READ THAT BACK: Silver Spoons and Norma Desmond


I hope you enjoyed Thanksgiving and are over your tryptophan comas by now—it has been an eventful week, so it was probably good to rest up and gather your strength. And the hits keep coming, as we begin this week with Supreme Court oral arguments in two of the blockbusteriest cases of the term—more on that below. Let’s READ THAT BACK!

Let Them Eat … Never Mind: So tomorrow is the big day, the day that court watchers have been waiting for (with anticipation? dread? hunger?) since cert. was granted: Oral arguments in Masterpiece Cakeshop. People started lining up on Friday. So of course various outlets are offering previews, telling us what the case isn’t about, and suggesting how they think it should come out. And we’re no exception. In fact, we have two! The more the merrier, right? It seems that no matter how much cake shop you get, you’re always ready for another slice. Enjoy!

High Stakes: The Court Reporter remembers the plot of exactly one episode of Silver Spoons. Rich kid Ricky (conveniently the same name as the actor) gets a computer (it was an Apple II of some sort) and writes a program for it that will predict the results of football games. After some successful bets, Ricky puts money (he doesn’t have—he’s a kid) on the Jets, who will win (lol, right?) by three, his computer predicts. He places the bet, and the Jets go on to win the game—by two (“Where’s the kicking team?!” Ricky yells as time runs out). As far as the Court Reporter remembers, Silver Spoons wasn’t set in New Jersey, but if soon-to-be-former governor Chris Christie gets his way, it could be, were they ever to remake it…although please let’s hope they don’t. The case turns on an interpretation of the anti-commandeering principle, traditionally a favorite of states’ rights conservatives—but maybe progressives should be pulling for Christie in this case.

Wait, They Agree?: The Chamber of Commerce (the result when you image search that phrase is kind of astounding) and the class action plaintiffs’ bar don’t often see eye-to-eye, as you might expect. But there’s at least one provision of the “tax reform” bill on which some of them at least don’t seem to actually disagree (which is I guess as good as it’s going to get): a provision that would close a tax loophole for litigation expenses in some class suits. Prominent class action litigator Jay Edelson may have come through with the quote of the day here, summing up his feelings about the provision: “The rest of the tax bill is a disaster, with huge giveaways to the rich from the poor, but if we’re really fighting for consumers, it’s hypocritical to say we shouldn’t pay more taxes.”

ICYMI:

  • This (thankfully satirical) story gave the Court Reporter a brief fright.
  • Everyone is losing their minds over cake and gambling this week, but last week it was about cell phones (subscription required). How will the Justices take the 4th Amendment into the 21st Century?
  • There was also this gibberish. (The statute, not the reportage, of course.)
  • There’s a new, simpler way to go bankrupt! But you didn’t think it would to that easy, did you?
  • Remember when the CFPB (true confession: the Court Reporter, on seeing that acronym, always, always thinks of this first) had two leaders? Never have donuts (doughnuts?) been so consequential.

And Now…Roberts the Libera(lol): There’s a line of thought out there in the ether that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. is a secret liberal, or may as well be. Like his brief contemporaries Justice John Paul Stevens and David H. Souter, he’s just one step away from, I don’t know, whatever crazy liberal thing it is that people are convinced that he might do. This argument usually begins with his 2012 vote to uphold the Affordable Care Act—and often ends there, too. There just hasn’t been a whole lot of evidence of this trend.

That is, until the stats wonks over at 538 looked into things. Is he a secret liberal? they ask. They even have a pretty neat graph showing him pulling pretty strongly to the left in the last, oh, seven or so years. Apparently this is attributable in part to his votes to overturn the death penalties of two black men whose convictions were racially tinged.

But University of Michigan constitutional law professor Richard Primus is, to say the least, not convinced. The article makes a fundamental framing error, he contends: it’s not that Roberts is getting more liberal, it’s that the court is asking more conservative questions. Call it the Norma Desmond hypothesis—he hasn’t changed, everything else has!

Well, if he really is a secret liberal, this term will certainly give him a lot of chances to let people know. Cake anyone?