(The Return of) Ignatz, by Sam Heldman

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Today the Justices of the Supreme Court proved once again that they have perhaps the best job in the world. Not only -- as the old British comedy routine said about the cushiness of a judge's worklife -- that there is a complete absence of falling coal. More than that, it's that they have just about the only job I can think of where one can say, without any adverse consequences whatsoever, "you know how I said I was going to do the such-and-such task? well, it turns out that it's more complicated than I thought, and not nearly so interesting. so I'm not going to do it." That's what they did today in Abdur-Rahman v. Bell, just as they did it a few weeks ago in Ford Motor Co. v. McCauley. In both cases, there was a belatedly-recognized question as to whether the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals had jurisdiction, under the complicated procedural rules governing such things; and so rather than decide whether they had jurisdiction or not (and then, if appropriate, reach the "merits" question they had meant to consider), they said "dismiss as improvidently granted." I wish that I had that option, sometimes: "this brief is going off on a tangent, and a boring one. forget it -- I'm not going to write it after all." But then again, there's a complete absence of falling coal in my office, too, so I can't really complain.

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