Tag-arkiv: SCOTUS

Om at tabe og vinde på samme tid – og noget helt andet

På denne blog holder vi som bekendt meget af at videreformidle Randy E. Barnett‘s skriverier m.v. om amerikanske statsretsspørgsmål. Ligeså med Reason, som har talt med ham for kamera under overskriften: “Losing Obamacare While Preserving the Constitution“:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ghk7mmSR1Jo[/youtube]

For så vidt angår USA’s højesteret, har jeg været på en sviptur gennem det omfattende punditokrat-blogindlægsarkiv og dér fundet et interessant indlæg fra 2005, som spekulerer i, hvem der ville komme til at indtage retspræsidentens sæde, når Rehnquist måtte forlade det. (Bemærk i øvrigt Jacob Mchangamas kommentar og Peter Kurrild-Klitgaards svar derpå — som begge (på hver deres måde) indeholder megen sandhed)

Der er løbet meget vand under broen siden. Til trods for ikke-sejr-sejren i ACA-dommen, kan jeg ikke lade være med at tænke på hvad der mon ville være sket, hvis Clarence Thomas, som punditokraten i 2005 gættede på, var blevet retspræsident i stedet for Roberts… Særligt efter Thomas’  historisk korrekte, logisk stringente og (ikke at forglemme!) uimodsagte dissens i McDonald v. Chicago, hvori han holdt på, at 14. forfatningstillægs “Privileges or Immunities Clause” (No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States…) bør være en faktisk og aktiv del af forfatningen (igen):

I believe the original meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment offers a superior alternative [i forhold til retstilstanden efter Slaughter-House– og Cruikshank-dommene] and that a return to that meaning would allow this Court to enforce the rights the Fourteenth Amendment is designed to protect with greater clarity and predictability than the substantive due process framework has so far managed.

Opdateret:

For lige at fortsætte ud af min Clarence Thomas-tangent, er her en lille times samtale med selvsamme, for de (få?) interesserede:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8rCRLC30dw[/youtube]

Skriverier om ACA-dommen (opdateret)

USA’s højesteretspræsident John Roberts fik skrevet sig selv ind i historiebøgerne i dag, da han som forfatter til flertallets afgørelse i ACA-sagen, sendte dele af amerikansk forfatningsret ind i en ny tid. Dommen, der i vanlig stil er langt mere fyldig (192 sider) end en dansk ditto ville havde været, kan selvfølgelig hentes via domstolens hjemmeside.

Dommen har allerede fået meget omtale, også i danske medier, og den vil selvsagt blive mere indgående behandlet over det næste stykke tid.Sagt lidt meget sort-hvidt, er den individuelle forsikringspligt ikke forfatningsstridig, fordi pligten slet ikke er en pligt, men en skat. Hvilket i øvrigt var dét, som advokaterne for føderalregeringen mente ikke var tilfældet!

En umiddelbart rammende beskrivelse kommer fra Erick Ericksen på Red State-bloggen:

It seems very, very clear to me in reviewing John Roberts’ decision that he is playing a much longer game than us and can afford to with a life tenure.”

Denne opfattelse – der også er at genfinde i Ezra Kleins blogindlæg, hvor dommen bliver kaldt for en 4-1-4-afgørelse – går ud på, at Roberts lod forsikringspligten så på grund af en juridisk teknikalitet, samtidig med, at han, sammen med den ”konservative” del af retten, fik afgrænset rækkevidden af reglen om samhandelsregulering i føderalforfatningen. Det er derfor, at Barnett (se nedenfor) kan sige, at dommen er et nederlag for dem, der er imod ACA, men en sejr for dem, der kæmper for at bevare en statsmagt, begrænset af forfatningen. Dommen er – i øvrigt – en gigantisk sejr for Barnett.

Indtil en af mine medbloggere, eller jeg selv, får skrevet noget mere dybdegående om dommen, er her nogle væsentlige kommentarer (IMHO) fra den amerikansk-juridiske blogosfære (mine redigeringer):

Jonathan H. Adler:

The primary dissent is a joint dissent by all four dissenting justices. This is unusual. Their dissent rejects both the individual mandate and the Medicaid expansion. Because these two provisions are central to the act, the dissenters would invalidate the law in its entirety.

Chief Justice Roberts rejects the Commerce Clause and Necessary & Proper Clause rationales for the mandate even though doing so would not seem to be necessary for the result. If the mandate may be upheld on taxing power grounds, why reach these clauses? One possible answer is that the Chief Justice embraces a constitutional avoidance rationale for construing the mandate as a tax (similar to what he did with the Voting Rights Act in NAMUDNO). Showing the constitutional problems with the mandate is thus necessary to justify the construction the Chief offers of the Act.

This opinion reaffirms that the Chief Justice is, in many respects, a conservative minimalist. This opinion, combined with others we’ve seen this term, is revealing how the Chief Justice and Justice Alito differ. The Chief is more minimalist in his approach and more deferential to federal power (save on the First Amendment, where Justice Alito seems more deferential).

Holding the mandate exceeds the scope of the Commerce and Necessary and Proper Clauses poses no threat to any other existing federal program or law that was not already in jeopardy. That is, this holding does not narrow these powers. Rather it reaffirms their limits…

Adam Winkler konkluderer:

The Roberts Court has only just begun.

Gerard N. Magliocca mærker historiens (og den politiske proces’) vingesus:

Chief Justice Marshall famously found a way out of tough spot in 1803 by reading the Judiciary Act of 1789 in a peculiar way to deny William Marbury a remedy.  Following the law would have brought the Court into a terrible (and destructive) clash with President Jefferson. He lectured the President about not giving Marbury his commission, but did nothing to help…

Chief Justice Roberts did something similar today. Following the law and reading the Affordable Care Act in the most natural way (failing to buy health insurance leads to a penalty, not a tax) would have forced him to strike down the individual mandate.  So he didn’t do that.  Why? Because a 5-4 straight-line party decision invalidating part or all of the Act would have have brought the Court into a terrible clash with President Obama.  The Chief Justice gave a pretty speech about federalism, but ultimately he did nothing about it.  (Maybe I’m underestimating the importance of the Medicaid issue–I’m not sure.)

Orin Kerr:

The Chief Justice’s opinion finds an interesting middle ground in the battle of absolutes over the Affordable Care Act. Under the Chief Justice’s opinion, real economic mandates are beyond the power of Congress. Congress can’t force action where there was none. Congress can’t say you must act or else go to jail, for example. The individual mandate is constitutional because despite the name because it’s not really a mandate…  it’s really just a small tax. And the enforcement mechanism is pretty light. So you really don’t have to get health insurance: You just have to pay the smallish penalty if you decide you don’t want it. So Congress lacks the power to say that you go to jail if you don’t buy health insurance. But Congress does have the power to encourage you to get health insurance by imposing a tax if you don’t, as long as the tax isn’t so coercive that it’s really more than just a tax… In other words, the taxing power is a lesser form of regulation that has a lot more in the way of limits: It gives the federal government some power, but not the plenary power granted if the law falls within the Commerce Clause…

Samme forfatter bemærker andetsteds i øvrigt, at Randy Barnett’s sondring mellem aktivitet og inaktivitet indgår i Roberts argumentation, smh. med “det her er en gigantisk sejr for Barnett” i indledningen.

Og apropos Barnett:

Who would have thought that we could win while losing?…

Today, the Roberts Court reaffirmed the “first principle” announced by Chief Justice Rehnquist some 17 years ago in Lopez: the federal government is one of limited and enumerated powers. It accepted all of our arguments about why the individual insurance mandate exceeded the commerce power:  “The individual mandate cannot be upheld as an exercise of Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause,” wrote Chief Justice Roberts. “That Clause authorizes Congress to regulate interstate commerce, not to order individuals to engage in it.”  Then the Court went farther to invalidate the withholding of existing Medicaid funding as coercive, thereby finding an enforceable limit on the Spending Power…

The New Federalism was attacked precisely because it offered a different vision of the so-called “New Deal Settlement”: although the Court acquiesced to the constitutionality of New Deal-style regulations, when Congress goes beyond this already expansive reading of its powers, the Court will meet any further expansion with skepticism. It will continue to insist onsome judicially- enforceable limit on federal power.  Congress cannot be the sole judge of the scope of its own powers.  Today a majority of the Roberts Court reaffirmed this vision.

Academics are sure to react to today’s decision by declaring the New Federalism dead, but they would be wrong to do so.  The Founder’s scheme of limited and enumerated powers has survived to fight another day.

David Bernstein spekulerer:

Scalia’s dissent, at least on first quick perusal, reads like it was originally written as a majority opinion… In particular, he consistently refers to Justice Ginsburg’s opinion as “The Dissent”.

Back in May, there were rumors floating around relevant legal circles that a key vote was taking place, and that Roberts was feeling tremendous pressure from unidentified circles to vote to uphold the mandate. Did Roberts originally vote to invalidate the mandate on commerce clause grounds, and to invalidate the Medicaid expansion, and then decide later to accept the tax argument and essentially rewrite the Medicaid expansion to preserve it? If so, was he responding to the heat from President Obama and others, preemptively threatening to delegitimize the Court if it invalidated the ACA? The dissent, along with the surprising way that Roberts chose to uphold both the mandate and the Medicaid expansion, will inevitably feed the rumor mill.

I Salon kan man læse om, hvor påfaldende flertalsagtig, det konservative mindretals dissens er. Det er temmelig interessant synspunkt, især når man tænker på, at afgørelsen har været klar et stykke tid og at mindretallet har haft både tid og lejlighed til at ændre mere substantielt i dissensen end (muligvis) sket.  Hvis der er nogen sandhed over konspirationen, har mindretallet i hvert fald gemt sit budskab i teksten, så fremtiden kan se med.

Bernstein har mere her.

Brad DeLond – i samme retning:

Nine times Scalia refers to Ginsburg’s opinion on the mandate not as a concurrence–agreeing with the result, but for different reasons–but as a “dissent”. An opinion that reaches the same result but by a different road is not a dissent. And there was not “a” dissent. There were three: Thomas’s, Ginsburg’s, and Scalia’s. When there are three dissents–two other dissents–to refer to one of them as “the” dissent is, at the least sloppy.

Is this deliberate–that Scalia wants us to know that his opinion was originally written to be the opinion of the Court? Or is this simply sloppy draftsmanship–chronic laziness at revision?

And what made Roberts peel off?

Inquiring minds want to know…

 

Helt kort: Legitimitet, partiskhed, konservatisme

I forlængelse af forrige blogindlæg er jeg blevet opmærksom på, at Ilya Somin, har lavet en udførlig og ganske link-holdig tekst, om hyppigt bruge ikke-juridiske argumenter for, at højesteret skal opretholde forsikringspligten i ACA/ObamaCare. Selv siger han (indledende) om dem:

Even if correct, none of these arguments actually prove that the Court should uphold the mandate as a legal matter. A decision that is perceived as “illegitimate,” partisan, and unconservative can still be legally correct. Conversely, one that is widely accepted, enjoys bipartisan support, and is consistent with conservatism can still be wrong…

Højesteret og ObamaCare – aktivisme eller tilbageholdenhed?

Wall Street Journal har en glimrende leder om den udfordring det er, for den amerikanske højesteret, at skulle tage stilling til Affordable Care Act, alias ObamaCare. WSJ-lederen fokuserer på de offentlige ytringer rettet mod navngivne højesteretsdommere, som politiske aktører over den seneste tid er kommet med og bemærker særligt Pat Leahy’s kommentar om, at retspræsident Roberts, hvis retten når frem til, at ACA-loven (eller dele deraf) er forfatningsstridig, for al fremtid vil blive opfattet som en partisk aktivist: ”The conservative activism of recent years has not been good for the Court” osv.

The elite liberal press has followed with pointed warnings that Mr. Roberts has a choice—either uphold ObamaCare, or be portrayed a radical who wants to repeal the New Deal and a century of precedent. This attack is itself clearly partisan, but it’s worth rehearsing the arguments to show how truly flawed they are.

WSJ bemærker hertil (mine fremhævninger):

The first fallacy is defining judicial activism as overturning a Congressional law. Since Marbury v. Madison established judicial review in 1803, the High Court has overturned hundreds of laws in part or whole. The real measure of activism is whether the Court’s reasoning is rooted in Constitutional principle. If it is, the Court is not activist but is adhering to the highest legal principles.

Regarding the Affordable Care Act, we’d argue that upholding the individual mandate to buy health insurance requires far more judicial activism. That’s because if the Court finds this federal mandate to be Constitutional, it will have no principle on which to limit future purchase mandates.

Once health insurance can be mandated, Congress will inevitably find that other products or services are equally essential to national well-being. Future Courts will either have to find all such purchase mandates to be legal, in which case there is no limiting principle, or they will have to pick and choose, which means an endless exercise in policy-making.

Far better for judicial modesty—and the reputation of the Court—to draw the line that the Commerce Clause forbids Congress from mandating that individuals engage in commerce because such police powers are reserved for the states. This is the truly restrained judicial position.

The most dishonest argument is the liberal media chant that overturning the law means overturning the New Deal era’s Commerce Clause precedents. This is propaganda. None of the plaintiffs advocated that any precedents be overturned, even though in our view some of those cases deserve to be overturned. Paul Clement and Michael Carvin, who argued for the plaintiffs before the Court, explicitly denied any such desire.

HT: Randy Barnett.

SCOTUS skyder med skarpt

Faste læsere af Punditokraterne vil vide, at denne punditokrat ikke blot er en glad jæger men også for to år siden var en af medunderskriverne på et “Amicus Brief” til USA’s forbundshøjesteret i.f.m. den såkaldte Heller-sag (det såkaldte Amici Curiae “brief” på vegne af gruppen “International Scholars”).  Sagen District of Columbia versus Heller var en epokegørende genopretning af USA’s 2. forfatningstillæg.  Dette siger som bekendt, at:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

–men bestemmelsen var over 200 år blevet udvandet til uigenkendelighed ved en lang række nationale eller delstatslige reguleringer.  Heller-sagen gik derfor på at få fastslået, hvorvidt formuleringen sigter på organiserede militser eller på borgerne som enkeltpersoner, og hvorvidt det går på alle våben eller kun nogle typer våben, og hvad formålet egentlig er.  Blandt andet.  I 2008 formulerede SCOTUS selv dét spørgsmål, man skulle vurdere, som sådan:

“The petition for a writ of certiorari is granted limited to the following question: Whether the following provisions, D.C. Code §§ 7-2502.02(a)(4), 22-4504(a), and 7-2507.02, violate the Second Amendment rights of individuals who are not affiliated with any state-regulated militia, but who wish to keep handguns and other firearms for private use in their homes?”

Dommen kom 26.VI.2008 og var en markant præcedens-sættende afgørelse, fordi der slog fast, at der er grænser for, hvilke indgreb man kan foretage i retten til at eje og bære våben, uden at dette vil være i konflikt med Bill of Rights.  Man kan godt forbyde nogen i at rulle atomvåben ned af hovedgaden eller skyde med bazookaer i baghaven–men man kan ikke lave en generel lovgivning, der i praksis gør det ulovligt for borgerne at eje skydevåben o.l. eller umuliggør, at de bærer dem alle steder.  Det var en væsentlig “neo-klassisk” fortolkning og første gang siden 1939, at SCOTUS for alvor fortolkede meningen med “Second Amendment”. Allerede den gang i 2008 forudså alle, at dommen ville blive den første i en lang række sager, fordi den efterfølgende ville kunne gøre, at delstaters konkrete love må vurderes på deres overensstemmelse med SCOTUS’ fortolkning af forfatningen.

Og “dommen” kom så i går: I den første følgesag, McDonald versus City of Chicago, afgjorde SCOTUS,

that gun possession is fundamental to American freedom, giving federal judges the power to strike down state and local weapons laws for violating the Second Amendment.

In a 5-4 ruling, the court held that the Second Amendment’s right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental right that binds states.

The Supreme Court ruled for the first time that gun possession is fundamental to American freedom.

“Self defense is a basic right, recognized by many legal systems from ancient times to the present day,” wrote Justice Samuel Alito. He was joined in reaching the result by Chief Justice John Roberts and justices Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

Justice Thomas agreed with the majority on the result but wrote a concurrence offering different constitutional logic for viewing the right to bear arms as a fundamental right.

As it did in 2008, the court’s majority cautioned that the right to keep and bear arms is not “a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”

Justice Alito wrote that despite “doomsday proclamations,” the ruling “does not imperil every law regulating firearms.”

The Supreme Court’s ruling is likely to lead to years of litigation across the country as lower courts decide how far the right to bear arms extends and which restrictions are unconstitutional.

Man kan læse mere om dommen på den gode jurist-blog “Volokh Conspiracy”, bl.a. om dommens mulige konsekvenser.  Cato Institute–der har været en central aktør i disse sager–har naturligvis også en mening.  Den altid energiske Thomas Sowell giver også sit besyv med.

Er Obamas sundhedsreform forfatningsstridig?

I forlængelse af min kommentar ovenfor om forfatningens centrale men oversete 10. tillæg:
“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
–har min gamle ven gennem 23 år, Randy Barnett (professor i jura ved Boston University og næppe én, der kan ses som værende ude i et partipolitisk ærinde), argumenteret for, at sundhedsreformen meget vel kan være forfatningsstridig.  I et indlæg i Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/19/AR2010031901470.html) skriver han bl.a.:
“Can Congress really require that every person purchase health insurance from a private company or face a penalty? The answer lies in the commerce clause of the Constitution, which grants Congress the power “to regulate commerce . . . among the several states.” Historically, insurance contracts were not considered commerce, which referred to trade and carriage of merchandise. That’s why insurance has traditionally been regulated by states. But the Supreme Court has long allowed Congress to regulate and prohibit all sorts of “economic” activities that are not, strictly speaking, commerce. The key is that those activities substantially affect interstate commerce, and that’s how the court would probably view the regulation of health insurance.
But the individual mandate extends the commerce clause’s power beyond economic activity, to economic inactivity. That is unprecedented. While Congress has used its taxing power to fund Social Security and Medicare, never before has it used its commerce power to mandate that an individual person engage in an economic transaction with a private company. Regulating the auto industry or paying “cash for clunkers” is one thing; making everyone buy a Chevy is quite another. Even during World War II, the federal government did not mandate that individual citizens purchase war bonds.”

I forlængelse af min kommentar (i kommentar-sektionen her) om, hvorvidt Obamas sundhedsreform i virkeligheden måske er forfatningsstridig, er det vigtigt at være opmærksom på USA-forfatningens centrale men oversete 10. tillæg:

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

I den forbindelse har min gamle ven gennem snart 23 år, Randy Barnett (professor i forfatningsret ved Georgetown University og næppe én, der kan ses som værende ude i et “konservativt” eller partipolitisk ærinde), argumenteret for, at sundhedsreformen meget vel kan være forfatningsstridig.  I et indlæg forleden i Washington Post skriver han bl.a.:

“Can Congress really require that every person purchase health insurance from a private company or face a penalty? The answer lies in the commerce clause of the Constitution, which grants Congress the power “to regulate commerce . . . among the several states.” Historically, insurance contracts were not considered commerce, which referred to trade and carriage of merchandise. That’s why insurance has traditionally been regulated by states. But the Supreme Court has long allowed Congress to regulate and prohibit all sorts of “economic” activities that are not, strictly speaking, commerce. The key is that those activities substantially affect interstate commerce, and that’s how the court would probably view the regulation of health insurance. But the individual mandate extends the commerce clause’s power beyond economic activity, to economic inactivity. That is unprecedented. While Congress has used its taxing power to fund Social Security and Medicare, never before has it used its commerce power to mandate that an individual person engage in an economic transaction with a private company. Regulating the auto industry or paying “cash for clunkers” is one thing; making everyone buy a Chevy is quite another. Even during World War II, the federal government did not mandate that individual citizens purchase war bonds. If you choose to drive a car, then maybe you can be made to buy insurance against the possibility of inflicting harm on others. But making you buy insurance merely because you are alive is a claim of power from which many Americans instinctively shrink. Senate Republicans made this objection, and it was defeated on a party-line vote, but it will return.

At der kommer en større sag ud af det, og at sidste ord ikke er sagt, er klart.  Spørgsmålet er så blot–hvis Barnett m.fl. har ret–hvorvidt forbundshøjesteretten vil have mod nok til at erklære en så stor lov forfatningsstridig?  Historien taler imod det, og det forudser Barnetts kollega og med-blogger, Orin Kerr, også.  Efter min mening desværre.

Barnett er mere optimistisk:

“[Although some] of the potential constitutional challenges to health-care reform have a sound basis in the text of the Constitution, and no Supreme Court precedents clearly bar their success, the smart money says there won’t be five votes to thwart the popular will to enact comprehensive health insurance reform.

But what if five justices think the legislation was carried bleeding across the finish line on a party-line vote over widespread bipartisan opposition? What if control of one or both houses of Congress flips parties while lawsuits are pending? Then there might just be five votes against regulating inactivity by compelling citizens to enter into a contract with a private company. This legislation won’t go into effect tomorrow. In the interim, it is far more vulnerable than if some citizens had already started to rely upon its benefits.

If this sounds far-fetched, consider another recent case in which the smart money doubted there were five votes to intervene in a politicized controversy involving technical procedures. A case in which five justices may have perceived that long-established rules were being gamed for purely partisan advantage.

You might have heard of it: Bush v. Gore.”

US Supreme Court om Guantanamo fangernes retsstilling

Man kan få nok at gøre, hvis man skal dække alle aspekter af kampen for menneskerettigheder. Steyns sag er nævnt ndf., og her skal opmærksomheden blot henvises til den amerikanske føderale højesteret, der i en 5-4 afgørelse har fastslået, at de indsatte i Guantanamo-lejren har habeas corpus, dvs. en ret til at få fastslået for egentlige domstole, om deres tilbageholdelse er lovlig.

Der er allerede rigeligt med bidrag, en pæn del af dem lettere forskruede. Efter min opfattelse er denne dækning fra WaPo god, da den viser de mange aspekter af sagen.

MSM om Alito

De danske MSM er som bekendt uhyre pluralistiske og indbyrdes nuancerede.  F.eks. kan man betragte, hvorledes danske TV-medier betegnede Samuel Alito, da han for knap en måned siden blev nomineret til ny amerikansk højesteretsdommer: samme dag i aftenudsendelserne kaldte TV2 ham “ærkekonservativ”, mens DR derimod betegnede ham som “ultrakonservativ”.  Pluralisme, indeed! (Man fik også tilføjet, at han var “i seng med den evangelske højrefløj”; her kunne man ganske vist ihukommet, at dansk protestantisme ret beset er … evangelsk, mens Alito derimod—ligesom John Roberts, Clarence Thomas og Antonin Scalia—er … katolik, således at der nu faktisk for første gang er et katolsk flertal af medlemmer af SCOTUS [mens to andre medlemmer iøvrigt heller ikke er protestanter, men jødiske].  Men visse vasse, lad os ikke hænge os i religiøse detaljer.)

Men nu viser det sig, at de danske mediers hårdtarbejde korrespondenter, som altid er på tæerne for at lægge en original vinkel på deres udenrigsdækning (host, host), sørme står fint på skuldrene af de amerikanske MS-mediers dækning af nomineringen.  Rich Noyes fra Media Research Center har således i en kronik afdækket, hvorledes de amerikanske medier systematisk omtaler venstreorienterede jurister som “moderate”, mens højreorienterede betegnes som “ultrakonservative”, “ekstreme”, o.s.v.:

“New Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito has been a Justice Department lawyer, a U.S. attorney and a federal judge. Bill Clinton’s first Supreme Court nominee, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was a federal judge, too, but she also had been a liberal political activist, most notably as director of the Women’s Rights Project for the American Civil Liberties Union.

But in the first hours after each was nominated, network reporters assured viewers Judge Ginsburg was a “moderate” and a “centrist,” while journalists characterized Judge Alito as a right-wing extremist.

Indeed, even before President Bush announced Judge Alito’s nomination, reporters were in a labeling frenzy. ABC’s Charles Gibson called Judge Alito “very conservative” and “the most conservative member” of an otherwise “liberal appellate court.” Over on CBS, Gloria Borger dubbed Judge Alito “quite conservative,” the same label applied on CNN by early-morning anchor Carol Costello. On ABC’s “Good Morning America,” a breathless Jessica Yellin labeled Judge Alito as “conservative” five times in 50 seconds.

That night’s newscasts carried the same message. ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas called Judge Alito a “staunch conservative,” while CBS’ John Roberts warned that “if confirmed, Alito would wipe out the swing seat now occupied by Sandra Day O’Connor, tilting the Supreme Court in a solidly conservative direction.” (In contrast, NBC anchor Brian Williams agreed Judge Alito was “dependably conservative” but also saw an “independent streak,” as did NBC reporter Pete Williams.)

Twelve years ago, those same networks denied Judge Ginsburg’s liberal ideology. A few hours after President Clinton announced Judge Ginsburg’s nomination on June 14, 1993, NBC’s Andrea Mitchell pronounced Judge Ginsburg “a judicial moderate and a pioneer for women’s rights.” The next morning on ABC, “Good Morning America” co-host Joan Lunden asked legal editor Arthur Miller: “We hear words like ‘centrist,’ ‘moderate,’ ‘consensus builder.’ How will she fit into this court?” Mr. Miller, a longtime friend of Judge Ginsburg, wrongly predicted she would be a centrist justice.”

Lyder det bekendt?

Det kunne være værre …

I forbindelse med de kommende Senatshøringer om nomineringen af Samuel Alito til nyt medlem af USAs forbundshøjesteret, har man i Ronald Reagan Biblioteket gravet en jobansøgning fra 1985 frem, hvori Alito redegør mere detaljeret for sine politisk-ideologiske overvejelser:

“I am and always have been a conservative… I believe very strongly in limited government, federalism, free enterprise, the supremacy of the elected branches of government, the need for a strong defense and effective law enforcement, and the legitimacy of a government role in protecting traditional values. In the field of law, I disagree strenuously with the usurpation by the judiciary of decision-making authority that should be exercised by the branches of government responsible to the electorate …

When I first became interested in government and politics during the 1960s, the greatest influences on my views were the writings of William F. Buckley Jr., the National Review, and Barry Goldwater’s 1964 campaign. In college, I developed a deep interest in constitutional law, motivated in large part by disagreement with Warren Court decisions, particularly in the areas of criminal procedure, the Establishment Clause, and reapportionment.”

Passagen har bragt sindende i kog på dele af den amerikanske venstrefløj.  Personligt deler jeg ikke alle synspunkter, men nu–da det desværre ikke bliver Janice Rogers Brown, Richard Epstein, Randy Barnett e.l.–kan jeg kun sige: Det kunne såmænd være meget værre …

"Scalito"

Så blev det dommer Samuel Alito–med det ideologiske øgenavn “Scalito” (altså: lille Scalia)–som blev Bushs nye nominerede til US Supreme Court.  Her er tale om en kandidat–hvis andre fordele og ulemper ufortalt–er alt det, som Harriet Miers ikke var: Han er fagligt kvalificeret og en fremtrædende profil i den retsfilosofiske tradition, som dele af Bushs konservative bagland ønskede, og hvor det ikke er nok at sige, at man er en evangelsk kristen, som er modstander af abort.

Det bliver givetvis det “mother-of-all-battles”, som mange på både højre- og venstrefløjen havde set frem til.  Spænd sikkerhedsbælterne: Det bliver noget mere interessant og “bumpy” end nomineringerne af Roberts og Miers.  Læs mere på Volokh Conspiracy.

More to come …

Bushs borgerkrig

Hermed en lidt lang “round-up” for, hvordan Republikanerne i den forgangne uge har været i borgerkrig—eller rettere: bombning af hovedkvarteret:

Mange har—med en vis ret—set de muligheder for udnævnelser af nye højesteretsdommere, som præsident George W. Bush har kunnet disponere over, som hans måske væsentligste mulighed for at påvirke amerikansk indenrigspolitik på langt sigt. Og netop derfor er store dele af den amerikanske højrefløj nu i fuld udblæsning med en endog meget skarp og skrap kritik af Bush—ikke kun for hans udgiftspolitik men også—og i særdeleshed—for netop nomineringen af White House Counsel Harriet Miers til Associate Justice ved US Supreme Court.  Og i modsætning til, hvad danske medier får det til at lyde som, så har kritikken meget lidt at gøre med abort.

Kritikken har derimod alt at gøre med, at man på den amerikanske højrefløj (bredt forstået) i et par årtier har set frem til at kunne brudt med +70 års brug af Højesteret til at udvide forbundsregeringens opgaver.  Det var, hvad Rehnquists “New Federalism” gik ud på, og det er, hvad man nu mener, Bush har set stort på ved at nominere sin egen advokat—en person, der tilsyneladende er uden andre bemærkelsesværdige kvalifikationer end at Bush har talt religion med hende og har “set ind i hendes hjerte”.

Kritikken er ved at nå sådanne højder, at man formodentlig skal tilbage til George H.W. Bushs brud på sit løfte om “No New Taxes” for at finde lignende kritik fra baglandet af en Republikansk leder. Den eklektisk-konservative britiske kommentator og super-blogger Andrew Sullivan har i London Times meget fint sammenfattet problematikken på denne måde:

She has never been a judge and has never, to anyone’s knowledge, even proffered an opinion about the fundamental constitutional issues with which the Supreme Court grapples daily. But last Monday Harriet Miers was nominated to be one of only nine justices on the Supreme Court of the United States. She was, in President Bush’s words, “the best person I could find.” …

Why the outrage on the right?  It’s explicable for both short-term and long-term reasons.  In the short term this president has betrayed every conservative principle with regard to public spending.  Most conservatives bottled up their dyspepsia before the election for partisan reasons, or because they believed that the war on terror was too important to be left to John Kerry. But now that spending is spiralling up again, and Bush seems utterly unconcerned, they’re angry. … Bush blew it. He bypassed any number of superb judges to place his personal lawyer on the court. Hence the explosion of anger.”

Og derfor f.eks. på tirsdagens pressemøde dette overraskende spørgsmål til Bush fra en journalist: “Are you still a conservative?”.

Vores ærede med-Punditokrat Mchangama har allerede forleden skrevet om emnet med henvisning til de første kommentarer fra konservative kommentatorer, men her er nogle flere klip og en delvis round-up:

  • George F. Will, fremtrædende og frygtløs konservativ kommentator (som i 1988 sammenlignede daværende vicepræsident George H.W. Bush med en skødehund), skrev (som jeg selv nævnte forleden) en intet mindre end syrlig klumme.  Den har nu gjort Will så ildeset i Det Hvide Hus, at Bush ved et offentligt arrangement forleden nidstirrede ham.  Will spørger: Kan nomineringen af Miers retfærdiggøres?  Han giver svaret allerede i indledningen: “Senators beginning what ought to be a protracted and exacting scrutiny of Harriet Miers should be guided by three rules. First, it is not important that she be confirmed. Second, it might be very important that she not be. Third, the presumption—perhaps rebuttable but certainly in need of rebutting—should be that her nomination is not a defensible exercise of presidential discretion to which senatorial deference is due. It is not important that she be confirmed because there is no evidence that she is among the leading lights of American jurisprudence, or that she possesses talents commensurate with the Supreme Court’s tasks. The president’s “argument” for her amounts to: Trust me. There is no reason to … He has neither the inclination nor the ability to make sophisticated judgments about competing approaches to construing the Constitution. Few presidents acquire such abilities in the course of their pre-presidential careers, and this president particularly is not disposed to such reflections.”
  • Randy Barnett, juraprofessor og ledende klassisk-liberal retsfilosof, kalder i en kommentar i Wall Street Journal nomineringen for det værst tænkelige eksempel på den type “cronyism”, som forfatningens “founding fathers” advarede imod.
  • Rush Limbaugh, den mest lyttede til talk-radiovært i amerikansk radio, sagde i sit program: “There was an opportunity here to show strength and confidence, and I don’t think this is it … It seems to me from the outset that this is a pick that was made from weakness. … There are plenty of known quantities out there who would be superb for the Court. This is a nominee that we don’t know anything about. It makes her less of a target, but also doesn’t show a position of strength.”
  • Dommer Robert Bork, den fremtrædende jurist som Reagan i 1987 nominerede til SCOTUS, men som blev nedstemt i senatet (og som dermed lagde grunden for det amerikansk verbum “at blive ‘borked’“), kalder i et interview Miers-nomineringen “a disaster on every level … It’s a little late to develop a constitutional philosophy or begin to work it out when you’re on the court already … It’s kind of a slap in the face to the conservatives who’ve been building up a conservative legal movement for the last 20 years.
  • Charles Krauthammer, Pulitzer Pris-vindende konservativ kommentator ved Washington Post, skriver i sin klumme, at nomineringen er intet mindre end skandaløs og opfordrer direkte Bush til at trække nomineringen tilbage: “[N]ominating a constitutional tabula rasa to sit on what is America’s constitutional court is an exercise of regal authority with the arbitrariness of a king giving his favorite general a particularly plush dukedom. The only advance we’ve made since then is that Supreme Court dukedoms are not hereditary. It is particularly dismaying that this act should have been perpetrated by the conservative party. For half a century, liberals have corrupted the courts by turning them into an instrument of radical social change on questions—school prayer, abortion, busing, death penalty—that properly belong to the elected b
    ranches of government. Con
    servatives have opposed this arrogation of the legislative role and called for the restoration of the purely interpretive role of the court. To nominate someone whose adult life reveals no record of even participation in debates about constitutional interpretation is an insult to the institution, and to that vision of the institution. There are 1,084,504 lawyers in the U.S. What distinguishes Harriet Miers from any of them other than her connection with the president? To have selected her, when conservative jurisprudence has J. Harvie Wilkinson, Michael Luttig, Michael McConnell and at least a dozen others on a bench deeper than that of the New York Yankees, is scandalous. … [The] president has ducked a fight on the most important domestic question dividing liberals from conservatives: the principles by which one should read and interpret the Constitution. For a man whose presidency is marked by a courageous willingness to think and do big things, this nomination is a sorry retreat into smallness.
  • John Fund, politisk redaktør ved Wall Street Journal og som sådan noget af en big-shot i amerikanske medier, har i den forgangne uge ændret holdning. Først var han ikke begejstret for Miers-nomineringen, men mente hun skulle have en chance; nu mener han kun det første: “[That] was before I interviewed more than a dozen of her friends and colleagues along with political players in Texas. I came away convinced that questions about Ms. Miers should be raised now—and loudly—because she has spent her entire life avoiding giving a clear picture of herself. “She is unrevealing to the point that it’s an obsession,” says one of her close colleagues at her law firm. … Harriet Miers is unquestionably a fine lawyer and a woman of great character. But her record on constitutional issues is nil, and it is therefore understandable that conservatives, having been burned at least seven times in the past 50 years, would be hesitant about supporting her nomination.”
  • William Kristol, neo-konservativ chef-ideolog og redaktør ved Weekly Standard, siger træk nomineringen tilbage eller gå selv“President Bush’s nomination of Harriet Miers was an out-of-the-blue act of loyalty to a longtime staffer. Is it too much to hope that she might reciprocate by withdrawing, thereby sparing her boss the chance of lasting damage to his legacy that her appointment to the Supreme Court may well represent?”
  • Peggy Noonan, taleskriver for Reagan, Bush 41 m.fl. og skribent ved Wall Street Journal siger, at det er svært at forstå, hvad Bush tænkte på“[The] Miers pick was another administration misstep. The president misread the field, the players, their mood and attitude. He called the play, they looked up from the huddle and balked. And debated. And dissed. Momentum was lost. The quarterback looked foolish. The president would have been politically better served by what Pat Buchanan called a bench-clearing brawl. A fractious and sparring base would have come together arm in arm to fight for something all believe in: the beginning of the end of command-and-control liberalism on the U.S. Supreme Court. Senate Democrats, forced to confront a serious and principled conservative of known stature, would have damaged themselves in the fight. If in the end President Bush lost, he’d lose while advancing a cause that is right and doing serious damage to the other side. Then he could come back to win with the next nominee. And if he won he’d have won, rousing his base and reminding them why they’re Republicans. He didn’t do that. Why didn’t he? Old standard answer: In time of war he didn’t want to pick a fight with Congress that he didn’t have to pick. Obvious reply: So in time of war he picks a fight with his base? Also: The Supreme Court isn’t the kind of fight you “don’t have to pick.” History picks it for you. You fight.”
  • Den konservative forfatter og journalist Rich Miniter foretog først på sin egen hjemmeside og derefter i National Review en morsom punkt-for-punkt sammenligning af kvalifikationerne hos Harriet Miers og hos … den konservative talk-show vært Laura Ingraham.  Sammenligningen var utvetydigt til Ingrahams fordel (og det endda uden at inddrage mere åbenlyse, om end irrelevante, parametre).
  • Fhv. Bush-taleskriver David Frum (som formulerede “Axis of Evil”), hvis kritiserede Miers-udnævnelsen (som Jacob Mchangama omtalte forleden), hvilket har givet ham selv megen kritik fra Det Hvide Hus.  Han forklarer i en post, at han bare simpelthen finder kandidaten … dårlig: “So if I don’t dislike Miers and want the president to succeed, why am I speaking out? Aside from all the substantial reasons I have cited to date, I am speaking out because there are so many others who want to speak but cannot. I have spent hours over the past three days listening to conservative jurists on this topic—people who have devoted their lives to fighting battles for constitutionalism, for tort reform, for color-blind justice, people who fought the good fight to get Bork, Scalia, Thomas, and now Roberts onto the high Court. Their reaction to the nomination has been almost perfectly unanimous: Disappointment at best, dismay and anger at worst. Here’s the tough truth, and it will become more and more important as the debate continues: There is scarcely a single knowledgeable legal conservative in Washington who supports this nomination. There are many who are prepared to accept her, reluctantly, as the president’s choice. Some still hope that maybe it won’t turn out as bad as it looks. But ask them: “Well what if the president had consulted you on this choice,” and the answer is almost always some version of: “I would have thought he was joking.” … The woman is 60 years old, a lawyer for more than three decades. Can you see any instance in this long life and career where Miers ever took a risk on behalf of conservative principle? Can you see any indication of intellectual excellence? Did she ever do anything brave, anything that took backbone? Did anyone before this week ever describe her as oustanding in any way at all? If the answers to these questions is No, as it is, then you have to ask yourself: Why is a Republican president bypassing so many dozens of superb legal conservatives to choose Harriet Miers for the highest court in the land? “
  • James Taranto, redaktør for Wall Street Journals OpinionJournal.com, skriver i en kommentar om, hvordan amerikanske konservative har modtaget nomineringen: When President Bush nominated Harriet Miers on Monday, we saw it as a missed opportunity. It left us underwhelmed, not appalled. But having spent last evening communing here with some 1,000 conservatives at National Review’s 50th anniversary dinner, we see a political disaster in the making.  We talked to quite a few people, a

    nd we heard not a single kind word about the nomination from anyone who wasn’t on the White House staff. … Conventional wisdom still has it that Miers is a shoo-in for confirmation. We’re not so sure. From what we saw last night, the right is furious at President Bush for appointing someone they see as manifestly underqualified and for ducking a fight with the Democratic left.”

  • Den konservative kommentator Michelle Malkin kalder sin blog-round-up om emnet “Utterly underwhelmed”.  Den fremtrædende liberalistisk-konservative politolog-blogger Dan Drezner forholder sig til Bushs anbefaling af Miers’ kvalifikationer: “Whoa, hold the phone—she was a fair and honest Lottery Commissioner? Put this woman on the bench right away!!!”

Det interessante at bemærke her er (bl.a.), at ingen af disse kommentatorer er “evangelske kristne” eller tilhører, hvad der normalt ville blive opfattet som det “kristne højre”; det er derimod, som omtalt i Berlingske Søndag, faktisk blandt den sidstnævnte gruppe, at man finder flest, der støtter nomineringen—og formodentlig fordi hun er imod abort.  I bund og grund skyldes utilfredsheden, at én born-again Christian har udpeget en anden born-again Christian til et af nationens mest betydningsfulde embeder—og uden anden grund.  Derved har han for alvor vist, hvad han er, nemlig som Mark Steyn har udtrykt det: “The president is a religio-cultural conservative who believes in big government and big spending and paternalistic federal intervention in areas where few conservatives have ever previously thought it wise”.

Og hvad med de andre, man kunne have forventet ville støtte Miers-nomineringen?

  • Robert Novak, konservativ journalist og kommentator extraordinaire, fortæller i sin klumme, at Det Hvide Hus og partiledelsen har bedt Republikanske senatorer om at tage ordet i Senatet og støtte Miers.  Det har de generelt nægtet.
  • Den Republikanske formand for Senatets Retsudvalg, Arlen Specter (som skal lede behandlingen af nomineringen), har udtalt, at Miers har brug for et “crash course” i forfatningsret, og at hun ikke vil få svære spørgsmål til at begynde med …
  • Her er en udtalelse (via New York Times) fra en af dem, som Bush administrationen har hyret til at promovere Miers: “Sean Rushton, executive director of the Committee for Justice, said generating enthusiasm for Ms. Miers was proving difficult because “anytime we put out something positive about her it gets shot to pieces by all our allies and the blogs.””

Ouch, ouch, ouch! Med den slags venner … Noget tyder på, at Bush har lagt sig ud med en pæn del af de 45 pct. af amerikanerne, der godt kunne lide ham—og så er der ikke så mange tilbage.

PS. George Will har i øvrigt opsummeret, hvad konservative bør være utilfredse med m.h.t. Buh og Republikanerne i sin artikel i denne uges Newsweek.

Post-Rehnquist II

Så bliver det altså med sikkerhed John Roberts, der efterfølger Rehnquist som amerikansk forbundshøjesteretspræsident–og noget kunne tyde på, at det bliver med lidt større tilslutning, end jeg forudså tidligere på ugen.  (Tilsyneladende har mange Demokratiske senatorer fra delstater, der ved valget sidste år overvejende stemte på Bush, pudsigt nok haft en tendens til at større præsidentens kandidat …)  Men hvordan kommer den post-Rehnquistske æra til at se ud for US Supreme Court?  Det skrev vi om rent personale mæssigt forleden, men hvad med politikken?

En af de største amerikanske retsfilosoffer af en klassisk-liberal orientering, Professor Randy Barnett fra Boston University (forfatter til bl.a. “The Structure of Liberty: Justice and the Rule of Law” og “Restoring the Lost Constitution: The Presumption of Liberty”), havde i forrige uge i Wall Street Journal en kronik om netop Rehnquist.  Højesteretspræsident Rehnquist var næppe helt en, som Barnett helt “delte paraply med”, men dog én som han adskillige gange havde professionelt med at gøre—når Barnett skulle procedere for US Supreme Court (hvilket han senest gjorde i foråret, hvor Barnett talte for staternes ret til at legalisere marijuana-brug, hvilket Rehnquist støttede).  Og Barnett kunne trods andre uenigheder lide den såkaldte “New Federalism”-doktrin, som Rehnquist i praksis formulerede:

“One day soon we may mourn the death of his legacy — the jurisprudence of the Rehnquist Court.

Even before becoming chief justice, often in lonely dissents, it was William Rehnquist who was most personally responsible for what is now called “the New Federalism” — the revival of the ideas that judiciary should protect the role of the states within the federal system and enforce the textual limits on the powers of Congress. Establishing the New Federalism took enormous effort and leadership by Rehnquist over many years. Now that legacy is in jeopardy.

At the founding, and for some 150 years thereafter, the limits on congressional power provided by the Constitution of 1789 — as modified by the Fourteenth Amendment — were enforced by the Supreme Court. According to the textual plan, Congress is, with few exceptions, confined to the express powers enumerated in Article One of the Constitution. While these express powers were understood as flexible, they were nonetheless limited. When the federal government was limited to its enumerated powers, the states were left to the exercise of their police powers, subject to the limitations imposed upon them after the Civil War by the Fourteenth Amendment.

The Founders’ plan was more or less intact until the 1930s, when President Roosevelt and the New Deal Congress enacted a massive expansion of federal power. By the 1940s, the textual scheme of limited federal powers was effectively swept away by a Supreme Court dominated by appointees of President Roosevelt. In a series of landmark decisions, such as Wickard v. Filburn in 1942, the New Deal Court replaced the Constitution’s textual scheme of limited federal power with a policy of judicial deference to any claim by Congress to regulate anything and everything with even a remote connection with the national economy.

By the early 1990s, even the requirement of a remote connection was giving way, as Congress began to regulate subjects that could only be described as “interstate commerce” by Lewis Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty, who asserted (in a rather scornful tone) that: “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.” With no judiciary to provide a constitutional compass, Congress passed laws reaching activities such as possessing a gun near a school without even trying to show how the regulated activity had any conceivable connection with “commerce . . . among the several states.”

Barnett slår fast, at det var Rehnquist, der standsede denne udvikling, fordi han havde et “forfatningsmæssigt kompas”, der i hvert enkelt sag styrede ham i én overordnet retning.  Dette var tydeligt allerede fra en række sager, mens han var menig dommer, men det blev især klart da han blev højesteretspræsident:

“With Justice Rehnquist’s ascension to chief justice, the Rehnquist Court cabined Garcia’s laissez-faire approach toward Congressional power with a series of “Tenth Amendment” cases that aimed at protecting state sovereignty from federal interference in a variety of ways. I put Tenth Amendment in quotes because this jurisprudence was never grounded on the original meaning of the Tenth Amendment, which merely affirms that the Federal government is one of delegated powers, and that all powers not delegated are reserved to the states or to the people. With the post-New Deal judiciary interpreting the delegated powers so as to allow the Federal government to do virtually anything it wants, federal power had completely enveloped any “reserved” powers of states. Instead of directly holding Congress to the powers enumerated in the text, these earliest New Federalism cases attempted indirectly to preserve the underlying “principle” of federalism by carving out islands of state sovereignty in a sea of federal power.

Chief Justice Rehnquist understood this, of course. In 1995, he launched a direct attack on the source of the problem in the case of U.S. v. Lopez, which held unconstitutional the Gun Free School Zone Act because it exceeded the power of Congress to “regulate commerce . . . among the several states.” There he wrote, “We start with first principles. The Constitution creates a Federal Government of enumerated powers.” For the first time in 60 years, the Court found a federal statute to have exceeded the commerce power of Congress. Rehnquist’s opinion in Lopez sent shock waves through the legal academy. …

Together with the Tenth Amendment cases, Rehnquist’s opinions in Lopez and Morrison were the keystones of the New Federalism. Had he been able to marshal a consistent majority for the constitutional “first principles” these cases represented, the Rehnquist Court might have overseen a constitutional restoration as substantial as the constitutional demolition begun by the Roosevelt Court. But both decisions were 5-4, with the five more “conservative” justices in the majority and the four more “liberal” justices in strong dissent. The four adamant dissenters have not relented in their opposition and need only pick off one of the New Federalists to uphold the constitutionality of a claim of federal power.”

Og nu er Barnett nervøs for, at flertallet vil kunne skifte på et mere permanent vis—den forkerte vej:

“[In] this the final year of the Rehnquist Court there are signs that his legacy may not endure. In Gonzales v. Raich both principles of state sovereignty and of enumerated powers were put to the test. Rehnquist was one of only three justices who were willing to say that Congress cannot magically transform the noncommercial possession of homegrown marijuana into “interstate commerce.” The Chief joined the dissenting opinion written by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
Many who now lionize her w
hen discussing her replacement omit mentioning her stalwart support of the New Federalism so strongly advanced by her fellow Arizonian and Stanford classmate.

Sometime this fall, two of the five votes that made up the Lopez and Morrison majorities will have been replaced. Only Justice Clarence Thomas will be left from the three Raich dissenters. As the new chief justice (assuming he is confirmed), will John Roberts assume the role of his mentor William Rehnquist — for whom he clerked — and lead the Roberts Court to enforce the Constitution’s original plan of limited federal power? Will President Bush now look for a nominee to replace Justice O’Connor who is as committed to the New Federalism as she was? Given that so many of the New Federalism cases were 5-4, if either of the new justices adopts the mantra of “judicial deference” to congressional power, then Chief Justice Rehnquist’s death, along with Justice O’Connor’s retirement, may presage the second death of federalism. A judicial withdrawal from enforcing the original limits on the powers of Congress would undo the New Federalist legacy of William Rehnquist.

As the president now decides who next to nominate, he would uphold the Constitution by selecting a person with a firm and demonstrated commitment to the Rehnquist Court’s New Federalism legacy. Only such a choice would continue the movement to restore the “first principles” of constitutionally limited government that William Rehnquist affirmed so eloquently. One can hardly imagine a sadder end to the tenure of William Rehnquist than that his most prized and important contribution to constitutional law is aborted by a conservative Republican president and a Republican-controlled Senate.”

En anden prominent amerikansk klassisk-liberal, Clint Bolick—grundlæggeren af den indflydelsesrige og nyttige organisation Institute for Justice, der hjælper borger i sager mod statsmagten, når deres ejendomsret o.l. bliver krænket—deler Barnetts ængstelser.  Han gik i sin eulogi til Rehnquist så langt som til at forudse, at Bushs udnævnelser vil komme til at repræsentere et markant ryk til “venstre”:

“To say that an era has ended is a huge understatement.
The passing of “the Chief,” as William Rehnquist affectionately was known by everyone in the U.S. Supreme Court’s circle, coupled with the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, leaves the court without sure leadership for the first time in a generation.
Oddly, depending on President Bush’s choice to replace him, the court could be poised for a lurch to the left, rather than the right turn predicted by left-leaning special-interest groups. …

When Rehnquist joined the court in 1972, it was still in the throes of Warren court liberalism, routinely advancing causes that could not be won in the legislative arena. Though the court as a whole never fully embraced Rehnquist’s conservatism, his influence moved the court toward the center.

For instance, under Rehnquist’s stewardship, the court stopped routinely overruling criminal convictions, but retained the Miranda ruling that protects against abusive police interrogations. It strengthened state autonomy, but never overturned Roe vs. Wade. It struck down most racial preferences, but left the door open to preferences in college admissions.

As chief, Rehnquist was adroit in moderating his own views to bring in colleagues, and often appeared to switch to the winning side in order to exercise the chief’s prerogative to assign writing of key decisions to himself so as to narrow their scope.

One area of Rehnquist’s enormous influence was school choice.
In the 1960s and ’70s, the court had broadly interpreted the First Amendment’s prohibition against establishment of religion to embrace outright hostility to religion.

In 1983, Rehnquist cobbled together a 5-4 majority in Mueller vs. Allen, charting a more moderate course in upholding tuition tax credits for K-12 education, emphasizing that the choice of where to spend the education dollars was decided by parents, not the state.
That same slender majority held 19 years later in Zelman vs. Simmons-Harris, in which the court, in a landmark decision written by Rehnquist, upheld the Cleveland school-voucher program. For Rehnquist, it was a matter of state autonomy and an interpretation of the First Amendment true to its original intent.

For millions of children …, it meant the promise of precious educational opportunities.

Rehnquist’s combination of strong conservative convictions and political savvy make him a tough act to follow. …  For two decades, the court has been narrowly divided, usually (though less frequently lately) siding with individual liberty over state power, precisely the role the framers intended the federal judiciary to play. Judge John Roberts, the nominee to fill Justice O’Connor’s position, is truly an unknown quantity. If Bush nominates a Rehnquist replacement who is less committed to conservative principles than his predecessor, it could have the effect of turning the court to the left.”

Post-Rehnquist I

Processen i forbindelse med John Roberts’ udnævnelse til et af verdens mægtigste embeder—–ny præsident for USA’s forbundshøjesteret–—er nu ved at nærme sig sin afslutning; afstemningerne kommer i løbet af de næste par dage, og der er vist ikke megen tvivl om udfaldet.  At nomineringen går igennem både senatets retsudvalg, formodentlig med alle Republikanske stemmer for og de fleste af de Demokratiske imod; at nomineringen ikke bliver “filibustered”, d.v.s., at den faktisk kommer til afstemning i det 100 medlemmer store senat, og at man også her vil stemme nogenlunde langs partiskel—–nok noget i retning af ca. 55-58 mod ca. 42-45.  Det markerer i så fald et drastisk skift i forhold til tidligere tiders næsten enstemmige accept af præsidenternes kandidater: Den i dag så kontroversielle Antonin Scalia og begge Clintons udnævnelser af erstatninger for mere konservative dommere kom dengang i gennem med stemmetal, der grænsede til enstemmighed.  Det spændende bliver også at se, hvorledes en række mulige Demokratiske 2008-præsidentkandidater vil stemme (senatorerne Bayh, Biden og Clinton).

Spørgsmålene er så, hvad der efterfølgende sker.  Hvem nominerer Bush som den anden af sine kandidater til at udfylde de to pladser efter Rehnquist og O’Connor?  Og hvad bliver den langsigtede konsekvens—om nogen—af disse udnævnelser?

Ifølge New York Times har Det Hvide Hus nu en revideret liste med kandidater.  Man er særligt interesserede i kvinder og minoriteter … Det samme skønner en fhv. Demokratisk insider hos FoxNews.

Manuel Miranda—tidligere juridisk rådgiver for den Republikanske partiledelse i Senatet—listede i sin klumme i Wall Street Journals OpinionJournal.com, hvem han mente, der er “The Contenders”—og hvem han foretrækker.  Blandt de sidstnævnte er ikke justitsminister og fhv. Texas Supreme Court dommer Alberto Gonzales, som mange mener, er Bushs egen foretrukne kandidat.

“Journalists are particularly eager over Gonzales talk, mostly because they sense that conservatives do not share their enthusiasm. They’ve got that right. The fact is that not one conservative leader I know supports a Gonzales nomination. Those who publicly say they do are not telling the truth. They either are Texas friends or are fearful of losing White House access and fund-raising support.”

Miranda mener, at den nye dommer skal være én, der er klart forskellig fra Gonzales men også fra John Roberts:

“The president’s next pick must be someone very different from Roberts. The object is not to have someone who is more conservative. That would be hard to accomplish. The next nominee must be differently credentialed. The overriding challenge for the president is to rid us of the stigma of the Bork nomination, which produced a Republican stealth nominee like David Souter, by naming someone with a precise record, the kind of record William Rehnquist had in 1986.

This high goal is not imperiled by the political desire the president may have to name either a woman or a Hispanic. These are the categories to which the president is likely to limit his new short list. The White House may also look at senators; an option that previous presidents have taken when they wanted a smooth Senate confirmation of a solid nominee.”

Her er Mirandas liste over kandidater, der er mulige men som samtidigt er mere ideologiske:

  • Edith Jones, dommer, Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • Priscilla Owen, dommer, Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • Janice Rogers Brown, dommer, U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia—en kandidat som nærværende punditokrat flere gange har omtalt.
  • Maura Corrigan, dommer, Michigan Supreme Court.
  • Emilio Garza, dommer, Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • Danny Boggs, retspræsident og dommer, Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • Raoul Cantero, dommer Florida Supreme Court.
  • Jeff Sessions, senator (R-Alabama), medl. af retsudvalget, fhv. U.S. attorney.
  • John Cornyn, senator (R-Texas), fhv. dommer, Texas Supreme Court.
  • Mel Martinez, senator (R-Florida).
  • Larry Thompson, fhv. vicejustitsminister.
  • Theodore Olson, fhv. Solicitor general.

Og—som rosinen i pølsenden og til nærværende punditokrats store glæde:

  • Douglas H. Ginsburg, retspræsident, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals og professor ved Universoity of Chicago og George Mason University.  Siger Miranda: “The president would also win admiration if he considered the popular and highly respected Douglas Ginsburg, only 59, the chief judge of the D.C. Circuit, whose 1987 nomination to the Supreme Court was scuttled. When Reagan nominated Judge Ginsburg to replace Justice Lewis Powell, the president described the young judge as “unpretentious.” That has not changed, but 20 years of appellate experience later, Judge Ginsburg has the finest record on the federal appellate bench.”

Men hvordan kommer den post-Rehnquistske æra til at se ud?  Det vender vi tilbage til i en Post-Rehnquist: Parte Deux.

PS. Den fortrinlige John Tierney havde i øvrigt i New York Times en ret morsom liste med post-moderne spørgsmål, Senatsmedlemmerne kunne stille John Roberts.  Jeg tror ikke, at mange af dem blev stillet …

PPS. Flere fra den amerikanske venstrefløj har knap så subtilt antydet, at John Roberts muligvis … er homoseksuel.  Det skulle vel egentlig ret beset være ret ligegyldigt, men det har i hvert fald affødt denne relativt sjove, tongue-in-cheek spoof blog: Conservative Bloggers Who Support The Gay Judge Roberts.

Rehnquist, Hayek og ekstremisme

New York Times havde mandag en længere artikel om den nysafdøde, amerikanske højesteretspræsident William H. Rehnquist.

Der var et par ting i den, som jeg ikke vidste men fandt interessante.  F.eks. at Rehnquist i 1964 havde ført kampagne for Barry “Extremism in the defense of freedom is no vice” Goldwater, da denne som Republikanernes præsidentkandidat forgæves prøvede at slå Lyndon B. Johnson. Men også dette om Rehnquists ideologiske inspiration:

“Chief Justice Rehnquist often said that he was strongly influenced in his world view by a book he read as a young man, “The Road to Serfdom,” by Friedrich von Hayek, the Austrian-born, Nobel Prize-winning economist. A best-seller after its publication in 1944, the book warned of the dangers of collectivism and big government and predicted that socialism, the “road to serfdom” of the title, would eventually collapse.”

Der var også denne lille anekdote fra da Rehnquist i 1986 blev udnævnt til højesteretspræsident, inklusive en fin lille parafrase:

“While the new chief justice found the confirmation process extremely disagreeable, he kept his composure and even his wry sense of humor. At one point, a Republican Senator, Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, commended him for his recent dissent in Wallace v. Jaffree, the case on silent prayer in the Alabama public schools. Senator Hatch observed that the Senate Judiciary Committee had voted for a constitutional amendment to allow such prayer. “What you have been labeled extreme for, is something a majority of this committee supports,” Senator Hatch said.
Justice Rehnquist smiled and shrugged. “We’re all extremists together,” he said.”

The mother of all battles II

Nyhedsbureauerne har her til morgen meddelt, at USA’s højesteretspræsident William Rehnquist i nat oplevede dét, som John Maynard Keynes i sin tid associerede med “the long run”–som vi nævnte som en mulighed for flere måneder siden.  R.I.P.

Nu får Bush så muligheden for at udnævne hele to højesteretsdommere på kort tid, herunder at gøre en af dem (eller en af de siddende dommere) til ny højesteretspræsident.

Hvem bliver det så?

Jeg havde i forrige uge fornøjelsen at tilbringe en hel aften med at spise middag med US Appeals Court Chief Judge Douglas Ginsburg (som Reagan i sin tid nominerede til US Supreme Court, men som måtte trække sit kandidatur efter afsløringer om ungdommelig interesse for “inhalering”), og jeg kan kun sige: Hvis jeg var præsident, ville han være det oplagte valg.  Hold da op.  Han er endnu–for den branche–relativt ung, utroligt stærk rent akademisk, har en superb karriere som professor, vicejustitsminister og nu den reelt højest rangerende amerikanske dommer udenfor US Supreme Court–og så er han, set fra min personlige synsvinkel, en appetitlig blanding af at være meget frimarkedsorienteret på økonomiske spørgsmål, en “original intent” jurist på konstitutionelle spørgsmål og ikke en del af den mere statskonservative, religiøse højrefløj.*

Så ham bliver det næppe.

Jeg har også tidligere fremhævet den ideologisk-juridiske flammekaster Janice Rogers Brown (her og her).  Det er efterhånden desværre nok lige så usandsynligt.

Mere realistiske bud er dog nok en af disse fire dommere, som Bush havde på sin liste i foråret: J. Michael Luttig; en af de to Edith’er (Edith Clement og Edith Jones), som begge blev brugt af Det Hvide Hus som røgslør for nomineringen af Roberts tidligere på sommeren; Emilio Garza.  Alle disse er konservative “original intent”-fortolkere af forfatningen (ihvertfald i et eller andet omfang), og mindst tre af dem går for at være “socialt konservative” i en eller anden grad.  De vil givetvis udløse ramaskrig og slagsmål fra den amerikanske venstrefløj, og muligvis en ny debat om brugen af den såkaldte “filibuster”-regel ved udnævnelser, der skal behandles i Senatet.  Bush vil i.f.t. sit eget bagland ikke kunne slippe afsted med at udnævne en moderat konservativ i stedet for Rehnquist, men han vil i.f.t. venstrefløjen ikke slippe let afsted med at udnævne en, der er synligt meget mere konservativ end Roberts.

Så det kan blive det “Mother of All Battles” i amerikansk politik, jeg forudså tidligere på sommeren.  Omvendt vil erstatningen af Rehnquist med en Rehnquist-agtig dommer ikke flytte balancen–og derfor bliver slagsmålet for ingenting at regne i forhold til, når en af de nuværende højesteretsdommere fra den modsatte fløj skal erstattes–det vil være dér, at balancen for alvor kan skifte, og hvor de ideologiske frontkæmpere vil drage ud med alle de ressourcer, som de har sparet op til netop det formål.

* Det hører med til historien, at Reagan så i stedet for Ginsburg nominerede Anthony Kennedy, der lidt banalt og populært omtales som en af “sving-dommerne”, som nogle gange stemmer “til højre” og andre gange “til venstre”.  Kennedy var i den kontroversielle Kelo-dom fonylig den udslagsgivende stemme.  M.a.o.: Var Ginsburg blevet udnævnt, havde man–ceteris paribus–ikke fået den mildt sagt groteske dom.

Update: Jeg har tidligere nævnt den, men det kan godt gøres igen: Der er en ny blog, SCOTUSblog, som særligt følger US Supreme Court, og den er værd at holde øje med, hvis man synes, at emnet er interessant.

Update II: Andre er åbenbart–desværre–enige med mig m.h.t. Janice Rogers Brown.  Og når de siger det på VolokhConspiracy-bloggen, så er det givetvis sandt, for de er kloge derovre …