READ THAT BACK: Party Edition!


This week something special happened at the U.S. Supreme Court. Something…maybe even magical. For one hour of oral arguments, the highest court in the land, showed us that it knows how to party. The case in question revolved around a house party—complete with loud music, strippers, and arrests—thrown by a mystery hostess named “Peaches,” who, as it turns out, was just a Georgia girl who knew how to have a good time. One by one, the justices revealed, that yes, they too know how to get down...or at least get down-adjacent.

Justice Breyer: Compared to the Middle Ages with which I am more familiar, the people today, younger people, frequently say, hey, there’s a party at Joe’s house. And before you know it, 50 people go to Joe’s house.

Justice Kagan: I used to be invited to parties where you didn’t…don’t know the host, but you know Joe is having a party. And can I say that long, long ago, marijuana was maybe present at those parties?

Damn! Who is this guy Joe, and how do I get on his invite list?

Anyway, in honor of Peaches, three-day weekends, and justices gone wild, welcome to READ THAT BACK: Party Edition.

There’s a Fungus Amungus: If you’re ever at a party, and someone hands you a bag of mushrooms labeled, “Whisky Fungus,” I’d recommend not eating them…all at once. However, if you live in Kentucky, whiskey fungus may have a totally different meaning. The state’s top court reinstated a suit alleging that emissions from a Brown-Forman warehouse caused “black deposits” of fungus to sprout up on the plaintiff’s property. Brown-Forman is of course the company responsible for Jack Daniels—an infamous party staple, but also of course a Tennessee whisky, not a Kentucky bourbon. Some of the distiller’s better-known Kentucky labels include Woodford Reserve, Old Forester, and Early Times.

Party Gifts: It’s often appropriate to bring a gift to a social gathering. A bottle of wine, or a coffee table book are obvious choices. Not so obvious, the head of a 900-pound elk named Leroy. But that’s what the newest Supreme Court justice, Neil Gorsuch, got when he arrived in Washington. The trophy previously belonged to the late Justice Scalia, who shot the elk on a 2003 hunting trip. And it’s not just Scalia’s wall decorations that are making a comeback—his words are finding a new home as well in a new book featuring speeches by Scalia—one that would presumably make an excellent party gift.

Change of Plans: Sometimes things go wrong, and parties don’t go as planned. No worries; you regroup, come up with a new plan, and move forward. It’ll be alright, alright, alright. Well, that’s what happened at the Seattle University School of Law, where an online petition caused the school to back out of co-sponsoring an event with the Federalist Society about immigration policy, and DACA in particular. The school said it “miscalculated and erred” in planning to have its Access to Justice Institute co-sponsor the event, but the debate will still go on with the Federalist Society as the sole sponsor.

ICYMI (or Blacked Out):

  • A class suit will go forward alleging the operator of Carrabba's Italian Grill and other chain restaurants stealthily changed drink prices during patron visits. Drink up before the prices change!
  • Sometimes, when in party mode, we all do things we’re not proud of. Sometimes, that requires a formal apology, or at least a written explanation like one Supreme Court advocate delivered to the justices.
  • A Tale of Two Gorsuches (subscription required) at oral argument. Both cases were reargued after initially being heard last term. Here’s why the court sometimes employs this procedural quirk. (Caution: Party references running low.)
  • And speaking of doing things twice, next week the court revisits whether corporations can be held liable for human rights violations brought by non-citizens. (Warning: Party references exhausted.)

And Now…Party On And On And On: When the Court Reporter was a little younger, a bit less burdened by the realities and responsibilities of life, there came the opportunity to throw a party. And not just any party…THAT party. (Think Big. A Little Bigger. Whoa, Too Far.) You know the one. The one that people talk about for years but most can’t remember. The one that gets so big so fast that you’ve lost control before it even starts.

Well, what they don’t tell you is that, once you throw THAT party, everyone wants you to throw the next party, and the next one, and, well, you get the picture.

Chief Justice Roberts seemed to understand this problem during arguments last week in Gill v. Whitford. If the Supreme Court throws that first party, and gets involved in disputes over partisan gerrymandering, it may lead to another party, and another, and yet another (because there are special rules that send these kinds of cases straight to One First Street). Eventually, the court will be accused of inviting too many Republicans, or Democrats, and lose all credibility when it comes to being an equal opportunity arbiter of awesome, he feared.

But as Paul Smith, the attorney arguing against the gerrymandering practices of the Wisconsin legislature put it: “It may be that you can protect the court from seeming political, but the country is going to lose faith in democracy big time.”

And without faith in democracy, nobody is free to party hard.