SCOTUS Musical Chairs

October 31st, 2014

One fun fact I learned from a recent event at YLS with Justices Thomas, Alito, and Sotomayor–during lunch, the Justices are not seated by seniority, but in the seat of their predecessor. That is, Roberts will sit in the seat of Rehnquist. Alito sits in O’Connor’s seat. Kagan sits in Stevens’s seat. And Sotomayor sits in Souter’s seat. Or at least she is supposed to, as she reflected in this comical exchange with Justice Thomas:

SS: At lunch we have to sit in our previous Justice’s chair. That’s not by seniority. That chair has been sat on by all of the Justices in our lineage. And when someone moves. You see a lot of eyebrows raised.

CT: Why are you sitting there?

SS: I’m sorry. I’ve fallen pray to that. (Mimicking another Justice) What are you doing here Sonia? It can be overwhelming at times.

She later added that “Sometimes the tradition is a little silly.”

Though, Justice Thomas remarked that he does like the tradition. “I like the formality.” But added, “It is a little disconcerting. We are in the same building and we don’t see each other much unless we are sitting or in conference.”