Dear Chief Justice Roberts, Virginia is a Commonwealth, not a State

December 1st, 2010

Today in Oral Arguments in Virginia Office for Protection and Advocacy v. Stewart, I think Chief Justice Marshall made an all-too-common mistake, and referred to Virginia as a State, rather than a Commonwealth.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: The State here is free to dissolve one of the parties to the case. That’s a little different.

MR. GALANTER: Well, it’s the Commonwealth that is free to dissolve one of the parties.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: All right, State, Commonwealth.

People in Virginia, and Pennsylvania, are quite particular over the difference. The Chief is the Circuit Judge of the Fourth Circuit, which includes Virginia, so I’m sure this was just a slip. Funny, nonetheless.

There are 4 Commonwealths in the United States–Virginia, Pennsylvania,¬†Kentucky, Massachusetts.¬†I have 3 of the 4 Commonwealths covered–I have lived in Virginia and Pennsylvania, and next year I will be living in Kentucky. No plans to live in Massachusetts, though.

Update: Woops. That should read Chief Justice Roberts, and not Chief Justice Marshall. Thanks to Mike in the comments for pointing out the slip.