President Obama’s announcement that he supports same-sex marriage may have had an immediate impact on political discourse, but the same can’t be said of its implications for constitutional jurisprudence.
The Obama administration has hardly been a consistent defender of digital privacy. Recall, for example, its support for the reauthorization of the Patriot Act, or its position—unanimously rejected by the Supreme Court in U.S. v. Jones—that we should have no expectations of privacy in public.
For the past few months, the legal discussion in Washington has centered around the Supreme Court’s upcoming ruling on health care reform. Far less attention has been paid to a decision issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on April 13—even though it may prove, in the long run, to be similarly significant. At first glance, the case, Hettinga v. United States, doesn’t seem to merit much attention, since it concerns a less-than-scintillating subject: the production and distribution of milk.
At the conclusion of yesterday’s oral arguments in Arizona v. U.S., the case that will decide the fate of Arizona law SB 1070, Chief Justice John Roberts said, “Thank you, Mr. Clement, General Verrilli.
The first thing to be said about the lawsuit filed last week by the Justice Department against Apple and five book publishers is that the defendants very well may be guilty. There does seem to have been collusion among them to fix the price of e-books. But even if the book publishers’ actions were illegal, that’s not to suggest what they did wasn’t understandable. Indeed, there’s a plausible case to be made that the actions of the publishers actually amounted to combating an abusive monopoly—namely, Amazon.
When writing for the 5-4 majority that decided Citizens United, Justice Anthony Kennedy argued that caps on corporate campaign contributions were unnecessary because corporations would inevitably be held accountable for the money they spent on advertising. Disclosure requirements, Kennedy suggested, would provide the electorate with full “information about the sources of election-related spending.” But the type of full disclosure that Kennedy envisioned has been harder to achieve than he imagined.
In the oral arguments over the constitutionality of health care reform, John Roberts and Anthony Kennedy seemed at times to be looking for a reason to uphold the law despite their doubts. Unfortunately, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli didn’t give it to them.
More than any Supreme Court case in memory, the health care lawsuit has produced a tangle of constitutional positioning, with both the Obama administration and its challengers at various points contradicting themselves and making arguments they can’t possibly believe. There is plenty of blame for this situation to go around: You can blame the lawyers and politicians on both sides; you can even, in some respects, blame the Supreme Court justices themselves.
Newt Gingrich’s attack on judicial independence—in particular, his call for Congress to subpoena judges and force them to explain their rulings under threat of arrest—is widely viewed as one of the reasons his now-moribund presidential campaign jumped the shark. Both conservative and liberal pundits were alarmed by Gingrich’s assault on the concept of judicial review, and rightly so. But, if Gingrich’s judge-bashing was extreme, it was not an isolated phenomenon.