Talk about movers and shakers

Law journal offers bobbleheads of high court justices

July 23, 2006|By HEATHER GEHLERT | HEATHER GEHLERT,LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON -- David Wolf's passion is constitutional law; his hobby is collecting. So when the Washington lawyer discovered a listing on eBay that would round out one of his collections, he forked over $2,100.

It was for a limited-edition, 8-inch poly-resin bobblehead of the late U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.

"I don't know if I can explain it," said Wolf. "I'm obsessive."

Wolf also paid more than $800 for a Justice John Paul Stevens bobblehead after he realized that the one he owned was missing the small golf club in the figurine's right hand.

Wolf's fascination with Supreme Court bobbleheads is part of a small but growing craze that began in the spring of 2003, when The Green Bag - which describes itself as "an entertaining journal of law" - put out the Rehnquist figure.

Since then, the quarterly magazine, which publishes examinations of legal issues alongside tongue-in-cheek diatribes, has produced bobbleheads of Stevens (fall 2003), Sandra Day O'Connor (2004) and Antonin Scalia (2005). An Anthony M. Kennedy bobblehead is due next month.

Production will continue - most likely one a year - in order of tenure on the court, with David H. Souter next and continuing through the most recent appointee, Samuel A. Alito Jr.

The popularity of bobbleheads has exploded in recent years. Alexander Global Promotions of Seattle, the nation's largest manufacturer of the spring-loaded figurines, says it has produced 27 million depictions of rock stars, cartoon characters and sports icons, among others, since 1999.

But the Supreme Court figures - also made by Alexander - are extremely rare, and they are given away at random by The Green Bag editors.

The only person guaranteed to get one is the justice depicted. Most of the justice bobbleheads are awarded to The Green Bag subscribers; others go to public-interest legal groups that use them as fundraisers. Some, like the ones Wolf snagged, end up on eBay.

Why is The Green Bag doing this?

"Supreme Court justices [are] the rock stars of the judiciary," said Montgomery N. Kosma, one of the journal's two executive editors and an antitrust lawyer at a large Washington firm.

What Ross E. Davies, editor in chief of The Green Bag, described as one of those "in-the-shower ideas" has sparked a cult following among legal geeks.

Besides being fun, the bobbles are meant to honor the justices and showcase the humor in an otherwise serious job. As befits legal esoterica, each figurine includes detailed annotations explaining the significance of the items depicted. The annotations - along with animated bobbles - are also on the publication's Web site, www.greenbag.org/bobbleheads.

Heather Gehlert writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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