Supreme Court

Bad Thoughts
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.

Court Marshall
June 21, 1993

Having peered behind the red velvet curtains of the Rehnquist Court, the press now tells the embarrassed justices that they have nothing to be embarrassed about. But after spending last week in the Marshall archives, I sympathize with William Rehnquist's fears. The portrait of the justices that emerges from their internal correspondence is not, in fact, particularly flattering.

A Womb with a View
June 14, 1993

Life's Dominion: An Argument About Abortion, Euthanasia, and Individual Freedom by Ronald Dworkin (Knopf, 273 pp., $23) Liberals urgently need a constitutional philosophy, and Ronald Dworkin is eager to provide one. In his important writings over the past three decades, he has tried to work out a comprehensive theory of law, as well as a principled approach to the American Constitution. With few apologies, he has defended the Warren Court against a parade of conservative critics -- from the Burkean prudentialism of Alexander Bickel to the purported historicism of Robert Bork.

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."

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