Judicial Hyperactivity

Soon-to-be-former chief justice of the United States Warren E. Burger has declared that he wants to work full time as chairman of the Commission on the Bicentennial of the Constitution. But until the swearing-in of a new chief justice, Burger must continue to wear both hats.

There was thus a certain amount of confusion at a public hearing of the Bicentennial Commission Friday, with speakers vacillating between titles in addressing the chair. Burger stopped several times to lend his judicial ear to an aide discreetly but urgently whispering. Finally, the chairman/chief justice excused himself, explaining, "There is business of the court which I must be excused to attend to for a few minutes."

Not long after he left, the bright television lights went out in the elegant Hall of Flags of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, where the hearing was held. After Burger's return, they flashed on again. The next speaker was the Rev. William McInnes, president of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, who began by noting with awe, "You seem to have the power over light and darkness."

"No," replied Burger, "that's the Supreme Court, not the commission."

The Human Factor . . .

Patricia Goldman, acting chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, last Thursday did something that many first-time visitors to the Grand Canyon area do: she made the wrong turn.

Goldman was several hours late arriving at Grand Canyon to head the probe of the collision between a helicopter and a small plane that killed 25. A worried sheriff dispatched a car to find her.

Goldman and her special assistant, Lemoine (Lee) Dickinson Jr., had simply missed a turn on the drive from the Phoenix airport. "It was a simple case of poor crew coordination," Goldman said, citing a frequent cause of aviation accidents.

The Shoe Drops . . .

As long expected, the White House announced that President Reagan will nominate Associate Attorney General Arnold I. Burns as deputy attorney general. Burns will succeed D. Lowell Jensen if, as seems certain, he's confirmed by the Senate.

Surmise Confirmed . . .

In another move that met with no surprise, the Senate voted Thursday night to confirm Dorcas R. Hardy as commissioner of the Social Security system. She will succeed John A. Svahn.