Held Up at the
March 24, 2001
By Art Bushwald
The Five Supremes all mysteriously left this world at the
same time and found themselves standing together in front
of what looked like the gates of Heaven.
"Wow!" exclaimed Rehnquist to someone who resembled Saint
Peter, "We actually made it to the Pearly Gates! May we come
"Just hang on a minute," said the gatekeeper. "We're still
counting the votes."
"You're counting votes?" exclaimed Scalia in astonishment.
"You mean Heaven is a democracy?"
"Well, we're more like a republic than a democracy," replied
the gatekeeper, "but I won't bore you with explanations about
the trivial differences. Let's just say that sometimes we
vote on things here. And speaking of voting, the final tallies
are coming in. OK, it's official -- 51 million residents want
you to come on in, and 50.5 million think you should go to
The Other Place."
"All right!" shouted the Five Supremes excitedly. "Open the
gates and let us in!"
"Not so fast," chided the old man as he stroked his long,
white beard. "I hate to rain on your parade, but it's not
quite that simple. You've heard the old expression 'The Lord
works in mysterious ways?' Well, elections here can be pretty
mysterious too. Just because you got the votes doesn't mean
you can just come in and start playing your harp on Cloud
The old gatekeeper pulled out a map that showed some areas
in blue, and a lot of other areas in red. "Things in these
parts sometimes aren't decided on just an up-and-down, yes-or-no
vote. You see this map? It shows our 51 special election districts.
Each of these election districts has a different population,
which is roughly used to determine how many votes each district
gets. Now these blue areas show where our population is concentrated,
and the people there voted overwhelmingly to let you in. But
these lesser populated red areas... which, I should mention,
occupy a far greater area on this map... voted almost overwhelmingly
against you. If you further divide this map into subdistricts,
you'll find that the red areas are even more dominant..."
"But more people voted for us!" protested O'Connor. "Well,
that might be true," replied the Controller of the Gates,
"but it's the election district votes that count. And unfortunately,
you were tantalizingly close to going over the top, but didn't
quite make it. All you had to do was win just one more election
district, but there was a little problem there."
"What was that?" asked Kennedy.
"Well, you know that guy with the horns and pointy tail?
His brother is in charge of that district..."
"Say what???" cried the Supremes in stunned unison.
"That's right, ol' Beezlebub's little brother is running
the show down there. His final results show that you lost
by 500 votes, with thousands of votes left uncounted."
"How can the results be final if all the votes haven't been
counted?" squeaked Thomas.
"Well, they were counting the votes, but for some reason
someone told them to shut down, so they did," replied the
man who looked like St. Peter. "And get this -- one of the
guys who used to work for ol' Beezlebub's father decided to,
um, "correct" about 5000 ballots applications. It's kinda
like he voted 5000 times! It doesn't take a rocket genius
to know who those votes went for, eh?"
"That's not fair!" protested Scalia. "Well, maybe not," replied
the wise old gatekeeper. "But if you think that's unfair,
just wait until I tell you about the thousands of people who
were going to cast their ballots for you, but couldn't
because their polling places were suddenly changed, or they
were intentionally removed from the voter lists, or their
votes for you were thrown out because they both marked your
name and wrote it on their ballots. "
"Don't we have any recourse?" asked Kennedy. "Well, there's
the Supreme Council" said the saintly looking man. "Its nine
members say they are willing to listen to an argument on your
behalf based on a provision of our 14th Supreme Law, which
states: "No election district... shall deny to any person
within its jurisdiction the equal protection of laws."
"What the heck's that got to do with us?!" screamed Scalia.
"Beats me," answered the bearded gatekeeper. "I thought maybe
you could tell me. Anyway, I should warn you there are several
members of the Council who are predisposed to vote against
you. One of them is looking to become the Chief Supreme Councillor,
and he thinks if you were allowed in, it would spoil his chances.
Another council member always votes the same way the first
one does. Yet another councillor said it was 'terrible' that
you were even being considered for admission."
"Of all the @$#%...!" shouted Rehnquist.
"Watch your tongue" reproached the old man. "We don't use
that kind of language here."
The Five Supremes could only gape at each other in disbelief.
But their silence was soon broken by the venerable gatekeeper.
"Uh oh, I got some bad news for you. The Council has made
its ruling, and I'm sorry to say that they voted 5-4 to keep
you out. If it's any consolation, they say you can try again
in four years."
"Four years?" wailed the Supremes.
"Yes, but don't get your hopes up too high. Even if the exact
opposite thing happens in the next election, don't expect
the Council to take your side. Even though they pride themselves
on being "strict constructionists" of our Supreme Law and
don't take kindly to 'whimsical interpretations,' they say
that their ruling only applies to your case, just this once."