It's going to take some planning, as well as some participation from readers, but I'm going to be starting a new regular feature on this site.
I want to create a new Supreme Court of Assholedom. Structured much like the actual U.S. Supreme Court, it will employ nine justices, whose job it will be to regularly preside over important cases of national social consequence -- to wit, to decide a) whether or not a certain person is an asshole, and b) if he or she is, how much of an asshole.
The court will consider cases of all types. They will have titles ranging from things like United States v. Sarah Palin after the Tucson Shooting, to Taibbi v. Fat Guy in the Next Seat Who Monopolized the Whole Armrest on a Flight to Denver, to Humanity v. Anyone Who Has Ever Generated and/or Sent a Spam Message.
The court will focus particularly on establishing case law in those areas where existing laws don't apply. For instance, it's not against the law to be the highly-compensated attorney representing the Gigantic International Megabank that recently foreclosed on an old lady in suburban New Jersey because she entered one number incorrectly on one check for one monthly mortgage payment (there actually is such a case). That's not illegal, but if that's how you make your living -- if you paid for your S-Class Mercedes helping Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein throw old ladies out of their houses -- I'm pretty sure you're an asshole.
But how much of an asshole? That's an interesting question, and another one of the court's mandates. My idea is to create a points scale of 1 to 10,000, with one point meaning less of, to not at all of, an asshole and ten thousand points of course being a total asshole. Here we have a graph showing points A (100 points), B (5,000 points), and C (10,000 points) that will serve as the basic guideline for the court's deliberations:
The points on the graph refer to the following values:
A = The guy in the white Jaguar, New Jersey license plate VJL-34J, who cut me and five other people off on the highway outside the Holland Tunnel yesterday
B = Washington Post columnist George Will
C = Serial Torture Murderer Gary Heidnik
The way I see it, 100 points is like the room temperature of assholedom, a level that most of us hit in surges at least two or three times a week. For instance, I personally hit 200 or more on a routine basis before I even begin any kind of interaction with the poor fact-checkers at Rolling Stone; I've worked at knocking that number down over the years, but it's slow going. The key, however, is that while most normal people strive to get back down to zero by the end of every day, others defiantly and incorrigibly insist on living at dangerously high and sometimes even escalating levels of assholedom.
That will be part of the court's job, to decide the status and the numerical profile of each individual brought for consideration and judgment. Saddam Hussein, for instance, was probably never below 9600 points at any time, on any given day, from 1970 or so through his death; I'd label him a career 9830. Others on the court might disagree, however, so in a case against Saddam, assuming there is a majority vote in favor of assholedom (could there really be five "nay" votes in his case?), what we'd do is average out the numbers submitted by the majority voters. Then one of the majority judges would write a brief opinion, as would one of the dissenting judges, so that the final verdict might look like this:
Pretty Much Everybody, et al., v. Saddam Hussein
Opinion (Taibbi) Murdered countless people, unironically admired Stalin, displayed nearly unparalleled narcissism and humorlessness, apparently washed infrequently, had horrific taste in architecture, and reflexively engaged in hysterical military posturing and diplomatic crotch-grabbing that led his country into numerous pointless wars, leaving millions dead and reducing much of his nation to rubble (pink rubble, in the case of his former palaces). Made George Bush look good. Ridiculous mustache.
Dissent (?) Built roads and stuff. Let women show their faces and be doctors, etc. Incredibly, close to being a moral improvement over religious dictators in the region.
That's one kind of case. Other cases might establish important lasting societal precedents. For instance, a case such as Reader from Portland, Oregon v. Guy Driving 48 MPH In His SUV Full of Kids on I-84 might have a ruling that reads as follows:
Opinion (Hypothetical Justice #2): If you're driving really slowly on the highway and you accelerate every time someone tries to pass you, you're an asshole.
That's precedent that could stand forever. And if someone commits one of these offenses, people will be free to access these rulings, print them out, and show them to the offender, saying: "Look, you're wrong and you're an asshole, there's even case law on this." My object here is to build an archive of rulings that would provide guidance for whole generations. That, and to find something that helps me hit my contractually mandated word count on this blog more easily.
As to the structure of the court: I'm naming myself Chief Justice for the time being, and will personally nominate the remaining eight judges. I'm going to select some candidates from among my readers, so anyone who is interested in serving on the court should write in. You should include a brief explanation of why you are particularly qualified to serve in this capacity. Special consideration will be given to those who have law degrees and/or have lengthy experience living with or among assholes.
Like any good politician, I am going to strive to make my court "look like America," so women, minorities, gays and lesbians, and people with good drug connections are encouraged to apply. Hot barely legal Finnish girls are also not discouraged.
Most of the court, however, is going to be made up of prominent persons and acquaintances of mine, and while I have a number of people in mind already, I would also like it if readers could send suggestions of people they'd like to see on the court. For instance, I'd have a better shot of convincing a concise legal mind like Eliot Spitzer to take part in this sort of activity if I could show him the widespread popular demand for his service. So don't be shy about writing in with your nominations.
The duties of the judges will not be heavy. Basically, every now and then I'll send each judge an article or a written summary of a case, and all they'll have to do is vote on the issue/person in question -- and, if they feel like it, adding a brief opinion of a few lines explaining their decision. This is going to be pretty half-assed for now, so the quorum for any decision is going to be three, i.e. if I can't get all nine justices to respond to my emails and vote, or even most of them, I'll settle for three. Actually, in a pinch, I'd render the decision all by myself, but I'm hoping it never comes to that.
If this whole thing turns out to be too cumbersome and ridiculous, we'll just drop it and pretend it never happened, letting it die quietly, and I'll go back to blog-whining about New York Times columnists for 800 words or so every few weeks. But if it proves popular enough, my vision is to eventually create an actual infrastructure for this legal body. Most importantly, I want the judges to have really cool outfits, and here's another area where I could use some input from readers; if you have a design idea for the judges' costumes, please send those in as well. My initial thought was an ensemble of robes of flowing yak fur to go with pointy helmets with Alpine Ibex horns. But I'm open to suggestions. In fact, one of the people I have in mind for the court has already forwarded a highly promising template sketch for our judicial garb. There are a great many interesting possibilities here.
It may take a while to set this up, so readers, please be patient. In the meantime, send in your thoughts and your resumes. Mankind cannot live long without law.