Between 2009 and 2020, Josh published more than 10,000 blog posts. Here, you can access his blog archives.


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

November 1st, 2014

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!

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

January 28th, 2014

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.

Is a Neck Doily Clothes?

November 4th, 2013

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.

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

October 28th, 2013

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.


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

September 30th, 2013

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.