Justice Breyer’s Public Undressing

Justice Stephen G. Breyer unwittingly sparked mass tittering at the U.S. Supreme Court this morning when one of his stream-of-consciousness questions went a little off course.

It was during the oral argument in a high-profile case over whether the strip search of a 13-year-old schoolgirl was constitutional. School officials in Safford, Ariz., suspected the girl, Savana Redding, of hiding prescription-strength pills on her person, possibly in her underwear.

Breyer was attempting to put a hypothetical question to the girl’s lawyer about how common it is for students to be partially undressed while at school, such as when they are changing for gym class.  But, as the transcript shows, it all went a bit wrong.

“So what am I supposed to do? In my experience when I was 8 or 10 or 12 years old, you know, we did take our clothes off once a day, we changed for gym, okay? And in my experience, too, people did sometimes stick things in my underwear.”

He stopped in his tracks as the entire courtroom dissolved into laughter. Then he attempted to dig himself out:

“Or not my underwear. Whatever. Whatever. I was the one who did it? I don’t know.”

Whether or not the question was purely hypothetical remains unknown.

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