93 Year-old Sister Maria Inamorata caused a stir today when she halted court proceedings to admonish Justice Antonin Scalia.
In the middle of a series of caustic questions the Justice was delivering to a clearly distressed plantiff's lawyer, the diminutive sister called the Justice down from the bench and administered a sharp slap to his knuckles with the 12-inch wooden ruler she carries for that purpose.
"Tony was browbeating that young man," she said, when interviewed by this reporter at the close of court for the day. "Just because you're smart and hold a big job doesn't mean you get to be rude to people. Tony thinks that being appointed for life gives him special privileges that other people don't get. I'm here to remind him that it just isn't so."
The nun, a 70 year veteran of teaching third-grade students at St. Ann's Catholic School in Baltimore, Maryland, was assigned last year by The Ruling Authority to monitor the behavior of the nine court members and to remind them of their humanity.
Except for the wimple and the large silver crucifix she wears, the 4'8" nun in her voluminous black habit could be mistaken for a tenth Justice. She rarely sits when court is in session, preferring to move about behind the members of the court, peering over their shoulders at any papers before them and whispering quiet corrections in their ears.
"Have to make sure no one is cheating from another's work," she says. "The girls are not a problem; they all do their own work and know how to behave. It's the boys you have to watch-even Clarence, the one who never speaks.
"Now, Johnny, I just have to show him the ruler and he straightens right up."
When asked if having a Catholic nun involved in the court proceedings was a problem of church and state separation, she said, "You need someone who knows how to keep good discipline here and after teaching the third grade for 70 years, I am that person. Anyways, justice under the law is a very catholic idea . . . small 'c'."
The spokesperson for the R.A. said, "These guys and gals have to be accountable to someone. They're not voted in or out and simply adding another justice or two wouldn't change anything.
"Partisan attitudes are ingrained in the individual member's characters. Their excesses must be curbed and Mary Inamorata can do the job."