The Year in Review 2012: Yes, Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court does exist

By MICHAEL KIRKLAND, UPI Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent  |  Dec. 23, 2012 at 3:30 AM
share with facebook
share with twitter
1 of 2
| License Photo

WASHINGTON, Dec. 23 (UPI) -- Every year around the holidays, adorable little Virginia O'Hanlon, eternally 8 years old, sends us an email with the same question. And every year, with apologies to the late, great New York Sun, we answer:

Dear UPI:

I am 8 years old.

Some of my little friends say there is no U.S. Supreme Court.

Papa says, "If you see it on United Press International, it has at least a chance of being true."

So please tell me the truth, is there a Supreme Court?


Virginia O'Hanlon

115 West 95th St.

Virginia, your "little friends" are prevaricating through the gaps in their lying little teeth. They obviously have been affected by the skepticism of this skeptical age. They do not believe anything except what they see on television.

Though the justices say they will permit cameras in their courtroom over their dead bodies, Congress shares your little friends' affliction of believing only what it can see.

Every once in a while, the legislative branch appears to think it has the power to force the judicial branch to smile and say, "Cheese." It always comes to naught.

For their part, the justices say they would rather be forced to listen to a dozen State of the Union lectures from President Obama than permit cameras in the courtroom, especially TV cameras, which have become the only cameras that matter.

Individual justices say TV cameras might cause other justices and litigators to grandstand and spout sound bites during oral arguments.

Like Congress, your little friends think there can be nothing except what is comprehensible to their little minds.

But all minds, Virginia, whether they be men's, women's or children's, are little when compared to the intellect of a Supreme Court justice. In this vast universe of ours, man is merely the grubbiest sweaty tourist standing in line on Capitol Hill as compared with the highest court in the land, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

So, in answer to your question: Yes, Virginia, there is a Supreme Court, a high court that keeps its secrets and preserves its mystery.

A high court that this term is going to rule on the Voting Rights Act, and is going to tell Arizona whether it and other states can require proof of citizenship before allowing people to register to vote.

A high court that is going to decide on the future of affirmative action and whether it needs to take another bite at Obamacare. A high court that plans to take on the federal Defense of Marriage Act argument and California's Proposition 8, both central to the fight over same-sex marriage.

It exists as certainly as laches and stare decisis and vacatur exist, and you know how they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.

Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Supreme Court! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no poetry, no romance, no childlike faith in post-Citizens United corporate political money to make tolerable this existence.

We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which lawyers and courts fill the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in the Supreme Court? You might as well not believe that corporations have free speech rights, or that corporate executives can't make independent political expenditures by extracting money from their companies' general treasuries without telling shareholders.

You might get your papa to hire men to watch all the televisions on Christmas Eve to catch the Supreme Court, but even if they did not see the Supreme Court on cable news, what would that prove?

Nobody sees the Supreme Court, again because the justices don't allow cameras in the courtroom, few people get inside the courtroom for arguments and they disappear like fairy dust outside it. But that is no sign the Supreme Court is not on Capitol Hill checking out who has been naughty or nice.

The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see six old men and three women of a "certain age" in black robes deciding some of the most intimate issues in Americans' lives? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive of all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world. Just clap your hands, Virginia, and believe.

You can tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering some of the Supreme Court's most puzzling decisions that not even the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart.

Only faith, poetry, love, romance and, yes, a good appellate lawyer, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this litigious world there is nothing else so real and abiding.

No Supreme Court! Thank God it lives and lives forever.

A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, it will continue to make glad the hearts of litigators in Bruno Magli shoes.

Related UPI Stories
Trending Stories