By nominating Stephen Breyer to the Supreme Court, the Democrats have, however reluctantly or inadvertently, weaned themselves from Warrenism at last. Over the past four decades, as the excesses of the Warren Court provoked the equally ideological excesses of the Rehnquist Court, liberals and conservatives have accused each other of politicizing the judiciary.
Last week's j.e.b. decision should have been the dramatic highlight of an otherwise dull Supreme Court term, especially for those who have been waiting for Ruth Bader Ginsburg to find her voice. The outcome of the case, which forbids prosecutors from peremptorily excluding jurors on the basis of sex, was never really in doubt.
George Mitchell's withdrawal of his Supreme Court candidacy leaves the White House with a list of familiar names, many of them left over from the search that ended with the selection of Ruth Bader Ginsburg last year. Stephen Breyer of Boston and Amalya Kearse of New York are back in the running (see "The List," TNR, May 10, 1993). The leading contenders this week, however, seem to be Jose Cabranes of Connecticut, Drew Days, the U.S. solicitor-general, and Richard Arnold of Arkansas. While Days and Cabranes are able legal thinkers, Arnold is, on the merits, the best person for the job.
It seems ungenerous, perhaps, to dissent from the praise that has been lavished on Harry Blackmun since he announced his retirement from the Supreme Court last week. Blackmun was, as President Clinton said, a good and decent and humane man, whose compassion suffused his work and his life. Unlike some of his colleagues, he took his job seriously until the very end, and rather than flitting about to dinners and receptions, he worked long and lonely hours poring over the facts of the most obscure cases and agonizing about the fate of the parties.
Can the state of New York, by drawing political boundaries along religious lines, establish a municipal theocracy governed entirely by Satmar Hasidim? This is the constitutional question the Supreme Court is likely to avoid when it takes up the Kiryas Joel case on March 30. Instead, the justices will answer a related but less basic question: Can New York grant the Satmar village all the powers of a religiously segregated public school district and authorize it to educate handicapped Hasidic children at state expense? The missed opportunity is unfortunate.
Unless a Supreme Court nomination falls from the sky, federal judges are rarely evaluated by cool-eyed critics. And so my heart leapt the other day when Federal Express brought a 126-page report from the Chicago Council of Lawyers reviewing the performances of the fifteen judges on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. But the lawyers have an ax to grind. Their oddest conclusion is that Richard Posner and Frank Easterbrook, two of the most celebrated judges in the country, are in fact two of the least professional judges on the court.
Last week, with William Rehnquist's provisional consent, Shannon Faulkner became the first woman in 150 years to attend classes at The Citadel, a public military college in South Carolina. "This is just another case in a long series of cases over the last twenty years or so which have expanded opportunities for women and said they're entitled to an equal opportunity," Helen Neuborne of the now Legal Defense Fund told cnn.
Democracy and the Problem of Free Speech by Cass R. Sunstein (The Free Press, 300 pp., $22.95) For nearly a decade Cass Sunstein has presented himself as the benign face of free speech revisionism. In his academic writings, he has supported some restrictions on pornography and hate speech, and at the same time has avoided the rhetorical excesses of Catharine A. MacKinnon and the critical race theorists. He has endorsed some restrictions on the autonomy of broadcasters and newspaper owners, while questioning what he calls the more heavy-handed " command and control" solutions of the 1960s.
A few months ago, Garry Wills wrote an erudite piece in the New York Review of Books called "Jefferson the Aesthete." Far from the radical populist of historical myth, Wills argues, Jefferson was an aestheticized elitist of excessive refinement, who went on reckless buying sprees in Paris and cluttered his mountaintop chateau with Houdon busts, Sèvre table sculptures and a fauteuil from Marie Antoinette's own ébéniste.
Courtroom Three, on the second floor of the Denver City and County Building, is a neoclassical jewel, with its mustard walls and gray Vermont marble and polished oak backboard. It is a platonic ideal of a courtroom, which is perhaps why Viacom commandeered it in the mid-1980s to film several episodes of the new "Perry Mason." At the producers' behest, local architects installed a pair of ornate, but scarcely functional, beaux arts chandeliers; and their dim orange glow makes it hard for the judge to see the witnesses without squinting.