The Volokh Conspiracy

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"Alice In Wonderland" In SCOTUS


In two dissents this past term, Justices invoked Alice in Wonderland.

Chief Justice Roberts had this gem in FEC v. Cruz. A paragraph on page 7 begins:

These arguments have an Alice in Wonderland air about them, with the Government arguing that appellees would not violate the statute by repaying Cruz, and the appellees arguing that they would. But this case has unfolded in an unusual way. 

Three paragraphs later, on the bottom of page 8, Roberts pays off the Alice reference:

But we need not go further down this rabbit hole.

And Justice Thomas's dissent in U.S. v. Taylor included this reference:

Yet, the Court holds that Taylor did not actually commit a "crime of violence" because a hypothetical defendant—the Court calls him "Adam"—could have been convicted of attempting to commit Hobbs Act robbery without using, attempting to use, or threatening to use physical force. Ante, at 5; see §924(c)(3)(A). This holding exemplifies just how this Court's "categorical approach" has led the Federal Judiciary on a "journey Through the Looking Glass," during which we have found many "strange things." L. Carroll, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass 227 (J. Messner ed. 1982).

And Thomas closed the connection in the final paragraph:

Even Alice, having slaked her curiosity, eventually re- turned from the land beyond the looking glass.

I appreciate Thomas's reference, but Roberts's was so much more effective.

Don't forget Justice Scalia's barb from his dissent in Los Angeles v. Patel:

The Court suggests that police could obtain an administrative subpoena to search a guest register and, if a motel moves to quash, the police could "guar[d] the registry pending a hearing" on the motion. Ante, at 2456. This proposal is equal parts 1984 and Alice in Wonderland.

Why make one literary reference in a sentence when you can make two?