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An Antidote to Nonsense — An Elegant Smackdown

Adam Liptak of The New York Times writes an insightful and timely reflection on the meaning of the U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in the case, Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights. One doesn’t see this kind of writing every day, so enjoy this excerpt:

On Monday, the best minds in the legal business struck out. The vote was 8-to-0 against them — a shutout, a rout, a humiliation. It is one thing for liberal academics to fail to persuade conservative justices like Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. But the law professors did not produce so much as a sympathetic word from liberal justices like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David H. Souter and John Paul Stevens. (The newest justice, Samuel A. Alito Jr., did not participate.)

And if the result was not embarrassing enough, there was also the tone of the court’s unanimous decision, written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. In patient cadences, the kind you use in addressing a slightly dull child, the chief justice explained that law students would not assume that their schools supported the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy if they saw military recruiters on campus.

“High school students can appreciate the difference between speech a school sponsors and speech the school permits because legally required to do so,” he wrote. “Surely students have not lost that ability by the time they get to law school.”

Ouch. That’s what a smackdown looks like at the high court.