1607: Supreme Court

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Supreme Court
Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy called the man's arguments that he could be either Alito or Ginsburg "surprisingly compelling, but ultimately unconvincing."
Title text: Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy called the man's arguments that he could be either Alito or Ginsburg "surprisingly compelling, but ultimately unconvincing."

Explanation[edit]

In this comic Blondie as a news anchor presents a breaking news story about the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), the highest judicial body in the United States. Its decisions, as expressed in the judicial opinions of its justices, are often in the news as in this comic. However, the Supreme Court has only nine members. Thus, a ruling that passed 9-1 (for a total of 10 votes) would indicate that a man claiming to be an additional justice has somehow infiltrated the Court. The other nine justices are aware of the non-justice, and make it clear that this tenth justice does not belong. It is unclear if the justices released a formal decision on the subject or if the news is merely reporting the judges' statements as if they were decisions by citing a 9-1 decision (decisions of the SCOTUS are made on the basis of the opinion of the majority of the justices).

The identity of the "tenth justice" is not revealed in the comic or apparently to the actual justices, and neither is the reason that the interloper's "vote" was counted. Presumably, the nine actual justices voted that the tenth didn't belong while the interloper himself voted the other way.

This comic may be motivated by a 2012 survey, commonly cited since, that two thirds of Americans cannot name a Supreme Court Justice, and general ignorance of Americans overall of their own political landscape, by implying that even Justices are not confident in the identity of other members.

The title text refers to Justice Kennedy's reputation for being a moderate who is usually the swing vote in 5-4 decisions, which means that his vote can decide the outcome of the case which is otherwise split along the political leanings of the other justices. The joke in the title text is that he is weighing the arguments of both sides even though the non-justice is clearly not a justice and would not be allowed to make an argument if he were. The fictional Kennedy is committing the Golden Mean Fallacy, also seen in 690: Semicontrolled Demolition, and makes the same jab at that fallacy. Sometimes, the views of the two sides are mutually exclusive, or the other side is just wrong.

There is a second joke in the title text, that the man is claiming to be two of the current justices, who would actually have been in the room at the same time as the impostor was claiming to be them. To add further absurdity to this, one of those justices the man was claiming to be was Justice Ginsburg, who is female.

That said, it is possible that this could refer to a point in time in the past. Under the Tenth Circuit Act of 1863 the U.S. Supreme Court was expanded to 10 justices; Stephen Johnson Field was named to the 10th seat. Congress abolished the seat via attrition through the Judicial Circuits Act of 1866. Field remained in office until 1897.

Transcript[edit]

[Blondie as a news anchor is sitting at her desk with a small image of scales shown to the left of her.]
Blondie: Breaking news: The Supreme Court has ruled 9-1 that they don't know who this guy is or how he got in here, but he's definitely not a justice.


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Discussion

Made some additions, since I'm the first person up at this ungodly hour. Well, it's ungodly in my time zone, anyway. (Why is it that the time changes depending on where you live, but the months don't?) I am a first-time editor, so please correct any mistakes in formatting. 108.162.221.5 (talk) 05:32, 23 November 2015‎ (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I'm awake, it's 11:26 PM. PS, you forgot to sign, but IDK how to fix. Mikemk (talk) 05:36, 23 November 2015 (UTC)
I do - I've added a signature. --Sophira (talk) 06:11, 23 November 2015 (UTC)
The months change. Currently, it's November in Europe and the Americas, Kislev in Israel, Safar in Islamic countries, etc.162.158.56.191 04:53, 25 November 2015 (UTC)

He just might be... THE LAW! 108.162.221.41 06:17, 23 November 2015 (UTC)

Isn't the joke that xkcd people are stick men, so the libra could just be a man with a tiny head carrying two buckets..? 162.158.91.159 10:00, 23 November 2015 (UTC)

Currently there's nothing in the explanation of the titletext that addresses that Justice X is claiming to be either of two individuals, not even trying to properly impersonate a specific individual. Of course, logically, if they claimed to be a specific person then this specific person they claimed to be could so easily counter-claim. So that approach shouldn't work. But being vague would also be strange. Unlike a game of Mafia, when there might (occasionally) be reasons to be vague in this manner about one's role (and yet accept that this can look utterly Scummy, if this approach is directed at the Townies) to try to offset targetting by the opposing camp, this should still not work in a group where everyone already knows each other. So who knows how 'relatively illogical' the two approaches are, to each other... ;) But can anyone explain this better than me? 162.158.152.5 11:32, 23 November 2015 (UTC)

Although there are nine justices, 10 votes were counted... it is possible that the mysterious tenth person voted along with the majority, and one of the original justices has voted against. The supreme court rarely votes unanimously on anything regardless of how reasonable the majority seems.Swordsmith (talk) 11:50, 23 November 2015 (UTC)

Not sure where you're getting your information. For the 2014 term, fully 2/3 of the decisions decided were unanimous 9-0 decisions. The most common splits are 9-0 and 5-4. Most unanimous decisions are on smaller, less widely important matters. Larger more important and notable decisions are more likely to be concerned with a disagreement of law or interpretation and therefore to not be unanimous. 108.162.216.48 14:32, 23 November 2015 (UTC)

Just a guess, but it could be in reference to this article, where the nine represents the actual justices and the single is the President. Jarod997 (talk) 14:35, 23 November 2015 (UTC)

In my opinion, "this guy" is the picture in the background. It looks like an emoticon with eyes/eyelids, eyebrows, and a nose. It seems to have two sides in balance, which could explain the Alito/Ginsburg reference. Tlane (talk) 20:20, 23 November 2015 (UTC)

That is the "scales of justice", a symbol of the weighing of arguments or the weighing of justice vs mercy, depending on the viewpoint. GonzoI (talk) 02:35, 24 November 2015 (UTC)

This is slightly funnier knowing there should be only nine on the panel. 198.41.238.32 21:05, 23 November 2015 (UTC)

Also, the thing in the picture is a symbol representing justice. So it is "justice," but it is not "a justice." Tlane (talk) 23:16, 23 November 2015 (UTC)

User:Atreides has mentioned at 1600: MarketWatch that identifying the newsreader as Ponytail is questionable, but if she is there, she should be here too. Mark Hurd (talk) 00:19, 24 November 2015 (UTC)

It is not Ponytail either places, and I have corrected 1600. She has no tail! But it is interesting that he uses the same appearance for a news presenter/newscaster in two comics so close. Maybe he has used her before? New character? We already have blonde character Miss Lenhart. But she was a teacher not a presenter... If anyone can find and collect more of these presenters it could be interesting. So far 1607 and 1600 are two very similar comics with same presenter! --Kynde (talk) 14:58, 24 November 2015 (UTC)

It may be worth noting somewhere that not only are Alito and Ginsberg different genders, they also have very different judicial philosophies. A "surprisingly compelling" argument that the interloper could be either would make an interesting read simply because the two write very different opinions. Blaisepascal (talk) 23:08, 24 November 2015 (UTC)

I feel it's very shady still. "The supreme court ruled 9-1 ..." -- isn't that an admission that the 10th IS a justice? Because if he's not his vote should not be counted at all. 199.27.129.101 01:30, 25 November 2015 (UTC)

Pretty sure that's the joke.

Geeze... Some of y'all are totally overthinking this. WaltG123 (talk) 05:45, 25 November 2015 (UTC)

I've never done this before but tell me where I'm wrong. A newscaster is reporting on the Supreme Court. She has the scales of justice in the background. She is talking about "this guy" who is apparently a tenth individual in addition to the nine justices. Normally a newscast would show the person being described, perhaps in the background behind the newscaster. In this case the scales have an emoticon-look with eyes/eyelids, a nose, and eyebrows, so they are like a face. That represents "this guy." The scales are in balance between two opposing sides, and as it turns out Alito and Ginsburg represent two opposing viewpoints on the court. Interestingly, the scales represent "justice" but the newsletter declares that they are not "a justice." There are other plays on words: how did "justice" get in here (to the Supreme Court), the Court does not know who justice is, all of the regular members seem to be voting against justice. Tlane (talk) 16:42, 25 November 2015 (UTC)

Or it's just a joke about someone infiltrating the court & the USSC voting to determine if the person belongs there, with the scales pictured because Randall knows that:
1) they're they symbol of the court
2) there'd be no picture of this individual, as nobody knows who they are & cameras aren't allowed in the courtroom
Anything can be complicated if you make it complicated. To quote Randall on this general subject: "It was just the penis joke" WaltG123 (talk) 17:38, 25 November 2015 (UTC)

I would bet almost anything that the 10th justice was Black Hat. 173.245.55.60 20:21, 25 November 2015 (UTC)

And I'd put a small side-bet on it being Beret Guy. 162.158.152.227 08:44, 26 November 2015 (UTC)