March 20th, 2010 | Uncategorized

Judicial bobbleheads find a home at Yale

A collection of Supreme Court justice bobbleheads, including this figurine of Justice Harry Blackmun, is now on display at the Lillian Goldman Law Library.
A collection of Supreme Court justice bobbleheads, including this figurine of Justice Harry Blackmun, is now on display at the Lillian Goldman Law Library. Photo by The GreenBag(www.greenbag.org/).

Legal scholars looking to study the nuances of bobblehead dolls commemorating the Supreme Court’s justices now need look no further than Yale Law School.

The Lillian Goldman Law Library has become the principal storehouse for bobbleheads resembling notable justices such as Louis Brandeis and William Rehnquist, and last week the collection was put on public display for the first time, according to an article published Wednesday by The New York Times. The bobbleheads have been produced over the past decade by “The Green Bag,” a law quarterly that bills itself as an “entertaining journal of law.”

Each bobblehead serves as a miniature showcase for some of the decisions that colored each justice’s career. Justice Harry Blackmun’s bobblehead wears a baseball cap and leans on a baseball bat because of his decision in Flood v. Kuhn, a baseball antitrust case; Brandeis’ bobblehead sits on the train car that struck Harry Tompkins, who later filed a suit that reached the Supreme Court in 1938. (Brandeis authored the Court’s decision in Erie Railroad v. Tompkins.)

Perhaps most notable about the display is the absence of Yalies — none of the three Yale Law graduates currently on the Court has been featured, while six of the nine bobblehead justices attended Harvard Law. No need to worry, though: According to the article, a Clarence Thomas LAW ’74 bobblehead is in the works for next year.

Instead of selling the bobbleheads, The Green Bag distributes them in a “willy-nilly” fashion, the law journal’s editor-in-chief told the Times. Bobblehead aficionados who do not make the initial cut must turn to online auction sites to complete their collections. According to a 2006 article in the Los Angeles Times, a Rehnquist bobblehead doll can sell for over $2,000.

But even wads of cash may not be enough to lay hands on a Supreme Court justice bobblehead: None of the Green Bag creations is currently for sale on eBay, though an immobile figurine of Justice John Paul Stevens from Pacific Palisades, Calif., is currently selling for 25 dollars.