WASHINGTON – A groundskeeper for the U.S. Supreme Court said all nine justices are in “impeccable spirits,” thanks to an unusually-cool summer and recent renovations to their holding pen.
“They’re finally enjoying themselves,” said Mike Evans, who was named head of the groundskeeping crew. “We tore down some walls to give them more room to run around. They have new shelves to climb on. We also installed a toilet, which helps a lot with the smell.”
“And most importantly,” Evans added, “we take them on a walk once a week so they can get a little sun and some fresh air.”
The improvements to the summer-recess holding pen come in the wake of a “60 Minutes” segment that aired in early July on CBS. The segment claimed the nine justices — several of whom are elderly and suffer from poor health — were routinely denied adequate ventilation. The segment also claimed their only source of light, which was an incandescent bulb fixed to the wall, often burned out, leaving the justices in the dark for days on end.
A CBS reporter dressed as a magistrate judge was able to sneak in to the holding pen and obtain video footage, which was then aired on “60 Minutes,” causing a firestorm of controversy.
Arthur Hazel, spokesman for the Supreme Court, admitted in a press conference that the former holding pen — which was completed in 1935, along with the rest of the building — had fallen into disrepair. He blamed budget constraints for the delay in renovations, which had originally been scheduled for 2009.
In a rare show of bipartisanship, Congress quickly voted to allocate funding for improvements to the holding pen and to hire additional groundskeeping staff.
Leaders in both parties are hoping the justices will be well-rested for what is likely to be a contentious fall session. The justices will be released a few days prior to the October 1 start.
Evans said he and his team are committed to making sure the justices are treated humanely. He promised they will be stimulated in order keep their minds active, and they will have enough physical comforts to stay in decent health. Each justice now has a personal box fan for hot days, and all the justices have been given a variety of play items including a deck of cards, a basket of doll parts, and a stack of “fascinating and historic” newspapers from the 1840s that were discovered under a grate.
“The justices belong to all of us,” Evans said. “We need to take care of them.”