Supreme Court Soldiers On, Despite Sandy

While the rest of the federal government shut down Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court was open for business as usual — at least long enough to hear two cases argued.

It is hardly the first time that the high court was the macho guy in town, staying open when the rest of the government was closed. The reason appears to be tradition, albeit a modern tradition.

The late Chief Justice William Rehnquist used to go slightly bonkers at the notion that the nation’s capital would shut down for six inches of snow or less. A native of Wisconsin, he was quite simply appalled at the way Washingtonian’s reacted to bad weather. So, in his 19 years as chief justice, the court simply stayed open, and often when there was a lot more snow than six inches.

Rehnquist and fellow justices used to bet on how much white stuff there was, with a delegation of law clerks sometimes dispatched to the court’s front steps to measure the snow with a ruler.

Rehnquist’s successor, Chief Justice John Roberts, as it happens, was a Rehnquist clerk, and appears to be following in his one-time boss’ footsteps.

But not foolishly.

On Monday, after the morning’s public session was over, and the wind and rain increased, the court shut its doors at 2 p.m. The Marble Palace, as it is sometimes called, will be closed Tuesday, when Hurricane Sandy is expected to be in full force.

The arguments scheduled for Tuesday will now take place on Thursday, the next open day. No need to dilly-dally!

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