Supporters of health care reform rally in front of the Supreme Court.

Late during Wednesday’s oral arguments over the health-care law, Scalia channeled an old Jack Benny gag in which an armed robber asks his victim, “Your money or your life?” In the comedy act, Benny, who played the role of a tightwad, pauses. The gunman demands an answer. The punchline: “I’m thinking, I’m thinking...”

Scalia used the gag as an example of an easy call to make. However, he wondered, what if the “choice were your life or your wife’s. That’s a lot harder.” But later, he indicated that he’d spare his own life. “Your life or your wife’s, I could refuse that one.”

The crowd laughed, and Justice Sonya Sotomayor broke in, quipping, “He’s not going home tonight.”


Chief Justice John Roberts, who at 57, is the second-youngest member of the bench, shut down the spousal humor. “That’s enough frivolity for a while.”