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Not just the “Barron/baron”: Stanford law prof Pamela Karlan’s bad puns on public occasions go back for decades

December 5, 2019
You might have thought Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler’s round of law professors opining on whether President Donald J. Trump is impeachment material was going to be one dreary legalistic slog. That’s because you didn’t realize that one of the profs, Pamela Karlan of Stanford, has a second career as biting humorist and pun-meistress.
You can’t keep a funny woman down, so the wisecracking professor swiftly turned what was supposed to be about high crimes and misdemeanors focusing all eyes on Orange Man into a standup routine focusing all eyes on Karlan herself:
“Contrary to what President Trump has said, Article 2 [of the Constitution] does not give him the power to do anything he wants,” testified Pamela Karlan, a professor at Stanford Law School. “The Constitution says there can be no titles of nobility, so while the president can name his son Barron, he can’t make him a baron.”
This isn’t the first time Karlan has deftly worked attention-grabbing wit into chin-pulling legal proceedings. Here she is before the Supreme Court on Oct. 7, 2019, trying to get stuffy Justice Samuel Alito persuaded that the firing of two men from their jobs allegedly because they were gay amounted to sex discrimination in employment banned by the 1964 Civil Rights Act even though the act itself refers only to one’s sex, not one’s sexual orientation:
JUSTICE ALITO:  Is that discrimination on the basis of sex where the decisionmaker doesn’t even know the person’s sex?
MS. KARLAN: And — and how do they know the person’s sexual orientation?
JUSTICE ALITO: Because somebody who interviewed the candidates tells them that.
MS. KARLAN: And they are unable to tell anything about the person’s sex?
MS. KARLAN: So this is Saturday Night Live Pat, as — as an example, right?
JUSTICE ALITO: Well, I’m not familiar with that.
MS. KARLAN: Which is the person named Pat, and you can never tell whether Pat is a man or a woman.
More of Prof. Karlan’s finely honed penchant for punning, from her 2009 graduation speech at Stanford Law School:
Members of the graduating class, spouses, partners, children, and friends of the graduates, parents of the graduates and also their in-laws, members of OUTLaw, people who are bisexual and people who are bilingual and people who are biracial, people of color, people in the minority, other dissenters, people who want to do justice and people who plan to be a Justice, people who represent the convicted and people with convictions,people with backbone, people with six-pack abs, people with staggering figures andpeople who owe staggering figures, well-paid people, underpaid people, members of the faculty, people with citations in the Stanford Law Review or from the Stanford Police Department….
Don’t you want to laugh along with Karlan going on and on in this vein forever?
And even more wordplay, from her closing remarks at the 2006 convention of the American Constitutional Society:
Professor Karlan suggested that “we need a rule of law that’s more than just a law of rules. We need laws that are just, and not just laws that satisfy the presentment clause.”
The  punstering wit of Karlan, whom admirers call “the Antonia Scalia of the left,” almost won her a seat on the Supreme Court in 2009–but then-President Barack Obama apparently thought the better of it and chose the more “moderate” Sonia Sotomayor instead.
Ah, the high court’s loss, but our jokestering gain…forever, it would seem.
Posted by Charlotte Allen

From → Uncategorized

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