Beaton discusses civility, professionalism in the Supreme Court

Jack Dobbs

WKU was visited Wednesday by Benjamin Beaton, a law professional and former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

Beaton, who currently works for the law firm Squire Patton Boggs as a litigation partner, came to WKU to give a lecture over “Civility and Professionalism at the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Beaton discussed the duties the Supreme Court undertakes, how the Court is constantly adapting in order to stay relevant and how the Supreme Court is viewed by the public.

Beaton said one of the unique things about the Supreme Court is how defined and regular the work is. In the summer months, Beaton said that the Supreme Court is not in session, allowing the Justices to do any number of things, from vacations to teaching college courses in Europe.

Beaton spoke extensively about the mutual friendship between Justice Ginsburg and the late Justice Antonin Scalia and said Ginsburg was great at connecting with anyone.

Beaton mentioned the different nuances that go on at the Court, from deciding on major cases to the leisure time spent between the Justices off the bench.

“When Elena Kagan came on the bench, she became friends with Justice Scalia,” Beaton said, “They would go on hunting trips together bagging deer.”

Beaton also discussed how the Supreme Court is unceasing in its practices.

“The court prides itself on being separate from the rest of the government,” Beaton said. “So they don’t shut down during a government shutdown or during bad weather.”

The lecture turned to the uglier parts in the history of the Supreme Court.

“The good ole’ days are not always the good ole’ days,” Beaton said.

Beaton went on to showcase examples of poor conduct from some of the most widely known justices in history, including a quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes, “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” Beaton also mentioned Abe Fortas, the infamous judge who was caught giving strategic advice to President Lyndon Johnson during the Vietnam War.

Beaton criticized the “Rule of Five,” the idea that you only need to convince five out of nine justices on your case and you’ll win.

“That’s pretty chilling,” Beaton said. “I don’t want you to leave here thinking that just because things have been on track in the past, that they will remain so. You cannot count on yesterday’s norms to prevail today, but I believe that more will stay the same about the Court’s work than will change.”

Reporter Jack Dobbs can be reached at 270-745-0655 and [email protected].