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Legal Briefs

I don't know about you, but the highlight of my week last week was definitely a report by Nina Totenberg on National Public Radio.

Well, not the whole report. Just this part:

"Justice Stephen Breyer can expect years of teasing after a misstatement as he was trying to point out that it might not be unusual for children to hide things from teachers in their underwear.

" 'In my experience when I was 8 or 10 or 12 years old, you know, we did take our clothes off once a day, we changed for gym, OK? And in my experience, too, people did sometimes stick things in my underwear.' Breyer hesitated as he realized what he said as the courtroom erupted in laughter."

After I stopped laughing about an hour after hearing this, the questions began forming in my mind. (Give yourself an hour of chuckling and then think about this too.)

First off - and this is the sort of concern that those of you who question media objectivity should have - why was this a "misstatement?"

What was the justice misstating and how does Nina Totenberg know that he didn't mean what he said?

It sounds to me like the reporter here was trying to cover up for the source of her news report.

After all, what could else could he have meant to say?

Were students sticking things in other places?

What could be mistaken for underwear? Were people sticking things in his, um, undercarriage? In his Tupperware?

Did he mean to say that people in general sometimes stick things in their underwear? How does he know this? Was he watching? Did he take judicial notice?

Pretty unlikely.

But if the justice really did mean what he said - and I don't know why he'd lie on the bench in front of lawyers and journalists - what exactly was being stuck in that judicial underwear?

One can only speculate - so let's do it. What would you stick in Stephen Breyer's underwear?

Peanut butter? This might have caused a certain tightness later in life.

Guns? This could have impacted his thinking on the right to bear arms.

A vibrator? Could this explain a future laissez-faire attitude toward underwear invasion?

Or maybe they were just briefs....

By the way, in case you missed the story last week and are now wondering how this came up, the Supreme Court was hearing arguments in a case in which a 13-year-old girl was strip-searched by school officials.

What were they looking for?

Prescription-strength ibuprofen - in other words, pills that are nothing more than some over-the-counter pills combined into one pill.

I've mentioned this to friends in the education field and they've been stunned that it actually could have happened - and yet here were adults and their lawyers at the U. S. Supreme Court arguing with straight faces that this was a perfectly fine thing for people at schools to do to young girls.

Now here's something else at which to shake your head: the stripped girl is now 19. The legal battle over middle school strip searches which, as far as I can tell, almost never happen has been going on for six years.

Think of all the things that could have been slipped into underwear during that time.

I don't know how this is going to turn out, but I do have a compromise proposal: school dress codes that ban clothing.

No one that has nothing to hide should have a problem with this.

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