Sunday, June 29, 2008

Activist Conservative Supreme Court betrays Constructionist Rhetoric

“The ideological divide is so evident that the outcomes in most major cases can be nearly predicted on the day the court agrees to hear the case.”-NY Times
Here's a list of court decisions only an activist court could have created. I've included only a few close calls to show how close we are to turning the Constitution into what George W. Bush calls, "a God damn piece of paper."
Gun rights: The 2nd Amendment protects an individual's right to keep a gun for self-defense, and the District of Columbia's ban on handguns at home is unconstitutional. The court rejected the city's claim that the 2nd Amendment dealt only with service in an organized militia.
Death penalty: State execution for the rape of a child is "cruel and unusual punishment," and this ultimate punishment is reserved for individual crimes that involve a murder. The government, however, may impose a death sentence for crimes against the state, such as treason. (Kennedy vs. Louisiana)
Voter identification:States may insist that registered voters show a current identification card before casting a ballot. The court rejected Democrats' claim that these laws were unconstitutional because they would deter some poor, elderly and minority voters from going to the polls. (Crawford vs. Marion County Election Board)
Lethal injection: States may use lethal injections to carry out the death penalty unless it can be shown there is a "significant risk" that an inmate will suffer excruciating pain. The court saw no such evidence in a test case from Kentucky. (Baze vs. Rees)
Exxon Valdez: Civil damages intended to punish a ship owner for reckless conduct are limited to actual economic losses. Applying that formula, the court reduced the punitive damages against Exxon Mobil for the 1989 oil spill in Alaska to $507 million, about one-tenth of what the jury awarded. (Exxon Shipping Co., et al, vs. Baker)
Campaign finance: Wealthy candidates who spend more than $350,000 to fund their campaigns cannot be penalized by freeing their opponents to accept larger donations. The court invoked the 1st Amendment to strike down the so-called millionaire's amendment in the McCain-Feingold Act. (Davis vs. Federal Election Commission)
Medical devices: Injured patients or their survivors may not sue the makers of allegedly defective medical devices if the devices were approved for sale by the Food and Drug Administration. The court said federal law trumps, or preempts, such claims.
Upholds Abortion Ban: Upheld a Republican-crafted law that bans a rare abortion method, despite the absence of an exception to protect the health of the woman. Six federal courts, based upon previous Supreme Court decisions, had ruled that the 2003 law imposed "an impermissible restriction on a woman's constitutional right to an abortion." In enacting the federal law Congress made several findings to support the legislation were its assertions that no medical schools provide instruction on intact D & E, that intact D & E is never necessary to safeguard the health of the woman, and that intact D & E is less safe than alternative procedures. Each of these “findings” was and is false. In fact, many laws schools, including Chicago, Northwestern, Yale, Columbia, teach intact D & E; there is a clear medical consensus that in particular circumstances intact D & E is necessary to protect the heath of the woman; and there is a clear medical consensus that in particular circumstances intact D & E is safer than the alternative procedures. But the Roberts Court has ruled that in a case of "medical uncertainty" (ie, lack of 100% unanimity), politicians have the right to decide which medical procedures are legal and which are illegal.
Racial Diversity: The Court struck down voluntary school desegregation plans used in Seattle and Louisville. Now students likely to attend schools where everyone looks like they do.
Clean Water: In 2006, the Supreme Court cut the reach of Clean Water Act protections.
Fair Pay: Lilly Ledbetter worked just as hard as any man in her factory, but got paid less. She proved it in a court of law, but the company appealed, and the Supreme Court slammed the courthouse door in her face, declaring that Lilly had lost the right to sue because she hadn't complained about the discrimination soon enough. Never mind that the Court's ruling would have required her to sue before she knew about the unfair pay disparity.
Free Speech: With the help of Bush’s new Justices, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of school officials who punished a student for holding a banner at a school-sponsored event that expressed a message administrators didn’t agree with ("Bong hits 4 Jesus").
Separation of Church and State:The Bush administration has used its faith-based initiative to support its favored preachers. Bad enough, but how would you feel if the administration spent that money to hold a series of “Christian nation” rallies? Not much you could do, now that the Supreme Court with Bush’s new right-wing Justices has limited taxpayers' ability to challenge violations of the Establishment Clause.
Restores habeas corpus: But barely. In a 5-4 decision declared Section 7 of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 unconstitutional. The Court struck down that section of the MCA because it purported to abolish the writ of habeas corpus -- the means by which a detainee challenges his detention in a court -- despite the fact that the Constitution permits suspension of that writ only "in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion."
Overturns 96-year-old Anti-Trust Rule: The Supreme Court limited the ability of a retailer to offer goods for sale below a manufacturer's "suggested retail price." The court struck down the 96-year-old rule that resale price maintenance agreements were an automatic, or per se, violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. Five justices said the new rule could, in some instances, lead to more competition and better service. The case pitted retailers (of which there are, relatively, many) against manufacturers (of which there are, relatively, few). The manufacturers won.
Reverses Self In Campaign Ad Case: In a 5-4 decision, the US Supreme Court ruled that Wisconsin Right to Life should have been able to run issue ads targeting Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) in the two months prior to the 2004 elections.
Kathy Gill of, “If you define "conservative" as one who "conserves" or "preserves" the status quo and "radical" or "activist" as one who wishes to change the status quo, then you have to conclude that Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts is a radical activist.”

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