Home By Marquel Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. Loves Goldfish

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. Loves Goldfish

gold fishMarquel, TPVs Times goldfish correspondent, was in the process of changing the water to his own goldfish, when he read: Chemical Weapons Treaty Does Not Apply to Petty Crime, Justices Rule. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote that a statute passed to carry out an international treaty should not also make it “a federal offense to poison goldfish.”

Poisoning goldfish sounds pretty fishy. Marquel picked up on that right away. But this U.S. Supreme Court case was fishy in many ways. It seems this woman, a chemist, found that her husband was fooling around with a neighbor woman, in fact a best friend, and fooling around wasn’t just doing magic tricks.

So the spurned wife took some chemicals home one day and sprinkled them on the neighbors car which caused something like a skin rash to the so called other woman. The wife was prosecuted for violating the chemical weapons treaty. Huh?

First of all there were no goldfish in either house. As a result there was no poisoning of goldfish going on. What’s wrong with this court? My friend Mufi had put me in contact with a Supreme Court clerk for a previous article, so I gave him a call and told him I was coming to Washington.

In Washington, I could tell the clerk was nervous so we went back to Union Station and shared a couple dozen oysters and some good Belgian beer (Leffe Blond). He told me that we couldn’t meet too often because the justices were jealous of their privacy and the justice-clerk relationship was a bond guaranteed to bring in millions in any clerk’s future.

“Okay,” I said, “fine. Just tell me what”s with the goldfish?”

“You mean the decision on the Chemical Weapons Treaty?” he asked.

“Exactly,” I said.

“Well, Roberts wrote that. We were all talking about it. Why a goldfish?”

“That’s what I was thinking.” I said. “Was there a goldfish involved in the case?”

“No that any of us could find. When Roberts threw that out, we all rushed to the computers to see where the goldfish came from.”

“So he made it up?” I asked.

“Yeah, of course. But the Court always does that. It makes up facts, or in this case technically a hypothetical, to make their argument more compelling.” he said.

“But in this case, it had the opposite effect. People are laughing at it,” I said, “and it sort of trivializes the importance of the Chemical Weapons Treaty which is supposed to make our world safer.”

“Sometimes,” he said, “Roberts isn’t that thoughtful. He’d rather get a good laugh. And he did. All the Justices were laughing, at the same time they were asking their clerks where the goldfish came from.”

“Does this happen often?” I asked. “By the way, who do you clerk for?”

“I can’t tell you that or I’d be dead. And if I say it’s one of the justices that isn’t that bright, you’ll still be struggling with which of the eight I clerk.”

“Okay, I don’t want to push you in a corner. You say that the Court does this often?” I asked.

“Yes, I’ve been thinking about this since law school. Whenever the Court wants to make an argument convincing they’ll make up facts to fit.”

“For instance?” I asked.

“Well, here, we have the goldfish case, and I bet it will become known as the goldfish case forever, further trivializing the treaty.” He said. “But decades ago the Court decided it would limit free speech by saying that you can’t ‘cry fire in a crowded theater.’ The problem is there was no fire. No theater, no crying. The Court just made it up.”

“So they make up stuff to make their cases what they want to make of them?” I asked.

“I guess you could say that.” He said. “In this case, for instance, all the clerks were suggesting other animals, dogs, cats, guinea pigs, but Roberts insisted on a goldfish.”

“And?” I urged.

“Well, if you think about it, who poisons goldfish. I looked through all the cases, here and abroad, and as far as I can tell there’s never been a goldfish case, just like there are few if any crying fire in a crowded theater cases.”

“But the Court continues with this tradition?” I asked.

“Unfortunately,” he said. “As I was saying who poisons goldfish? Most people take them to the toilet and flush them.”

“But what if the criminal doesn’t want to get caught?” I asked.

“Find a salt shaker.”

“Do you think salt is a prohibited chemical weapon of mass destruction?” I asked.

“To goldfish, yes.”

“You might say Roberts has opened a can of worms here.” I said.

“Let’s not get into too many species, okay?” he asked.

“Fine.” I said. “I think I’ve learned enough anyway. Just tell me what you conclude about this fire in the crowded theater for my own edifiication.”

“Well, as I say, I couldn’t find any cases with that exact fact pattern. This was a Justice Holmes decision. He’s nothing to sneeze at. He wanted to place a limit on free speech, but he couldn’t find a case to pin it on so he made up the possibility of someone shouting fire in a crowded theater.”

“Even though it hadn’t happened, and might never?”

“Yeah, and that’s the problem. Making laws based on the Justices’ imaginations. I think it’s dangerous.”

“What’s dangerous about the goldfish?” I asked.

“Except for goldfish, I guess it’s not. But in a way Roberts has declared open season on goldfish. Do you think we’ll see a wave of goldfish poisonings now?”

“No more,” I said, “than we’ve seen a wave of people crying fire in a crowded theater. The only thing close that I can think of is that case in Florida this year when the guy shot someone for texting during the movie.”

“You think that happened because Holmes said he couldn’t shout ‘fire?’ “

“Could be. I think the judges have to be a little more careful when they make up things.”

“No doubt,” he said, finishing the last of the oysters.

I drained my Leffe and thought I should get home quick. Someone might be salting my goldfish.

***

BY MARQUEL: Justice Roberts Loves Goldfish

 

7 COMMENTS

  1. Perfect.

    “Well, Roberts wrote that. We were all talking about it. Why a goldfish?”

    “That’s what I was thinking.” I said. “Was there a goldfish involved in the case?”

    “No that any of us could find. When Roberts threw that out, we all rushed to the computers to see where the goldfish came from.”

    “So he made it up?” I asked.

    “Yeah, of course. But the Court always does that. It makes up facts, or in this case technically a hypothetical, to make their argument more compelling.” he said.

    Marquel: You’re the best at everything you write. Love you, Man.

  2. Yes, I do believe salt could be a chemical weapon…when sold to goldfish. FANTASTIC Marquel.

  3. Justice Ginsburg said that before she was Justice Ginsburg, working on equal rights cases, she chose “gender discrimination” as an alternative to the phrase “sex discrimination” because when she said “sex” in court the boy justices would be looking off into space distracted and took too many bathroom breaks.

    Same deal here – Roberts couldn’t keep his train of legal thought what, with the wife and the other woman, what she might have been wearing when she smeared those warm, creamy, chemicals on that sleek, wet car…

    Anyway, I bet the goldfish in his brief is a boy.

  4. PS. Is that a goldfish in your briefs or are you just happy to see me – sorry, I could not help replying with a little legal humor there.

  5. Loved this:

    “First of all there were no goldfish in either house. As a result there was no poisoning of goldfish going on. What’s wrong with this court? My friend Mufi had put me in contact with a Supreme Court clerk for a previous article, so I gave him a call and told him I was coming to Washington.”

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