Supreme Court

Justice Alito Mocks Arkansas Ban on Muslim Prisoner's Beard


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The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument on Tuesday in the case of Holt v. Hobbs, which asks whether the Arkansas Department of Corrections violated a federal religious liberty law by preventing a Muslim prisoner from growing a one-half inch beard in accordance with his religious beliefs. Judging by the oral argument, it appears the prisoner stands a good chance of winning.

"You have no comparable rule about hair on one's head," Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told Arkansas Deputy Solicitor General David Curran, "where it seems more could be hidden than in the beard." How does a ban on beards make sense from a security point of view when there's no ban on long hair?

Justice Stephen Breyer soon raised another objection. "I take it there's no example, not a single example in any State that allows [prisoner beards]," he said, "where somebody did hide something in his beard."

"I think that's mostly right, Your Honor," Curran was forced to concede.

But perhaps the biggest critic of the state's prison policy was Justice Samuel Alito, who asked the state lawyer, "why can't the prison just give the inmate a comb…and say comb your beard, and if there's anything in there, if there's a SIM card in there…a tiny revolver, it'll fall out."

Against the backdrop of laughter in the courtroom, inspired perhaps by Alito's reference to a revolver hidden in a one-half inch beard, the state lawyer was once again forced to acknowledge the weakness of his position. "I suppose that's a possible alternative," he told Alito.

A ruling in Holt v. Hobbs is expected by June 2015.

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  1. Government clearly gets off on blowing taxpayer money out of its ass.

  2. Christian extremists like Alito are clearly in sympathy with Muslim fundamentalist jihadis. Alito and fanatics like Ruth Bader Ginsburg…wait…

  3. My beard’s about a half inch long, and I’ve been known to secret leftover soup in there. Can’t have the prisoners eating outside of meal times.

    1. You can’t fool us, it’s really meth!

  4. Against the backdrop of laughter in the courtroom, inspired perhaps by Alito’s reference to a revolver hidden in a one-half inch beard, the state lawyer was once again forced to acknowledge the weakness of his position. “I suppose that’s a possible alternative,” he told Alito.

    Based on this kind of toady-ing, I have to think that David Curran goes home at night and kicks the hell out of his dog.

    I wonder if anyone who’s ever argued before the SC has told the august body of legal geniuses to go fuck themselves following a particularly witty comment.

    1. The claim that you have argued in front of the SCotUS is essentially a meal ticket in the Legal profession. I’d take a little humiliation (especially deserved, as in this case) if the eventual paycheck were that big.

      1. Even if you got your ass handed to you (i.e., lost by a 9-0 vote)?

        1. Yes, even if you got your ass handed to you. Certainly, someone with a winning record is more highly prized. You can’t always pick the cases you want- and any attorney should have seen this was a stinker…probably why a deputy solicitor was taking the case. But any experience is valuable.

    2. He’s defending a weak case, knows he’s defending a weak case, and that his defense of that case is weak and mostly consists of ‘do not look behind the curtain’ misdirection.

      He came in *expecting* to be laughed at.

      1. He came in *expecting* to be laughed at.

        And for that he earns a certificate for World’s Stupidest Lawyer.

        1. He doesn’t have to put that certification his resume, but he can now put “supreme Court lawyer” on there, and will make boku bucks

    3. I don’t doubt any of this.

      And yet, even though he’s one of the two or three justices I’m mostly likely to agree with, I would die laughing if someone told Scalia to go fuck himself publicly. The hubris of the unelected state employee–especially judges–drives me nuts.

      1. I don’t see how his comment was some sort of monumental hubris. I debate with people all the time, and often work in quite a bit of humor. In such a case, most people would say that responding to a bit of a joke with “Fuck you” would be roughly akin to the “Jerk Store” conversation in Seinfeld.

        1. It’s not a debate when a SC justice is questioning you.

          It may be different for attorneys who view this as all in a day’s work or in good humor (IANAL,TG), but reading Root’s material for several years now as well as historical justifications and dissents for absurd rulings has left me with a strong distaste for anything the Nazgul say and do.

          That they say and do these things with a lack of humility is even more troublesome.

    4. I wonder if anyone who’s ever argued before the SC has told the august body of legal geniuses to go fuck themselves following a particularly witty comment.

      Larry Flint probably came the closest.

  5. Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the, uh, grooming standards.

  6. How can the Supreme Court not read between the lines and just allow this?

    Its not about ‘safety’ – its never about safety. Someone in control made a rule and that rule must be obeyed. Its even better that this rule inconveniences muslims, double points since most muslim converts are black.

  7. I find it amusing that someone who is locked in a cage has their rights denied if they have to shave.

    Seriously, that’s the deprivation of rights we should be concerned with here?

    1. In that one inch, we are free.

      1. That’s what he said.

    2. Do you also find it amusing that the state is likely spending tens of thousands to defend such a rule?

      Are your right-wing dictatorial sensitivities offended by the fact that it’s actually OK in the rational world to grant some silly religious nut his right to grow a slight beard?

    3. Here’s the extra funny part – in order to have the prisoners shave, the prison has to provide them with shaving supplies. Either manual or electric razors, both of which contain parts useful in the manufacture of weapons.

      1. No kidding, if you do a multi-decadal stint in the Big House, you should come out looking like Robinson Crusoe.

    4. That is one of the rights we have to be concerned with here yes.

  8. Against the backdrop of laughter in the courtroom, inspired perhaps by Alito’s reference to a revolver hidden in a one-half inch beard…

    I was there. The laughter was actually inspired by Justice Ginsburg getting on top of the bench and doing a humorous jig. Alito just happened to be talking over it.

    1. I heard Ruth gave Alito a lap-dance. Can you verify?

      1. Unfortunately Fortunately, it’s a very tall bench.

      2. uuuuuoooooooo shudder……

  9. So what is it about this case that got it in front of SCOTUS in the first place? If it’s such a laffer, there must be something else going on here.

    1. Most scotus cases end up being unanimous. I’d be surprised if this one doesn’t come out that way. One of the federal circuits probably went the wrong direction with it (5th cir?), so the scotus has to put them back in their place.

      1. It was the 8th Circuit where a panel of one Clinton and two W Bush appointees unanimously ruled for the prison.

    1. Well, its about goddamned time. Though how they justify this after 2 decades of crying ‘but your CBR mask won’t seal with a beard’ (which it will) I don’t know.

      Its really always been about ‘professional appearance’ – again, why allow beards as a religious exemption but ban tattoos? – but the brass never likes telling the troops the truth about this stuff.

      1. And they always had to give the exemption for keloids. Many a white squid was envious that the black dudes could wear beards.

  10. To me, this is evidence of the decline. There are pigs executing, tazing, and harrasing citizens without any consequence save maybe some paid vacation. Yet what is front of SCOTUS is the fate of some fucking body hair.

  11. Pity the laboring American citizen. His vote means almost nothing. He is subject to the tyrannous caprices of a flamboyantly autonomous Executive; to the occult machinations of a vast administrative bureaucracy, sometimes called the ‘Fourth Branch’, for which there is no accountability at all, and upon which he can exert no check whatsoever; and to the ideological whims of a plenipotent judiciary that routinely annuls what little victories of self-determination he occasionally manages to achieve through his state legislatures. Shackled to his oar, he toils and groans to pull the ship forward nevertheless, though the combined tonnage of freight, idle passengers, and stowaways recently brought aboard have sunk it so low in the water that its gunwales are already awash. Should he grumble, or cry out in his exhaustion, he swiftly feels the lash.


    1. Stop grumbling, you exist to serve this ship. Row well and live.

  12. Oh, Alito, Whoah-ooooh-aaayoooo
    He’s for the money
    He’s for the show
    Alito’s waiting for the go

  13. Alito?

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