It's a not-to-be-missed annual ritual that brings the Supreme Court in rare direct contact with the legislative branch: the Court's budget hearing today before a subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. As they have for several years now, Justices Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas (left) drew the short straws and testified on behalf of the Court's $66.5 million annual budget. But the discussion, as always, was wide-ranging, and the hearing did not disappoint.
Subcommittee chair Jose Serrano, D-NY, (below), chaired the hearing, and he asked -- as he has in the past -- how the Court is doing in recruiting minority law clerks, and whether it is looking beyond the ranks of Harvard, Yale and Stanford law grads. "I don't think all intelligence resides in the Ivy League," Thomas agreed, noting that only one of his four clerks this term is an Ivy Leaguer -- but he added that all four are white males. Thomas singled out New York University School of Law for "doing it right" with its AnBryce Scholarship program that gives full tuition to promising students -- not only minorities -- who are economically disadvantaged.
Kennedy got impassioned on splitting the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (he's for it) and on cameras in the Court (he's against it). Serrano agreed on the cameras issue, expressing fear that if they were allowed, talk show hosts like Greta Van Susteren, will be analyzing the justices' body language and makeup on cable television.
One other bit of news: Kennedy told the committee the Court's $122 million renovation is running at least 14 months behind schedule and won't be done until 2009. One cause has been minor "mistakes," he said, including one that is almost impossible to believe: when time came to replace the Court's windows, a worker measured the width only at the bottom of the windows, not the tops. That's a serious blunder because the Court's windows happen to be slightly trapezoidal -- in other words, narrower at the top than the bottom. Back to the drawing board...