Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Justices and Assassins 

What do lone-gunman assassins have in common with female justices (and nominees) of the Supreme Court?

I was reading Captain Ed's analysis of the upcoming appointment to the Supreme Court, when I was struck by a completely superfluous, tangentially related thought. Here is his speculation that the next nominee is likely to be a woman:

Bush will have two choices in strategizing for the nomination. Either he can offer an ideologically neutral candidate, or at least one with a Roberts-like paper trail, or he can address the demographics that the Democrats exploited with the selection of a male jurist to replace the first female Supreme Court justice. My guess will be that he might try the latter. I like Janice Rogers Brown for that role -- she's outspoken and highly intelligent, perfectly qualified through her years of service at the California Supreme Court, and best of all has already been confirmed once by this session of the Senate.

However, if Bush doesn't want to jab the Senate in the eye, he may consider Edith Hollan Jones.
He goes on, and the entire post is worth reading, as is so much else at Captain's Quarters.

But I'm struck by the pattern of using all three names for these two potential nominees, as well as for the two women already seated: Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Sandra Day O'Conner. Does anyone ever write Ruth Ginsberg or Sandra O'Conner? (A quick Google check shows orders of magnitude more references to their three-named monikers.) But if you list the men of the Supreme Court, past and present, there is no corresponding pattern: Clarence Thomas, David Souter, William Rehnquist, Warren Burger, Earl Warren, etc. Sure there are a few counter-examples (John Paul Stevens), but they clearly are the exception.

I can only think of one other area where I've seen such rigid adherence to the three name identification convention: lone gunmen assassins. Since reference by all three names is about the only think in common between these two groups, we have to look elsewhere for the unstated reason behind this pattern for female justices. After all, it can't just be coincidence.

Perhaps it is simply to honor the presumed family name of a woman's birth, in a manner similar to Hilary Clinton's intermittent use of Rodham. Or perhaps it began as an unconscious effort to add prestige and gravity to the perception of the first female supreme court nominees in expectation of resistance to their finally breaking the glass gavel, and it continues now only out of habit.

I really don't know. Any other ideas?

If you really, really liked this -- or even really, really hated it -- there's lots more: