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Op-Ed

Names that inspire

November 1, 2021

What's in a name? That which we call a court by any other name would rule just the same.

Milt Policzer

By Milt Policzer

Courthouse News columnist; racehorse owner and breeder; one of those guys who always got picked last.

Does the U.S. Supreme Court Building need a new name? If so, what should it be?

A Politico opinion writer last week argued that “both the edifice, and the court it houses, need a story to help American make sense of them.”

OK. I like stories. I’m not against this, although I’m not sure the writer really meant all of the quote above. The article goes on at length arguing that the building should be named after Justice John Marshall Harlan. There’s no suggestion for a name for “the court it houses.”

I’ll come back to the building name later. What I’m really interested in is the idea of renaming the court. After all, “Supreme Court” is not a great name. It’s frightening and godlike and too close to “Supreme Leader.” We’re not supposed to be in a theocracy or a dictatorship.

I have suggestions.

The House of Comfort. I know that sounds theocratic too but it can be packaged in a New Age sort of way. A sculpture of a group of meditating lawyers in the foyer could set the scene.

Proceeding participants should be required to breathe deeply before entering the courtroom.

The House of Pain. This could work too — by discouraging litigation. A sculpture of a group of imprisoned lawyers above a plaque engraved with “CONTEMPT!” could set the scene.

Future luxury spa?

The House of Abundance. It sounds welcoming and like an institution that wants to please all who enter. All participants would be required to be extremely fashionable and ready to pose.

The American Fair. Not only does this convey an image of equality for all points of view, but it puts participants in a festive mood. Just add a ferris wheel and a device for deep-frying any type of food at the front of the building.

The People’s Court. OK, there could be a trademark issue here, but the court could just rule that it’s OK.

The Court of Last Resort. This could sound ominous but not if you’re clear about what kind of resort you mean. Add a pool, a tiki bar, tennis courts, a spa and a first-class restaurant and you’ve got the kind of court everyone will want to resort to. Imagine how much will get done during couples massages with opposing counsel.

But since the Politico article is mostly about naming the building, let’s talk about that. Raise your hand if you think you’d feel differently about the Supreme Court if only their building had a new name.

Anyone?

Anyone?

I thought so. Courts all over the country are named after people we’ve never heard of. It doesn’t change our impression of them.

Case in point: I live in Long Beach, California, where the court is named after George Deukmejian. Are any of you inspired? Are there not a lot of you who don’t know who the heck George Deukmejian is?

I’m not going to dismiss this out of hand. The Politico writer goes on at some length recommending that the building be named after John Marshall Harlan and I have nothing against him as a namesake (except maybe that 99% of the country won’t have a clue who he was). I could be wrong about this perception thing.

Who the heck is this? Are you inspired?

But there are other building name candidates that we should at least think about.

The Judge Judy Judicial Center. It conveys a sense of firmness and instant justice.

The Perry Mason Courthouse. You can picture the guilty confessing after about an hour.

The Watcher Building. Justices should be seen as impartial observers.

There are so many possibilities but maybe the free market should decide this. The Supreme Court — and Congress and the President — should be selling naming rights.

Imagine the Amazon Presidential Mansion or the American Express Ruling Center. This is how capitalism is supposed to work and it could solve our budget problems.

Write your legislators and judges.

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