In April 2000, a Vermont musician named Diana Levine went to the hospital with a migraine. There, a nurse incorrectly injected Phenergan, an anti-nausea drug, into her vein rather than her muscle. This led to gangrene and, eventually, the amputation of much of her right arm. Levine sued and won more than $6 million from a Vermont jury, which concluded that Wyeth, the drug company, had failed to warn her properly about the risks of the drug.
On March 29, 1989, at a time when many of his fellow first-year law students were beginning to prepare for the spring semester’s looming examinations, Barack Obama paid a visit to the office of eminent constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe. Obama had not dropped by to brush up for a test. In fact, he had yet even to enroll in an introductory constitutional law course, a gratification Harvard Law School denies its students until the second year of study. Obama’s call was purely extracurricular: He wanted to discuss Tribe’s academic writings.
As everyone knows, the health care reform lawsuits that are currently making their way to the Supreme Court are being shepherded and applauded by conservatives. But how conservative is the judicial philosophy behind the suits? The answer turns out to be complicated. In fact, once the lawsuits end up at the Court, they will likely expose ideological fissures in the conservative legal movement that may unsettle those on both the right and the left. To understand why, consider what these lawsuits are actually about.
Click here for Jonathan Cohn on why we shouldn't freak out about the ruling. Conservatives are jubilant that a Republican judge in Virginia has agreed with their contention that the individual mandate, formerly a pillar of Republican health reform proposals, is unconstitutional: “Today’s ruling is a clear affirmation that President Obama’s health care law is unconstitutional,” Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor, the presumptive House majority leader next year, said in a statement. ... “Today is a great day for liberty,” Utah Sen.
My post on the law and ethics of property rights and shoveled out parking spaces turns out to have stepped into the middle of a long-established and somewhat bitter debate. The orthodox libertarian position is represented by my friend Jesse Walker of Reason, this 2001 paper by Richard Epstein (which I haven't read; apologies if I'm mischaracterizing it), and Fred S. McChesney. Mike Madison at Pittsblog is moderately skeptical of granting property rights to space-diggers.
This piece is from our archives: It was published on May 20, 2009. In March, 2008, Martha Nussbaum, a law professor at the University of Chicago, traveled with Judge Diane Wood to a conference in India. The topic was affirmative action in higher education, and before the conference began, they went to Kolkata to meet women leaders who were gathered to talk about how women should claim their legal rights. "Diane borrowed half of my Indian wardrobe and came in like an Indian woman," Nussbaum recalls.
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.