Over at The Corner, Ramesh has drawn our attention to Dahlia Lithwick’s Slate piece on Justice Anthony Kennedy. As Ramesh says, it has to be read to be believed. The occasion is Kennedy’s keynote address to the annual ABA convention in Hawaii. And it must be said that the wildly enthusiastic reception Lithwick reports does not speak well of the nation’s oldest and largest lawyers’ guild. For the speech, at least as reported by Lithwick, is the most pompous sort of faux-intellectual jackassery that has emerged from the mouth of a high court jurist in many a moon. Lithwick and the rest of Kennedy’s audience are sure that pearls of wisdom dropped from his lips, but just see if you can read the piece without laughing out loud. It’s almost enough to make you turn to the recent book by Justice Stephen Breyer for relief. Lithwick is certain that what has given us “a thousand heart attacks over at the National Review Online” is the fact that “Kennedy believes that justice has a purpose.” Sorry, no. What causes conniptions in these quarters is that Kennedy believes that justice means to be ruled by Justice Kennedy.
UPDATE: Could Kennedy’s speech really have been as bad as that? Judge for yourself. The ABA’s website has five or six minutes of excerpts (click here for .wmv, and here for .rm format), and if these are the highlights, then Justice Kennedy has set the bar very high for earnest vacuity. I don’t expect him to be bested soon.