In recent years it seems that every nomination to the U. S. Supreme Court leads to partisan controversy. This exhibit displays political memorabilia from the collection of Professor Kurt Metzmeier that documents some of the most recent controversies. Also included are some buttons from the pre-Court political careers of justices, a button urging the election of a sitting justice as president, and humorous objects gently mocking the dignity of the Supreme Court.
While appointments to the Court had always stirred interest in legal circles, it wasn’t until the nomination of “the people’s lawyer” Louis D. Brandeis to the court that the nation saw an active campaign against a justice. Still, that nomination was somewhat of a special case, as Brandeis had stirred up unusual distaste among the banking and railroad trusts. Even President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s frequent battles with the Supreme Court did not lead to organized campaigns against his nominees. This is surprising since most early justices were drawn from political life and many had served as governors, senators, and even, in the case of William Howard Taft, president. Indeed, the only political activity involving Supreme Court justices until the late 20th century was an occasional convention boomlet to draft one of justices to run for the presidency. (William O. Douglas perhaps was the last sitting justice to entertain such dreams).
The first attempt by an organized political group to set its sights on a member of the Supreme Court was the conservative John Birch Society’s billboard campaign to impeach sitting Chief Justice Earl Warren for the perceived liberalism of his court. However, it was President Ronald Reagan’s nomination of conservative scholar Robert Bork to the Supreme Court in 1986 that set off the first full-scale campaign against a nominee; one that would lead to the word “Borking” being entered in the dictionary as a term for the process of defeating a judicial nomination. Metzmeier’s collection has no fewer than four different buttons involving this effort.
After the Bork nomination, things would never be the same. Buttons and bumper stickers would be employed to both support and oppose controversial nominations. In addition, the ability to possibly choose members of the Supreme Court would be noted in every presidential campaign. A classic 1996 campaign button features a free-spinning arrow pointing to the names of existing justices who (the button implies) could die or resign at any time and asks “Who do you want to choose the next Justice?” The Supreme Court now plays more prominent role in popular political culture than at any time. Its secret service nickname SCOTUS is well-known and forms part of a popular legal blog. And it hard to imagine any prior justice being so lovingly re-imaged as Justice Ginsburg has been as “The Notorious RGB.”
The exhibit is in the Law Library reading room through the end of 2014.
Moving Forward, Living Backward, or Just Standing Still? Theatre Production, Friday, Oct. 24, 7:00 p.m., Allen CourtroomPosted October 17th, 2014 by Rita E. Siegwald
The Grateful Decedents, playing rock, reggae rock, blues rock, funk rock, classic rock, and ragnarok, feature 3Ls Greg Daly on vocals and Mina Khalil on electric guitar and vocals. The five musicians from the Louisville area started a band just to play Lawlapalooza this year.
Once onstage, the virtuosity of each member – the vocal prowess of Greg Daly, the face-melting techniques of guitarists Mina Khalil and Carl Koontz, the hard-hitting basslines of Darren Beckham, and the earthquaking kicks 'n snares courtesy of Jordan Daly – will fuse into a single entity and fill your ears with the truth. You will surely doubt whether you have ever truly used your ears before that moment.
And then, once their set is over, each member will slowly fade into transparency like Marty McFly and disappear into the ether forever, never to be seen again.
Come out to Lawlapalooza 2014 at the Phoenix Hill Tavern, 644 Baxter Avenue, and support your fellow students ‒ and help them carry away the cherished Lawlapalooza Cowbell Trophy. Doors open at 6:00 PM, and The Grateful Decedents perform at 9:30. Tickets are on sale now in the Law Resource Center, room 272, $10 advance and day of show.