Thursday, December 05, 2002

Supreme Court: Superman "Totally Not a Coaster"

In a sharply divided opinion, the United States Supreme Court declared last Wednesday that the Constitution mandates a finding that the launched ride Superman: The Escape at Six Flags Magic Mountain is in fact not a roller coaster.

The opinion stunned legal experts, most of whom had anticipated that the Court would conclude that the ride was, in fact, a roller coaster. Prior cases, including In re Dragon Coaster, in which the Court found that the popular children's ride -- fully powered throughout its circuit -- was a coaster, despite its lack of gravity power had strongly suggested that a similar result would be reached here.

However, Justice Breyer, writing for the Court, rejected that case and others like it as "wrongheaded, and wussy too." He argued for decisiveness and for the value of drawing bright lines in the Court's decisions of such critical cases.

Breyer pointed to the outrage and confusion following In re That Toboggan Ride Thing, in which the Court found the task of identifying a portable ride with certain coaster-like attributes too difficult and called it "sorta coaster-like": "Though these decisions may be difficult, and, indeed, though my discomfort in making these decisions is palpable, we just have to do so."

The vote was extremely close, with four justices dissenting vigorously from the majority opinion. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, joined by Chief Justice Rehnquist, agreed with Justice Breyer's desire for decisiveness but found the conclusion that Superman was not a coaster to be "laughable if it were not so sad a comment on the current Court and its stupid poopy-headed mind."

Justice O'Connor relied on evidence of the Founding Fathers' beliefs about coasters. She quoted letters from Alexander Hamilton and James Madison discussing the First Amendment, both using the phrase "Congress shall call anything that involves gravity, wheels, and seats a coaster."

"This," she concluded, "compels the conclusion that Superman: The Escape is absolutely a coaster, and anyone who says differently is just a coaster tool." Chief Justice Rehnquist filed a short opinion concurring with Justice O'Connor's, calling her opinion "awesome" and noting that he would be posting a link to it on's forums under his user name "Riding4Justice4Ever."

Justice Scalia also filed a dissenting opinion. His conclusion reads as follows: "My rodent-brained brethren fail to recognize the complete absurdity, stupidity, and irrelevance of their efforts. This Court must not waste its time attempting to resolve such petty issues. Our time could have been better spent in deciding a truly important question: Should all executives of Six Flags Parks be executed for their parking fees, or just enough to make an example of them? I grumpily dissent."

Legal experts expect the parking fees issue to reach the high court by late this year, but also anticipate a potential delay if Justice Thomas is allowed to talk to the cute parking attendant at Six Flags America while on a "factfinding visit."