The topic of the day at the Supreme Court on Feb. 27 was oil and water — specifically, the Exxon Valdez oil spill into Alaska’s Prince William Sound in 1989.

So why did Justice Stephen Breyer keep referring to sand during the 90 minutes of oral argument? He was using shorthand to refer to John R. Sand & Gravel Co. v. United States, a decision he had written a mere six weeks earlier.

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