WASHINGTON—Solemnly gathered around the former associate justice’s casket, the nine current justices observed a traditional Supreme Court ritual Tuesday by driving a stake through John Paul Stevens’ heart to ensure he was really dead before his burial. “This is a longtime Supreme Court rite that began after one of the original justices, the Honorable William Cushing, was accidentally buried alive in 1802, and the justices who narrowly avoided that close call vowed it would never happen again,” said Associate Justice Stephen Breyer before taking the ceremonial gavel from Chief Justice John Roberts and using it to hammer the stake farther into the corpse of Stevens laid out in the Capitol rotunda. “Unfortunately, after Justice Cushing was discovered when he knocked on the lid of his coffin just before it was lowered into the ground, some nasty rumors spread that the Supreme Court justices could come back from the dead, or were potentially immortal beings. The Marshall court obviously couldn’t let this popular superstition gain any more credence among the American public, so beginning with William Paterson in 1806, every single Supreme Court justice has had a stake driven through their heart to assure the justices and the citizenry that they have truly passed away. Of course, it’s been largely a formality, except for the unfortunate incident in 1930 when the Court accidentally killed William Howard Taft.” At press time, Roberts had determined that Stevens’ heart wasn’t beating and began to light the ceremonial pyre the Supreme Court ritually constructs to ensure the release of every justice’s soul from their body and grant it safe passage to the afterlife.

Advertisement