For Comment: "Does personality override politics in the Rehnquist Supreme Court?"

December 14, 2000 1:56 PM   Subscribe

For Comment: "Does personality override politics in the Rehnquist Supreme Court?"
File under: "What is the rhetorical and effective nature of constitutional interpretation and judicial review?" I have always been intrigued by the ways in which the justices of the Supreme Court selectively reveal tidbits about their personality and the nature of their interactions. "Scalia and Ginsburg are polar opposites, but are secretly best friends!" "O'Connor likes Georgia O'Keefe, and has several originals in her office!"

While much of this can be explained by the media creating a story where there is none, the above comments by Thomas lead me to wonder that, if 'opinion' is the form by which laws are reviewed, then perhaps 'individuality,' 'style,' or 'personality' have an impact on how the concept of justice and constitutionality are applied.
posted by rschram (8 comments total)
An individuals personality and personal beliefs, have a huge impact on their decision making. Anyone that says they are without bias is lying.
posted by Zool at 2:25 PM on December 14, 2000

It looks like the finally got rid of that backdoor to registration. But now we have a new way, thanks to rschram! Just replace the "www" with "channel".
posted by waxpancake at 2:54 PM on December 14, 2000

Oh that trick isn't mine. The earliest mention of which I know occurred on MeFi on August 8th of this year, courtesy of Nic. They're due for changing the back door soon.
posted by rschram at 3:04 PM on December 14, 2000

The book Born to Rebel goes into detail about the tendency of later-born children to favor going against the grain more than firstborns, who tend to favor maintaining the status quo.

As part of the evidence, the author Frank J. Sulloway researched all sorts of old Supreme Court decisions. It's really quite fascinating and amazing how it all holds up (not absolutely of course, this is statistical significance we're talking about).

It sheds a lot of interesting light about who we are as humans, and why we make the kinds of decisions we do. Not the whole picture, obviously, but still an important factor, it would seem.

I'm curious to know what the firstborn vs. later-born (especially youngest) status is among the current Court?
posted by beth at 3:15 PM on December 14, 2000

An individuals personality and personal beliefs, have a huge impact on their decision making.Anyone that says they are without bias is lying.posted by Zool at 2:25 PM PST on December 14
While this is no doubt true, you seem to want to put personal beliefs, personality, and politics all in the same basket. I, however, (and perhaps I'm wrong) wish to keep politics (as in the sense of interests and strategic choices ) separate from "personality" in the sense of performance of an individual style.
Re: beth: I'm not totally opposed to early-childhood experience explanations of personality, upon which birth-order theories generally rely. But, I think it presumes that personality matters more than politics, which is my question. That is to say: If there were against-grain personalities on the bench, would they exercise this tendency, or hold it in check to serve political interests?
Perhaps a first question should be discussed: "In Bush v. Gore, did the Supreme Court justices, both in dissents and in the per curiam, use a political perspective in a manner inconsistent with their usual jurisprudential framework? Or, is Thomas right when he says that there is no partisanship in SCOTUS discussions, and that, in fact, the handling of Bush is similar to that of other cases."
posted by rschram at 3:42 PM on December 14, 2000

Clarence Thomas’ appearance, when put into the context of this article, seems like a well timed PR stunt.

On the other hand, it was probably scheduled weeks in advance, yaddayadda.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 6:10 PM on December 14, 2000

One has to wonder about the "opinions" of Chief Justice William Rehnquist, a segregationist in the 1960s and and one who was (on the behalf of the GOP) actively engaged in preventing minorities from voting during 1964 election.
posted by lagado at 10:36 PM on December 14, 2000

Just like most of us the supreme court justices are people and they each carry the individuality of their own personal experiences, beliefs, and convictions. I think it is unavoidable that partisanship (not political but personal) comes into play when we (as human beings) make decisions. Your convictions are going to guide how you look at something.

The supreme court is designed to have a panel of judges so that the group will be broad enough to render a decision that represents the finer points of interpreting law after thoughtful consideration. That includes filtering it through each of the justices and their personalities.

Very compelling post, rschram
posted by ooklah at 8:31 AM on December 15, 2000

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