December 01, 1997
Senate Republicans have blocked Bill Lann Lee's nomination to be assistant attorney general for Civil Rights on the grounds that his views are "out of the mainstream." Lee's editorial supporters, including The New York Times, denounce this as a "gross misrepresentation," and before examining his writings, I was prepared to believe them. But based on Lee's testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee and on his record as counsel to the naacp Legal Defense Fund, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that Lee represents the least nuanced tendencies of liberal racialism.
Passing the Buckley
October 27, 1997
Buckley v. Valeo, the Supreme Court’s attempt to reconcile campaign finance regulations with the First Amendment, was dubious from the day it was decided in 1976. With memories of Watergate still fresh, the Burger Court assumed that preventing corruption of individual candidates by wealthy donors was the central evil that Congress had a right to avoid. But in the 1990s, the parties, rather than the plutocrats, became the stock villains of the reform drama.
October 06, 1997
Readers of this ideologically diverse magazine have been treated to a bracing range of opinion about whether or not Vice President Gore broke the law when he telephoned his supporters from the White House to ask for campaign contributions. Now that congressional Republicans are once again calling for an independent counsel, tnr has asked your legal affairs editor to examine the record as dispassionately as possible.
July 28, 1997
Since the Progressive era, this magazine has argued for judicial restraint as part of a broader argument for liberal nationalism. Judges should defer to the prerogatives of Congress and the president, the argument goes, so that popular sovereignty can serve as the engine of national unity.
May 05, 1997
A Matter of Interpretation: Federal Courts and the Law by Antonin Scalia (Princeton University Press, 159 pp., $19.95) Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution by Jack N. Rakove (Knopf, 420 pp., $35) We are all originalists now. That is to say, most judges and legal scholars who want to remain within the boundaries of respectable constitutional discourse agree that the original meaning of the Constitution and its amendments has some degree of pertinence to the question of what the Constitution means today.
March 31, 1997
Spring fever is in the air at the Supreme Court as the justices prepare to hear arguments about the constitutionality of the Communications Decency Act on March 19. To familiarize themselves with the technological obstacles to finding pornography in cyberspace, some law clerks have obtained lists of especially salacious addresses on the World Wide Web and diligently browsed at their leisure.
February 24, 1997
When President Clinton signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in November, 1993, the South Lawn basked in a bipartisan glow. Designed to overturn the Supreme Court's widely criticized decision in Employment Division v. Smith, which held, in 1990, that the state of Oregon could forbid Native Americans from using illegal peyote as part of their religious rituals, RFRA was supported by an improbably broad coalition of Democrats and Republicans, from Orrin Hatch and Edward Kennedy to the National Islamic Prison Foundation and B'nai B'rith.
One Bite At the Apple
February 03, 1997
At the Supreme Court arguments on Monday, January 13, in Clinton v. Jones, the justices seemed inclined to delay Paula Jones's sexual harassment suit until the president leaves office, because the president is a busy man. But even if President Clinton is temporarily spared the mortifying task of answering Jones's complaint, his trial in the court of popular opinion has already begun.
December 23, 1996
On November 27, three weeks after the citizens of California ratified the California Civil Rights Initiative, Judge Thelton Henderson of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco enjoined Governor Pete Wilson from enforcing it. Invoking a Supreme Court decision from 1982, Washington v. Seattle School District No.
November 11, 1996
Popular opinion may still support him as against the outrageous Republican alternative, and may yet conceal ... a growing and substantial dissatisfaction because of the meager results that have followed his magnificent promises, and because of the confusion and lack of direction that his rapidly shifting and self-contradictory program embodies. --"Is Roosevelt Slipping?" TNR, August 14, 1935. As President Clinton prepares to become the first two-term Democrat since FDR, commentators on the left and the right are busy expressing skepticism about his achievement.