Supreme Court

Credit Is Due
June 17, 1996

The full faith and credit clause is about to become the Constitution's hottest provision. Found in Article IV of the original Constitution of 1789, its first sentence provides that “Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State.” This guarantee makes our lives in a mobile polity easier, assuring that local driver's licenses, birth certificates, marriages and divorces are recognized all around the country.  But the provision is about to be put to a historic test.

Bench Marked
May 27, 1996

"He talks a great game, and right now 55 percent of the people view him as a moderate. We need to change that. That's why we're talking about his liberal judges." --Bob Dole, The Wall Street Journal, May 3, 1996. Judicial bashing, by and large, is a wholesome tradition in American democracy. Jefferson's attacks on the "sappers and miners" of the Federalist judiciary helped to chasten a rabidly partisan Justice Samuel Chase. FDR's saber-rattling hastened the "switch-in-time" that saved the New Deal.

Shell game
May 13, 1996

"I weep for you," the Walrus said: "I deeply sympathize." With sobs and tears he sorted out Those of the largest size Holding his pocket-handkerchief Before his streaming eyes.   "He's very upset," says a senior administration official of President Clinton's decision to sign the "Effective Death Penalty and Public Safety Act of 1996." "It breaks his heart." On the one hand, Clinton was reluctant to go down in history as the president who signed the first statutory limitations on habeas corpus since Magna Carta; on the other hand, there was Oklahoma City.

The Day the Quotas Died
April 26, 1996

Great Supreme Court decisions, for all their theatricality, are notoriously weak engines of social change. The commands of Brown v. Board of Education weren't implemented until decades later; Roe v. Wade confirmed a trend toward the liberalization of abortion laws that had been percolating in the states. But, a year after it was handed down, Adarand v. Pena is proving to be a startling exception. Like a boulder thrown into a placid pond, Adarand has been sending ripples through the lower courts in ways that are already transforming affirmative action as we know it.

Just a Quirk
March 18, 1996

On January 29, in the Lehrman Auditorium at the Heritage Foundation, Pat Buchanan delivered a lecture called "Ending Judicial Dictatorship." The published version of the speech contains no footnotes, and Buchanan never indicated at the time that the ideas were not his own. In fact, the speech was written by William J. Quirk, a law professor at the University of South Carolina and co-author of Judicial Dictatorship (Transaction, 1995). It's a cut-and-paste job in which Quirk reproduced entire paragraphs from his book, and Buchanan cheerfully repeated them.

Like Race, Like Gender?
February 19, 1996

As the Supreme Court ponders whether the Virginia Military Institute and the Citadel can continue to exclude women, the legal battles have become a time-lapse photograph of the generational war among feminists. In the current issue of Dissent, Catharine Stimpson argues that "Shannon Faulkner ...

Southern Comfort
January 08, 1996

The budget stalemate has quickened Democratic hopes and Republican fears of a new congressional majority in 1996, but the fate of both parties is more likely to be sealed by the latest judicial battles over racial gerrymandering. Faithfully applying the Supreme Court's recent command that race can't be the "predominant factor" in districting decisions, a federal appellate court last week proposed to eliminate two of Georgia's three majority black congressional districts.

The Contract with K Street
December 04, 1995

When 367 Republican House candidates signed the Contract with America on September 27, 1994, they pledged to create "a Congress that is doing what the American people want and doing it in a way that instills trust." As they stood on the steps of the Capitol, Texas Representative Dick Armey declared, "[W]e enter a new era in American government. Today one political party is listening to the concerns of the American people, and we are responding with specific legislation.

Disoriented
October 23, 1995

Two years ago in a Denver courtroom, when we last encountered the anti-gay rights case Evans v. Romer, Professors Martha Nussbaum of Brown and Robert George of Princeton were wrangling about the proper translation of tolmema, Plato's adjective for homosexuality. Nussbaum said "deed of daring"; George preferred "abomination." (See "Sodom and Demurrer," TNR, November 29, 1993.) In its journey up to the Supreme Court, however, the case has been transformed from one about the definition of homosexuality to one about constitutional limitations on plebiscitary democracy.

Grover
October 09, 1995

President Kennedy, we're reminded by his biographers, understood the need for politicians to maintain their public dignity at all costs. When Hugh Sidey of Time playfully reported that Kennedy had posed with his family for the cover of Gentleman's Quarterly, "modelling a trimly tailored dark gray suit," Kennedy became apoplectic at the thought that he might be considered frivolous or effeminate for appearing in a flashy men's fashion magazine. " Anybody who read this would think I was crazy," he raged at Sidey, according to Richard Reeves.

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