The end of obscenity
July 15, 1996
On June 11, three judges in Philadelphia struck down parts of the Communications Decency Act. The decision, ACLU v. Reno, is being justly celebrated as the New York Times v. Sullivan of cyberspace, an occasion for dancing in the chat rooms. The three judges understood how the old First Amendment battles are being overtaken by new technologies; and in an endearingly self-dramatizing touch, they had their separate opinions distributed on floppy disks.
What Right to Die?
June 24, 1996
It's hard not to be moved by emotional accounts of how laws prohibiting assisted suicide can drive pain-wracked people to desperate ends. A year ago, in The New Yorker, Andrew Solomon wrote eloquently about how he and his brother helped their mother take sleeping pills to spare her the final agonies of ovarian cancer, an ordeal made even more harrowing by the fear of prosecution. All of the jurors who acquitted Dr. Jack Kevorkian in May similarly said they were influenced by videotapes in which two women suffering from chronic pain described their anguish and pleaded to be allowed to die.
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.
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.
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 ...
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.