The Supreme Court Vents

Column by Emmett Harris.

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In a surprise move following their recent decision to hear the case of Salinas vs. Texas later this year, the Supreme Court has opted to address a silent, but deadly serious issue that has been percolating for some time. While the Salinas case will determine whether the refusal to answer police questions or to show sufficient verbal shock at police accusations can be used as evidence of guilt in court, essentially relegating the 5th Amendment to the graveyard where most of its Bill of Rights brethren have been interred, the other issue is sure to go down in the anals of American jurisprudence. This issue, of course, is whether silence can used as proof of guilt in the area of flatulence.

Now, you may think the people in black robes have no business weighing in on such a topic, but the Court, through cases ranging from Salinas to Martin, has shown that nothing is off limits. No topic is too great or too trivial for their brand of wisdom. As Justice Scalia remarked in the Martin case, “It has been rendered the solemn duty of the Supreme Court of the United States . . . to decide What Is Golf.” And if the Supreme Court can vent on that, who could have a beef with them considering the rules of etiquette when passing gas? It's a brave new world and the winds of change are blowing.

The problem of taciturn toots, or flatus silentium, is especially prevalent in courtrooms, where anal acoustics can disrupt the formality of proceedings. Therefore, defendants, plaintiffs, and especially members of the court resort to more circumspect means of butt belching. A bottom eruption lacking in decibels, however, can still assault the senses. Worse still, unlike trouser coughs, the perpetrator often gets away with it, a sure indication that our justice system has failed. This simply can't be tolerated.

There are concerns that a silence-equals-guilt ruling will have unintended consequences. Firstly, Shinta Cho is considering a new book called The Guilt We Pass, which would be timed for release with the decision. Children everywhere could be corrupted. Secondly, an entire segment of society could begin trumpeting with abandon, assured that the very volume of their enthusiastic expulsions would deflect accusations toward more restrained bystanders. Lastly, it is one thing to deflect guilt to the innocent when an actual windward crime has been committed, as long as someone pays, societal desires for thoughtless vengeance are satisfied, but what about cases where the proverbial duck has not been stepped upon? Should innocent people be put at risk by someone afflicted with borborygmus? Or will they be counted as collateral damage in Operation Stale Wind?

Enforcement would be another problem area for the Court to consider. What if a noiseless match-lighter begins curling nose hairs, but everyone remains silent? Would the people of this nation stand for mass arrests? Perhaps Quantum Sniffers(TM) or anemometers could employ pinpoint precision in identifying the offending sphincter? I'm sure it won't be long before the Oval Orifice floats an air biscuit to gauge the public's reaction.

Despite the concerns and problems, the court has been all too willing in the past to concede more power to the executive and legislative branches. Chief Justice Roberts even transformed an individual mandate into a tax to find it constitutional, so it seems likely that whether it's homicide or flatucide, the accused will no longer be able to hide behind a wall of silence. And anyone who thinks that is a bad idea must be a real stinker.  

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Emmett Harris's picture
Columns on STR: 14

Emmett Harris lives in New Hampshire, home of the Free State Project.


Paul's picture

A fine article. Gross, but fine.

Emmett Harris's picture

Thanks, Paul.  Government does a fine job of stinking, so I figured the article couldn't be much grosser than that.

Glock27's picture

I must have something blcking my senses because I am not smelling the same thing everyone else here is smelling. Is this a cute way of sayng the Supreme Court Stinks on all levels of developing a unbiased opinion of a law?

Emmett Harris's picture

Thanks.  It's satire, but you, the reader, can decide the smelliness of the Supreme Court.

Glock27's picture

Thanks Emmett,'
I am affraid that my gereatic mind just dosen't play fair with me anymore Just drove into the garage door this morning with the truck and now I have to fix it. In my mind I had just opened the door.
I find the supreme court offensive to human life. Here we have nine black vultures setting on a tree limb looking down at the meat. I was stummed when I learned these people don't really come up with the decisions or read the briefs or do much but doo doo and pee and eat. I have just fiished reading the Consiitution for about the 30th time when I discovered that My eyes just looked at the words and not see what they intended or implied. Article 1 section 8 is a scary one. I am taking a different approach this time. Making my notes and then will go to other sources to dig our what some of this other crap means. You left a sight that may be most helpful. I have the bill of rights to go through. Why is this old fart saying this. Because I am/was/is a Constitutionalist. My position has been that the Constitution has never had a fair start right out of the gate with Washington and the Whiskey Rebellion. They wrote it and left it in the dirt. I read what othe frames say about the Constitution and have this intuitive feel if there were virtus, moral, equity abiding men/women then it might stand a chance of being a truely functional document, but when you have lizards, maggots and vultures hanging around pecking at that tomb only g-d knows what's going to come out.