West Wing Continuity Guide
path: Home / Fifth Season Episodes * #517 "The Supremes"
Sheen, Schiff & Glenn Close Martin Sheen as President Bartlet, Richard Schiff as Communications Director Toby Ziegler and Glenn Close as Judge Evelyn Baker Lang
NBC: Warner Bros. photo
Written by: Debora Cahn, Directed by: Jessica Yu
Broadcast: March 24, 2004
Query: What happened to Mendoza?
Query: Why didn't Bartlet know the official title of the Chief Justice?

The Administration is dropping everything to find a replacement for an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court who just died. Just to mollify the liberals and frighten the conservatives, Toby and Josh interview a Judge Lang who is too liberal. They play it straight, but she knows what's going on:
"A conservative anchor of the Court has just died: a young, brilliant thinker who brought the right out of the closet and championed a whole conservative revival. You cannot replace Owen Brady with a woman who overturned a parental consent law. You'd be shish-kabobbed and set aflame on the South Lawn.... I'm window dressing. That's fine. I'm happy to help. But let's just chat about the weather."

She impresses Josh, but Judge Lang is too liberal to get confirmed so Bartlet interviews someone more moderate who won't tell him what he thinks on different broad fields:
"...I don't position myself on issues. And I don't know what I think about a case until I hear it. There are moderates who are called that because the're not activists. And there are moderates that are called that because sometimes they wind up on the left and sometimes on the right.... My allegiance to the eccentricities of a case will reliably outweigh my allegiance to any position...."

Still trying to win points with the left and frighten the right, Josh and Toby again interview Judge Lang. Josh becomes more and more fascinated and tells Toby,
"I love her. I love her mind. I love her shoes." Toby, however, is more practical and they are both floored by a revelation from her which makes it even more impossible to nominate her with any hope at all of success.
Later talking to C.J. Josh says, "The woman is --- you should hear her."
"What? So, she is a serious candidate?"
"She should be."

Donna says something that gives Josh and idea which he explains to Toby,
"The Chief Justice says he would step down because the President wouldn't be able to fill his seat with another liberal lion [see episode #507]. She's the liberal lion. Ashland resigns, she takes his seat... and we offer the Republican Senate Judiciary Committee the opportunity to hand pick a conservative for Brady's seat. We put them both up."

Toby sees only the idea of handing the conservatives a seat on the Supreme Court so Josh decides to take it to the President and along the way he keeps arguing with Toby. The argument gets louder as they continue in Debbie's office outside the Oval as Toby argues for Shelton the moderate: Glenn Close
"Shelton's not bright enough for you?"
"I want more than bright. If we had a bench full of moderates in '54, Separate but Equal would still be on the books...."
"Moderate means temperate. It means responsible. It means thoughtful."
"It means cautious. It means unimaginative...." Both Toby and Josh have raised their voices and Debbie tries to quiet them but they only hear each other.
"Indoor voices please," she tells them but they go on and on.
"...The ability to see two sides of an argument is not the hallmark of an inferior intellect!"
Josh responds to this with even louder debate, so to get their attention, Debbie squirts Josh with water. Both of them quiet and Toby draws back. Now she can tell them, "The President will see you now."
Meanwhile, Toby discusses with Andy a Congressional fact-finding mission to the Middle East she is going to lead in a few weeks. Her group intends to meet with Israeli and Palestinians who have peace ideas that their respective governments have rejected. Toby raises his voice again. She ignores his insistence that what she is planning is "not an option" and changes the subject to their twins. In another part of the West Wing, Josh finds C.J.'s office door closed and from behind that door he hears the sound of her laughter. He asks Carol,
"She in there?"
"Hang on. She's getting off." Then when she hears how that can sound with the laughter, she continues, "The phone."
When in C.J.'s office, Toby joins them and C.J. continues to find things funny. Josh tells Toby, "C.J. has the giggles...."
"She stoned?"
"I'm fine. I just didn't get enough sleep," she says to explain.
But Josh has a different explanation: "You were with Ranger Rick, weren't you?" C.J. changes the subject to the name Josh has gotten from the Republicans. And Toby blows a gasket.

But when Toby calms down, he actually volunteers to take the name to the President. Then the President blows a gasket. Judge Mulready is a hot button issue. And when he is called in to the White House he knows absolutely that no Democratic President would nominate him for the Supreme Court so he asks Toby,
"You want to tell me what I'm doing here?"
"Oh, just a hello."
"I'm not being impeached?"
"This isn't a not particularly subtle form of intimidation about the gays in the workplace case?"

After laughingly denying trying to intimidate a judge, Toby takes the opportunity to engage Mulready in an argument about the Defense of Marriage Act. But when Judge Lang joins them she tells Toby that Mulready was just "yanking his chain". Lang and Mulready then engage in a heated argument about several cases. After watching them, Toby goes to the President who is surprised,
"You like him?"
"I hate him.... But he's brilliant."
Mulready is then brought in and when Bartlet suggests Lang is, "Not your kind of judge?"
Mulready replies, "Quite the opposite, I haven't had that much fun in months.... Use her if you can." When Bartlet suggests maybe he might be on the court someday he says, "They can't put me on the Court. Just like you can't put Evelyn Lang on the court. It's Sheltons from now on."

In the end, Bartlet decides to go along with Josh's idea. Right before the announcement everyone is on board except Charlie who is arguing with Mulready,
"...affirmative action's about a legacy of racial oppression."
"It's about compromising admissions standards."
"That's bull --- Excuse me. It's about leveling the playing field after 300 years---"
"See, this is where the liberal argument goes off the rails. You get stuck in the past. Now, you want to come back at me with: Grading is based on past performance, but admission should be based on potential and how a candidate may thrive with this sort of opportunity. And studies show that affirmative action admits have a higher disposition to contribute to society."
"Hang on, I've got to write this down."

For anyone interested in guest stars of this episode (as well as more information),
let us recommend the West Wing Episode Guide.

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28 Amendment
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