The Nine Greatest Names of United States Supreme Court Justices

There have been 112 Supreme Court justices in the history of the United States, but only a handful of those Justices have had truly extraordinary names.  This is my humble attempt to recognize those Justices who set themselves apart simply by being appointed to the Court and showing up with cool names (though obviously, many of those folks ended up doing much more than that).

9.  Tie – John Jay, Thomas ToddDavid Davis, & Sonia SotomayorI like alliteration.  ThomasToddAlso, John Jay is the namesake of a St. Louis Cardinals outfielder,  Davis is the namesake of a lot of people, and Sotomayor means “major river vegetation,” or maybe “more Soto,” which reminds me of that Saturday Night Live “more cowbell” sketch. I don’t have anything interesting to say about Thomas Todd’s name, but he’s been called “the most insignificant Justice,” so it seems like he should be on some sort of positive list. And get his image reproduced to the right.

Bruegel the Elder8.  John Marshall Harlan & John Marshall Harlan IIFirst, their names are the combination of the names of two Chief Justices, John Marshall and Harlan Stone.  Second, the fact that the first Justice Harlan and his grandson, II, shared the same name allowed me in my first year of law school, fresh off my one semester of History of Art, to refer to them as Harlan the Elder and Harlan the Younger, in the style of references to a famous Flemish painter and his son. And when I say “refer to” I mean “refer to them in my head so as not to frighten others.”

7.  Potter StewartHis name sounds like it’s backwards (isn’t Stewart Potter a much more normal name?) which makes him sound all the more like a judge.  Also bonus points for coining the phrase “I know it when I see it” which is useful in so many situations (i.e., “I can’t explain the criteria for what makes a great Supreme Court Justice name, but I know it when I see it.”).

6.  Felix Frankfurter & Warren Burger[Insert your own obligatory food joke here.]  Also, Homer Simpson likes Warren Burger.

Cousin Oliver5.  Tie — Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. & Oliver Ellsworth.   My inclusion of one of the most famous members of the Supreme Court and the third Chief Justice is really just an excuse to mention Cousin Oliver from the Brady Bunch, who was such an awful character that he has his own syndrome named after him. You thought maybe I should mention Willis Van Devanter here and make a Different Strokes reference?  Whatcha talkin’ bout, reader?

4.  Tie — William Paterson, Thurgood Marshall, John Marshall, Louis Brandeis, Salmon P. Chase, Sandra Day O’Connor & Benjamin Cardozo.  These Justices have colleges or law schools named after them (two law schools in John Marshall’s case, and a university and separate law school in Brandeis’ case).  Do you have any colleges or law schools named after you?  Didn’t think so.

BushrodWashington3.  Bushrod WashingtonBushrod was George Washington’s nephew, and inherited Mount Vernon from him.  The next most prominent Bushrod in history may be Bushrod Johnson, who was one of the few Confederate generals born and raised in the North.  The Golden Age of People Named Bushrod seems to have ended in about 1870.

2.  Hugo Black.  If this weren’t a real name for a Supreme Court Justice, I would write a screenplay just so it could include a judge character with this name. Also, his  name sounds kind of like a Bond villain.

1.  Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar II.  This was never really a contest. In truth, L.Q.C. Lamar’s name was the inspiration for this entire list.  Lucius’s father, Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar I, apparently had an “eccentric” uncle in Georgia who asserted some sort of naming rights over his nephew and named him after the early Roman statesman, the indirect namesake of Cincinnati, Ohio.  It’s unclear whether Lucius the Elder, a Judge in Georgia, actually liked the name, or thought the his son should endure the same obstacles that he did. Lucius_Quintus_Cincinnatus_Lamar_II_-_Brady-Handy Lucius the Younger moved to Mississippi and, in an age when lawyers weren’t terrified of math, taught mathematics at Ole Miss (which was presumably known as New Miss at the time).  He later represented Mississippi in the U.S. House of Representatives, and then pushed for Mississippi secession.  Despite serving in the Confederate army and as a Confederate diplomat, in 1873 he was again elected to the House of Representatives and became the first Democrat from Mississippi to serve in Congress after the Civil War, and later called for reconciliation between the North and South, which John F. Kennedy discussed in Profiles in Courage.  He subsequently represented Mississippi in the Senate and was Secretary of the Interior under Grover Cleveland.  Appointed to the Court by Cleveland in 1888, he served for five years and died in 1893.  While his time on the Court was relatively brief and uneventful, it was enough for him to land at the top of this list. (Also, he had a cool beard, but so did many of the justices in the last half of the Nineteenth Century.)

For haiku about current Supreme Court Justices, go here.  Or, check out our haiku about former Chief Justices and former Associate Justices.

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Seventeen Supreme Court Cases in Seventeen Syllables — Term Highlights in Haiku

For those of you who don’t want to review all seventy-nine Supreme Court opinion haiku authored this term, I’ve extracted the wheat from the chaff, and present seventeen haiku from seventeen major cases this term.  I’ve included at least one opinion from each of the Justices.  I considered at least ten other cases to include, which included several important decisions related to habeas corpus, arbitration clauses, and constitutional criminal procedure, but when close calls needed to be made, I erred on the side of picking the more interesting haiku.  You can click on the case names, arranged in reverse-chronological order, to access the actual opinions.  Enjoy!

Hollingsworth v. Perry (June 26, 2013)

Official_roberts_CJProposition 8

Initiatives’ proponents

Do not have standing


United States v. Windsor (June 26, 2013)

220px-Anthony_Kennedy_official_SCOTUS_portraitDOMA Invalid

States decide what “marriage” means

Equal protection


Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder (June 25, 2013)

Official_roberts_CJ“Decades-old data”

Can’t justify preclearance

In Voting Rights Act


Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin (June 24, 2013)

220px-Anthony_Kennedy_official_SCOTUS_portraitRace in admissions

Strict scrutiny required

Good faith not enough


Vance v. Ball State University (June 24, 2013)

010_alitoTitle VII Claim

A “supervisor” defined

“Tangible” actions


Agency for Int’l Development v. Alliance for Open Society Int’l (June 20, 2013)

Official_roberts_CJTying AIDS funds to

Prostitution policy

Violates Free Speech


Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc. (June 17, 2013)

220px-Antonin_Scalia,_SCOTUS_photo_portraitState cannot require

For Federal elections

Extra documents


Salinas v. Texas (June 17, 2013)

010_alitoFailure to answer

Before Miranda invoked

May use at trial


Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc. (June 13, 2013)

220px-Clarence_Thomas_official_SCOTUS_portraitCan you patent it?

A DNA sequence, no

cDNA, yes


Maryland v. King (June 3, 2013)

220px-Anthony_Kennedy_official_SCOTUS_portraitSerious offense

Cheek swab for DNA test

Reasonable search


Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. (Apr. 17, 2013)

Official_roberts_CJAlien Tort law

Does not reach to foreign lands

Just U.S., pirates


Missouri v. McNeely (Apr. 17, 2013)

220px-Sonia_Sotomayor_in_SCOTUS_robeDUI arrest

Cops need warrant for blood test

Sans exigency


Florida v. Jardines (Mar. 26, 2013)

220px-Antonin_Scalia,_SCOTUS_photo_portraitDrug sniffing canine

A front porch is curtilage

Evidence suppressed


Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (Mar. 19, 2013)

220px-Stephen_Breyer,_SCOTUS_photo_portraitThe “first sale” doctrine

Allows student to resell

Books bought in Thailand


Clapper v. Amnesty Int’l USA (Feb. 26, 2013)

010_alitoForeign surveillance

Possible future contacts

No standing for you


Florida v. Harris (Feb. 19, 2013)

Elena_Kagan_Official_SCOTUS_Portrait_(2013)Search based on dog’s sniff

Performance log not needed

For probable cause


Arkansas Game & Fish Comm’n v. U.S. (Dec. 4, 2012)

220px-Ruth_Bader_Ginsburg_official_SCOTUS_portraitFlooded timberland

Seasonal release from dam

Might be a Taking


If I missed any of your favorites, you can find them here, or write your own below.  Happy haiku-ing!

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A Brief History of Argle-Bargle

In United States v. Windsor,  Justice Antonin Scalia filed a passionate dissent to the Court’s holding that Section 3 of  the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. 220px-Antonin_Scalia,_SCOTUS_photo_portrait Justice Scalia criticized the “scatter-shot rationales” of Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion, and the “disappearing trail of its legalistic argle-bargle.”  Nothwithstanding the criticism that Justice Scalia’s use of “argle-bargle” has received, the Argle-Bargle Doctrine has deep roots in both the English common law and in American jurisprudence.

Webster’s defines “argle-bargle” as “argy-bargy.”  (Well, that doesn’t help).  Other sources define it as “a noisy discussion or dispute.” As previously discussed by the Atlantic Wire,  the term “argle” means “argument” in the Scottish dialect and dates back to the 16th Century.  The phrase “argle bargle” appeared in Jamieson’s Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Tongue in 1808, but a variant on the term, argle-bargain, appeared in a Scottish poem in 1720. Flag_of_Scotland_svg In light of the vaguely contemporaneous Acts of Union of 1707 and the English common law tradition that the United States continues to follow to this day, the relevance of this colorful Scottish phrase to U.S. law should be clear.

The pioneer of the Argle-Bargle Doctrine in the United States was Judge Edward O. Weant, Jr. of the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.  In the seminal case of Antonelli v. Antonelli, 408 A. 2d 773 (Md. App. 1979), Judge Weant referred to a child visitation dispute resulting from a divorce as an “argle-bargle.”  Later in Mech v. Hearst Corporation, 496 A. 2d 1099 (Md. App. 1985), a dispute involving a woman who was injured by a guard dog after inadvertently entering a newspaper’s fenced-in parking area in Baltimore, Judge Weant again used “argle-bargle” to characterize the dispute.  By 1994, the Argle-Bargle Doctrine was well established in Maryland when Judge John Bishop, Jr. used “argle-bargle” to refer to a parking space dispute among members of a homeowners’ association and further explained that the term came “from the Scotch argy-bargy, to argue, wrangle, haggle.”  See Oakhampton Association, Inc. v. Reeve, 637 A. 2d 879 (Md. App. 1994). 125px-Flag_of_Maryland_svg(These are real cases that really used “argle-bargle.”  You can look them up.) Sadly, it appears that no other state had the foresight to adopt the Argle-Bargle Doctrine, and when Judges Weant and Bishop died, the Doctrine seemed to die with them.

Justice Scalia had other ideas.  The motivation for Justice Scalia’s decision to revive the Argle-Bargle Doctrine in U.S. v. Windsor is unclear, but its impact should not be underestimated.  Merely referring to an opponent’s “legalistic argument” does not sufficiently reflect the disdain with which the writer regards their opponent’s argument, a void that has long needed filling.  The potential benefits of the Argle-Bargle Doctrine to plaintiffs and defendants alike should be readily apparent.  For instance, a defendant can now make an argument like the following:  “The Plaintiff claims that the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur is relevant to the shrapnel  injuries sustained by golfers at Roger’s Mini Golf and Hand Grenade Test Range.  The citation of this allegedly Latin phrase is little more than legalistic argle-bargle.”  Shrewd plaintiffs can also benefit from the doctrine.  To wit:  “The Defendant claims that the Plaintiff needs to prove things like “causation” and “damages” to recover  in this case.  The Defendant’s repeated references to “elements” and “causes of action” are little more than legalistic argle-bargle.”

The newly-revived Argle Bargle Doctrine is likely to have a significant impact on U.S. jurisprudence.  But litigants seeking to take advantage of the doctrine should approach it like week-old haggis — with caution — lest they be viewed as hoity-toity purveyors of  a helter skelter hodge podge of mumbo jumbo and flim-flammery.

(For those who may dismiss this article as merely internet argle-bargle, I have but one response:  Liar, liar, pants on fire, I am rubber and you are glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you.)

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