May 22, 1995
It was a coincidence, of course, that exactly a week after the Oklahoma bombing, the Supreme Court struck down the Gun Free School Zones Act of 1990, holding that Congress had exceeded its enumerated powers for the first time since the New Deal. Nevertheless, some commentators are treating the two events as if they were portentously linked.
March 02, 1995
George Stephanopoulos turned up at the Supreme Court last week, sitting next to Joel Klein, the deputy White House counsel. Their joint appearance seemed to illustrate the administration's anxiety about the case, Adarand v. Pena, in which the Court is being asked to strike down racial preferences in the construction industry that have been endorsed by every president since Nixon. But Klein assured me afterward that Stephanopoulos, who had never seen a Supreme Court argument before, had come along purely out of curiosity. He picked a good day.
The Forgotten Formalist
December 05, 1994
Hugo Black: A Biography by Roger K. Newman (Pantheon, 741 pp., $30) On February 17, 1960, at New York University, Justice Hugo Black defended his judicial philosophy against the sneers of Felix Frankfurter and Learned Hand. "Some people regard the prohibitions of the Constitution ... as mere admonitions which Congress need not always observe," said Black in backhanded response to Hand's lectures at Harvard two years earlier. This approach, which "comes close to the English doctrine of legislative omnipotence," Black could not accept.
Is Affirmative Action Doomed?
October 17, 1994
On September 7 Deval Patrick, the assistant attorney general for civil rights, filed a brief in a New Jersey case arguing that it is legal to fire a white teacher over a black teacher purely because of her race. And on August 19 a federal district judge in Austin, Texas, held that aspects of the affirmative action program at the University of Texas law school are unconstitutional. One or both of the cases may reach the Supreme Court before long. Each on its own could revive the debate about racial preferences and ventilate their more troubling assumptions.
July 11, 1994
Jeffrey Rosen offers his take on the prospective Justice Breyer.
June 06, 1994
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.
November 01, 1993
The lingering questions of the Thomas and Ginsburg hearings anxiously converged in a sexual harassment case before the Court this week. Can sexual banter in the workplace be punished if it offends women without affecting their job performance? And are men's and women's perspectives about sex so vastly different that women need special protection from the vulgarity of men?
July 05, 1993
In every Supreme Court term, there is at least one case that tests, and vividly exposes, the character of the justices. Last year it was abortion; this year it is hate crimes. The outcome of Wisconsin v. Mitchell--which upheld a law that requires harsher sentences for criminals who "intentionally select" their victims "because of race, religion" and the like--was never really in doubt. But instead of being sensitive to the intricate First Amendment concerns that the case raised, William Rehnquist dismissed them contemptuously.
Banking on Bruce
June 28, 1993
If Bill Clinton nominates Bruce Babbitt to the Supreme Court, he will be hard-pressed to claim that the interior secretary shares his judicial philosophy. For after reviewing Babbitt's extensive writings and speeches, the White House is confident that Babbitt has virtually no opinions on constitutional issues that he has bothered to express. For most politicians, this would be unexceptional; but in Babbitt's case it is somewhat surprising.
March 29, 1993
Can the state of Arizona pay an interpreter to sign the rosary for James Zobrest, a deaf student at a Catholic high school? Zobrest's parents claim Arizona misinterpreted the religion clauses of the First Amendment ("Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof") when it decided to put sign language interpreters in secular, but not religious, private schools. At oral argument on February 24, the justices joked about their incoherent doctrine for policing the Establishment Clause and the embarrassing results it has produced.