The Volokh Conspiracy

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On Flags and Collars

RBG wore her dissent jabot the day after the 2016 election.


In 2016, election day was on Tuesday, November 8. Against all odds, Donald Trump prevailed. The next day, the Supreme Court held a session. There were no opinions to hand down. But Justice Ginsburg still wore her "dissent" jabot. Here is Art Lien's sketch:


The symbolism of Ginsburg's jabot was unmistakable. The Associated Press reported:

The day after Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton to win the 2016 presidential election, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg took the bench wearing a black necklace with crystals. It was a piece she typically wore to express her displeasure while reading a dissent from the bench. But Ginsburg, who had called Trump a faker ahead of the election and then apologized, had no dissents to read.

Ginsburg's collars were more than a subtle statement every time she entered the courtroom.

The Court did not return a request for comment. If you'll notice, Justice Alito is not wearing a MAGA hat.

In 2020, after RBG's death, The New York Times praised her sense of style:

Her dissent collar, a spiky bejeweled necklace on a black band from Banana Republic that had been gifted to her when she was named a Glamour Woman of the Year in 2012, she wore when she read her equally spiky dissents from the bench. (She also wore it the day after the 2016 election, which no one thought was a coincidence; the dissent collar became so famous on its own that it was memorialized in jewelry, magnets and temporary tattoos.)

I have a very, very difficult time taking the outrage over the Alitos' flags seriously. The Justices routinely convey messages through their words and deeds. Who gets to decide what is an appearance of impropriety? People who are inclined to despise the conservative Justices will draw the worst possible inferences from all of their acts. Indeed, the Alitos' neighbors remind me of the "objective observers" under the defunct Establishment Clause jurisprudence. These people are loathe to co-exist with anything they disagree with, so will take umbrage at the slightest sleights.

This story will keep going, nowhere.