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The Constitution & The Judicial Branch Discuss Supreme Court: New justices, same narrow divide at the Political Forums; Supreme Court: New justices, same narrow divide The last 10 years have seen a major shift in personnel on the ...

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Old 12-28-2009, 02:50 AM
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Default Supreme Court: New justices, same narrow divide

Supreme Court: New justices, same narrow divide



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The last 10 years have seen a major shift in personnel on the United States Supreme Court, but it remains as narrowly divided on most issues as it has been for the last 30 years. And no decision of the last nine years of the decade may have affected history more profoundly, and the court’s reputation more negatively, than Bush v. Gore in the decade’s first year.

The man who presided over that case, Chief Justice William Rehnquist, died in 2005. He had led a court composed of the same nine justices for more than 11 years, the most stable period of court membership in more than 150 years.

President George W. Bush nominated John G. Roberts Jr. to succeed him. Mr. Roberts is a brilliant, charismatic lawyer, every bit as conservative as Mr. Rehnquist, for whom he had clerked early in his career. Mr. Roberts’ early record has not borne out his pledge of “judicial modesty,” but he has been unable to pull the court sharply to the right, despite the retirement in 2006 of Justice Sandra O’Connor, a moderate on many issues, particularly on abortion rights.

Mr. Bush first moved to replace her with Harriet Miers, a longtime aide whose spectacular lack of qualifications led her to withdraw from consideration. Mr. Bush nominated Samuel J. Alito Jr. in her place.

He is more conservative than Ms. O’Connor, but he has not made complete common cause with the court’s right-wing outliers, Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

The third Rehnquist court justice to retire was David Souter, who was replaced last summer by Sonia Sotomayor, President Barack Obama’s first court appointee and the first Latina to serve on the high court. Her moderate to liberal judicial philosophy closely resembles Mr. Souter’s. Thus the court’s ideological balance stayed intact.

The Rehnquist court had flirted with resurrecting “orginalist” constitutional interpretations dating to the nation’s early history that potentially would place profound limits on Congress’ legislative power. But this trend has not continued.

The Roberts court reined in remedies for past racial discrimination in public schools — but not decisively so. Constitutional rights affecting abortion remain largely intact. A stark reversal of precedents protecting voting rights and upholding campaign finance restrictions have been expected. But the worst of these changes have not come to pass — at least so far.

In the court’s proudest moment of the decade, moderates and liberals stood firm to beat back President George W. Bush’s brazen attempts to indefinitely imprison “enemy combatants” and deny them judicial review and the protection of international treaties that prohibit torture.

The signal event at the Supreme Court was its intervention in the 2000 presidential election between Mr. Bush and Democratic Vice President Al Gore — a decision that occupies a place among the most unprincipled and destructive in the court’s history.

The justices had been dealt a tricky hand in Bush v. Gore. A razor-close vote in Florida would decide the presidential election. Tens of thousands of ballots were being recounted under chaotic conditions. No uniform standards were in place to measure the outcome.

The most conservative justices — particularly those like Mr. Scalia, who claim to be “originalists” — peremptorily pulled the plug on the recount. It was an unprecedented reversal of the constitutional order that leaves it to states to administer elections.

Had the conservative justices truly been originalists and not activists, they would have lived up to their own words: “[N]one are more conscious of the vital limits on judicial authority than are members of this Court, and none stand more in admiration of the Constitution’s design to leave the selection of the president to the people, through their legislatures, and to the political sphere.”

Florida’s recount might well have given Mr. Bush the election anyway, and Mr. Scalia, the most combative of the justices, has admonished critics to “get over it.” But it’s impossible to reflect on the decade without wondering how history might have been different.

Supreme Court: New justices, same narrow divide | The Platform | STLtoday
Some interesting cases will be heard in 2010...stay tuned!
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Old 12-28-2009, 09:03 AM
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Default Re: Supreme Court: New justices, same narrow divide

The author of this piece would have us believe that it was the U.S. Supreme court that gave the election to Bush, however the facts relate a different opinion.

The Most Outrageous Statements & Myths of the Florida Recount.

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If this was really the case, why was it that EVERYONE was SHOCKED by the Florida Supreme Court's overruling of Sanders Sauls (after they had ALREADY been chastised by the U.S. Supreme Court for overruling Terry Lewis), and NO ONE was surprised by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the Florida Supreme Court had acted inappropriately? While the Florida court had three strong dissenters (all Democratic appointees), the highest court in the land voted 7-2 that the Florida remedy was clearly unconstitutional. But to me the ultimate proof that this is clearly a myth comes a look at the dissenting opinions in each decision.

The Florida court had its own Chief Justice decisively declare that the ruling was so egregious that it would not stand up to federal scrutiny, that it would send us into a constitutional crisis, and that it would permanently damage the reputation of the Florida Supreme Court as an institution. A few days later, U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in his MUCH quoted (and misinterpreted) dissent, "The identity of the loser (in this campaign) is perfectly clear. It is the nation's confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the law." At first, Stevens seems to be saying that the U.S. Supreme itself was not being impartial. However, what Stevens is REALLY saying here is that the federal court's ruling makes it look like the FLORIDA SUPREME COURT'S ruling was not impartial and, instead, politically motivated. In short, Stevens is saying that his court should not have made the Florida court look so bad because it undermines the confidence of the public in the court system as a WHOLE, not necessarily the U.S. Supreme Court in particular.
The piece would also have us believe that Stevens, Sotomeyer, Ginsberg and Breyer are moderates, which anyone with just half a brain would realize to be false, as they are true, died in the wool liberals!

I do however agree that this should be an interesting year in the SC.
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Old 12-28-2009, 03:08 PM
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Default Re: Supreme Court: New justices, same narrow divide

Same...the piece seems a tad biased and I have the greatest respect for Scalia and Roberts. What caught my eye was the "New justices, same narrow divide" in the title...time will tell.
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