Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia in Washington in 2010. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP)

Attention, fans of law and celebrity culture: It’s that time of year when — in keeping with the grand Truthdig tradition inaugurated last December — we hand out our annual SCOTUS Awards to the men and women who staff our nation’s most powerful judicial tribunal. By the way, I think we’re onto something big here — OK, not Donald Trump big, but pathbreaking (tongue in bulging cheek) all the same. While I’m not aware of any similar awards pageant, the idea of Supreme Court justices as celebrities is catching on, even as a subject of serious academic exegesis. Indeed, earlier this year, Richard Hasen — a professor at the University of California, Irvine, Law School — published “Celebrity Justice: Supreme Court Edition.” In the paper, Hasen reported that the number of extrajudicial speeches by sitting justices — news interviews, TV appearances, book tours, lectures delivered at conventions and universities, and the like — had increased by a factor of 850 percent from 1960-1969 to 2005-2014. As you read through the dispensations below, keep the following point in mind: Although each Supreme Court term begins in October, these accolades are based on calendar-year performances; thus, court opinions released in December 2014 don’t count, but any remarks made during this month’s oral arguments — even in cases as yet undecided — are fair game. So without further ado or apologies, I give you our 2015 winners (I use the word loosely) and the loot they have garnered. As in Little League, everyone gets a prize. But keep in mind, the awards given in this contest are anything but final. Please feel free to scream at your computer screen, throw a figurative (or real) shoe at my Twitter feed (@Blumslaw), curse me to the heavens, propose alternative awards or, if so inclined, applaud the results. Your choice.

The Platinum Chalice for Most Unhinged Justice

This prize (our highest honor) goes to the redoubtable, acerbic purveyor of original intent, a man in perpetual be-robed contact with the Founding Fathers, a legend in his own mind: Antonin Scalia. Scalia earned his stripes as the court’s loosest jurisprudential cannon for his departures from reality last June in the court’s rulings on Obamacare (King v. Burwell) and same-sex marriage (Obergefell v. Hodges). In his dissent in the King case — speaking for himself, Justice Samuel Alito and his mute wingman Justice Clarence Thomas — Scalia sounded more like a character drawn from the pages of Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass” than a member of the third branch of government. “Words no longer have meaning,” he thundered, if the language of the Affordable Care Act is construed as the majority of the court has read it. The decision to uphold the act’s marketplace insurance exchanges was “interpretive jiggery-pokery” and “pure applesauce,” he admonished. Scalia’s opinion in Obergefell — which was again joined by Thomas — was even more untethered. It began with the implausible assertion that the “substance of today’s decree is not of immense personal importance to me.” Coming from the pen of someone who in the past has compared homosexuality to murder, polygamy and animal abuse, and equated homosexuals with drug addicts and prostitutes, the claim not only seemed untrue but also could be taken as a clinical sign of dissociation. Demonstrating that the majority’s opinion was in fact of the utmost personal significance to him, he branded the ruling “a naked judicial claim to legislative — indeed, super-legislative — power.” Lamenting the end of federalism and states’ rights, Scalia charged that a “system of government that makes the People subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy.” And then, as if yielding to paranoid fantasy, he added: “Who ever thought that intimacy and spirituality [whatever that means] were freedoms? And if intimacy is, one would think Freedom of Intimacy is abridged rather than expanded by marriage. Ask the nearest hippie.” In a boorish footnote, he obsessed, “The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of a fortune cookie.”
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