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A Rare Football-Related Post:

Reader Matt Kita e-mails to say that "at the beginning of the UT-USC game last night, I predicted that it would be close and could have gone either way when Justice O'Connor did the coin toss."

Anderson (mail) (www):
It should've been Justice Kennedy out there, because it sure looked like the officials were relying on foreign law for some of those calls.
1.5.2006 12:20pm
Houston Lawyer:
I thought she was an odd choice for the coin toss, not being apparently connected with The University of Texas, USC or the Rose Bowl. You should have realized that the fix was in when the coin landed "horns up". (Nice touch to design such a coin.)

It was a spectacular effort by both teams.

Hook-em Horns!
1.5.2006 1:01pm
Robert West (mail) (www):
Houston - she was the grand marshal of the tournament of roses parade, a role for which she was selected many moons ago; I believe the grand marshal of the parade always does the toin coss for the game.
1.5.2006 1:03pm
SaxMan613:
I was a little amused that a Supreme Court justice was flipping a two-headed coin.

Houston Lawyer: the Tournament of Roses Assn. operates the parade and the game, and it is traditional for the parade grand marshal (O'Connor) to flip the coin.
1.5.2006 1:09pm
Sisyphus:
I felt like we got some new insight into recent Supreme Court jurisprudence watching that coin flip by Justice O'Connor. But the great thing about football is that it's not decided by outside judges - it's decided on the merits, by the two teams clashing titanically for one hour. It's too bad Supreme Court argument can't always be like that (and I mean that metaphorically, I am not advocating trial by combat).
1.5.2006 1:17pm
John Jenkins (mail):
Sisyphus-What do you call the referees?
1.5.2006 1:25pm
KevinM:
In law school, we used to start a chant "no hard and fast rule" whenever SDOC's name came up in class.
Anyway, one knee was definitely down ... but the other wasn't.
1.5.2006 1:27pm
John Steele (mail):
Sortilege (the casting of lots) has a long tradition in law, albeit one that's dwindled in use over the centuries.

I once heard a lecture where the speaker said that there was even a US Supreme Court case were the remedy was chosen by lots. The case was a complicated one dealing with slaves on a ship that had been captured once or twice. Many people claimed ownership of the slaves and the slaves sued for their freedom. As I recall the lecture, the court found that a certain number of the slaves were to remain slaves and some were to be freed. To decide which slaves were freed and which remained slaves, the court stated that lots were to be cast. I haven't read the case myself but was stunned to hear that casting of lots had survived that long. Can anyone confirm that story?
1.5.2006 1:53pm
Gordon (mail):
As with everything else in her storied career, Justice O'Connor performed the coin flip excellently.
1.5.2006 1:53pm
DNL (mail):
Todd posts about football, making this not so rare.
1.5.2006 2:24pm
TRG:
I was surprised by the selection of O'Connor as grand marshal, given that for the UT - UM Rose Bowl last year that role was occupied by Mickey Mouse.
1.5.2006 3:39pm
SlimAndSlam:
John Steele:

The case to which your lecturer probably referred was that of The Antelope, 23 U.S. 66 (1825). That case involved a privateer who captured ships of several nations (U.S., Spain, and Portugal) and seized Africans from all of them. The Circuit Court originally designated a specific number of the surviving Africans to have been seized from the American vessel; since no one could prove which African came from which vessel, the Circuit Court said that it should be determined by lot. Id. at 69.

The Supreme Court reversed on much of the distribution, and appears to have specifically reversed on the lottery method of designation: "The individuals who compose this number must be designated to the satisfaction of the Circuit Court." Id. at 128. Of course, the Circuit Court was the one that originally came up with the lottery method, so it may have had a low threshold of satisfaction.

John Quincy Adams discussed this at length in his 1841 argument before the Supreme Court in the Amistad case. See here at 111-115.
1.5.2006 3:54pm
John Jenkins (mail):
Justice O'Connor didn't flip the coin. In attempting to balance the coin, she accidentally dropped it, setting off an unintended chain of events.
1.5.2006 4:37pm
Aaron:
DNL:
"Todd posts about football, making this not so rare."

That's not true. Todd posts about the Steelers, who bear very little resemblance to an actual football team...
1.5.2006 4:39pm
Gene Vilensky (mail) (www):
Possible reasons for O'Connor's selection as Grand Marshall:

1) Went to Stanford Law. Stanford played Michigan in the first Rose Bowl (though Stanford got spanked by 49-0 and forfeited in the third quarter).

2) She was born in Texas.
1.5.2006 6:45pm
John Steele:
Slim and Slam,

Thanks so much. That surely must be the case. Regarding sortilege, perhaps it stands for nothing more than the fact that in the early 19th century a few judges still felt it was a valid legal process in extreme circumstances.
1.5.2006 7:29pm
S Dallas Ave:
Aaron:

Prof. Zywicki not being on this thread to defend West Pa's own, I'll ask you: what makes "the Steelers [] bear very little resemblance to an actual football team"? Is it the fact that they've been in the playoffs eight out of the last eleven years, or instead that they're the winningest team in the NFL over that period?

Explain.
1.5.2006 11:02pm
Aaron:
S DALLAS Ave

1. Steelers made Larry Brown a Super Bowl MVP
2. BENGALS?! They got obliterated by the BENGALS!!!
3. The Tommy Maddox era
4. I'm a DALLAS fan. Superbowls IX, X, XIII, XIV never happened. (Esp. X, and XIII)
5. Ketchup Stadium
6. Unmanly fascination with bathroom linen products
7. Asymmetrical helmet designs

(Even your pseudonym recognizes the inherent superiority of America's team)
1.6.2006 12:26pm
KevinM:
Spelling matters, guys. Esp. for a Justice, being chosen "Grand Marshal" is very different from being chosen "Grand Marshall."
1.6.2006 1:12pm
Zywicki (mail):
Aaron:
Well we'll see who is superior when the Steelers and Cowboys meet in the Super Bowl this year. Oh yeah, a tean first has to make the playoffs in order to make the Super Bowl...

Besides, #7 is a plus, not a minus (although I definitely grant you #3).
1.6.2006 5:08pm
Aaron:
OK, maybe the Steelers's brand of football not quite so ineffective...
1.8.2006 7:43pm