Mason Law Professor Debuts Supreme Court Bobblehead for April Fools’ Day

Posted: April 7, 2009 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Donna Sneed

Souter bobblehead

U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter received a surprise visitor in chambers with the appearance of a look-alike bobblehead doll designed in his honor by law professor Ross Davies.

The bobblehead is the sixth in a series of likenesses of sitting Supreme Court justices designed by Davies for The Green Bag, An Entertaining Journal of Law, of which he is editor-in-chief.

Since Davies’ Justice William H. Rehnquist bobblehead first appeared on the scene in 2003, tradition has held that the dolls are mysteriously spirited into chambers to greet the justices they represent. To date, the dolls have graced the desks of, in addition to Rehnquist and Souter, Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Antonin Scalia, John Paul Stevens and Anthony Kennedy.

Each of the bobblehead statues is adorned with symbols of cases or history associated with the justice represented. In Souter’s case, there are four specific symbols of note:

  • The justice’s black robe is adorned with a replica of jewelry worn by members of the rap group 2 Live Crew that Souter wrote about in Campbell v. Acuff Music, a “fair use” copyright protection case.

  • The lifeguard stand on which Souter is seated represents his ruling in Faragher v. City of Boca Raton, a sexual harassment case.

  • The bobblehead contains an audio snippet of “Float On,” a song by Modest Mouse, referencing his decision in MGM Studios v. Grokster, a copyright infringement case.

  • A copy of U.S. Reports citing his ruling in U.S. v. Winstar, holding the government liable for its handling of the savings-and-loan crisis sits in the figure’s lap.

Ross Davies
Ross Davies
Images courtesy School of Law

Davies began distributing the bobbleheads to subscribers of the law journal, but demand for the bobbleheads soon outstripped supply, typically an edition of 1,000 to 2,000 pieces.

Each is numbered, and Davies’ staff keeps a tight control on distribution by producing personal certificates that can be exchanged for one of the coveted bobbleheads.

Hot collectors’ items, the dolls have fetched high prices in online auctions such as eBay, and they are particularly popular with attorneys and former law clerks.

According to The Green Bag’s bobblehead web page, distribution of bobbleheads is done as follows: “We make no promises about when we will make them or who will get them. Some (but not all) subscribers to the Green Bag as of the date we announce the release of a bobblehead receive a certificate potentially redeemable for a doll, and we arbitrarily and capriciously give certificates to some folks who are not subscribers (mostly law school public interest groups that auction the dolls at their annual fundraisers).”

This article originally appeared on the School of Law web site.

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