WASHINGTON (AP) – Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist is not exactly cuddly, but he is a real doll.

The impassive visage of the Supreme Court leader is now depicted, along with his signature gold-striped judicial robes, on a bobblehead figurine.

The doll is the brainchild of the editors at a small legal journal who intend it as an admittedly peculiar tribute to the 78-year-old jurist in what may be his last year on the bench.

“I’ve never met the man and I probably never will, but we gambled on the possibility that three decades of being called ‘your honor’ has not left him without a sense of humor about himself,” said Ross E. Davies, a law professor at George Mason University and editor in chief of the journal Green Bag.

Rehnquist learned about the doll when one of the little guys appeared in the chief justice’s chambers this month. Davies will not say how it got there, but Rehnquist got a good laugh out of it. He even sent Davies a thank-you letter.

The ceramic figurine really looks like Rehnquist, and features inside details about his work on the bench. Rehnquist is depicted standing atop a color map that was a central feature of a 1979 case he wrote involving 19th-century railroad easements. He is holding an accurate rendition of the bound volumes of Supreme Court opinions.

The miniature chief justice, about 8 inches tall, has become a coveted commodity since word of it spread among lawyers and Supreme Court groupies this month. Davies said he has gotten scores of calls or e-mails from people angling for a Mini Chief of their own.

No such luck, Davies said. For now there are just two prototype dolls, his copy and the one he gave Rehnquist. A limited run of 1,000 dolls is in the works. They will be given free to current Green Bag subscribers.

Davies said he plans no second run.

Once in a while, even Supreme Court justices get to act up.

That was the case last week, when Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer donned their judicial robes to hear a tongue-in-cheek legal case about a Shakespeare play.

As high school English students know, the Bard paints Richard III as a scheming, murderous powermonger. The medieval English king has his partisans, however, who say he is woefully misunderstood.

The king got his day in court more than 500 years after his death, and won at least a symbolic victory. The mock court upheld a fictitious lower court’s finding that a modern production of the play defamed, libeled and slandered the monarch.

Former Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr argued the production was slanderous, while former Acting Solicitor General Walter Dellinger defended the play.

Ginsburg and a lower court judge, Harry T. Edwards of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, ruled against Washington’s Shakespeare Theatre. Breyer dissented.

Richard must not have been all bad, Ginsburg told theater supporters at a dinner held at the high court. After all, she said, Richard ordered that legal opinions be written in English instead of the then-customary Latin.

The evening was all in fun, even though the theater was ordered to pony up $1 in damages, said Jennifer Barrett, the theater’s corporate relations manager.

It’s spring, and a justice’s thoughts turn to Europe.

As in years past, several Supreme Court justices will head across the pond this summer to teach law school classes at European universities.

Rehnquist will teach in Innsbruck, Austria. Breyer will be in Florence, Italy, and Oxford, England. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy will be in Salzburg, Austria, and Ginsburg will be in Barcelona, Spain.

American law schools sponsor the programs, which typically offer salaries as well as travel, hotel and food expenses. By law, the justices cannot take money for making speeches or other appearances. They can, however, moonlight as professors for fees up to about $15,000.

AP-ES-05-18-03 1330EDT

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