July 07, 2003
In the months leading up to the Supreme Court decision on affirmative action, it was hard not to feel a sense of dread. At other great moments of constitutional drama—the decision to reaffirm Roe in 1992 and to settle the presidential election of 2000—the justices had allowed an inflated sense of their own importance to distort their judgment and compromise their reasoning.
June 18, 2001
Now that they control the Senate, some Democrats want to treat George W. Bush's judicial nominees as badly as Republicans treated Bill Clinton's. Senate Republicans repeatedly distorted the records of Clinton's nominees to the federal appellate courts, painting judicial moderates as judicial activists and denying them hearings. While Ronald Reagan and Clinton appointed similar numbers of appellate judges, 87 percent of Reagan's nominees were confirmed, compared with only 61 percent of Clinton's.
The End of Deference
November 06, 2000
The Warren Court and American Politics by Lucas A. Powe, Jr. (Harvard University Press, 600 pp., $35) The presidential campaign this year, the discussions of the Supreme Court have followed a familiar script. The Republican candidate has promised to appoint "strict constructionist" judges who will interpret the law rather than legislate from the bench.
Fall of Private Man
June 12, 2000
Is it worth giving up privacy at work if it will prevent sexual harrassment?
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.
America in Thick and Thin
January 05, 1998
Civic Ideals: Conflicting Views of Citizenship in U.S. History by Rogers M. Smith (Yale University Press, 719 pp., $35) A few weeks ago, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case called Lorelyn Penero Miller v. Madeleine K. Albright, and some of the drama of the case is encapsulated in the petitioner's name. Twenty-seven years ago in the Philippines, Lorelyn Penero Miller was born out of wedlock.
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.
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.
The Color-Blind Court
July 31, 1995
The conservative justices are privately exuberant about the remarkable Supreme Court term that ended last week. Surprised and slightly dazed by the magnitude of their victory, they think they have finally exorcized the ghost of the Warren Court, fulfilled the goals of the conservative judicial revolution and vindicated the ideal of a color-blind Constitution for the first time since Reconstruction.
June 12, 1995
The Supreme Court struck down congressional term limits this week; and the surprising part of the 5-4 decision was not the wooden majority opinion by John Paul Stevens but the elastic dissent by Clarence Thomas. For the justices and their clerks, of course, rhetorical excesses are one of the pleasures of writing dissents, and shouldn't always be taken seriously.