Burger Finds Room at the Court for Children of Friends
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The anti-nepotism rule - ″no relatives″ - covering most Supreme Court jobs is firm except when Chief Justice Warren E. Burger chooses to bend it.
Several applicants for paying summer internships at the nation’s highest court were turned away this year because they were related to one of the court’s 300 employees.
But the year-old policy did not stop Burger from finding summer court jobs for the two children of Richard Khu, a court-employed carpenter who with his family for years lived at and cared for Burger’s home in suburban Virginia.
Burger apparently intended to have the two teen-agers work in his office this summer. The employment decisions of Burger and the court’s eight associate justices are not constrained by the anti-nepotism rule.
Court spokeswoman Toni House refused to comment on the chief justice’s employment practices.
Although technically still assigned to Burger’s staff, one youth is working for the court clerk and the other for the court marshal.
Burger also has awarded four non-paying summer internships to two children of a friend and to two friends of those children.
When a freedom-of-religion case from Nebraska sparked a 4-4 vote recently, it tied a modern-day record for the justices.
The vote marked the eighth 4-4 split this term, the most since 1940 when there also were eight cases resolved by an evenly divided court.
Such votes automatically uphold the lower court’s rulings, but do not set any national precedents. The court releases a one-line affirmance without saying on which side of the particular issue each justice lined up.
This term’s 4-4 votes resulted from the non-participation of Justice Lewis F. Powell, who missed hearing arguments in the 56 cases considered in January and February while he recuperated from cancer surgery.
The court’s recent decision reaffirming its position that anti-obscenity laws cannot be used to suppress material that provokes ″only normal, healthy sexual desires,″ got an instant review from Washington satirist Mark Russell.
″The court says lust is healthy,″ Russell said after noting the advancing years of many of the justices. ″At the Supreme Court, lust is miraculous.″
And finally, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor has requested that The Associated Press refer to her, on second reference, as ″O’Connor″ - not ″Mrs. O’Connor″ as it has for four years.
When she joined the court in 1981, O’Connor was asked, under the AP’s former style policy, whether she preferred to be called ″Mrs.″ or ″Ms.″ in any second reference. She chose ″Justice″ but AP style could not accommodate the request.
A change in AP style has entitled O’Connor’s name to the same treatment as the names of the court’s eight men.