Today we are at the mid-point in our introductions to Supreme Court Justices. Several things in this man’s biography set him apart. Some are obvious. Others not so much.

Clarence Thomas was born and raised in the Savannah, GA area. He is the only member of the court from the South, the only African-American, the sole member to have studied for the Roman Catholic priesthood (left seminary before ordination), and the only member discussed thus far to have not attended Harvard Law School. His law degree is from Yale.

Justice Thomas worked for a corporation prior to his first government duties, aide to Senator John Danforth. His first experience as a judge came in a US Appeals Court and lasted less than two years before he was appointed to his current position.

His confirmation by the Senate was widely discussed in the media. Some thought he lacked judicial experience. Others stepped forward at the hearings and introduced the term and concept of “sexual harassment” into public conversation. In the end, he was confirmed by a narrow margin.

Today he rarely asks questions during oral arguments, preferring to work quietly and within the confines of the court rules. His views are conservative. To the disappointment of many, this includes opposition to affirmative action.



Tread Careful

It’s coming. All Hallows Eve. Have you planned your costume? Purchased candy?

Then the question arises: Where shall we go? Are we planning a route for maximum sweets? Do we want a little heart stopping fear? A good place to scare another costumed human? Adult or child?

Not much moon for light this year. Clouds could make it very, very dark here. Careful you don’t trip. Or disturb the residents.


This neighborhood is more Trick than Treat.




Does it work? Will it have consequences beyond a narrow intention? Is this ruling necessary?

These are some of the questions which likely surface in bold letters for the topic of today’s post — Associate Justice Stephen G. Breyer. Two things he has in common with last week’s profiled justice are: born in California and a degree from Stanford. There are more, as you would expect with ambitious lawyers. Also many differences in the path taken to the Supreme Court and in their private lives.

Just for fun, lets mention of few of the steps on Justice Breyer’s path.

Raised in a Jewish home. An Eagle Scout. Married an English citizen. Professor. Assistant Special Prosecutor of the Watergate Special Prosecution Force. (Glad I never had a work title that long or complicated.) Judge at federal appeals level.

Practical and pragmatic carries into his personal life. This is the Justice most likely to be seen hiking or attending a sporting event.

He asks good questions.  Will this work? Will this last?




Home, Jack!

Chauffeur. Driver.

Sounds luxurious. Carefree.    Expensive.

I’ve not calculated it. But my guess is that over 99% of the time I’m in a car, I’m the driver. On the odd time I’m not — it’s a luxury. Unless I’ve been requested to navigate I have options. Enjoy the scenery. Look over the edge and check the flood or drought stage of the river. Not think about which streets are one way. Or will the other drivers play nice and take turns at the four-way stop?

My parents picked up the phrase from a movie. Yes, they actually had “talking pictures” at that time. And to the end of his life, when dad got into a car as a passenger it was “Home, James.”

The ride below looks like a treat. On a sunny fall day. With a trained horse. But the driver is not James —

Take us home, Jack!
Take us home, Jack!

Starr Tree Farm includes five acres of pumpkin patch!  Check it out at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.




Today we continue our brief introductions to the sitting Justices on the United States Supreme Court.  I’m taking them in order from oldest to youngest and today we focus on Anthony M. Kennedy.

Justice Kennedy took up his duties on the supreme court in February 1988. Prior to that time he spent time in private practice, as a constitutional law professor, and judge. Immediately before his appointment he served as a federal judge inn the Ninth Circuit.

He’s the oldest, but not the only, current justice to be born in California. He’s the son of a lawyer and studied first at Stanford. Like several of his judicial companions, he also studied at Harvard Law School. He returned to California and centered his career in that state until nominated to the high court by President Reagan.

A formal tie remains in his assignment to handle emergency appeals from the West Coast, including the Ninth Circuit.

Justice Kennedy’s opinions and dissents through the years do not fit entirely into one column of either conservative or liberal. Is the case centered on the reach of government power? Does a social issue intersect with individual liberty? Best to wait until he hears both sides present the facts and deliberates. This is a justice whose opinions you do not want to “assume”.


Sun Lover

Flying Flowers. Masters of Disguise.

Butterflies get oooohs and aaaaahs from all ages. I remember small clouds of them rising from drying mud at the end of a driveway. Small white or sunny yellow were the most popular. Larger, darker Swallowtail visited on occassion.

When we were young and foolish — or perhaps curious and ill-informed — my brother and I found a cocoon and brought it inside in hope of watching it hatch. Nothing happened. Perhaps it was a dud. Or the change in temperature killed it.

I’m more inclined to let them be now. Perhaps if my camera’s handy I’ll snap a photo. But in general I’ll leave caterpillars and cocoons alone in the outdoors. The adults are such fun to watch flitting from blossom to blossom.

the Monarch of them all!
the Monarch of them all!




Antonin Scalia, currently the longest serving Associate Justice of the Supreme Court has a record that is focused and consistent in his method and rational.

One source referred to his philosophy as that of “originalism” and defined it as considering what the writers intended to be decisive. Justice Scalia does not view the Constitution as a “living” or “evolving” document. On this foundation he has become a defender of religious references in the public square and argues against removing them unless by specific statute.

Like many prominent lawyers, he’s an author. The most recent title in my sources was Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts from 2012. The title also reflects his history of using the text, and often only the text, rather than the legislative history of a statute.

He brought a history of private practice, teaching, and government service to the court when appointed by President Reagan in 1986.



Seasonal Hazard

The seasonal reminder came a couple weeks ago. I was visiting a local park and decided to take one of the nature trails for a few hundred yards.

Shhhhhhush. Plop.

I looked around, had a few suspects in mind, but didn’t see anything right away.

A few yards further down the trail I spotted one. Looked up again.

Shhhhhhush. Plop.

That time I saw the culprit. A black walnut. It’s enough for a person to grab their hard hat for a walk in the woods.


This tree, with it’s poised hazardous fruit, lives in St. Louis County.

No black walnut trees featured in the Crystal Springs books. But check out the evergreens and apple trees in Starr Tree Farm and Hiding Places.



This is the first in a series of posts introducing my readers to the justices of the Supreme Court. The court begins a new session on Monday — an event which puts them in the news.

Determined is only one of several words that could be selected to describe the subject of today’s post. The second woman to serve on the court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is currently the oldest member.

A few situations in her life where determination became necessary.

Harvard Law School: One of eight women in a class of 500.  As a married student with a young child time management and organizational skills would be tested today. In the 1950’s add open hostility from male faculty and classmates to the issues confronting her daily.

Women’s Right Project for ACLU: Women’s rights. Equal rights. Human rights. In the 1970’s much progress was made. Thanks in part to the six landmark cases she argued before the Supreme Court.

Supreme Court of the United States: In 1993 when she took her seat on the court she joined Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman appointed. She managed to make her voice heard. Difficult at best, strenuous for the three and a half years after O’Connor retired, she continues to express her thoughtful opinions on the cases accepted by the court.

Not all of my readers will admire her stand on certain issues. But I would expect all Americans to respect the hard work, intelligence, and determination of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.