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.
At the end of January, Viviane Reding, the European Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights, and Citizenship, announced a sweeping new privacy right: the “right to be forgotten.” The proposed right would require companies like Facebook and Google to remove information that people post about themselves and later regret—even if that information has already been widely distributed.
Yesterday the Supreme Court handed down the most important privacy case of the Roberts era, U.S. v. Jones. The unanimous decision is an occasion for dancing in the chat rooms. In holding that the government needs a warrant before attaching a GPS device to a suspect’s car to track his movements 24/7 for a month, all the justices rejected the Obama administration’s extreme and unnecessary position that we have no expectations of privacy when it comes to the virtual surveillance of our movements in public places.
The Web protests that led to a collapse of support in the House and Senate for two ill-designed antipiracy bills are a cause for celebration. In their current forms, both the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate are heavy-handed and indefensible, attempts to shut down a handful of rogue pirate sites by changing the open structure of the Internet.
Some commentators have attributed the FCC’s decision last week to block the $39 billion merger of AT&T and T-Mobile to the spread of anti-corporate sentiment in the wake of the Occupy Wall Street protests. “Imagine if the government didn’t take sides” lamented the conservative blog Red State. “Because AT&T really is getting an unfair deal.
Ever since Bush v. Gore, we’ve come to expect that federal courts will divide along predictable ideological lines: Judges appointed by Democrats are supposed to vote for Democratic priorities, while judges appointed by Republicans are supposed to prefer Republican priorities. In short, many people now assume judicial institutions will behave like legislative ones. But four recent decisions from the federal appellate courts call this assumption into question. On November 8, Judge Laurence Silberman, writing for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C.
As his campaign implodes in the face of sexual harassment allegations, Herman Cain’s Super PAC has launched an ad featuring Clarence Thomas’s 1991 charge that similar harassment allegations represented “a high tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves.” “Don’t let the left do it again,” the ad concludes. In a tight spot, both Cain and Thomas played the race card they had previously criticized, and both denied the sexual harassment allegations rather than taking responsibility.
During a Republican presidential forum in South Carolina on September 5, the conservative Princeton political philosopher Robert George asked the candidates a provocative question. George, the intellectual architect of the campaign against gay marriage and abortion rights, has long argued that Congress should declare war on the Supreme Court by passing a federal ban on abortion that clearly violates Roe v. Wade. Would the candidates be willing to sign such a ban—intentionally provoking a constitutional crisis?
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court confronted the latest frontier in the battle over strip searches: Does the Constitution allow prison officials to conduct a strip search of everyone arrested for a minor offense, no matter how trivial? And instead of focusing on high principles, the arguments took a surprisingly graphic turn.