"If we could appoint King Solomon, who was the first domestic relations judge, as special master we could do it," said Justice Anthony Kennedy during Tuesday's oral argument in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl. "But we can't do it."
In family cases, though, even Solomon was no Solomon. Faced with two competing claims of maternity, Solomon threatened to hack the baby in half with a sword.
There were no swords in the chamber Tuesday, but the words were sharp. Two usually smooth-as-silk advocates, Lisa Blatt (appearing for the couple seeking to adopt the "Baby Girl" of the case's title) and the Paul Clement (appearing as Baby Girl's court appointed guardian) all but screamed their outrage. Clement labeled the adoptive father's argument "crazy." Blatt seethed, "If you affirm below, you're basically banning the interracial adoption of abandoned Indian children. . . . You are relegating adopted parents to go to the back of the bus and wait in line if they can adopt. And you're basically relegating the child, the child to a piece of property with a sign that says, 'Indian, keep off. Do not disturb.'"
The Justices seemed to find in the case a mirror of their own obsessions: racial classifications (Chief Justice John G. Roberts), the rights of biological fathers (Justice Antonin Scalia), the welfare of children (Justice Anthony Kennedy), the prerogatives of state courts (Justice Samuel Alito), and women's rights (Justice Stephen Breyer).