Friday, October 14, 2011

Chutzpah at the Court

Chutzpah is alive and well at the United States Supreme Court--the word chutzpah, that is. As a recent piece in the ABA Journal reports, last term Justice Elena Kagan used it when she read aloud her dissent in the Arizona Free Enterprise Club case. In that suit over campaign financing, candidates claimed that "Arizona violated their First Amendment rights by disbursing funds to other speakers even though they could have received (but chose to spurn) the same financial assistance." Justice Kagan said of that argument, "Some people might call that chutzpah."

Justice Kagan was the first Jewish Justice to use the Yiddish term, but the first Justice to use it was Catholic Justice Antonin Scalia, in 1998. The ABA Journal quotes law professor Eugene Volokh's thoughts about those choices: "Scalia strives for a colorful writing style, and so does Kagan. What you are seeing here is less of an ethnic dividion and more the style of the author."


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