Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What Should Scalia Do with his Time?

The topic for the moment a few moments ago was the question whether professors work hard enough.  Speaking for myself only, the answer would be "yes, but" (details below).  But  now I'm reading Antonin Scalia as he encounters the prospect of actually reading the Affordable Care Act, on which he is supposed to pass judgment.  "You really want us," he bleats,  "to go through these 2,700 pages?"  Link

Well strictly speaking, I suppose the answer is "no."  I suspect the parties would stipulate that there are large chunks of it that really aren't germane to the issue(s) before the court and therefore not necessary reading for a judge as he gets ready to give judgment.*

But it raises the larger question--do Supreme Court judges work hard enough?  Recall that this is a crowd that is in court (= in the classroom?) only a few hours a week, only some weeks of the year--with long holidays and summers off.  Moreover it is they who get to decide how hard they work.  Recall that the court now hears fewer than half the cases every term as it used to, and that the reduction is due entirely to the judges' own whim  discretion--i.e., it is they who vote whether to hear  a case or not.  Meanwhile it looks to me like they have something like 36 clerks in gross.   At this rate, somebody ought to be able to extrapolate how soon it will be one clerk per case .  And the clerks, of course, are just the beginning.  There's no end to the amount of support staff available to keep them comfortable and mellow.

So, how to achieve a  better economy of effort?  In the old days, one way to burn off the surplus energy of the underemployed was to pile them all into a car and deploy them in the small towns of the south as magazine salesmen.    I never did that, but I did spend one summer day cleaning out an underground oil tank (for my brother-in-law--I think he was trying to encourage me to leave his house, which I did).  Or we could consider having them crawl into cages to catch chickens (paid by the piece).  Or scraping gum off the bottom of bus seats.  Or selling Tours of Homes of the Stars along Hollywood Boulevard.  

Or, oh yes, send them back to the countryside to dig irrigation ditches.  Any other suggestions?

Addendum: do I work hard?   The short answer is "yes."  I've always worked a lot of hours at my professor job, more than I did when I was a newspaper hack, sometimes more than I did as a lawyer.   Perhaps not more than I did as a judge, but then I liked being a judge and it didn't seem like work.   And that is the dirty little secret: as a professor I do work hard but I have almost total control over what, when and how I do it.    And that's the problem with professing: not that it's too easy, but that it is way, way too much fun.  Eat your heart out, Nino.

*Or maybe not.  See link.

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