The formal investiture of a Supreme Court justice is a merely ceremonial event, and after the fact for Justice Kavanaugh who has been on the bench from the beginning of the this term. But Thursday’s script was slightly different because of two events of the previous day, the resignation of AG Sessions, and Justice Ginsburg’s fall resulting in fractured ribs. As a result Justice Ginsburg was not present on the bench, and the new Acting AG, Matthew Whitaker was at the lectern.
Otherwise it was a packed house with most, if not all, of the DC Circuit present, including Judge Merrick Garland. A lot of US District judges too. And everyone else you would expect like Senators McConnell and Graham ( the later arriving and leaving with the president, further feeding speculation that he may become the next AG ), Kavanaugh’s parents, wife and daughters. POTUS and FLOTUS were the last to arrive and the first to leave.
I thought the Court’s newest justice would have a lot to say during arguments in the church-state separation case, Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, heard yesterday. But Justice Gorsuch asked no questions until the very end, and then nothing very pointed.
With the Gorsuch confirmation hearings last week and the removal of the North Carolina transgender case from this week’s argument calendar it’s been an unusually quiet March at the Supreme Court. April may be more interesting when, for better or worse, a ninth justice takes the bench.
On Tuesday Justice Ginsburg announced the first opinion of the Court in a double-jeopardy case, Bravo-Fernandez v. U.S., argued on the first day of the term. Ginsburg spoke at length despite a severe hoarseness that made it hard to understand, and naturally that led to some speculation about her health. Once the argument got under way, though, she participated as vigorously as usual.
The Court heard three arguments this week, only two of which I sketched. Tuesday’s case, Moore v. Texas, was about the standard used to determine if a Texas death row inmate is too intellectually disabled to be executed.
Wednesday’s immigrant detention argument in Jennings v. Rodriguez pitted the plenary powers doctrine (I had to look that up) versus judicial review.
. . . and outside the it was a very soggy couple of days . . .