|Toobin Considers What's Disgraceful|
Here, Toobin accuses Justice Clarence Thomas of "disgraceful," "embarrassing," "ludicrous," institutionally "demeaning" dereliction of judicial duty because he does not actively participate in oral arguments. Thomas has previously explained that he thinks his colleagues do not give parties' advocates enough time to explain their positions. Given his colleagues' excesses, he refrains from questioning to allow the advocates some time to advocate. Nevertheless, Toobin is rightly concerned that without the theater of questioning, as he says, "[t]he public would ... immediately, lose all faith in the Supreme Court."
|Without the Facade, Who Would Worship at this Temple?|
But Toobin is right that if Supreme Court Justices did not even put on a show of legal argument, the public's belief in the Supreme Court's apolitical function would lose whatever remaining vigor it possesses. It is an essential disguise. While there is no evidence that oral arguments actually serve a deliberative legal function, they are conducted in a jargon capable of sublimating political and moral disputes and covering ideological maneuvers with a legitimating air of neutrality. If all the conservative Justices boycotted the Court's arguments like Thomas, it would have a profoundly destabilizing effect on the Court's methods of legitimizing its decisions. That is, it would openly announce what most academics and the public already believe -- the court is not deciding its most politically important cases on the basis of law, but on the basis of will. We kill babies, ban praying in schools, "marry" men to men, permit the federal government uncontrolled powers because most Justices want it, not because the constitution requires it.
Of course, rather than getting all the Justices to contribute to the play acting as Toobin desires, one might heed Thomas' call for a return to an authentic tradition of Christian constitutional adjudication. If the discourse before the Court were not dominated by modernity's sterile secularism and pusillanimous positivism, I believe Thomas would be leading the questioning.