Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sports Thoughts

I just watched my first World Series game this year. I never do not feel sorry for the wives and girlfriends of the losers in a big game. I will never forget having a second-place medal thrown at me when I was sixteen.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Latest Decorating Projects

I've been feeling crafty lately. Here are some pictures of my most recent projects.

I bought this old window at an antiques store, sanded the wood, painted it, and painted some of the glass panes with chalkboard paint.

This old dresser was left in my garage when I bought my house. I finally decided to do something with it, so I sanded it down. I was originally going to paint the whole thing, but I liked the distressed look once I took off the first layer of paint, so I left it as it was and just painted the drawer fronts.

I bought these fun knobs on sale from Anthropologie.

I also got this peacock pillow from Anthropologie. It was ridiculously expensive, and I'm embarrassed at how much I paid for it, but I love it. I made the blue pillow.

The technique is called smocking AND IT TOOK FOREVER.

I made this burlap wreath tonight. Isn't it cute?! I got the idea from this website. I love it! I think I'll switch out the leaves for holly and berries for Christmas.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Five Chiefs: Part II

I just finished reading Five Chiefs which is Justice John Paul Stevens' Supreme Court memoir. It should be no surprise that I loved it, because I've loved Stevens' writing style since my 2L year of law school.

I'm sure there are people who think my obsessive love of a 91 year-old retired judge is a little strange, so maybe I had better explain it. When I decided to go to law school, I knew nothing about the law other than what I had seen from watching Law and Order and Matlock over the years. No one in my family was a lawyer, and I didn't have any close family friends who were lawyers. Everything was new to me when I showed up as a 1L.

Not only that, but I was a biochemistry major in college, not a political science major, so I wasn't even in the same realm of study. My friends who were political science majors thought Constitutional Law was so boring because they'd already studied it in undergrad, and they already knew where they stood on the issues. I didn't. Part of the reason I enjoyed law school so much was because it was a time in my life when I shaped a lot of my views on law and politics.

Reading court opinions helped me do that. Now, most subjects that you study in law school are based on state law. Torts, contracts, property, criminal law, business associations, etc. As a result, the textbooks borrow cases from all over the country that span decades. You don't have the opportunity to read a collective body of work from any particular court. Federal-based subjects, however, are a different story, and I took a lot of federal law-based classes. Constitutional Law was a requirement, but I also took Criminal Procedure, Federal Courts, and Federal Indian Law. Those classes, Crim Pro and Fed Courts especially, were my favorites, and the cases we read were almost exclusively United States Supreme Court cases.

As a result of reading so many cases from the same court, I was able to get a feel for the individual justices. As I read all those SCOTUS cases, it became very clear to me that not only did I agree with John Paul Stevens at least 80% of the time, I also loved his writing style. Nothing delighted my inner nerd more than reading a case where the majority opinion made a long, unpersuasive argument to reach the result it wanted, and then turning to Stevens' dissent where would he essentially say "You're wrong, and here's why." I'm sure that the reason I ended up agreeing with him so often was due to the fact that he was able to convincing express his views in a clear and concise fashion.

This same writing style is evident in his book. I enjoy that this book gives him the opportunity to expand on his views in a way that would not have been appropriate while he was a justice. For example, Stevens makes it abundantly clear in Five Chiefs that his constitutional judicial philosophy is to look at the text of the Constitutional, coupled with the intent and purpose of the law. He explicitly rejects using the history of the particular provision as the primary interpretive tool, because he recognizes that society changes over the years. As he says in his book,

[I]f our construction of the government's duty to rule impartially enshrined in the equal protection clause had been based on contemporary understandings at the time the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted, Thurgood Marshall would have been on the losing side in Brown v. Board of Education.

For a 91 year-old privileged white guy, he is remarkably in tune with reality. I have always loved that about him.

In his book Stevens also expounds on his views on the death penalty. He states that in his view, in an era when all states have sentences of life without parole, the only possible justification for the death penalty is retribution, i.e., the desire to see the offender suffer as his victims suffered. But as he points out, the Eighth Amendment does not permit the government to inflict suffering, thus there is no longer any acceptable reason for the death penalty. Interesting, no? Stevens also dishes about how he views the opinions written by his colleagues. When speaking of William Rehnquist's death penalty jurisprudence, he says, "I hope that some of his opinions for the Court will one day be well described by Lincoln's modest phrase [the 'world will little note, nor long remember' his words.]" In regards to Payne v. Tennessee, written by Rehnquist, Stevens' says, "My reaction to that abysmal Payne decision remains every bit as hostile today as Thurgood's was when it was announced." (Something else that Stevens did not like about Rehnquist? The gold stripes Rehnquist added to his robe after becoming chief justice.)

I also love how it is clear from this book that Stevens really, really admired Thurgood Marshall. As much as I love Stevens, no one could hold a candle to Marshall's opinions in criminal procedure cases. His dissent in Schneckloth v. Bustamonte is a personal favorite. Stevens says in his book that he is convinced that Marshall would have voted differently than his replacement, Clarence Thomas, in most if not all cases. I've always thought that Marshall must have rolled over in his grave on account of some of Thomas's votes.

I did find it interesting that in discussing Justice Thomas, Stevens focuses mainly on Thomas's opinion in United States v. Lopez. That's interesting to me because it was the only instance in my three years of law school that I remember siding with Thomas over Stevens when reading a case. I even blogged about it on my old blog (that I've since deleted) and joked that the universe might be imploding.

Anyway, to make a long story short, I loved this book. I miss reading Stevens' opinions. This held me over.