Saturday, December 26, 2015

Wherein I Resist the Temptation To Discuss the Chlamydia Incident

He had me at nitwits.

Jay Wexler is a lawprof at BU, author of The Odd Clauses: Understanding the Constitution Through Ten of Its Most Curious Provisions (a terrific book I reviewed here) and Holy Hullabaloos: A Road Trip to the Battlegrounds of the Church/State Wars, and also of a collection of short fiction and other stuff (like law review articles and humor pieces).  He was once a law clerk to Ruth Bader Ginsburg (though not at the time she declined to provide the fifth vote for summary reversal in Overton v. Ohio thereby leaving me with what I am forced to describe as "the case I almost won in the Supreme Court").  He's probably best known for his studies of which of the folks on the Supreme Court generate the most laughs with their comments and questions during oral argument.  (Spoiler alert:  Clarence Thomas, who never speaks, comes in dead last.)

And now he's published his first novel, Tuttle in the Balance.  It's a keeper.

Ed Tuttle is an associate justice and the swing vote on a deeply divided Supreme Court.  And the sexagenarian (a double entendre from which Wexler wisely refrains) has just returned to DC in time for the Court's new term.  That's after spending 
two months of bliss in the Wyoming mountains, a glorious spell of crisp mornings and dry brilliant afternoons, of soaring eagles and scurrying marmots, of white water rafting and fly-fishing on the Snake River, not to mention a good deal of eye-popping sexual intercourse with a series of younger women who, to Ed's great surprise, were just delighted to bed down with an associate justice of the Supreme Court.
Now he's back for a term filled with important issues.  There's the first amendment case Texas v. Sexy Slut Magazine (the mag's cover featuring 42 erect penises).  There's the Pledge of Allegiance case from the Third Circuit (does "under God," a 1950's addition to the pledge to remind school children that we in the US aren't like those godless commies, violate the Establishment Clause).  And there's the question of whether cameras should be allowed in the courtroom.

Of course, Tuttle in the Balance is not all about the law.  Mostly it's about Ed Tuttle, who (as Wexler writes on his blog) is
having a mid-life crisis in the middle of one of the biggest terms in recent years. Among other things, it involves Taoism and a frisky cat.
I really don't want to give away much.  I don't want to tell you about the running meta gag about justices competing to see who can generate the most laughs during oral argument and so make points in the study that some law professor publishes.  Nor do I want to write about the laugh-out-loud fracas at the Court's conference when . . . .  And I particularly don't want to mention that drunken night when Ed and the . . . .  No, I won't go there. I won't. 

But you should.

You'll actually learn something about the law along the way.  You'll learn something about how the Supreme Court operates.  (There's some inside baseball, though not too much, and it never messes with the story.) And you'll have a good time if your sense of humor veers readily between the Marx Brothers and Animal House.

Or, well, as I said, he had me at nitwits.  

Oral arguments for the term begin Monday.  Ed has to prepare.  But "After four or five attempts to pore over the brief's Summary of Argument," he's ready to quit.  There's still time to prepare.  And he already taken a look at the bench memo Dawn, his brilliant law clerk, has written.
[A]nd if he has to, he figures he can probably read the thing the night before argument and still understand what's going on better than most of his colleagues, which is a testament not only to the fact that Dawn graduated first in her class at Harvard Law School but also to the sad truth that some of his fellow justices are, frankly, nitwits. 
Page 6.  I was hooked.

Special thanks to Jay who arranged for me to get a copy to review.

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