Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Just When You Think You Have It All Figured Out

The Widget:

Court: U.S. Supreme Court
Judge(s): Thomas (majority); Kennedy (dissent)
Subject: Tort claims against the government
Tone(s): Self-assured
Importance: 4.0

A prisoner was moving to a new correctional facility. In the process, the guards at the old facility confiscated his Qur’an and a prayer rug. He sued under the tort claims act. Today, in Ali v. Federal Bur. of Prisons, No. 06-9130, the Supreme Court held that his claims were barred under an ambiguously-worded exception to the act.

Think for a second about whether this case would have been resolved differently if guards had confiscated a bible. Are you convinced it comes out the same way? If so, you have a lot more faith in this Court than some of the rest of us.

What’s more interesting about this case, though, is the split. The majority is Thomas, Roberts, Alito, and Scalia.

And Ginsburg? Excuse me?

Kennedy goes over with the liberals, writing a pretty forceful dissent in the process.

This blog’s opinion? The weirdness of the fracture is a function of the weirdness of the statutory language. This was a very tough issue. Though you would have expected Ginsburg to side with the prisoner and Kennedy to side against him, right?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It comes out the same with a Bible, you cynic.