SILENCER: Justice Ginsburg put a stop to a patronizing lecture by Neil Gorsuch.

However terrible Donald Trump might be, he did give the right-wing Neil Gorsuch, after the Republicans’ trashed the constitutional system of judicial appointment to block a replacement for Antonin Scalia (and numerous other judgeships) the last year of President Barack Obama’s tenure.

The new Supreme Court justice has voted down the line with Clarence Thomas, as quick a summary of his judicial radicalism as necessary. He’s also proven unpleasant on the bench.

This week, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg put the quietus on a Gorsuch lecture in a pivotal case on gerrymandering. Jeffrey Toobin recounts the episode for The New Yorker:

Gorsuch saracastically interjected that he’d like to talk about the “arcane” subject of the U.S. Constitution.


Gorsuch went on to give his colleagues a civics lecture about the text of the Constitution. “And where exactly do we get authority to revise state legislative lines? When the Constitution authorizes the federal government to step in on state legislative matters, it’s pretty clear—if you look at the Fifteenth Amendment, you look at the Nineteenth Amendment, the Twenty-sixth Amendment, and even the Fourteenth Amendment, Section 2.” In other words, Gorsuch was saying, why should the Court involve itself in the subject of redistricting at all—didn’t the Constitution fail to give the Court the authority to do so?

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is bent with age, can sometimes look disengaged or even sleepy during arguments, and she had that droopy look today as well. But, in this moment, she heard Gorsuch very clearly, and she didn’t even raise her head before offering a brisk and convincing dismissal. In her still Brooklyn-flecked drawl, she grumbled, “Where did ‘one person, one vote’ come from?” There might have been an audible woo that echoed through the courtroom. (Ginsburg’s comment seemed to silence Gorsuch for the rest of the arguments.)

In one cutting remark, Ginsburg summed up how Gorsuch’s patronizing lecture omitted some of the Court’s most important precedents, and Smith gratefully followed up on it: “That’s what Reynolds v. Sims and Baker v. Carr did, and a number of other cases that have followed along since.” In these cases, from the early nineteen-sixties, the Court established that the Justices, via the First and Fourteenth Amendments, very much had the right to tell states how to run their elections.

I appreciated the comment on Twitter by women’s advocate Amy Siskind:

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is every woman sick of white men who didn’t even earn their spot talking over the rest of us.

Sad to say, Gorsuch is likely to be around a lot longer than Justice Ginsburg.


PS: Justice Sonia Sotomayor got in a good lick in the gerrymander case, too.