Supreme Court

The List
May 10, 1993

The White House has expanded its search for the next Supreme Court justice; and it is now possible to evaluate the scholarship, opinions and constitutional vision of the candidates. All are able federal judges. But some are more proficient than others at textual and historical analysis, and so better equipped to win over the swing justices and to challenge the Court's most aggressive intellectual, Antonin Scalia, on his own terms. In ascending order: Mary M. Schroeder, 52. U.S. Court of Appeals, Phoenix, Arizona.

Cuomo Vadis
April 26, 1993

There is an occupational hazard of writing about Mario Cuomo: even if you are generally sympathetic to him, he'll call to correct you. And the New York governor was not daunted by his status as the front-runner for the next Supreme Court seat.

Lemon Law
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.

For Whom the Bell Tolls
March 01, 1993

Derrick Bell has a flair for the dramatic exit. The one that made him famous was his highly publicized decision in 1990 to leave his tenured position at Harvard Law School, where he had been the first black scholar ever hired. Bell quit after Harvard refused to offer tenure to a black woman he supported. But Bell had done the same thing at the University of Oregon six years earlier. And he had made the same threat at Harvard ten years before that. And back in 1959 he had quit the first job he ever held, at the Justice Department, over a matter of principle.

Danny and Zoe
February 01, 1993

The drama that culminated in Zoe Baird's selection as attorney general was demeaning to all the players. First, Bill Clinton made it clear that only women need apply. Then Judge Patricia Wald, who deserved to be at the top of a coed list, took herself out of the running. Brooksley Born, a Washington lawyer-activist, lost the job by leaving Clinton cold in her interview--after boasting to friends that she had clinched the nomination.

Where Politics Ends
August 03, 1992

The fine line between "law" and "politics."

The Softness of Reason
July 13, 1992

In The Clouds, Aristophanes' great comedy about Socrates, a young man eager for the new learning goes to the Think-Academy run by that strange and notorious figure. A debate is staged for him, contrasting the merits of traditional education with those of the new discipline of argument. The spokesman for the old education is a he-man. He favors a tough military regimen, including lots of gymnastics and not much questioning.

Douglass to Thomas
September 30, 1991

The Roots of Black Conservatism, From Frederick Douglass to Clarence Thomas

The Minority Minority
September 30, 1991

Last July Clarence Thomas attended a private dinner in Washington with a handful of NAACP officials. This was shortly after he’d been nominated to the Supreme Court, and Thomas hoped to soften the antipathy of the black civil rights establishment toward him. Not a chance. He was soon trashed in public statements as a snake, a black copy of David Duke, “Bork in blackface,” and putty in the hands of his conservative white wife. Gary Franks, the first black Republican elected to the House of Representatives since 1932, got better treatment, but not much.

The Spirit Of The Laws
March 11, 1991

How should the courts interpret the Constitution?

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