Supreme Court Siblings

I have a question about a stylistic convention in Supreme Court opinions. Back when all of the Justices were male, some of them would refer to each other as “Brother.” “My Brother Black,” “My Brother Frankfurter,” etc. After Justice O’Connor joined the Court, though, this usage disappeared.

Why didn’t the usage become broader instead? In other words, why couldn’t they say “My Sister Ginsburg” or “My Sister Kagan” as well as “My Brother Kennedy?” I am not sure there is a gender neutral term for “Brethren,” but they could have stopped using that while retaining the individual terms.

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6 Responses

  1. Mike Stern says:

    Because “My Sister Kagan” sounds like a bad sitcom?

  2. Orin Kerr says:

    Probably because it a typical usage was in the plural, “my brethren” or “my brothers,” and it’s sort of weird to say, “my brethren and my sister too.”

  3. Orin Kerr says:

    And probably also because it was a chummy old boys’ network sort of thing to say so it seemed out of place in a more modern world.

  4. Brother Malkovitch says:

    They started using “Brother” in 1970, after Woodstock (and Justice Abe Fortas left), and stopped in June 1981, right before Justice O’Connor joined the court. So the convention didn’t last that long. It was probably mostly to show that despite Abe Fortas leaving in disgrace, they were all close-knit friends.

  5. Brother Malkovitch says:

    “My Brother MURPHY has discussed the charge with respect to the substance of the crime.”
    -Justice Rutledge’s dissent, In re Yamashita (1946)

    Guess it was before 1970!

  6. Brother Malkovitch says:

    “For my Brother BLACK is unwilling to subscribe to their view that the Weeks exclusionary rule derives from the Fourth Amendment itself (see ante, p. 661), but joins the majority opinion on the premise that its end result can be achieved by bringing the Fifth Amendment to the aid of the Fourth (see ante pp. 662-665). [n12]”
    -Justice Harlan’s dissent, Mapp v. Ohio (1961)

    Was wondering where you found Brother Black