Nov 1, 2014

O’Connor on Rehnquist’s Gold Stripes and Her Neck Doily

In Smithsonian Magazine, Justice O’Connor writes about the tradition of the judicial robe, and how she made her own “modest addition” of a neck doily.

Remarkably, this similarity among our judges and justices is purely a matter of tradition. There are no rules that dictate what judges or justices must wear on the bench, nor is there even a common source for Supreme Court robes. The court’s internal correspondence suggests that, in the 19th century, the justices all wore black silk robes from a single tailor. By the 20th century, other materials were often used and judges selected their robes from those available to college graduates and choir singers. For the most part, we have all chosen to wear a very similar style of black judicial robe.

Of course, there have been a few exceptions, intentional or otherwise. In the marshal’s office records of the court, there is a note that in 1969, Justice Hugo Black “returned to the Bench” without his robe on and sat on the bench for the remainder of the court session, departing with his colleagues. But there’s no record of whether something happened to his robe or he just forgot to put it on. And Chief Justice William Rehnquist added gold stripes to one arm of his robe. It was an unannounced departure: He simply surprised us with the change one morning. He said he had recently seen a Gilbert & Sullivan opera in which the lord chief justice wore a robe with gold stripes. Our chief asked the seamstress at the court to sew some on his own robe. I myself made a modest addition to the simple black robe by choosing to wear a white judicial collar.

Don’t be so modest!

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Jan 28, 2014

“Neck Doily” as Slang for “Jabot” In Black’s Law Dictionary

Bryan Garner just made my day when he tweeted the draft definition for “jabot” in the next edition of Black’s Law Dictionary. It says “Also termed (slang) neck doily.”

I think I may have coined a word!

I first used the phrase “neck doily” in this post from October 2009 noting that Justice Sotomayor was not wearing the “neck doily” that Justice Ginsburg gave her. At some point earlier, I made a joke to a friend about Justice Ginsburg’s frilly jabot. I said something to the effect of, “Is she a Justice or a tea cup? Why is she wearing a doily around her neck.” And, it stuck. Above The Law adopted the usage back in 2010. I’m even cited as a footnote on Wikipedia for jabot!

Since then I’ve (somehow) published about two dozen posts on the neck doily. Justice Kagan wore a neck doily in her first Supreme Court portrait, and during her investiture, but not during her first day on the bench. Kagan later said of the jabot, “In my real life I’m not a frilly, lacy person.” Though all the female Justices wore some kind of neck accoutrements (somewhere between a scarf and a doily) while sitting for their portrait. Then there was the time Justice Ginsburg swapped her neck doily for some bling, and the blue neck doily for the same-sex wedding she officiated at.

If this is my only contribution to the English language, I will be happy.

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Nov 4, 2013

Is a Neck Doily Clothes?

In Sandifer v. United States Steel Corp. (12-417), Eric Schnapper listed several forms of courtroom attire. He even mentioned the neck brace! But he omitted the neck doily.

In ordinary parlance, not everything an individual wears would be referred to as clothes. There are examples of that in this courtroom: Glasses, necklaces, earrings, wristwatches. There may be a toupee for all we know. Those things are not commonly referred to as clothes.

Personally, I think of it more as a garnish.

And for lol, Justice Scalia took umbrage that someone in the Court wore a toupee!

JUSTICE SCALIA: I resent that.


Totally serious question for anyone who knows. Is the neck doily put on in the robing room? Does RBG keep a slew of them there? Or are they kept in chambers? Does she ever dither on which one to pick? How long does a neck doily take to put on? If anyone knows the answer, you know where to reach me.

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Oct 28, 2013

Neck Doily Fashion for O’Connor, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan

The new portrait of Justices O’Connor, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan offers four views of the neck doily. Here is how Tony Mauro describes it:

A seated Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and Justice Sonia Sotomayor, seen standing behind her, look somber, while Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, seated next to O’Connor, and Justice Elena Kagan, standing next to Sotomayor, have faint smiles. They are wearing their black robes, with differing neckwear that accurately reflects their preferences.

O’Connor is wearing a sailor-suit neck doily. RBG is wearing the standard round teacup neck doily. Justice Sotomayor has no discernible neck accoutrement (not even the one RBG gave her). Justice Kagan rocks the subtle neck liner. Though she wore one at first, she soon stopped. She later said that she is not a frilly, lacy person.


Update: The Washington Post has a better photo of the painting. Justice Sotomayor is in fact wearing some kind of turtleneck neck doily.


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Sep 30, 2013

RBG Sports Stylish Blue Neck Doily in Another Same-Sex Wedding

rbg-doilyRBG is branching out in neck-doily style.

Front and center was Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the Supreme Court, performing her second gay ceremony following the court’s decision striking down laws that had denied federal benefits to same-sex spouses. The importance of her presence and the setting — the roof of Fiola restaurant in Washington, with a panoramic view stretching from the Capitol to the White House — was not lost on the 100 assembled guests. …

But who would officiate? Then they read an interview with Justice Ginsburg, in which she said she had never been asked to perform a same-sex wedding. They asked, and on the day the court invalidated DOMA, she agreed to marry the couple.

At the ceremony, Justice Ginsburg described the couple’s love as “universal” and “human nature,” and expressed hope that it would make them “magically more wiser and richer in experience, happier than either would be alone.”

Yet somehow, the Times originally misspelled her name. Look at this ghastly correction:

Correction: September 29, 2013

An earlier version of a picture caption with this article misspelled the name of the Supreme Court justice who performed the wedding ceremony. She is Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, not Gisnburg.

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May 28, 2013

RBG with a Golden Neck Doily?

What fashion statement is she making today?


Update: We have an update from Court artist himself, Art Lien:

There you have it. It’s gold and thick.

And more from Michelle Olson:

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Nov 26, 2012

Breaking: Justice Ginsburg “Neck Doily” Watch – RBG Swaps Jabot for Bling!

Earth-shattering news from the Supreme Court, courtesy of Robert Barnes:

I hope someone got a sketch of that! For more on the Jabot (or as I call it the neck doily) see these posts.

Update: Thanks to the inestimable Art Lien, we now have a sketch of Justice Ginsburg “forgo[ing] the jabot.”

Here are Art’s comments:

One thing a sketch artist at the Supreme Court needs to look for is whether Justice Ginsburg is wearing a jabot or one of her increasingly large doilies around her neck. Today, for the first time I can recall, she wore neither. She appeared to be wearing a sparkly necklace of dark crystals. I couldn’t quite make it out.

Bling Bling!

Update: WaPo Reliable Sources has the scoop on RBG’s new bling.

Time to bust out your holiday-season bling — and that goes for you Supreme Court justices, too!Ruth Bader Ginsburg turned some heads Monday when she showed up in court wearing a big shiny necklace with her robe instead of her usual frilly white jabot. We’re told that the bib-style sparkler (glass beads on a black scalloped base) was a Banana Republic offering that came in the VIP gift bag at Glamour magazine’s “Women of the Year”gala in New York this month, where Ginsburg was among the honorees. (Sorry, no photo: Cameras aren’t allowed in the court.)

Swanky. Here is a pic from Banana Republic’s web site:

H/T DC Dicta

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Dec 27, 2010

Kagan on not wearing a Neck Doily – “In my real life I’m not a frilly, lacy person.”

Justice Kagan sat down for a lengthy interview on C-SPAN. At 27:33, she is asked about her decision not to wear a neck doily. For those of you outside the SCOTUSphere, the neck doily is the frilly lacy thing that Justice Ginsburg wears around her neck (for more on the doily, see here, here, and here). Here is what Justice Kagan had to say:

“I think you just have to do what makes you feel comfortable. In my real life I’m not a frilly, lacy person. Some of the things people wear just struck me as not something I felt comfortable with. I have, on occasion, worn a white scarf under my robe. I have worn that for all of our pictures and my investiture. I wear pearls a lot. I think the robe is a symbol of the impersonality of the law.”

There you have it.

Update: Thanks for the link Above The Law, and picking up my usage of the term “neck doily!”

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Oct 4, 2010

Update: Justice Kagan is *not* wearing a Neck Doily

Although Justice Kagan wore a neck doily during her investiture, she did not wear one during oral arguments.

H/T Art Lien

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Oct 1, 2010

Breaking News: Justice Kagan is wearing a Neck Doily

I suppose the answer to my previous question is yes.

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Aug 7, 2010

Will Justice Kagan Wear a Neck Doily?

Back in June I queried whether Justice Kagan will wear a neck doily. Brian Palmer at Slate posed the same question, though he called it a “frilly neckpiece.” Apparently it is really called a jabot.

Merry olde England. U.S. Federal judges, including Supreme Court justices, can wear pretty much anything they like—they can even go in jeans and t-shirts—but the simple black robe has been de rigueur for those on the federal bench since the early 19th century. (Some state courts continue to wear variations, like red robes on the Maryland Court of Appeals and gray for the justices of the Georgia Supreme Court.) The V-neck on a standard judicial gown hangs a little low, which isn’t a problem for men, since it exposes their shirt-collar and necktie. Women’s wear doesn’t have a consistent neckline, so many female judges seek some kind of neck adornment to cover the gap. Some of them look to England, where male and female judges alike still wear a two-banded ribbon atop their robes. The accessory is still au courant in several former English colonies, like Canada and Zimbabwe, as well.

ot all female judges take this route. Seventh Circuit Judge Diane Wood, whom President Obama also considered for the Supreme Court, often prefers a brooch to going all frilly. Another option is simply to adjust your personal attire to accommodate the robe’s plunging neckline and skip the accessorizing altogether. Judge Kimba Wood of the Second Circuit, for example, tends to wear a crew neck under her gown. Justice Sonia Sotomayor also prefers anunadorned judicial robe with a higher collar underneath. She received a jabot as a gift from Justice Ginsburg, but doesn’t usually wear it during oral argument. (No word yet on who will gift Kagan with a jabot, or whether she will wear it.)

Some judges, like Kim McLane Wardlaw of the Ninth Circuit, close the robe’s neckline completely, eliminating the need for an accessory. While judges typically order their polyester garments from online retailers—high-end versions cost around $400—Wardlaw had a Hollywood designer create her unique robes.

Slate also included a nice photoshopped image.

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Jun 3, 2010

The Most Important Question for Elena Kagan – Will she wear a Neck Doily?

One of my first blog posts dealt with the Neck Doily–or whatever that collar thing Justice Ginsburg wears around her neck is called. Justice Ginsburg gave Justice Sotomayor a neck doily to welcome her to the Court. Although Justice Sotomayor wore it in the official SCOTUS group photo, she did not wear it in her individual photo, and she does not wear it during oral arguments.

So, the most important question that Elena Kagan should be asked, is whether she will wear a neck doily on the bench.

Now Kagan was notoriously coy about whether she would wear the traditional Solicitor General Morning Coat. So it is likely she would not answer any questions about her attire on the bench. It is also likely that she will not answer any questions about actually being a Justice.

Only time will tell.

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Oct 5, 2009

SCOTUS Inside Scoop: Sotomayor was not wearing the Collar/Neck Doily Ginsburg gave her

In perhaps the most important SCOTUS fashion development since Solicitor General Kagan’s non-Morning Coat attire, I just heard from someone who attended oral arguments that Justice Sotomayor was not wearing the Collar/Neck Doily Justice Ginsburg gave her.

Although she wore the Collar in the group photo:

She did not wear it in her individual photo, unlike Justice Ginsburg

Ginsburg with Collar

Sotomayor without Collar

Could this serve as a bone of contention between the two female Justices? Or maybe Justice Sotomayor, who never wore the Neck Doily on the 2nd Circuit, just didn’t like the fashion. We shall see.

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Apr 19, 2015

SCOTUS Goes Hollywood – “Woman in Gold” and Austria v. Altmann

Woman in Gold tells the story of Maria Altmann, who sued the Austrian Government to recover paintings that were stolen by the Nazis. This case culminated in the Supreme Court’s 2004 decision in Republic of Austria v. Altmann, finding that the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act was not retroactive, and did not serve as a jurisdictional bar. The movie itself was okay (great story, weak acting other than Helen Mirren), but the scene in the Supreme Court was so terrible, I laughed out loud in the theater.

The entire scene lasted maybe two minutes, and it was painfully inaccurate.

First, the design of the Court wasn’t even close. There were red curtains on the side, no bar separating the lawyers from the audience, and Altmann (the client) sat second chair! Before the hearing started, she took out a box of cough drops and gave one to her lawyer, Schoenberg.



The actors they selected to play the Justices were passable, but the name tag in front of Chief Justice Rehnquist was absurd. (At least they got the gold stripes).


Also, why in the world is there a fan next to Justice Breyer!? Is he not cool enough on his own (don’t answer that).


Justices Kennedy and Thomas have a carafe of water in front of them:


And Justice O’Connor has a proper neck doily.


I could not find a video with Justices Stevens, Scalia, Souter, and Ginsburg.

Second, the petitioner got up, said “I’ll be concise”, and made an argument for about 15 seconds. That’s it. Then he sat down. He gets no questions.

Third, the United States got up. The lawyer playing Deputy Solicitor General Thomas Hungar looked like he was about 70 years old.  At least he was wearing a morning coat. He said something about how if this case goes forwards, other claims against Japan may be brought. This actually happened:

Chief Justice Rehnquist: Yes.

Mr. Hungar: The… we… there are currently cases pending against countries such as Japan and Poland, with which… which this country previously entered into agreements which both sides thought had resolved the issue entirely, and to now retroactively apply a substantive provision that this Court recognized in Ex parte Peru is a substantive, not merely jurisdictional, but a substantive legal defense, to apply that retroactively would be to change settled expectations, change the rules, and it should not be done.

Then Chief Justice Rehnquist looked at the octogenarian Altmann, and said something to the effect of, “If we rule for you, then we have to worry about claims from Japan.” Everyone in the audience started laughing. (Well, the Chief did join Justice Kennedy’s dissent, ruling against Altmann, so maybe he was thinking this.).

Fourth, Schoenberg’s argument was so, so, so terrible. Here is a rough transcript:

We’re very sensitive to the government’s concerns, Mr. Chief Justice. It is the can of worms argument . . . . We recommend opening the can. And extracting one little worm with a pair of tweezers and quickly closing it shut again . . . . This is a case of one woman, wanting back what is rightfully hers . . . . Let’s give her justice too.

Yes, this is actually the argument made. I burst out laughing. I couldn’t help it.

Perhaps the only thing that was semi-accurate was that in the movie Chief Justice Rehnquist asked a question of Schoenberg. I had no idea what the question was, something about jurisdiction that made no sense. In the movie, Schoenberg replied something to the effect of “I didn’t understand that question.” Apparently, that actually was said. Justice Souter asked some question, and Shoenberg replied:

“Well, I’m . . .  I’m not sure that I understand the question.” (Turn to 27:59 on Oyez).

There was one scene earlier in the movie where Ronald Lauder (the heir to the Estee Lauder fortune) unsuccessfully tries to get Altmann to drop her lawyer and have someone more experienced argue before the Court. (Her lawyer had never argued a case before SCOTUS before). According to “Lady in Gold,” the book that was the basis for the movie, Lauder suggested that she hire Robert Bork! According to Oyez, Bork only had one argument since the 1990s–the 2002 case of  Festo Corp. v. Shoketsu Kinzoku Kogyo Kabushiki Co. The role of Lauder was played by some actor named Ben Miles, but I think Tom Goldstein could have pulled it off much more naturally–and maybe he would have snagged the client too!

Watch the clip at your own peril. It’s painful to watch.

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Dec 2, 2014

RBG’s New Jabot?

It seems that Justice Ginsburg came back from the hospital with more than a stent.

In a post titled “Facebook and Ginsburg’s New Jabot,” Art Lien sketches a huge neck doily for RBG.



Mark Walsh provides a view from inside the Court of RBG’s decolletage.


Once she took her seat, though, Justice Ginsburg seemed to be right at home. SCOTUSBlog artist Art Lien says that she appeared to be sporting a new, wider-than-normal jabot. (Whether the decorative cream-colored neckpiece the Justice wore today is technically a jabot is beyond my or Art’s fashion expertise.)

Fortunately, I think this within my expertise. We are still in the realm of jabots, though RBG is pushing the bounds into a mane.


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Aug 1, 2014

Doilyology: Predict Justice Ginsburg Opinions With Her Majority and Dissenting Jabots

During an interview with Katie Couric, Justice Ginsburg gave us an insight into her jabot closet–but even more than that, she gave us a glimpse into the secret world of doilyology. Much like Kremlinology, we can now use the jabot draped around RBG’s punam to predict her authored opinions a given day. You see RBG wears different collars when she is reading a majority, or dissenting opinion. (An RBG clerk told me this some time ago, but I wasn’t able to make it public. Now I can).

There’s only one way to test this new theory of Doilyology. Compare her chosen jabots with our only window into the fortress of solitude at One First Street NE. Courtartist Art Lien!

First, we have the “majority collar.” RBG explains:

This one is my majority opinion collar. So when I’m announcing an opinion for the Court, this is the collar I wear. This was a gift from my clerks.




So let’s check the archives. Here is Justice Ginsburg delivering the majority opinion in Wood v. Moss. That is most definitely the golden majority jabot!

Opinion: Wood v. Moss, No.13-115

It’s quite regal!

Although, the majority jabot may be somewhat recent. Here is RBG in 2011 delivering the opinion for the Court in CSX v. McBride, with a standard, run of the mill jabot–what I call the teacup neck doily.


Second, we have the dissenting doily (dissentoily?). RBG explained, “This is my dissenting collar.” Couric replied, “Why is that.” RBG answered,  “It looks fitting for dissents.” This neck-bling is so shiny it can give the men in the majority a blind spot.



And, I think we have a match. Here is Art’s sketch of RBG dissenting in Hobby Lobby, while seated next to the doily-less Justice Alito, who delivered the majority opinion. Alito definitely seems to be blinded by the light.

Opinion: Hobby Lobby, No. 13-354

And, you can just make out the shades of the dissenting jabot in this sketch of Argentina v. NML Capital.

Opinion: Argentina v. NML Capital, No. 12-842

Here is RBG dissenting Shelby County v. Holder last term. Definitely the dissenting neck doily.

SCOTUS dissent: Shelby County v Holder

I think we have a match!

So, all of you enterprising SCOTUS sleuths. When you are sitting in the Court for a hand-down, pay close attention to Justice Ginsburg’s neck–you may be able to figure out what’s what. So let’s add doily-watching to box-counting and waiting-for-Lyle to our Supreme Court traditions.

In case you are interested, Couric gave us a nice shot of RBG’s closet.




And this jabot, which is from South Africa:

“This one is my favorite, it’s from South Africa. It’s from Cape Town.”


She wore this jabot in two same-sex weddings she performed. This must be the nuptial doily.

Good thing jabot, and “neck doily” are in the next edition of Black’s Law dictionary.

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May 19, 2014

Prop1 Final Exam Grades & Comments

Hello everyone. I apologize for interrupting your summer break with this note. I have submitted grades for Property I.  I am very proud of all of you. On the whole, you nailed it. I put together really difficult fact patterns that were quite open-ended, with the intent that there would be many, many, many correct answers. I thought I had considered all the possible answers, but several of you came up with things I didn’t even think of. Well done.

Additionally, many of you incorporated various concepts we talked about in class that were not in the textbook (such as the Coase Theorem, various natural law concepts, etc.). And one of you correctly used the word “dissental” to characterize Judge Kozinski’s dissent from denial of rehearing en banc in Vanna White v. Samsung. (“The dissental by Kozinski would characterize this as overprotection.”)  I sent a note to Chief Judge Kozinski and he replied, “love, love, love.” I understand that he also added it to his case to persuade Bryan Garner to add word “dissental” to the next edition of Black’s law dictionary (add it alongside “neck doily,” my humble contribution to legal language).

For some comic relief, one of you used the phrase “fiduciary doodie.” I did not take any points off, but I chuckled. Another noted the uncanny resemblance between Bookie (a/k/a Snooki) and Amy Winehouse: “The leopard tights and hair bump could only be Bookie or Amy Winehouse. and Amy is thinner and never went to the gym.”

Finally, despite all of your concerns, almost every single one of you managed to completely answer the question within the word limit. In other words, the differences between the A, B, and C was not due to an inability to write within the word limits.

You can download the exam here.

You can download the A+ paper here. If this is your paper, please drop me a line.

The Grades

First year classes are subject to the school’s mandatory grading curve (see p. 84 of the handbook):

grades assigned in classes of 40 or more students shall conform to a mandatory grading distribution. That distribution provides for a required 9-16 percent for A+/A, a required 16-30 percent for A+/A/A-; a required 16-30 percent for C+/C/C-/D+/D/F; and a required 9-16 percent for C/C-/D+/D/F. The class average shall be 2.85-3.15.

I think you will find that I maximized the grades here. I approached the upper limits of the grades allowed above an A-, and approached the lower limits of grades below C+. In addition, the class average was very close to the upper limit (3.326). In other words, there were many more As than Cs, and the class averages were quite high.

Here is the full breakdown.

  • Average: 3.136
  • A and above – 15.2%
  • A- and above – 27.3%
  • C+ and below: 22.7%
  • C and below: 9.1%



Thank you all for a great semester.



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Mar 1, 2014

Video: Obamacare in One Lesson

In my constitutional law class, I gave a condensed lecture on all aspects of NFIB v. Sebelius from start to finish. The video runs three hours in length, but covers everything from start to finish. (As it turns out, I led off class by playing the video of the guy who snuck the camera into court). I also may or may not have announced that I am the proud owner of my very own neck doily. If you have some time, you will enjoy this.

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Jan 29, 2014

Ruth Vader Ginsburg

The force is strong with this neck doily.


Via LadyPuns

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Jan 27, 2014

David Lat Has Coined Three Words in Black’s Law Dictionary (and I got a slang tweet from Garner)

Kudos to David Lat for coning three new words added to the newest edition of Black’s Law Dictionary: bench-slap, judicial diva, and litigatrix.

And, Bryan Garner confirmed that “neck doily” is now slang for Jabot!


And “doily” is preferred to “doiley.”

Update: Here is a screen shot from the 10th Edition of Black’s Dictionary for Jabot.


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