Two days ago the Supreme Court started its new term. During his confirmation hearings Chief Justice John Roberts testified that “……. I will remember that it’s my job to call balls and strikes and not to pitch or bat.” Carrying the analogy of a Supreme Court Justice to a baseball umpire further, one might suggest that the Chief might start each court session with the time honored phrase, “Play Ball,” followed by “Batter up” to signal to counsel for the moving party it is time to step up to the lectern to face the mix of pitches thrown by the Justices, including some fastballs aimed high and inside by the Court’s most aggressive member.
While it may sound reassuring to the public and to members of the Judiciary Committee to be told that a Supreme Court Justice just calls balls and strikes like an umpire, the analogy begins to break down the moment one pictures in one’s mind’s eye nine umpires crowded behind home plate, dressed in black, wearing chest protectors, shin pads and, of course, ump’s masks., leaning over each other to see the pitch and to make the call. The image is absurd of course. Whatever it is that Justices of the Supreme Court do, just “calling balls and strikes” is not it.