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


Will Justice Kagan Wear a Neck Doily?

August 7th, 2010

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.

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

June 3rd, 2010

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.

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

October 5th, 2009

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.

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

April 19th, 2015

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.

RBG’s New Jabot?

December 2nd, 2014

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.