Legislative wisdom


Few who read this blog may be old enough to remember Carole Keeton Strayhorn Rylander McClellan’s 1986 run for Congress, but I do.

Back in ’86, Carole “Keeton McClellan”–as she was then known–made enemies of her Democrat compatriots when she abruptly resigned from the State Board of Insurance with a full three years left on her term, and promptly switched parties so that she could run against the revered and longserving District 10 congressional representative, J.J. Jake Pickle. It wasn’t so much that people begrudged her ambition, but that she would so brazenly and inelegantly attempt to displace an LBJ-era icon in Central Texas politics who was literally beloved by his constituents.

In fact, so deserving of his constitutents’ affection was Congressman Pickle that I remember a tale told at his 2005 funeral that, throughout his years in Congress, he kept his home telephone number listed in the Austin phonebook so he was always—literally—just a phone call away from those who elected him.

Well, the Washington Times reports today that, ‘lo and behold, Mama Carole may have had something to do with her son’s recent partisan about-face with his former boss, 43.


Lil’ Scotty’s on the left.

Thx to the Washington Times and the Austin Chronicle


The National Portrait Gallery is our nation’s repository for its most famous portraits of its most revered citizens … and Stephen Colbert.

As the Capitol Crowd recounts, Colbert’s portrait arrived at its place of honor after:

Colbert trie[d] to convince the Smithsonian that he should be considered a national treasure. He attempt[ed] to donate his portrait to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, but the museum’s director suggest[ed] that perhaps Colbert should speak to the National Portrait Gallery.

By the way, the hallowed location at which Colbert’s portrait sits is between the public restrooms. However, his painted likeness has apparently doubled visitation at the National Portrait Gallery.

Et tu Colbert?

The only thing that could have possibly made his portrait even better is if he was painted while wearing his American armor, courtesy of an Austin artisan.

Thx to Capitol Crowd

Seventh Circuit Judge Richard Posner and his fellow University of Chicago Law School Professor William Landes have authored an article entitled, “Rational Judicial Behavior: A Statistical Study,” which devises a methodology to rank the forty-three Justices who have served on SCOTUS since 1937 from most conservative to least.

Their conclusion?

Four of the five most conservative [J]ustices to serve on the Supreme Court since Franklin Roosevelt [presidential term], including [Justices] Roberts and Alito, are currently sitting on the bench today.


I always find it troubling when commentators (even ones as undeniably accomplished and talented as Judge Posner) attempt to assign political motives (i.e., Legislative or Executive branch motives) to the judiciary because I remain convinced that political labels like “conservative” or “liberal” are ill-suited to describing judicial philosophy. Originalist jurisprudence is not a per se politically conservative concept just as viewing foreign law as persuasive authority is not a direct descendant of politically liberal thought.

Judge Posner and Professor Landes describe how they classified the conservativeness of the Justices by reasoning “[t]hat characteristic is usually proxied by the party of the President who appointed the judge—if it was the Democratic Party the judge is deemed ‘liberal’ and if the Republican Party ‘conservative.'” See Landes, William M. and Posner, Richard A., “Rational Judicial Behavior: A Statistical Study” (April 2008 ) at 2. U of Chicago Law & Economics, Olin Working Paper No. 404 Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1126403.

While this may be a seemingly rational way to crudely guess the favored political affiliation of a Justice (particularly in the modern, post-Roe era), one need look no further than Justices Stevens or Souter–both appointed by Republican presidents–for evidence controverting this assumption.

Thx to How Appealing, U.S. News & World Report, and the Legal Theory Blog

Where the magic happens

Yesterday, I posted my own diatribe to counter the latest press release issued by Texas Watch, but noted at the end of my post that I was most concerned about the publication of the number of per curiam opinions issued per Justice by the Office of Court Administration (OCA).

Well, the OCA was kind enough to clarify for me the history of this practice which largely assuages my original concern–for whatever that’s worth.

The collection and publication of this per curiam data is hardly new, having been annually compiled for some twenty-seven years since OCA first began tracking the number of per curiam decisions issued by each Justice as early as 1981. Moreover, the OCA specifically sought input from SCOTX in both 2004 and 2006 regarding the contents of the OCA’s annual report, and the Court expressed no concern regarding publication of the per curiam statistics.

The OCA was also correct to point out that the identity of the opinions enumerated in the statistics is kept confidential, with only the number of opinions issued per chamber being made public.

So, at the end of the day, I am likely the only person to whom this one column of data jumped out as being slightly odd. Moreover, if neither the Court nor the OCA are troubled by the practice, than it is certainly beyond my purview to be.

Thx to the OCA for accurately, annually, and faithfully reporting the current statistical state of the Texas judiciary

The Man

We related some of the anectdotes contained in a new tome about the life and times of former Lieutenant Governor and Comptroller Bob Bullock , entitled, “Bob Bullock: God Bless Texas.”

Well the book, and particularly the conduct of the authors, has not sat well with Bullock’s widow and many of his closest friends and colleagues.

Brutus and Judas?

The bad blood apparently goes back to a 1994 column by book co-author Dave McNeely (on the left above) that ran two days after Bullock had heart bypass surgery, which speculated who would be lieutenant governor if Bullock died.

Very subtle Dave, can’t imagine why Jan Bullock would have taken offense at that.

Several Bullock aides also questioned the inclusion of incidents that occurred before Bullock sought treatment for alcoholism in the 1980s.

Book co-author Jim Henderson (on the right above), offered this less-than-tasteful response to the negative reaction to the book by Bullock loyalists and widow Jan Bullock:

Jan wanted to write her own book about Bullock. Didn’t happen. Get over it. Then she did her best to obstruct the writing of this book. Didn’t happen. Get over it. Then she did her best to block publication. Didn’t happen. Get over it. She apparently wanted to control everything written about her late husband. Didn’t happen. Ain’t gonna happen. Get over it.

Mcneely may have revealed the authors’ true motivation in including more of the salacious (and disputed) details of Mr. Bullock’s life, when he admitted to the Statesman that “he hopes the book fuels a TV pilot.”

I bet he does.

Thx to Postcards from the Lege, the Statesman, and Texas Politics

The dynamic duo

Today, Senator John McCain gave a 3,383 word speech expounding upon his judicial philosophy, but as Jonathan Martin keenly observed, this picture speaks louder than any soundbite in the Senator’s speech.

Thx to Jonathan Martin

Craig Ferguson turned out to be a hit at this year’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, poking fun at everyone, but tastefully so.

President Bush‘s speech was a retrospective of his past seven appearances at the dinner, some of which were pretty funny. My favorites were Laura Bush’s 2005 quip that “9:00 o’clock and Mr. Excitement here is sound asleep … and I’m watching Desperate Housewives,” and Bush’s 2001 assurance that he held no hard feelings against his brother, the then-Governor of Florida, for the Florida recount (see below).

Ferguson had some particularly good zings against the New York Times, who was very publicly absent from the soiree:

They thought this dinner undercut the credibility of the press, I thought Jason Blair and Judy Miller took care of that.

* * *

Shut the hell up NY Times you sanctimonius whining jerks!

Overheard at the party was Bunny Ranch owner Dennis Hof on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid I know Harry very well. He’s a good guy.” I’m sure the Senator heartily appreciated that vote of confidence.


* * * UPDATE * * *

After eating at White Castle and escaping from Guantanamo Bay, Kumar apparently attended the WHCA dinner as well.

Hippy lettuce

Thx to Shenanigans, Fishbowl DC, and TV Newser

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