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Law Professor Creates Bobblehead Buzz among Journal Subscribers

By David Driver

Ross Davies
Ross Davies
Ross Davies, associate professor in the School of Law, teaches the first-year course in contracts and advanced courses in legal history. He is also editor in chief of the Green Bag, An Entertaining Journal of Law.

The Green Bag published articles from 1889 to 1914 written by such legal scholars as Louis Brandeis, Roscoe Pound and Elihu Root. The new version of the Green Bag published since 1997 attempts to capture the spirit of the original.

The Green Bag web site explains, "There exists a gap in legal publishing. At the end of one spectrum, newspapers and news magazines report the legal events of the day; at the other, law reviews publish large-scale works of legal scholarship. But there is nothing in the middle — no place for scholars to toss out creative thought, or make an argument that merits more than a letter to the editor but fewer than 50 footnotes. The solution: resurrect the Green Bag."

Through the Green Bag, Davies began to give away bobblehead dolls of Supreme Court justices. The dolls are made in Washington state at the same company, Bensussen Deutsch & Associates, that produces the popular bobbleheads of professional sports stars and other celebrities.

Bobbleheads of Justices Scalia and Kennedy
The Supreme Court bobbleheads often carry props related to one of their legal opinions.
Photo by Nicolas Tan

Some of the bobblehead dolls include former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and Chief Justice William Rehnquist, as well as sitting justices John Paul Stevens, Anthony Kennedy and Antonin Scalia.

The Scalia bobblehead has the judge standing between a wolf and a pencil driven into a lemon. There is a reason for each prop. The wolf refers to Scalia's 1988 opinion on separation of powers and the independent counsel law in Morrison v. Olson: "Frequently an issue of this sort will come before the Court clad, so to speak, in sheep's clothing: the potential of the asserted principle to effect important change in the equilibrium of power is not immediately evident, and must be discerned by a careful and perceptive analysis. But this wolf comes as a wolf."

As for the pencil and the lemon? Scalia wrote a 1993 opinion in Lamb's Chapel v. Center Moriches School District: "As to the Court's invocation of the Lemon test: Like some ghoul in a late-night horror movie that repeatedly sits up in its grave and shuffles abroad, after being repeatedly killed and buried, Lemon stalks our Establishment Clause jurisprudence once again, frightening the little children and school attorneys of Center Moriches School District — Over the years, however, no fewer than five of the currently sitting Justices have, in their own opinion, personally driven pencils through the creature's heart — and a sixth has joined an opinion doing so."

Asked whether he had ever heard back from the judges, Davies says, "I got a thank-you note from Chief Justice Rehnquist in 2003, after we made one of him. We have never asked the judges permission to do this. These people have a real sense of humor about this. —

About 1,000 to 2,000 bobbleheads are made for each judge, according to Davies. The bobbleheads are given away and are not sold. There are no promises about when the bobbleheads will be produced 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 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)," according to the Green Bag web site.

If you want to buy a bobblehead, the best bets are charity auctions and eBay.

Davies, who considers producing the Green Bag a hobby, joined Mason in 2002 after clerking for Judge Diane R. Wood of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. He also practiced with the Washington, D.C., law firms of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP and Shea & Gardner (now Goodwin Proctor).

This article appeared in The Mason Gazette.