with the outcome of.

Simon said...

^ Sorry, ¶1 above was quoting seven.

Fen said...

Dolye: What about your pretending to know what cromulent meant?

I didn't pretend to know - I had to look it up. And Websters had no reference to its sarcastic context.

Isn't that even less sophisticated?

Jane was the one pretending sophistication, not me. Thats the irony of it [from your own link]:

The intent of the phrase is generally used in conjunction with insults to high talkers, english majors and otherwise insufferable people who feel the need to correct others

Jane got snobbish while arguing the definition of white glove, then launched a petty insult with cromulent, but got it backwards and impaled herself with it by mistake.

Revenant said...

I didn't pretend to know - I had to look it up. And Websters had no reference to its sarcastic context.

Yeah -- bizarrely enough, dictionary.com has an entry for "cromulent", listing it as a slang term meaning "fine or acceptable".

David said...

I think the "white glove" reference in Greenhouse's article is apt both because it serves as a metaphor for the point Greenhouse is making and because Justice Ginsburg is actually known for wearly white gloves. It's her style, both in fashion and in law. It does not make Ginsburg meek. It just makes her her. For a photo of Ginsburg in her white gloves, check out the cover of the Fall 2006 University of Florida College of Law alumni magazine at http://www.law.ufl.edu/news/pdf/magazine_fall06.pdf

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"The proposed settlement represents significant progress toward resolving issues from the Deepwater Horizon accident and contributing further to economic and environmental restoration efforts along the Gulf Coast."

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Ferroelectricity is rather like an electrical equivalent of magnetism. In a ferroelectric substance, one side of the material has a positive electrical charge and the other a negative charge, created through an uneven distribution of electrical charges in its constituent atoms or molecules. Just as a magnetic field can make a compass needle change direction, so an electric field can pull all the little electrical charges into a different alignment, switching the charge in the opposite direction

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OK – but ferroelectricity? Who needs that? Engineers Bin Chen and Huajian Gao have speculated that the property might provide another way for the tissue to register forces, and perhaps monitor blood pressure. Or perhaps the property could sense blood temperature (because ferroelectricity is temperature-sensitive), or, as in seashells, disperse mechanical energy and prevent damage. Or maybe it could even act as a sort of “tissue memory” in conjunction with nerves. Liu, meanwhile, speculates that ferroelectricity switching might alter the way cholesterol, sugars or fats stick to and harden blood vessels.

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US Republican hopeful Mitt Romney wins six of 10 states voting on "Super Tuesday", including crucial Ohio, but not by enough to seal the race

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Australia's economy expands by less than expected in the fourth quarter of 2011, sending the dollar to a six-week low.

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The American soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians on Sunday has been flown to Kuwait, as the US defence secretary visits Afghanistan

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Arab League states call for the immediate implementation of a plan to end a year of violence in Syria as Syria's president says he backs the plan.

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The main emerging economies meet in the Indian capital, Delhi, to look at ways of strengthening their position against Europe and the United States

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The main emerging economies meet in the Indian capital, Delhi, to look at ways of strengthening their position against Europe and the United States.

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The Cassini spacecraft has captured striking images from flying by three moons of Saturn, including new pictures of Enceladus's gushing geysers.
Cassini made its lowest pass yet over the south pole of Enceladus, at at an altitude of 74km (46 miles)

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Two goals from Fernando Llorente and one each from Oscar de Marcos and Iker Muniain earned Bilbao a Europa League quarter-final first-leg win at Schalke

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QPR chief executive Philip Beard is confident the club will keep their star players even if they are relegated.
Rangers have invested heavily in their squad but are currently third from bottom of the Premier League.

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Sir Alex Ferguson says Manchester City's dominant start to the Premier League season counts for nothing at this stage of the campaign.

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A "white powdery substance" and drug paraphernalia were found in Whitney Houston's hotel bathroom on the day she died, says the full coroner's report

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A "white powdery substance" and drug paraphernalia were found in Whitney Houston's hotel bathroom on the day she died, says the full coroner's report

nic rossouw said...

what a load of crap. sounds like the teaparty/oligarch supporters on the right will only be happy with a court that has 9 right wing nutjobs - even though there is a left wing majority in the US population. the court is already radically out of alignment with the country. identifying Justice Ginsberg as a problem because she does not silently go along with the Spanish Inquisition shows that the right knows that the court is not in alignment with the country.

nic rossouw said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
nic rossouw said...

looks like someone has hacked your blog comments unless all that whitney houston snorting cocaine on quatas or whatever is somehow relevant to supreme court?

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