I refer to 71:31.

71:31 And Hugo Black stands up and stalks out
71:34 of the room, which is our polite way of saying, you're recused.
71:38 And so, the argument went on.
71:41 And at the end of the argument, the attorney
71:43 said, now, I don't know why Hugo did that,
71:45 because he's my cousin.

  1. Did Kennedy J misspeak by using the personal pronoun 'you're'? Isn't the Justice who 'stands up and stalks out of the room' the one who's recusing himself (no female justices then)?

  2. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but is Kennedy J implying a conflict of interest between the lawyer and Black J as they're cousins?


As I understand the story, Black recused himself because the attorney was his cousin. I think the joke is that the attorney thought it wasn't necessary for Black to do so, perhaps because the attorney didn't understand how seriously conflicts of interest are taken.

I don't think Kennedy misspoke; I think he's just used the generic you construct, in which "you" is used as an impersonal pronoun instead of "one". His sentence could be rephrased more formally as:

Hugo Black stands up and stalks out of the room, which among Supreme Court justices is a polite way to say that one is recused.

In other words, Black's action is equivalent to him saying "I am recused".

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  • In particular I think the transcription is in error and shouldn't have that extra comma in the line in question. It should be "which is our polite way of saying you're recused". – zibadawa timmy Jun 12 '19 at 6:12
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    The great grammatician that he was, I believe Daffy Duck would identify this as "Pronoun Troubles". Anthony is not quallifying what "Our" means and it reads more planely as "SCOTUS sans Black" which makes it seems the statment in full reads as the other 8 justices telling black that he's recused and he gets angry as he leaves. The intended meaning Our seems to be "Any SCOTUS Justice" and the statement in full would read, "Among the Justices, this is a polite way to say you are (you're) recusing (yourself)." – hszmv Jun 12 '19 at 15:03

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