April 10, 2000
The New Yorkers driven to the brink of riot last week by the shooting of Patrick Dorismond claim that Mayor Rudy Giuliani's zero-tolerance policy against crime has turned their city into a police state. Giuliani's defenders respond, in effect, that you have to take the bitter with the sweet. Yes, the shootings of Dorismond and Amadou Diallo are regrettable; but they are the inevitable side effect of the aggressive policing that has sent crime rates plummeting in New York and around the nation.
Talk Is Cheap
February 14, 2000
Supporters and opponents of campaign finance reform agree on little except for this: the compromise that the Supreme Court imposed on the nation 24 years ago in Buckley v. Valeo has collapsed. In Buckley, the Court held that Congress could regulate political contributions--that is, the money people donate to candidates--but not political expenditures--that is, the money candidates spend on themselves. The theory was that giving money to a candidate is not really a form of expression, while spending money to win an election is.
January 31, 2000
Last week, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a constitutional challenge to the Violence Against Women Act. On the same day, the justices announced that Congress lacks the power to authorize individuals to sue states for violating the Age Discrimination Act. Both cases show that the five conservative justices have started down the road toward a full-scale confrontation with Congress that has no logical stopping point.
November 29, 1999
Just in time for the presidential election, abortion may be headed again for the Supreme Court. In the wake of lurid hearings in Congress in 1995, 30 states have passed laws banning partial-birth abortion, a politically inflammatory but rarely used procedure. Judges have struck down the bans in two-thirds of the states and haven't interfered in the rest.
November 08, 1999
The politics of privacy in America are reactive and sentimental, fired by heart-tugging anecdotes that capture the public imagination. The murder of TV actress Rebecca Schaeffer by an obsessive fan who obtained her address through the department of motor vehicles led Congress to pass the Driver's Privacy Protection Act, which forbids state licensing authorities from releasing the personal information of individuals without their consent.
September 13, 1999
Consider the following case study in the complex interaction of race and law enforcement. An officer from the Drug Enforcement Administration stops and questions a young man who has just stepped off a flight to Kansas City from Los Angeles. The officer has focused on this man for several reasons. Intelligence reports indicate that black gangs in Los Angeles are flooding the Kansas City area with illegal drugs, and the man in question was on a flight originating in Los Angeles.
The Age of Mixed Results
June 28, 1999
One Case at a Time: Judicial Minimalism on the Supreme Court by Cass R. Sunstein (Harvard University Press, 290 pp., $29.95) I. America now is a society addicted to legalism that has lost its faith in legal argument. The impeachment of Bill Clinton was only the most visible manifestation of this paradox.
February 08, 1999
The witnesses are coming! In their opening arguments during the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton, the House managers seemed to convince a majority of senators to call witnesses to resolve disputed factual questions. The president's lawyers responded that witnesses are unnecessary because "you have before you all that you need" to conclude that there was no basis for the House to impeach the president or the Senate to convict him.
December 14, 1998
"You have no right or authority under the law, as independent counsel, to advocate for a particular position on the evidence before the Judiciary Committee," Sam Dash wrote to Kenneth Starr last week, announcing his decision to resign as Starr's $400-an-hour ethics adviser. But Dash's frantic attempt to save his tattered reputation after Starr's appearance before the House was several months too late.
November 30, 1998
"It is either impeachment or nothing," Gary McDowell, the conservative legal scholar, told the House Judiciary Committee on November 9. "Thus, the current suggestion that Congress might censure the president is to assume a power not given by our Constitution." Many of the scholars who testified during the opening hearing of the House impeachment inquiry agreed with McDowell, but they were overstating the case against censure.