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Monday, March 6, 2006
Line Item Veto?
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:48 am

Via ABC News: Bush to Propose Line-Item Veto Legislation

President Bush plans to send proposed legislation to Congress on Monday that would allow him to control spending by vetoing specific items in larger bills, a Bush administration official said.

This strikes me as a total non-starter. The Surpeme Court was pretty emphatic when it struck down the 1996 legislation that granted a line item veto and it is pretty clear that the only way to get one is to amend the constitution-and that is radically unlikley.

Here are some highlight from the June 26, 1998 edition of WaPo on the Court’s ruling:

In a 6 to 3 decision, the court held that the line-item veto law violates a constitutional requirement that legislation be passed by both houses of Congress and presented in its entirety to the president for signature or veto.

[…]

Unlike earlier laws giving the president discretionary spending authority, “this act gives the president the unilateral power to change the text of duly enacted statutes,” Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the majority.

Such line-item vetoes are “the functional equivalent of partial repeals of acts of Congress,” he said. But “there is no provision in the Constitution that authorizes the president to enact, to amend or to repeal statutes,” he added.

[…]

In his opinion, Stevens said Congress could alter the president’s role in determining the final text of a law only by constitutional amendment.

Even with the changes in the composition of the Court since that ruling, I don’t see that fact changing.

The dissenters in the case were Scalia, O’Connor and Breyer.

Filed under: US Politics, Courts/the Judiciary | Comments (5) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

A Stitch in Haste linked with What Part of "Unconstitutional" is Unclear?
Thursday, March 2, 2006
On the Redistricting Case
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:37 am

Here are some thoughts on the Texas redistricting case before the Supreme Court.

The problem here is that while I agree that partisan gerrymandering is a problem, reversing the current Texas map doesn’t take partisanship out of the process, as it simply reverts to a map that was drawn primarily to Democratic advantage (as the court map was largely based on districts drawn by the Texas State Legislature when the Democrats dominated the process).

Unless the Court were to impose a radical change on the way we draw districts (which it isn’t going to do), then I don’t see this case as really having any substantial effect on this process or problem.

In the general sense of the political as a struggle for power over the government, it seems to me that what the Texas State Legislature did was legitimate, even if it underscored the fact that the current system does not produce desirable results.

In regards to the likelihood of the Court overturning the districts, note the following two quotes from oral argument.

First, David Souter:

“It is impossible to take partisanship out of a political process,” Souter said. If politics is a sole basis of challenge, he said, ” I don’t see why that does not imply the illegitimacy of any redistricting at any time.”

Second, Ruth Bader-Ginsburg:

And when Smith argued that the mid-decade redistricting by the Legislature had overturned a much fairer plan for reasons that were purely political, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said she was puzzled. “I thought a plan drafted by the state legislature replaced a plan that had been drafted by a court?”

If Ginsburg and Souter are skeptical, I can’t see the Court overturning the districts in question.

Further, there is a legitimate question here that is quite difficult: if one is to say that the admixture of partisan politics and districting should not take place, how is one to determine when partisanship has influenced district lines, and then determine how much is too much?

I would like to see a different system of district drawing to exist, however, as long as the power is retained by elected officials in state legislature, it will be impossible to remove partisan politics from the process. And since there is no way that SCOTUS is going to do that, or even has a basis for so doing, then looking to this case to fix much of anything is an empty hope (unless all one is hoping for is an increased chance that Democrats will gain seats from Texas this year-but of course that would be partisan politics…).

(This post is based, in part, on a comment I left over at Charging RINO, which has a nice round-up of news stories on this subject).

h/t: Jeremy Dibbell posting at the Moderate Voice.

Filed under: US Politics, Courts/the Judiciary | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Alito’s Letter to Dobson
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:09 am

Much will, no doubt, be made of Alito’s letter to Dobson, especially since it contains overtly Christian references and language in it.

The real question, however, is how common such letters are from those who sit on the bench to those who do not.

Here’s the info, along with the text, via the Raw Story: Alito thanks Christian right leader for supporting nomination; Says he will ‘keep in mind’ trust on court

Filed under: Courts/the Judiciary, Religion | Comments (2) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Court Questions on the Campaign Finance Case
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:00 am

Via the NYT: Vermont Campaign Limits Get Cool Reception at Court

The chief justice challenged the attorney general’s assertion that money was a corrupting influence on Vermont’s political system, the state’s main rationale for its law. “How many prosecutions for political corruption have you brought?” he asked the state official.

“Not any,” Mr. Sorrell replied.

“Do you think corruption in Vermont is a serious problem?”

“It is,” the attorney general replied, noting that polls showed that most state residents thought corporations and wealthy individuals exerted an undue influence in the state.

The chief justice persisted. “Would you describe your state as clean or corrupt?” he asked.

“We have got a problem in Vermont,” Mr. Sorrell repeated.

It certainly does beg the question, does it not? If there is an obvious “problem” why haven’t any prosecutions been brought?

h/t: Althouse, who also notes the new CJ’s insistence on precise language.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006
You Can’t Make This Stuff Up
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 3:09 pm

Via Reuters: Court hears Anna Nicole Smith’s case

Filed under: Courts/the Judiciary | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
South Dakota Throws Down Gauntlet on Roe
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:08 pm

Via Reuters S. Dakota legislature passes abortion ban

South Dakota became the first U.S. state to pass a law banning abortion in virtually all cases, with the intention of forcing the Supreme Court to reconsider its 1973 decision legalizing the procedure.

The law, which would punish doctors who perform the operation with a five-year prison term and a $5,000 fine, awaits the signature of Republican Gov. Michael Rounds and people on both sides of the issue say he is unlikely to veto it.

[…]

State legislatures in Ohio, Indiana, Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky also have introduced similar measures this year, but South Dakota’s legislative calendar means its law is likely to be enacted first.

Most interesting.

Regardless of one’s position on the topic, this is some high drama, high stakes politics. Indeed, it is surprising that no state has attempted this process before.

Of course, just because the law is passed and then is challenged in federal court doesn’t mean that it will ever get beyond the Circuit Court level.

Filed under: Abortion, Courts/the Judiciary | Comments (2) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
SCOTUS to Hear Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act Case
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:41 am

Via WaPo: Supreme Court Plunges Into Abortion Debate

The Supreme Court said Tuesday it will consider the constitutionality of banning a type of late-term abortion, teeing up a contentious issue for a newly-constituted court already in a state of flux over privacy rights.

This will be a big one is a lot of ways, not the least of which being that the last time a partial bith abortion case came to the Court, a state law was struck down by a 5-4 vote, with Sandra Day O’Connor being the tie-breaker.

The Bush administration has pressed the high court to reinstate the federal law, passed in 2003 but never put in effect because it was struck down by judges in California, Nebraska and New York.

Filed under: Abortion, Courts/the Judiciary | Comments (2) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

A Stitch in Haste linked with The Real Significance of the Partial-Birth Abortion Case
SCOTUS Allows Hallucinogenic Tea
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:33 am

Via WaPo: Supreme Court OKs Hallucinogenic Tea

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Tuesday that a small congregation in New Mexico may use hallucinogenic tea as part of a four-hour ritual intended to connect with God.

Justices, in their first religious freedom decision under Chief Justice John Roberts, moved decisively to keep the government out of a church’s religious practice. Federal drug agents should have been barred from confiscating the hoasca tea of the Brazil-based church, Roberts wrote in the decision.

Interesting. I always find these types of ruling intriguing, as the question arises as to whether it is simply the religious element that trumps the existing drugs laws or is it the controlled usage of the tea or what. Ultimately what is the real difference between some guy who likes to drink hallucinogenic tea in his house on weekends versus these folks?

Filed under: War on Drugs, Courts/the Judiciary | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Sunday, February 19, 2006
Things You Don’t Want Your Parents in Court Over…
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 1:50 pm

AFPCircumcision battle lands parents of eight-year-old in US court.

And by 8 years of age, I am thinking it is best to leave things as they are, so to speak.

Filed under: Parenting, Courts/the Judiciary | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Wednesday, February 8, 2006
Justice Breyer on SCOTUS Politics
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 1:47 pm

Via the AP: Breyer Says ‘Zero’ Politics on the Court

He said, however, that he hadn’t detected any split on the high court along Republican and Democratic ideological lines.

“I haven’t seen that kind of politics in the Supreme Court. Zero. It doesn’t exist,” he said.

Breyer talked about other differences in how the justices make decisions, saying they can consult six basic criteria in assessing a law: the language of the law, the history of the text, tradition behind the text, precedents, the purpose of the law and the consequences of letting the law stand or striking it down.

“I tend to emphasize purpose and consequences,” said Breyer, who was nominated for the high court by President Clinton. “Others emphasize language, a more literal reading of the text, history and tradition — believing that those help you reach a more objective answer.”

All very interesting and points to the fact that probably the single most salient fact about a give court nominee is the way that person understands and applied legal interpretation, not their personal politics.

And also why a nominee like Harriet Miers is a terrible idea, as such a person almost certainly lacks any thoughts towards legal interpretation, and would therefore be more prone to wholly political actions on the bench.

Filed under: US Politics, Courts/the Judiciary | Comments (1) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Alito Roll Call Vote
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:11 am

The roll call vote can be found via ABC News: Senate Vote: Alito Nomination

Filed under: US Politics, Courts/the Judiciary | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Alito Confirmed
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:09 am

Via the AP: Senate Confirms Alito to Supreme Court

The Senate voted 58-42 to confirm Alito _ a former federal appellate judge, U.S. attorney, and conservative lawyer for the Reagan administration from New Jersey _ as the replacement for retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who has been a moderate swing vote on the court.

All but one of the Senate’s majority Republicans voted for his confirmation, while all but four of the Democrats voted against Alito.

That is the smallest number of senators in the president’s opposing party to support a Supreme Court justice in modern history

In other words, no big surprises.

My guess is that we are entering a period of time where these votes will be more like this one than in previous years (like when Scalia was confirmed 99-0). There is more political gain for the opposition to vote “no” than there is in voting “yes”-it pleases the base and potential donors. I am not of the opinion that this is reflective solely of Alito’s judicial philosophy, as again, Scalia sailed through and he was known to be quite conservative at that time.

Stephen Bainbridge reactios here and celebrates the Coalition of the Chillin’ in the process (of which, btw, I am a member).

Filed under: US Politics, Courts/the Judiciary | Comments (4) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

The Right Nation linked with A-L-I-T-O
The Florida Masochist linked with A win and a disaster averted
Monday, January 30, 2006
Cloture Vote Succeeds-Confirmation Vote Tomorrow
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 5:30 pm

Via Bloomberg: Senate Clears Way for Alito’s High Court Confirmation

The Senate voted 72-25 to shut off debate and ensure Alito will win confirmation when the Senate votes tomorrow and will become the 110th justice in the nation’s history. Democrats fell 16 votes short of the 41 they needed to sustain a filibuster, a parliamentary tactic that allows unlimited debate.

Also: Lincoln Chafee will vote against Alito and Democrat Kent Conrad has pledged to vote for Alito (source: UPI)

The full roll-call is here.

Here are the “nos”:

Bayh, Ind.; Biden, Del.; Boxer, Calif.; Clinton, N.Y.; Dayton, Minn.; Dodd, Conn.; Durbin, Ill.; Feingold, Wis.; Feinstein, Calif.; Kennedy, Mass.; Kerry, Mass.; Lautenberg, N.J.; Leahy, Vt.; Levin, Mich.; Menendez, N.J.; Mikulski, Md.; Murray, Wash.; Obama, Ill.; Reed, R.I.; Reid, Nev.; Sarbanes, Md.; Schumer, N.Y.; Stabenow, Mich.; Wyden, Ore.

Jim Jeffords (I-VT) also voted “no”.

Filed under: US Politics, Courts/the Judiciary | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Friday, January 27, 2006
Even More on the Same Subject
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:13 am

Via the AP: Republicans Clear the Way for Alito Vote. Here are some more details, including a potential 4th Democratic vote and a clarification on Olympia Snowe:

Sen. Kent Conrad (news, bio, voting record), D-N.D., also announced Friday he is “leaning in favor of voting for” the conservative judge. “It is clear to me that a majority of the American people and the people I represent support his confirmation,” he said after meeting with Alito in his office.

In addition, Democratic Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Daniel Akaka of Hawaii, Ken Salazar of Colorado and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota — as well as GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe (news, bio, voting record) of Maine — made it clear after a second day of floor debate on Alito that they would not support a filibuster, even though Akaka and Salazar oppose Alito and the others are undecided.

Filed under: US Politics, Courts/the Judiciary | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
The Same Subject Continued
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:03 am

Via Reuters: Reid admits Democrats can’t block Alito

“Everyone knows there is not enough votes to support a filibuster,” Reid said, referring to the procedural roadblock that some Democrats said should be used to put off a vote on Alito.

The Nevada Democrat said, however, he would vote for such a measure to at least send a message of opposition to the nominee. That vote will come on Monday with final confirmation set for Tuesday.

“I think it is an opportunity for people to express their opinion as to what a bad choice it was to replace (retiring Justice) Sandra Day O’Connor” with Alito, Reid told reporters after a speech at a Washington hotel.

The Democrats have every right to use the rules of the chamber to postpone the vote as long as they can. However, to suggest that the opportunity for the message to get on the party’s views on Alito is disingenuous, if not absurd. That message has been getting out, and will continue to get and far more so via mass media and the Democrats’ access thereto than they ever will via the mechanism of debate on the Senate floor.

Filed under: US Politics, Courts/the Judiciary | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
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