The Amicus Briefs of a SCOTUS Troll

The Amicus Briefs of a SCOTUS Troll

California attorney David Boyle likes to file sardonic amici curiae to high-profile Supreme Court cases. While always formal and courteous, his amicus briefs tend toward the absurd and offensive, his dubious arguments somehow rescued by his biting wit and apparent sincerity. It’s somewhat surprising that he gets away with it, but then again, he’s following all the rules.

Arguing in King v. Burwell that the Affordable Care Act offers subsidies to those in need, and that the Court should be consistent in their compassion, Boyle brings up a couple anecdotes about two Justices. In the first anecdote, he points out that Justice Scalia, who had expressed a lack of concern for people losing their health insurance, also compared himself to Frodo Baggins, the Lord of the Rings character. Boyle’s point is this:

“Not only is this lack of concern arguably problematic in itself; it does not match Scalia’s identification of himself with the Ringbearer, heir to his Uncle Bilbo’s terrible treasure. In fact, Frodo, with his march towards doom (literally), was a prime candidate for need of health care — which we see in his medical treatment by Lord Elrond at Rivendell after Frodo is wounded by the accursed Morgul-blade of the Witch-king of Angmar himself, the Lord of the Nazgûl. Thus, Frodo gets some highly excellent free health care from the master of Rivendell.”

In the second anecdote, Boyle brings up Justice Rehnquist’s addiction to the sleep drug Placidyl, and the delusions that accompanied his withdrawals while receiving medical treatment. On this, Boyle (always referring to himself as “Amicus”) says,

“Rehnquist must have been going through a kind of living hell, but Amicus is pleased that he was able to access quality healthcare and surface from the darkness of drug addiction. However, many Americans have not been able to access an equal level of healthcare to that of Rehnquist, or maybe any healthcare at all beyond the minimal.”

Filing in Hollingsworth v. Perry, on same-sex marriage in California, Boyle writes, “‘Gay marriage’ may resemble a houseboat, which despite its name may not be able to perform all of a boat’s functions.”

On another point, he says, “Marriage is often a difficult thing, not always ‘gay’: involving pregnancy, children, and possible illness or death, so that some may not support the naming of a gay relationship as ‘marriage’.” He goes on to compare heterosexual married couples to soldiers on the “battlefield” who “risk pregnancy” every time they have sex, which would force them “to take care of even difficult or ungrateful children of their loins for 18 years,” and he argues that same-sex marriage lacks this “Wagnerian weightiness.”

In his most recent brief, which is currently submitted as a motion for leave to file in the case of Trump v. Hawaii, on the President’s refugee travel ban, Boyle has expressed the entirety of his argument in 17 syllables:

A haiku ban might
not be anti-Japanese
per se”; but . . . you know

Rule 37 of the Supreme Court states, “An amicus curiae brief that brings to the attention of the Court relevant matter not already brought to its attention by the parties may be of considerable help to the Court. An amicus curiae brief that does not serve this purpose burdens the Court, and its filing is not favored.”

Commenting on his 17-syllable argument, Boyle says, “A brief brief should not tax the Court greatly. In fact, Amicus’ experiment in brevity could serve as a reminder to others to write briefs briefly, when possible.”

Filing amici curiae and following all of the requisite distribution rules can cost thousands of dollars, but that’s not stopping Boyle, and evidently, the Court isn’t stopping him either.