Defending a culture of punctuation

Word that President Bush is considering someone who is both a woman and a non-judge to take Sandra Day O'Connor's place on the Supreme Court filled me with anticipation.

"We're considering all kinds of people -- judges, non-judges," the president said. "...the American people can rest assured that I understand the seriousness of this responsibility and I will name someone who will bring dignity to the court, someone who will be able to do the job and someone who will sit on that bench..."

Well, stop right there and start measuring me for that black robe. You see, I am a woman -- and I'm also not a judge! Of course, just because I have those two crucial things going for me does not automatically make me eligible for service on the Supreme Court. I also have to have opinions on a wide variety of topics, argue persuasively and write my decisions down. Hell, I do that all the time.

And I must be able to tell the difference between politics and law, so as not to be thought of as one of those "activist" judges. I understand this distinction perfectly. Politics is about power: how to get it, keep it, use it. Law is the system of rules that governs the getting, keeping and using of power. How hard is that?

The current justices have indicated they would welcome a non-judge to their somewhat stuffy group, and even Senate Judiciary chairman Arlen Specter agreed with Bush that choosing someone from outside the federal court system would inject a breath of fresh air into the often stale proceedings of the nation's highest court.

As a federal judge, Specter said, you "look at records, you read cases, you have very little contact with people. But if they had a little more practical experience and didn't work so much within the footnotes and the semicolons, you might have a little different perspective, and I'd like to see that added to the court."

I could certainly bring a different perspective to the court. Although, I admit, that last statement gives me pause. Semicolons; what could the chairman possibly have against semicolons? The law depends upon their judicious placement; believe me, many a tragedy could have been avoided had some reckless person not used a comma where a semicolon was called for.

I hope this issue doesn't come up in the confirmation process, because it would be hard for me to conceal my radical views on punctuation. Commas, periods and parentheses are not just marks on paper -- they are the underpinnings of civilization, the architecture of reason itself. Were it up to me, and let's hope it will be, there would be rules and regulations governing punctuation in our great land. That way, thoughtless and inattentive individuals couldn't go around deleting semicolons; at least not without prior written permission from a higher grammatical authority.


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