Supreme Court Holds That the Second Amendment Applies to the States

Monday, June 28, AD 2010

In the case of McDonald v. the City of Chicago, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the Second Amendment applies to the states.  Read the decision here.  The decision was 5-4 which is absolutely stunning since I think that there was no intellectually respectable argument to be made that the Second Amendment does not apply to the states.

The bill of rights applies to the States due to the Fourteenth Amendment.   In the opinions written by the majority justices, emphasis is given to the importance that the drafters of the Amendment placed upon the rights of freed slaves after the Civil War to keep and bear arms for their defense.  A good day for the Constitution at the Supreme Court.

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16 Responses to Supreme Court Holds That the Second Amendment Applies to the States

  • Apropos of our discussion a few weeks ago regarding Justice Scalia’s view that “tradition” should inform the Court’s “substantive due process” jurisprudence, note that this was key to the Court’s decision. (See also Justice Scalia’s concurrence, in which he masterfully dissects Justice Stevens’ dissent.)

    I think Justice Thomas’ privileges or immunities clause analyisis is the better argument from both an originalist and textualist standpoint. But, given that that ship has already sailed, and given the need to limit the Court’s “substantive due process” jurisprudence to those rights that actually have some grounding in the text of the Constitution and the history and tradition of our nation, I can’t say that I blame the majority for relying on the due process clause rather than privileges or immunities, and using this case as a vehicle for defining the limits of “substantive due process”.

  • One gets the feeling that, should a case that hinges upon the question “Does the Constitution require that there be a House and Senate?” make its way to the SCOTUS, the vote would come down five votes to four. Sadly, no one seems able to predict whether the five would be for or against.

    Those of you who think “we are a nation of laws” will find yourselves confounded by the caprice of five untouchables in black robes.

  • I agree. The vote should have been 9 – 0.

    One, “the right of the people to bear arms shall not be infringed.” Can the four dissenting read?

    Two, I bet “dollars to donuts” that the four dissenting (plus Kagan) will affirmatively vote (hallucinating) that the constitution gives a woman the RIGHT to have taxpayers pay a medico to exterminate her unborn babies.

  • Incorporation through the 14th has been piecemeal. The court had never adopted a blanket doctrine of incorporation. But I agree that if we’re going to incorporate at all, the 2nd amendment has to be included.

  • I’m with restrainedradical. The incorporation doctrine is hardly an obvious feature of our constitution, but there is no coherent basis for excluding the 2d amendment from its ambit once it has been applied to the other enumerated rights.

  • T. Shaw, I think the four dissenters are right in insisting that the clause you quote–“the right of the people to bear…”–is qualified, and rendered more precise in its intent, by the prior clause, establishing the need for militias. On an originalist reading of this text, the right to bear arms for, eg. the purposes of hunting or personal protection, simply does not exist.

  • WJ,

    That issue was decided and rejected in the Heller case. They had already lost on that. And don’t pretend that your argument is originalist. Calling it such doesn’t make it so.

  • wj:

    I think the four dissenters do not believe we the people should be free people. I doubt they believe in individual liberty.

    You may read the commentaries, minutes, and statements of the “state” conventions, and all the drafters/founders. At no time was the right of US citizens to individually keep and bear arms questioned until around the time the federal government instituted the income tax (they needed to amend the Constitution) and Federal Reserve System.

    But, you’re right. Once the Obama regime packs the court. [I’m ‘chanelling’ Thomas Jefferson here] We’re likely to devolve into slaves to the state.

  • wj:
    Your is a common argument. The problem is that it does not withstand the scrutiny:

    http://www.guncite.com/journals/vanalful.html

    Van Alstyne is one of the leading con law scholars of our time. Although a liberal to the core, he is ruthlessly principled in his constitutional reasoning. for instance he is pro choice as a policy matter, but believes Roe was a terrible decision.

  • I’m aware of van alstyne and heller etc and disagree with the findings of both. You can disagree with heller precisely on originalist grounds; which is not to say you must–just that you can as a matter of interpretation. Both heller and van alstyne perform any number of impressive exegetical contortions to escape what to my mind is the clear intent of the sentence in question. But maybe you’re right that the four dissenters are motivated less by interpretive scruple and more by policy preference.

  • Fair enough, Wj. For what it is worth I have no great interest in gun regulation as a policy matter, and really don’t care if guns are outlawed. But I find Van Alstyne’s exegesis if the 2d Amendment air tight. Moreover, I have known Bill for almost 30 years; he is immune to exegetical contortion. I have no opinion on the motivations of the four dissenters. I just don’t think there exists a reasonable argument for sparing the 2d Amendment from the incorporation doctrine.

  • Way too much education wasted here on a rather simple issue. Where in the Constitution is any branch of the federal government given authority to disarm either the states or the people? The ninth amendment applies. The critical issue here, and the reason many oppposed incorporation of “the Bill”, is that the amendment did not create the right, though it is now treated as if it had; it only acknowledges the right. No one ever would have written the second amendment as it was written to make sure that states allowed their militia to keep arms at their homes (the point of mobilization). To say they would have is simply dishonest. So it comes down to this; you are either for, or against the Constitution. There are no nuances here that merit consideration.

  • I’ve heard estimates that 90,000,000 Americans own firearms.

    “The beauty of the Second Amendment is that it will not be needed until they try to take it.” Thomas Jefferson

    “Laws that forbid the carrying of arms…disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes…such laws make things worse for the assaulted; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.” Thomas Jefferson 1764

    “No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.” Thomas Jefferson proposed Virginia constitution 1776

    “The Constitution preserves ‘the advantage of being armed which Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation…(where) the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.'” The Federalist #46

    “…arms discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property…Horrid mischief would ensue were the law-abiding deprived the use of them.” Thomas Paine Thoughts on Defensive War 1775 – proof positive in all the states that infringe the Second Amendment.

    “The Constitution shall never be construed to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms.” Samuel Adams 1788: During Massachusetts’ Constitution ratification convention.

    “Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect every one who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are ruined.” Patrick Henry: during Virginia’s ratification convention (1788)

    “Arms in the hands of individual citizens may be used at individual discretion…in private self-defense.” John Adams 1788

    “A militia when properly formed are in fact the people themselves…and include all men capable of bearing arms…To preserve liberty it is essential that the whole body of the people possess arms.” Richard Henry Lee Additional Letters From The Federal Farmer 53 (1788)

    “I ask sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people…To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them.” George Mason: Virginia’s US Constitution ratification convention (1788)

    “To secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” US Constitution

    “Government is not reason; it is not eloquence; it is force; like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” George Washington, Farewell Address

  • That Washington quote has to be the best. Seems our Presidents went downhill from there.

  • Kevin, nobody reads the 9th Amendment as you do because it would be ridiculous to do so. The 9th was intended merely to clarify that the Bill of Rights shouldn’t be interpreted to prohibit all other rights. It doesn’t ensure any rights. It only ensures that absent a law prohibiting it, you have the right to do it.

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SCOTUS: 6 Catholics, 3 Jews, Law, Scholasticism and Tradition

Wednesday, May 12, AD 2010

I read a comment[1] a few weeks ago on GetReligion.org attempting to explain why John Paul Stevens was the last Protestant in the U.S. Supreme Court which simply said that Catholics and Jews have a tradition of being immersed in law (Canon Law and Halakha respectively for Catholics and Jews as an example).

This struck me as interesting because at first glance it kind of makes sense.

Of course there is much more to why the current make-up of the U.S. Supreme Court, 6 Catholics, 2 Jews, and an Episcopalian, is as it is.[2]

But I thought it was an interesting enough topic to dive into.

Lisa Wangsness of the Boston Globe chimes in with her two cents worth [emphases mine]:

Evangelical Protestants have been slow to embrace, or to feel welcomed by, the elite law schools like Harvard and Yale that have become a veritable requirement for Supreme Court nominees. One reason for this, some scholars say, is because of an anti-intellectual strain within evangelicalism.

As Ronald Reagan would say, there you go again, pushing the liberal theory that Christians are stupid (at least Evangelical Protestants).

Lets get beyond these stereotypes done by liberals to Christians.

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47 Responses to SCOTUS: 6 Catholics, 3 Jews, Law, Scholasticism and Tradition

  • The legalistic traditions would be the most obvious theory but I suspect that it’s too abstract to have this disparate an impact. Besides, sola scriptura is much closer to the originalism of the four conservative Catholic justices. The living Magisterium is more analogous to the living constitution that they reject.

    The anti-intellectual strain within evangelicalism makes sense. Part of it may also be that Catholics make more reliable conservative judges and are therefore more appealing Republican appointees but I bet Catholics are overrepresented in the general lawyer population as well.

    Maybe religion is actually hiding an ethnic cultural difference. The legal field was one of the few fields that was relatively tolerant of Jews which is at least partially why they are overrepresented. Maybe anti-Catholic or anti-immigrant sentiment drove the Irish, Italians, and now the Hispanics into law.

    Maybe religion is hiding a regional difference. Five of the justices are from New York, two from California, and one from New Jersey. New York and California are the two biggest lawyer markets. They also happen to have the largest Catholic and Jewish populations. I can’t speak for California, but every ambitious New Yorker wants to be either a lawyer or a banker (another field where Jews, and maybe Catholics, dominate).

    Maybe Catholics and Jews can’t be lumped together. Maybe Jews are overrepresented for historic reasons and Catholics for religious reasons.

    Protestants do have their colleges, seminaries, and Bible study groups, similar to those of Catholics.

    But their emphasis is very different. I’ve heard one Protestant accuse Catholics of being too mechanical in their religious studies.

    Ironic that people got all hot and bothered when the fourth and fifth nominees for the SCOTUS were Catholic’s thus over-representing Catholics in the Judicial branch. But somehow the secularists are excited that the current nominee, Elena Kagan, a Jew, would make SCOTUS 1/3 Jewish.

    They were hot and bothered because Roberts and Alito were conservative Catholics. They had no problem with Sotomayor.

  • Let’s get beyond liberals. Liberals only have insults and lies; and fabricated/imagined crises meant to “grease the skids” for their destructive policy “solutions.”

    If we don’t stop Obama and his horde of liberal idiots (I repeat myself) in congress, and soon the Judiciary, they will cause a degree of economic devastation from which the private sector may never recover.

    Then, they will have succeeeded in making us all serfs, which was their (the two or three that aren’t gays/lesbians/puppy-lovers/morons) plan all along.

  • I take issue with the notion that the conservative justices’ approach is similar to “sola scriptura” and that the “living Constitution” approach is analogous to the living Magisterium.

    Instead, I would say the two approaches to the Constitution are rather more like the difference between how a traditionalist Catholic and a Voice-of-the-Faithful Catholic view the Magisterium.

    Conservative jurisprudence does not reject development in the law; conservative jurisprudence recognizes that the world today is different from the world 200 years ago and that matters will arise that were completely outside the imagination of the Framers. However, conservative jurisprudence also recognizes that developments in the law (1) are better suited to be addressed by legislative bodies rather than courts, and (2) to the extent the courts must develop constitutional doctrine to meet modern challenges, the development must be (a) an organic extension of the rights and values traditionally held by society and (b) be bound to the text of the Constitution as originally enacted and intended by the Framers.

    Justice Scalia famously discussed this view in the Michael H. case, in which a putative father (from an extra-marital affair) sought to use the Court’s “substantive due process” jurisprudence (see, e.g., Griswold and Roe) to overturn a state’s codification of Mansfield’s Rule, which protects the children of a marriage from outside claims of paternity. Scalia, in his majority opinion, attempted to limit the extension of “substantive due process” to those instances where society had traditionally protected such rights:

    1. The § 621 presumption does not infringe upon the due process rights of a man wishing to establish his paternity of a child born to the wife of another man.

    […]

    (b) There is no merit to Michael’s substantive due process claim that he has a constitutionally protected “liberty” interest in the parental relationship he has established with Victoria, and that protection of Gerald’s and Carole’s marital union is an insufficient state interest to support termination of that relationship. Michael has failed to meet his burden of proving that his claimed “liberty” interest is one so deeply imbedded within society’s traditions as to be a fundamental right. Not only has he failed to demonstrate that the interest he seeks to vindicate has traditionally been accorded protection by society, but the common law presumption of legitimacy, and even modern statutory and decisional law, demonstrate that society has historically protected, and continues to protect, the marital family against the sort of claim Michael asserts.

    Scalia explains further:

    In an attempt to limit and guide interpretation of the Clause, we have insisted not merely that the interest denominated as a “liberty” be “fundamental” (a concept that, in isolation, is hard to objectify), but also that it be an interest traditionally protected by our society. [Footnote 2] As we have put it, the Due Process Clause affords only those protections “so rooted in the traditions and conscience of our people as to be ranked as fundamental.” Snyder v. Massachusetts, 291 U. S. 97, 291 U. S. 105 (1934) (Cardozo, J.). Our cases reflect “continual insistence upon respect for the teachings of history [and] solid recognition of the basic values that underlie our society. . . .” Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U. S. 479, 381 U. S. 501 (1965) (Harlan, J., concurring in judgment).

    This insistence that the asserted liberty interest be rooted in history and tradition is evident, as elsewhere, in our cases according constitutional protection to certain parental rights. Michael reads the landmark case of Stanley v. Illinois, 405 U. S. 645 (1972), and the subsequent cases of Quilloin v. Walcott, 434 U. S. 246 (1978), Caban v. Mohammed, 441 U. S. 380 (1979), and Lehr v. Robertson, 463 U. S. 248 (1983), as establishing that a liberty interest is created by biological fatherhood plus an established parental relationship — factors that exist in the present case as well. We think that distorts the rationale of those cases. As we view them, they rest not upon such isolated factors but upon the historic respect — indeed, sanctity would not be too strong a term — traditionally accorded to the relationships that develop within the unitary family. [Footnote 3] See Stanley, supra, at 405 U. S. 651; Quilloin, supra, at 434 U. S. 254-255; Caban, supra, at 441 U. S. 389; Lehr, supra, at 463 U. S. 261. In Stanley, for example, we forbade the destruction of such a family when, upon the death of the mother, the State had sought to remove children from the custody of a father who had lived with and supported them and their mother for 18 years. As Justice Powell stated for the plurality in Moore v. East Cleveland, supra, at 431 U. S. 503:

    “Our decisions establish that the Constitution protects the sanctity of the family precisely because the institution of the family is deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition.”

    Thus, the legal issue in the present case reduces to whether the relationship between persons in the situation of Michael and Victoria has been treated as a protected family unit under the historic practices of our society, or whether, on any other basis, it has been accorded special protection. We think it impossible to find that it has. In fact, quite to the contrary, our traditions have protected the marital family (Gerald, Carole, and the child they acknowledge to be theirs) against the sort of claim Michael asserts. [Footnote 4]…

    That’s hardly a “sola scriptura” approach to jurisprudence and, in fact, I would argue that Scalia was relying upon his own Catholic understanding of the Magisterium in formulating that approach.

  • Thanks, Jay, for beating me to it. I owe you.

  • Ditto what Mike said. I’ve written that comment before (although probably not as well).

  • Three comments:

    First, I would not dismiss the existence of an anti-intellectual strain within evangelical Protestantism as mere liberal rhetoric. Certainly there is some of that, but the anti-intellectualism in evangelical Protestantism is well documented, especially by scholars such as Mark Noll, who is himself an evangelical Protestant. It is a part of evangelical Protestantism that many adherents are putting aside, but its historical existence could be a factor.

    Second, we can’t ignore social trends. Mainline Protestantism has been declining in numbers and influence for some time. The lack of mainline Protestants that “percolate up” to the upper echelons of the law is a consequence of that. At the same time, Catholic numbers and influence increased during the same decades. Also, Catholics and Jews during the last century emphasized education, assimilation, and becoming part of the “establishment.” That too, had implications. I would expect the same to happen with evangelical Protestants in the decades to come.

    Third, both Jewish and Catholic teaching has not emphasized, as much as mainline Protestants, a radical separation of church/state and politics/religion. Mainline Protestants, some have argued, emphasized it so much that they made religion irrelevant in the public square.

  • It’s not a perfect fit but there are elements of originalism that more closely resemble sola scriptura. Sola scripturists would also agree that the world is different today. Jay, I don’t think anything you said is inconsistent with sola scriptura.

    It’s funny you mention Michael H. I was just rereading my notes on the case a few days ago. None of the justices objected to Scalia’s view to traditional rights. Brennan’s dissent also looks to traditional rights. But a majority didn’t join Scalia’s footnote 6 for a very different reason. I, along with most the justices, think he’s wrong in his application, if not his approach. Contrary to his assertion that broader classes are more susceptible to conflicting interpretations, Scalia’s approach allows judges to pick conflicting specific classes. Scalia puts Michael H. in the class of “cheating fathers.” One can also place him in the class of “biological fathers.”

  • No, Scalia does not place Michael H. in the class of “cheating fathers”; he places him in the class of those who society and the law don’t want breaking up intact families by challenging the paternity of the children within those families. He’s unwilling to create out of whole cloth a “fundamental right” to do something that society has not traditionally seen fit to give sanction.

    And while one may also place Michael H. in the class of “biological fathers”, that says absolutely nothing regarding the “fundamentalness” of his “right” to have Mansfield’s Rule struck down as unconstitutional. And that’s what’s at stake. The liberal would throw out a centuries old common law rule over some imagined “fundamental right” to claim the child of an intact marriage as one’s own. That’s not akin to a “development of doctrine” – that’s changing the rules to suit one’s own personal view of how the law SHOULD be and fits more in line with how the VOTF crowd view the Magisterium.

  • Furthermore, the reason the “sola scriptura” analogy is inapt is because it an ahistorical reading of how originalists have actually behaved on the Court.

    Protestants whose approach to religion is based on “sola scriptura” reject authority and tradition as having any sway over how they apply their Faith to their lives. They reject developments in doctrine (even while unconsciously accepting such developments as the Trinity and the compilation of the Bible itself). The “sola scriptura” mindset – especially when it is of the fundamentalist variety – is a back-to-the-basics approach with only the Bible and the Holy Spirit as a guide.

    The originalist, in contrast, doesn’t reject authority or tradition or developments in the law that have occurred in the intervening years since the founding. The originalist doesn’t seek to “refound” the American republic as it existed in 1787. In fact, the originalist approach to jurisprudence is actually quite limited in scope by comparison to the Protestant Reformation and the approach of the “sola scriptura” practitioner.

  • Jay,

    Protestants whose approach to religion is based on “sola scriptura” reject authority and tradition as having any sway over how they apply their Faith to their lives. They reject developments in doctrine (even while unconsciously accepting such developments as the Trinity and the compilation of the Bible itself). The “sola scriptura” mindset – especially when it is of the fundamentalist variety – is a back-to-the-basics approach with only the Bible and the Holy Spirit as a guide.

    Thanks for fleshing out what I said in one sentence.

    I’m no law expert nor a lawyer, but I too could see that sola scriptura was an impediment towards doctrinal development for Protestants.

    And with that, originalsim and sola scriptura have no similarities with the respect to doctrinal development.

    Also appreciated your first comment as well…

  • Finally, let’s be honest about why those Catholics opposed to Constitutional originalism try to stigmatize it with the taint of “sola scriptura”: they know that most Catholics, especially conservative ones, take a dim view of “sola scriptura” in the context of theology, so they use the analogy to paint Catholic constitutional originalists as unthinking (in relying on the same intellectually inferior practice as protestant fundamentalists) and/or hypocritical (in doing to the Constitution what they criticize the protestants for doing to Christianity).

    The problem, as I’ve noted above, is that the analogy is inapt. But it is inapt not only because it fails to describe what originalists actually believe and how they actually behave, but because it is a comparison of two completely different institutions established for two completely different reasons and under two completely different sets of circumstances.

  • Evangelical Protestants who take their faith seriously go to any law school they can find that’s conducive to their faith. Catholics just go to the highest-ranked school that will take them – even if that school is not particularly religious. Of course, I am speaking in general terms.

  • Jay, I see that you are anticipating in advance the charge of being trapped in a Calvinist (and very Protestant) dualism by virtue of defending originalism. But you cannot escape; in order for the intellectually cramped Calvinist-Catholic dualistic system to work, any disagreement must be described as an outgrowth of individualism/Calvinism/liberalism.

  • Evangelical Protestants who take their faith seriously go to any law school they can find that’s conducive to their faith. Catholics just go to the highest-ranked school that will take them – even if that school is not particularly religious. Of course, I am speaking in general terms.

    I am not sure how true that is. I have friends and co-workers who are evangelicals that went to Harvard Law, and the Christian (not Catholic) law student group at my school (t-10 or so) was fairly sizable and active. But, of course, these anecdotes don’t really add up to data. You could be right about the general trend.

  • I’d consider myself a Catholic originalist. Sola scriptura (or some weak version of it) can be an perfectly defensible way to interpret the Constitution but not Scripture.

    Originalists reject any develop of new doctrines not grounded in the law as understood at the time of its enactment. They accept tradition only up to the point of enactment. They do not accept the idea that later traditions that could not reasonably be anticipated, can add to the law. On the other hand, Catholics accept that later traditions can add to existing “law” in ways that could not reasonably have been anticipated.

    Even the process of development differs. Originalists reject abstract unifying doctrines and prefer to judge new situations as fitting or not fitting into specific laws or enumerated rights. Catholics, I would argue, work in the opposite direction. Starting with abstract unifying doctrines (e.g., dignity of man), then judging whether the situation falls within an exception (e.g., double effect).

    As for the Michael H. sidetrack, Jay, you demonstrate exactly why Scalia’s methodology is wanting (I’d like to note that this is a different argument than the one over originalism). I described Scalia’s classification of Michael H. as a “cheating father.” You described it as “someone trying to break up a stable family.” Which one are we supposed to use? You also dismissed the implications of classifying Michael H. as simply a “biological father.” Traditionally, biological fathers have rights over their biological children. An appeal to tradition doesn’t work here because both sides can, and did, argue it. If Scalia’s methodology is correct, it’s incomplete, at the very least.

  • Centinel, you wrote:

    Evangelical Protestants who take their faith seriously go to any law school they can find that’s conducive to their faith. Catholics just go to the highest-ranked school that will take them – even if that school is not particularly religious. Of course, I am speaking in general terms.

    That goes beyond generalization, friend. Generalization, philosophically, means abstracting a feature true of each instance of a class, e.g., “Houses have roofs.” Generalization, popularly speaking, means abstracting a feature true of most or even many instances of a class, e.g., “The students at Catholic University are Catholics.”

    What you’ve managed to do is pluck out of a bag of prejudices and biases a dazzling example of complete ignorance EXCEPT of perhaps one or two cases that you know, and a few more that you know of.

    I am close friends with a woman who, as an Evangelical, went to Yale Law School because it was “the highest-ranking school that would take” her, to use your words. Not too shabby. Granted, it’s not the University of Barbados, but I suppose Yale Law will do for her sort. She’s a Catholic now, though. Did you know that there are numerous law schools at Catholic universities bursting at the seams with… all sorts of people?

    Do you think it possible that Catholics might be serious about their faith and go to a law school conducive to it?

    Do you think it possible that an Evangelical might be serious about his faith and yet go to an ungodly school bearing in mind that it is not the law school’s job to nurture his faith, and that he will continue to seek spiritual nourishment through the means he always has – prayer, reading the scriptures, attending a good church?

    C’mon. Your “observation” was entire facile.

  • “Traditionally, biological fathers have rights over their biological children.”

    Not biological fathers who aren’t married to the child’s mother. That’s a very recent development.

  • And I’m sure you’ll say that my last comment illustrates your point about classifications.

    But there will always be classifications when talking about defining rights under the Consitition. The key is to find the classification that does the least amount of damage to the constitutional order, and this is done by limiting the interference of the judiciary into the democratic process by defining the “fundamental right” narrowly enough as not to remove a broad category of activities from democratic oversight (not to mention creating out of whole cloth “rights” that have no basis in the text of the Constitution).

    Scalia’s appeal to tradition is to look at the behavior that society has traditionally valued and protected and determine whether the particular case before the Court meets – with specificity – the activity society has sought to protect.

    The liberal will look at “tradition” and try to broadly define the activity that is “fundamental” to ordered liberty so as to include as much activity as possible and remove it from the democratic process. Thus, Brennan et al looked at Michael H. as a “biological father”, and relying on some very recent precedent (and ignoring other recent precedent – i.e. that “biological fathers” have very few if any rights when abortion and birth control are at issue), tried to make the argument that he had a “fundamental right” to interfere in the inner workings and relationships of an intact family unit.

    What’s “traditional” about that? Nothing. Maintaining Mansfield’s Rule was based on tradition – the tradition of protecting the family, as society has sought to do for generations. The Court’s “fundamental rights” jurisprudence – of very recent vintage – regarding a biological father’s “reproductive rights”, not so much.

  • While not remotely an expert on law, the sociological/historical aspect interests me in regards to biological fathers’ right. It seems to me that the accurate characterization would be that in Western Culture, a biological father can assert paternity rights over illegitimate offspring by effectively “legitimizing” or recognizing them. This, however, assumes that the illegitimate offspring are otherwise simply “fatherless” and unacknowledged.

    The rights of the pater familias as a husband typically include having paternal rights over all children he chooses to acknowledge. So if his wife bears a child which is not, in fact, his, he can effectively make the child his by acknowledging the child as his regardless of actual paternity.

    The idea that a biological father could assert paternity rights over a child he fathered on a married women over the objections of her husband (who is willing to raise the child as his own) would be distinctly un-traditional.

  • Darwin,

    You’re right. It IS distinctly un-traditional. And for over 200 years, under Lord Mansfield’s Rule, such claims cannot be heard.

    Okay, I realize I’ve dominated this thread, so just one last thing on the classifications in Michael H. and how they relate to “tradition”:

    As Restrained Radical notes, both Scalia and Brennan appealed to “tradition” in reaching opposite conclusions in the case. However, a closer examination of the arguments and what respective “tradition” was being sought to be preserved by the opposing Justices, will reveal that one of the Justices was ACTUALLY concerned with remaining faithful to and preserving an established tradition, while the other Justice’s feigned appeal to “tradition” was a complete load of BS from one of the most successful bu11$h**tters who ever sat on the Supreme Court.

    Let’s start off with the fact that the rights of “biological fathers” – the “tradition” to which Justice Brennan appealed – are, as I noted above, a recent development in the law, and there is no long-standing “tradition” of “biological fathers” having legal rights over their offspring outside the context of the marital relationship. Even the parental rights of divorcing parents have always been based on the fact that the parents were married in the first place.

    So, let’s dispense with Brennan’s nonsensical claim that he was appealing to “tradition” and cut right to the chase. Were one to follow his constitutional jurisprudence to its logical conclusion, here’s Bill Brennan’s take on the “rights” of biological fathers:

    * A “biological father” has absolutely NO LEGAL RIGHTS to protect the life of his child should the mother choose to abort the child; HOWEVER …

    * A “biological father” has a “fundamental constitutional right” to interfere in an intact marital family relationship by asserting paternity over a child born inside that marriage should the mother choose to raise the child with her husband.

    * A “biological father” has a “fundamental constitutional right” that overrides an over-200-year-old common law rule – a common law rule known to and explicitly accepted by the drafters of the Constitution – meant to protect marriages from outside attack and children from bastardization.

    That’s Bill Brennan’s definition of “tradition”.

    On the other hand, under Justice Scalia’s approach, here is the state of the law:

    * an over-200-year-old common law rule that was on the books at the time of this Nation’s founding is preserved;

    * the sanctity of the marital family unit is preserved from outside interference by claims from a stanger to that marriage that he is, in fact, the father of a child born to that marriage;

    * the original intent and meaning of the text of the Constitution is preserved from the violence done to the constitutional order whenever a newly created “fundamental right” is used to strike down as “unconstitutional” a law that was fully known to and explicitly acctepted by those who drafted the Constitution.

    Now, which one of those approaches is TRULY concerned with tradition?

  • Personally, I always thought the tradition of offering sympathy to orphans should have helped the Menendez brothers

    😉

  • Jay, your putative domination of this thread has enriched it, and is greatly appreciated at least by me.

  • Agreed, I’ve enjoyed your explanation on this stuff, Jay.

  • I spend the day in Bankruptcy Court and Jay leaves me nothing to say in regard to Constitutional interpretation. Rats! Ah well, I will merely say ditto to what Jay wrote and what Scalia says below:

  • Donald,

    I liked his Chestertonian quote:

    “Some worth doing, is worth doing terribly.”

    Or something to that effect.

  • I should’ve stated this early but I don’t necessarily disagree with the outcome of Michael H. And I do think originalism is the proper method of analysis (while I still maintain this is closer to sola scriptura). I only take issue with Scalia’s method of abstraction outlined in footnote 6. He defines classes that need not be defined in that way.

    Jay & Darwin, it all depends on how you’re defining the tradition and the specific case. The children of a married woman have traditionally been presumed to be the biological children of the husband. Is Lord Mansfield’s Rule designed to protect the husband or the biological father? In the absence of DNA testing, it would seem that it protects the biological father (usually the husband) from spurious paternity claims. Therefore, it appears tradition protects the rights of the biological father. Modern technology has eliminated the need for blunt evidentiary rules.

    Again, I’m not saying that’s right. Only that the very existence of what I think is an alternative reasonable interpretation, undercuts Scalia’s approach.

  • Don, that was a great vid. It would be interesting to see a liberal originalist on the court. Lawrence Lessig, a liberal and a broad originalist, says Kagan thinks as he does. I doubt it but if true, not only would Kagan be the most influential justice, it would also alter the course of American jurisprudence. I’ve believed that the best kind of judicial nominee would be a liberal pro-lifer. Perhaps even more important than overturning Roe is changing the way liberals view abortion.

  • “Is Lord Mansfield’s Rule designed to protect the husband or the biological father? In the absence of DNA testing, it would seem that it protects the biological father (usually the husband) from spurious paternity claims. Therefore, it appears tradition protects the rights of the biological father. Modern technology has eliminated the need for blunt evidentiary rules.”

    I suppose it provides an alternative interpretation to Scalia’s, but it is one that I believe to be ahistorical.

    The historical record will bear out that Lord Mansfield was primarily concerned with the children of marriages not being made bastards, which is a matter wholly unconcerned with determining actual biological paternity. In fact, it was an objective that was often in direct conflict with determining such.

    Preserving intact marital family units from such challenges was not for the purpose of ensuring that the husband’s factual biological paternity was protected from spurious outside claims, but rather to ensure that children were not delegitimized. For that reason, the law created an irrebuttable presumption that the children of a married woman were the legitimate children of her husband.

  • I suppose, from a sociological point of view, a lot has to do with how you interpret the purpose of established cultural norms. It seems to me that the purpose would clearly be that a pater familias be able to determine who he wants to call his children. If he want to acknowledge children he had by a woman other than his wife, he can. If he want to refuse to acknowledge those children, he can. And when his wife bears children he can either acknowledge them, or repudiate his wife and deny them.

    All this sounds rather negative and “patriarchal”, but it also has the effect of making the direct and extended family strong against outside assaults. Good or bad, though, I think it’s hard to deny that it’s “traditional”.

  • “I doubt it but if true, not only would Kagan be the most influential justice, it would also alter the course of American jurisprudence. I’ve believed that the best kind of judicial nominee would be a liberal pro-lifer.”

    I doubt restrainedradical that Kagan will be anything but an orthodox political liberal on the bench. However, the fact that she has no judicial experience on the bench should give her backers pause. Felix Frankfurter, the great advocate of judicial restraint, was a fairly conventional political liberal before he was appointed to the Supreme Court by FDR without judicial experience. Things can look quite differently after one dons the black robe, especially with a life time appointment, and Kagan, perhaps, could end up surprising everyone.

  • I would be astonished if Kagan does not prove to be “anything but an orthodox political liberal” cleverly legislating from the bench whey “necessary.” But I’m prepared to be astonished, and certainly hope that I am.

    In any event. I hope the confirmation process is a smooth one. I’m all for hardball politics, but Kagan is qualified and that should be the end of it. The Dems viciously changed the rules with Bork, and I believe that the temperament within the Senate has never been the same. I’d like to see the Republicans avoid scoring political and polemical points and just plain do the right thing.

  • I agree Mike that the Kagan nomination is not the one for the Republicans to put up a fight on, but one of the main reasons why the Democrats routinely engage in scorched earth tactics in regard to Republican judicial nominees is because the Republicans routinely fail to do the same to Democrat nominees.

  • Fair enough, Don, but it is worth remembering that both Roberts and Alito got through without the Dems resorting to scorched earth practices, which is not to say that they behaved perfectly. I’d rather try to ratchet the practices back to how they are supposed to work. I acknowledge that it is a judgment call as to whether exhibiting good behavior or returning bad behavior is the most effective way to do that.

  • In regard to Alito Mike the Democrats tried but failed to filibuster his nomination. The final vote for his confirmation was 58-42 which is astounding if one of the chief criteria is supposed to be judicial comptence.

    Obama of course voted against confirmation for both Roberts and Alito, two of the best qualified jurists ever nominated to the Supreme Court.

  • Forgot that, Don, thanks. I’d still support Kagan’s nomination, but would also score points by emphasizing the contrast between her treatment and that of Alito, and get lots of digs against Obama for voting against Alito and Roberts.

  • Roberts was confirmed 78–22. He got far more Democratic votes than Sotomayor got Republican votes. Alito had the misfortune of being second. Kagan has the same problem.

  • Wow. Such deep arguments!

    Still, I think a lot of folks are overthinking this situation. A president seeking a pro-life perspective on the high court appoints a Catholic. Another president seeking some pro-life cover also appoints a Catholic. Presidents who seek a reliably pro-abortion leftist or wish to appease leftist elements of their party often appoint a Jew.

  • Restrained Radical,

    There’s no comparison, democrats are far more emotional and vindictive when it comes to voting against well-qualified judges that happen to seem conservative.

    Case in point, Robert Bork who lost the nomination 42-58.

  • The Bork confirmation process was unprecedented. It broke with longstanding Senate tradition, and frankly the Senate has not been the same since. The Dems broke the rules and lied shamelesslessly while doing it. Mutual rancor, payback, and distrust have been the order of the day since.

    While not unopinionated, I am not given to immoderate commentary. In fact I sign my real name as a matter of self-discipline. But let there be no misunderstanding or doubt: Joe Biden made his bones in the Bork hearings and behaved like a consummate dirtbag. I expected such dishonest behavior from the cowardly Senator from Massachusetts, but this was when Biden showed his true character colors.

    Finally, let’s be clear. When the Left decides to play hard ball, you can ususally count on the subtext being their sacrament of abortion. It started with Bork and Palin has been the most recent manifestation.

  • Bork and Thomas are outliners. People like Bork with long controversial paper trails don’t get nominated anymore. And Thomas had to deal with Anita Hill. I don’t think either party has a monopoly on outrage. As I noted before, Roberts had an easier confirmation than Sotomayor who in turn will have had an easier confirmation than Kagan. I predict Kagan’s confirmation to be similar to Alito’s. Four Democrats voted for Alito. I predict 2 or 3 Republicans will vote for Kagan (Snowe, Collins, and maybe Brown).

  • It’s a straw man.

    Bork had the most difficult.

    You can continue to apologize for your democratic party, but facts are facts.

  • While, I do not disagree with the overall thesis expressed herein. I find the characterization of Reform and Hasidic Judaism to be off the mark. I contend that the divisions within Judaism that they represent a division with Judaism but that these division were the result not of dogmatic differences.

    Rather I view the divisions within Judaism as being similar to the differences that exist between religious orders with Catholicism.

    In the sense that each religious order agrees on the truth of the dogma espoused by universal church, their missions differ,and as a result there may exist minor differences within their devotions and practice.

  • Nathan Zimmermann,

    I would like to default to your position because I know very little about Judaism.

    But when I see “conservative” and “reform” Jews advocate for the death of the unborn in absolute violation of the Ten Commandments and then I see “orthodox” Jews express identical views with Catholics and stand up for the unborn, then your analogy does not seem to fit that of Catholic religious orders.

    Catholic religious orders differ in mission, but adhere completely to the teachings of the Church.

    I don’t believe your analogy falls into that category with all due respect.

  • Mr. Edwards,

    I based my analogy upon my experiences and interactions with the aforementioned communities within my native city where even the conservative and reform Jews tend to be more conservative and pro-life.

  • If the Republicans wish to Bork a nominee Solicitor General Kagan’s nomination may be the best opportunity. If President Obama had nominated Judge Merrick Garland, the ability of the Republicans to Bork the nominee would have proved less tenable because, Judge Garland’ nomination was openly advocated by Senator Hatch.

    As addendum to my two previous posts, and to throw a fox into a hen-house. While there is no doubt of the universal church on the subject of abortion and euthanasia, eugenics and Darwinism.

    It should be noted that there existed a split with the church on the subject of eugenics and Darwinism during the 1920s and 1930’s as is evident in the writings of Rev. Hermann Muckermann, the elder brother of Rev. Friederich Muckermann SJ.

  • Nathan:
    There has never been a split regarding either Darwinism or eugenics in Church teaching properly understood The fact that some Catholic priests and theologians have favored abortion rights, for instance (which of course is still the case) does not in any way impair the fact that the Magisterium has remained consistent, even as it develops.
    I have countless Jewish friends. Sadly I know none who consider themselves of the Reform stripe who favor laws forbidding abortions, even though I know many who claim they themselves would not abort a child.

Christian Legal Society v. Martinez

Monday, April 19, AD 2010

As I’m a week and a half from law school exams, I don’t have the time to do this justice but there’s an important case involving a group I’m involved in at law school that was argued in front of the Supreme Court today. In sum, the school banned the CLS (Christian Legal Society) because it wanted the Christian Legal Society members to be…well, Christians. The school defends itself on the idea that allowing any discrimination is intolerable and would open a slippery slope to racist groups (no, seriously-read the article and the questions of Sotomayor & Stevens. Glad that Obama appointment is doing well for Christians).

So pray for a just result that will protect the rights of Christians to assemble.

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12 Responses to Christian Legal Society v. Martinez

  • Well, if the article you linked was right, no, it is not about whether or not they are to be Christian. You could allow gays to join and still be Christian. There are Christian gays (as TAC should know). If the point is no gay can join, I would argue such group was antithetical to Christianity.

  • Of course, I am sure you will say it is not about allowing gays to join — but yet, I know many “Christians” who say to celibate Christian gays they are “advocating a lifestyle” by pointing out their orientation.

  • While I’m certainly sympathetic with the CLS (and was an active member when I attended law school several decades ago), I’m not sure I agree with its legal theory in this case. What I want to know is whether or how its freedom to associate is actually impaired by failing to secure “official” status. Does a failure to secure school financing and benefits actually mean it is “banned”? If so, is its practical ability to meet encumbered?
    I can appreciate the state’s interest in being unwilling to accord its impramatur upon groups that discriminate based on religion, race, etc., even if the application of such a limitiation to a bona fide religious group does seem ridiculous, but laws/rules are always imperfectly drafted, either underinclusive, overinclusive, or both. This one appears overinclusive (and is probably both), but my reaction is that this imperfection does not render it constitutionally infirm without a showing of First Amendment harm. This stands in contrast to laws granting churches an exception from general religious discrimination prohibitions, which quite possibly are constitutionally required precisely because a law that would prevent a church from favoring its own adherents for various church positions would presumably encumber the church from freely exercising its religion. I’m just not sure that disqualifying the CLS from receiving school financing and benefits is quite the same thing.

    All that said, I certainly could be wrong and fully expect to be flamed with enthusiasm.

  • That was my first question as well, Mike.

  • Well I helped found the Christian Legal Society at the University of Illinois Law School back at the dawn of time when I was a law student. Without official recognition we wouldn’t have been able to hold our meetings in classrooms, put up notices of our meetings on law school bulletin boards or receive funding from the Student Organization Resource Fund. I think the lack of these would have constituted a penalty to the group. I think the best tactic however is to argue that the Christian Legal Society is being singled out for enforcement of these regulations.

    Here is a transcript of the oral argument:
    http://www.supremecourt.gov/oral_arguments/argument_transcripts/08-1371.pdf

  • One analysis of this case claimed that if the court found against the CLS, then by the same reasoning a state-supported school could not give official sanction to a gay-rights group that excluded people opposed to the gay-rights agenda. So if the CLS loses, maybe its members could sign up en masse for the gay-rights club, bringing their friends along with them. Discussion on college campuses would probably not become more civil, but it would be more varied and interesting.

  • The same thing is true today as it was for Don (however many years ago that was. I won’t inquire 😉 ) Other groups would have a significantly easier time having groups then would Christians. I think this is where Alito’s questioning in the argument was going-groups like for gay advocacy are not going to have a problem while Christian or other religious groups will not be permitted, allowing those other groups to have state-sponsored advantages over the Christian groups. That’s where I think that’s where the constitutional question comes in.

    I would love to make that argument stronger, but unfortunately I won’t be tested on CLS v. Martinez in the next two weeks.

    Henry:

    The article makes it perfectly clear that CLS was banning those who are practicing homosexuals, not homosexuals trying to live out a Christian life. There is no evidence that CLS discriminated against Christians with a homosexual orientation in this case or in general. While I’m sure some Christians have mistreated our brothers, I see no basis why you should accuse CLS of this behavior unless you have some evidence other than the fact that CLS tends to contain conservatives and therefore fall under your presumption of evil?

    PM:

    That’s not a bad idea.

  • “One analysis of this case claimed that if the court found against the CLS, then by the same reasoning a state-supported school could not give official sanction to a gay-rights group that excluded people opposed to the gay-rights agenda. So if the CLS loses, maybe its members could sign up en masse for the gay-rights club, bringing their friends along with them. Discussion on college campuses would probably not become more civil, but it would be more varied and interesting.”

    Having read the legal briefings for this case, this is more or less what’s at stake. Pure and simple the administration of Hastings College (the school where this took place) is saying that this will indeed be the case – the only problem is, it seems to only be enforced in the case of the Christian group. We’ll see how this unfolds…

  • I know many “Christians” who say to celibate Christian gays they are “advocating a lifestyle” by pointing out their orientation.

    Why are they pointing it out, Henry?

  • “It is so weird to require the campus Republican Club to admit Democrats, not just to membership, but to officership,” Justice Antonin Scalia said.

    Funny that he mentions that. When I was in law school, the president of the Federalist Society was a Democrat. The president of CLS was suspected by everyone to be a closeted homosexual.

    Interesting case but I don’t know if it’ll make any practical difference. I didn’t join CLS because it was too Protestant for my comfort. I don’t see practicing homosexuals joining, much less get voted into leadership positions.

  • Michael Denton:

    See Art Deco.

  • HK:

    I have a feeling that the two of you are disagreeing on what is meant by “pointing” with Deco taking to pointing as something along the lines of “I’m gay and you need to accommodate that” (think of the “coming out” promotions which obviously connote acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle) as opposed to acknowledging a struggle with sin which you’re thinking of. I’ll let the two of you discuss that if you wish.

    Of course, this is a digression and has nothing to do with the idea that Colleges must force Christian groups to accept practicing homosexuals (i.e. non-celibate) in order to get official status.

Stevens to Retire

Friday, April 9, AD 2010

Get ready for Obama appointment, Round 2.

Supreme Court Justice Stevens announces he will retire in the summer.

Not sure how the timing will work on this, especially as Obama and the Democrats try to avoid being too contentious right before the November elections. That might play in our favor as far as getting a more moderate nominee. It will also be interesting to see if the GOP can or will delay the nominee as they have the 41 votes to filibuster.

The names being thrown around are the same ones being thrown around before; we’ll see where he goes with this pick. Time to start praying again.

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39 Responses to Stevens to Retire

  • Jerry Ford’s gift to liberal Democrats everywhere finally decides to call it quits during a Democrat administation, which shocks me as much the sky being blue and water being wet.

  • I don’t foresee a filibuster. There are only 41 Republicans, and it will just take one R to break a filibuster, and in this case I highly doubt Snowe, or Collins, or even Brown would join in one.

    Anyway thus passes Gerald Ford’s great gift to the country.

  • Heh, Donald beat me to the punch by seconds on the gift remark.

  • Stevens being from Chicago Paul I was in a hurry to give him a proper “the Chicago Way” send-off. 🙂

  • I have to admit, going to 90 to make sure his replacement shares his views is pretty stout.

    I agree that the filibuster seems unlikely, but there is a chance and that might affect the choice of nominee.

  • Pray for what?

    I don’t say that to doubt the efficacy of prayer, or to discourage anyone from praying for the souls of the Supreme Court members. But the way this game is played, 100% of nominees from Democratic presidents are activist pro-choicers, and 50% of Republicans’ nominees are originalist pro-lifers.

    The only way loyal Catholics get someone palatable is if the paperwork gets mixed up in the mail, and Bishop Gomez gets on the Court and some liberal judge takes over the Diocese of LA.

  • Pinky:

    Well, one could always hope the Democrats make their first mistake.

    But if that’s not a hope, then I think we should pray that he picks someone more moderate on the issue rather than the absolute “abortion is a right and ought to be fully funded by the federal government” crowd. There are various shades of being pro-choice, and we can pray that we get a lighter shade than Stevens.

  • I for one am going to start praying that Scalia does not fall over with a Heart attack

  • I for one am going to start praying that Scalia does not fall over with a Heart attack

    Yeah. . . where will we find another judge as dependably pro-torture as he is!

  • Through Obama.

  • “Yeah. . . where will we find another judge as dependably pro-torture as he is!”

    Why the entire liberal wing of the court unless you do not consider partial birth abortion to be torture, in addition to infanticide.

    From the Ginsburg dissent in Carhart, the Supreme Court decision upholding a law against partial birth abortion joined in by Stevens, Souter and Breyer.

    “Today, the Court blurs that line, maintaining that “[t]he Act [legitimately] appl[ies] both previability and postviability because … a fetus is a living organism while within the womb, whether or not it is viable outside the womb.” Ante, at 17. Instead of drawing the line at viability, the Court refers to Congress’ purpose to differentiate “abortion and infanticide” based not on whether a fetus can survive outside the womb, but on where a fetus is anatomically located when a particular medical procedure is performed. See ante, at 28 (quoting Congressional Findings (14)(G), in notes following 18 U. S. C. §1531 (2000 ed., Supp. IV), p. 769).

    One wonders how long a line that saves no fetus from destruction will hold in face of the Court’s “moral concerns.” See supra, at 15; cf. ante, at16 (noting that “[i]n this litigation” the Attorney General “does not dispute that the Act would impose an undue burden if it covered standard D&E”). The Court’s hostility to the right Roe and Casey secured is not concealed. Throughout, the opinion refers to obstetrician-gynecologists and surgeons who perform abortions not by the titles of their medical specialties, but by the pejorative label “abortion doctor.” Ante, at 14, 24, 25, 31, 33. A fetus is described as an “unborn child,” and as a “baby,” ante, at 3, 8; second-trimester, previability abortions are referred to as “late-term,” ante, at 26; and the reasoned medical judgments of highly trained doctors are dismissed as “preferences”motivated by “mere convenience,” ante, at 3, 37. Instead of the heightened scrutiny we have previously applied, the Court determines that a “rational” ground is enough to uphold the Act, ante, at28, 37. And, most troubling, Casey’s principles, confirming the continuing vitality of “the essential holding of Roe,” are merely “assume[d]” for the moment, ante, at15, 31, rather than “retained” or “reaffirmed,” Casey, 505 U. S., at 846”

    http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/05-380.ZD.html

    Scalia’s dissent in the earlier Carhart decision which overturned a law banning partial birth abortion:

    “I am optimistic enough to believe that, one day, Stenberg v. Carhart will be assigned its rightful place in the history of this Court’s jurisprudence beside Korematsu and Dred Scott. The method of killing a human child–one cannot even accurately say an entirely unborn human child–proscribed by this statute is so horrible that the most clinical description of it evokes a shudder of revulsion. And the Court must know (as most state legislatures banning this procedure have concluded) that demanding a “health exception”–which requires the abortionist to assure himself that, in his expert medical judgment, this method is, in the case at hand, marginally safer than others (how can one prove the contrary beyond a reasonable doubt?)–is to give live-birth abortion free rein. The notion that the Constitution of the United States, designed, among other things, “to establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, . . . and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,” prohibits the States from simply banning this visibly brutal means of eliminating our half-born posterity is quite simply absurd.

    Even so, I had not intended to write separately here until the focus of the other separate writings (including the one I have joined) gave me cause to fear that this case might be taken to stand for an error different from the one that it actually exemplifies. Because of the Court’s practice of publishing dissents in the order of the seniority of their authors, this writing will appear in the reports before those others, but the reader will not comprehend what follows unless he reads them first.

    * * *

    The two lengthy dissents in this case have, appropriately enough, set out to establish that today’s result does not follow from this Court’s most recent pronouncement on the matter of abortion, Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992). It would be unfortunate, however, if those who disagree with the result were induced to regard it as merely a regrettable misapplication of Casey. It is not that, but is Casey’s logical and entirely predictable consequence. To be sure, the Court’s construction of this statute so as to make it include procedures other than live-birth abortion involves not only a disregard of fair meaning, but an abandonment of the principle that even ambiguous statutes should be interpreted in such fashion as to render them valid rather than void. Casey does not permit that jurisprudential novelty–which must be chalked up to the Court’s inclination to bend the rules when any effort to limit abortion, or even to speak in opposition to abortion, is at issue. It is of a piece, in other words, with Hill v. Colorado, ante, p. ___, also decided today.

    But the Court gives a second and independent reason for invalidating this humane (not to say anti-barbarian) law: That it fails to allow an exception for the situation in which the abortionist believes that this live-birth method of destroying the child might be safer for the woman. (As pointed out by Justice Thomas, and elaborated upon by Justice Kennedy, there is no good reason to believe this is ever the case, but–who knows?–it sometime might be.)

    I have joined Justice Thomas’s dissent because I agree that today’s decision is an “unprecedented expansio[n]” of our prior cases, post, at 35, “is not mandated” by Casey’s “undue burden” test, post, at 33, and can even be called (though this pushes me to the limit of my belief) “obviously irreconcilable with Casey’s explication of what its undue-burden standard requires,” post, at 4. But I never put much stock in Casey’s explication of the inexplicable. In the last analysis, my judgment that Casey does not support today’s tragic result can be traced to the fact that what I consider to be an “undue burden” is different from what the majority considers to be an “undue burden”–a conclusion that can not be demonstrated true or false by factual inquiry or legal reasoning. It is a value judgment, dependent upon how much one respects (or believes society ought to respect) the life of a partially delivered fetus, and how much one respects (or believes society ought to respect) the freedom of the woman who gave it life to kill it. Evidently, the five Justices in today’s majority value the former less, or the latter more, (or both), than the four of us in dissent. Case closed. There is no cause for anyone who believes in Casey to feel betrayed by this outcome. It has been arrived at by precisely the process Casey promised–a democratic vote by nine lawyers, not on the question whether the text of the Constitution has anything to say about this subject (it obviously does not); nor even on the question (also appropriate for lawyers) whether the legal traditions of the American people would have sustained such a limitation upon abortion (they obviously would); but upon the pure policy question whether this limitation upon abortion is “undue”–i.e., goes too far.

    In my dissent in Casey, I wrote that the “undue burden” test made law by the joint opinion created a standard that was “as doubtful in application as it is unprincipled in origin,” Casey, 505 U.S., at 985; “hopelessly unworkable in practice,” id., at 986; “ultimately standardless,” id., at 987. Today’s decision is the proof. As long as we are debating this issue of necessity for a health-of-the-mother exception on the basis of Casey, it is really quite impossible for us dissenters to contend that the majority is wrong on the law–any more than it could be said that one is wrong in law to support or oppose the death penalty, or to support or oppose mandatory minimum sentences. The most that we can honestly say is that we disagree with the majority on their policy-judgment-couched-as-law. And those who believe that a 5-to-4 vote on a policy matter by unelected lawyers should not overcome the judgment of 30 state legislatures have a problem, not with the application of Casey, but with its existence. Casey must be overruled.

    While I am in an I-told-you-so mood, I must recall my bemusement, in Casey, at the joint opinion’s expressed belief that Roe v. Wade had “call[ed] the contending sides of a national controversy to end their national division by accepting a common mandate rooted in the Constitution,” Casey, 505 U.S., at 867, and that the decision in Casey would ratify that happy truce. It seemed to me, quite to the contrary, that “Roe fanned into life an issue that has inflamed our national politics in general, and has obscured with its smoke the selection of Justices to this Court in particular, ever since”; and that, “by keeping us in the abortion-umpiring business, it is the perpetuation of that disruption, rather than of any Pax Roeana, that the Court’s new majority decrees.” Id., at 995—996. Today’s decision, that the Constitution of the United States prevents the prohibition of a horrible mode of abortion, will be greeted by a firestorm of criticism–as well it should. I cannot understand why those who acknowledge that, in the opening words of Justice O’Connor’s concurrence, “[t]he issue of abortion is one of the most contentious and controversial in contemporary American society,” ante, at 1, persist in the belief that this Court, armed with neither constitutional text nor accepted tradition, can resolve that contention and controversy rather than be consumed by it. If only for the sake of its own preservation, the Court should return this matter to the people–where the Constitution, by its silence on the subject, left it–and let them decide, State by State, whether this practice should be allowed. Casey must be overruled.”

    http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/99-830.ZD1.html

  • Why the entire liberal wing of the court unless you do not consider partial birth abortion to be torture, in addition to infanticide.

    Wel then, I am confused. . . after all, since torture isn’t wrong, then how can partial birth abortion be. . .

    Unless. . .

    Of course! It makes sense now: abortion means no children. No children means no children’s testicles. And if there are no children’s testicles to crush. . . the terrorists win!

    Ex Conservatatione Quod Libet

  • I am sure phosphorious that you will be able to cite a text where Scalia ever indicated that he was in favor of someone’s testicles being crushed. On the other hand I have just provided you with chapter and verse where the liberal wing of the court views as a constitutional right the ability of an abortionist to stick scissors into the base of an unborn infant’s skull. However, I suppose in your view that since it is abortion it cannot be torture. Res Ipsa Loquitur

  • Don,

    phosphorius is right. Obama prefers murder to torture.

  • Bush’s legal advisors has defended Bush’s right (I don’t know if a “lib” president is invested with a similar “right”) to crush a child’s testicles to extract information from his parent. Scalia is known to have defended Bush’s torture policies in toto.

    Bush ordered torture to be performed. Did Obama ever order an abortion to be performed, partial-birth or otherwise? A distinction a “conservative” should take seriously.

  • phosphorius is right. Obama prefers murder to torture.

    Whereas I can’t think of anything that conservatives prefer to torture. they defend it every chance they get.

  • Actually many conservatives oppose torture. Many liberals (such as Pelosi)supported the CIA interrogation techniques (though she lies about it.) Obama, given his penchant for murder would likely not oppose past interrogation techniques if the right situation arose. Did he order any murders? See discussion on assasinations below.

  • Phosphorious raises some very good points, and I would like to follow up with a post of my own. I would just ask phosporious if he could kindly supply some of the links or other supporting literature that shows that Bush’s legal advisors defended his right to crush a child’s testicles, where Bush so ordered such an action to be taken, and the opinions offered by Scalia demonstrating his approval of such. I look forward with great anticipation the roundup of this information.

  • Google “Yoo testicles” and you will see the defense. As for proof that Bush actually ordered the crushing of testicles, child’s or not, I assume that’s a matter of State security that only a traitor would pry too closely in. If the terrorists knew about it, they would train their children to withstand testicle crushing, after all.

    But Bush did order the torture of prisoners. And Scalia supports it. . . citing I believe “24” as proof that law enforcement needs “lattitude” in the fighting of terrorism.

    But gentlemen, we digress. The point is that abortion is the litmus test, and nothing else.

    On that, conservatives can agree, no?

  • “Did Obama ever order an abortion to be performed, partial-birth or otherwise? A distinction a “conservative” should take seriously.”

    Nah, he merely defends it as a constitutional right and raises campaign funds trumpeting his opposition to laws banning partial birth abortion, what the late pro-abort Senator from New York Daniel Patrick Moynihan referred to as “barely disguised infanticide”.

    http://www.jillstanek.com/partial-birth-abortion/michelle-obamas.html

  • I assume that this interview on 60 minutes is what elicts phosphorious’ attempts to defend Obama on abortion by attacking Scalia on torture:

    Viewing Leslie Stahl attempting to question Scalia is rather like watching Bill Clinton attempting to teach a course on legal ethics. She didn’t have even the foggiest notion of what he was talking about.

  • “The point is that abortion is the litmus test, and nothing else.”

    The point is phosphorious almost a million dead unborn children a year and your desperate attempts on a Catholic blog to supply political cover to a President who is dedicated to this continuing forever.

  • Stevens’ retirement troubles me because, every time a justice retires many people speak in terms of litmus tests related to societal issues such as abortion and freedom religion. In discussing such tests for prospective nominees most individuals focus solely on the subject of abortion.

    The use of abortion as the sole litmus test that nominees must be subjected to is akin to tunnel vision because, most social conservatives fail to realize that the adoption of such a position is tantamount to heresy in many circles and no politician would risk their careers by taking such a position openly and publicly because, it would alienate an extremely large bloc of voters who see overturning Roe v Wade and it descendants as potentially causing even more harm than good because, attempting in their eyes restoring the status quo as it existed before 1973 could engender the return and resurgence of backroom abortionists who are not medically trained.

    I would advocate the development of additional tests. For example, how would the nominee defend the rights of the disabled, minorities and women?

  • “I would advocate the development of additional tests. For example, how would the nominee defend the rights of the disabled, minorities and women?”

    In other words, shut up about the right to life of the unborn. Additionally, what attempts are there on the scale of abortion in reference to unborn children to deny rights to minorities or women? Unborn disabled children are of course often targeted for abortion because of their disability.

  • I assume that this interview on 60 minutes is what elicts phosphorious’ attempts to defend Obama on abortion by attacking Scalia on torture

    I am attacking the smug, self-righteous Catholics who only object to the sins that political liberals commit.

    Which is every poster here, far as I can tell.

  • In other words, shut up about the right to life of the unborn.

    Because, of course, if abortion is not the only issue, then it is no issue at all.

    Heresy is not necessarily the abandoning of Church doctrine. Focusing on one bit of doctrine to the exclusion of all else will do quite nicely.

  • The point is phosphorious almost a million dead unborn children a year and your desperate attempts on a Catholic blog to supply political cover to a President who is dedicated to this continuing forever.

    Obama has dedicated his life. . . and beyond. . . the making sure that mothers kill their children?

    Wow. . . I had no idea. . .

  • What are the penalties for refusing to abort your child?

  • Phosphorious it would be much more concise if you simply said: “I’m a liberal and I don’t give a damn about abortion. Go Obama!” That is, after all, what your position boils down to.

  • The Cajun is right, how much damage does President Obama want to incur in order to nominate another pro-abortion advocate.

    I think he will, he seems to believe he is invincible and 2012 is far away enough to recuperate lost prestige.

    He apparently doesn’t really care about the Dems this election cycle, so why not write this election off. Besides, what’s the worse that can happen? The Democrats will have a small majority in the House and in the Senate he’ll have veto powers that can’t be overcome.

  • At no time did I argue that anyone needed to be silent about the rights or lack thereof accorded to the unborn. I merely assert that a multitude of sociopolitical issues must be considered in addition to when nominating a successor to Justice Stevens.

    As for my assertions regarding the nature of politicians and their desire to maintain their positions at the expense of their morals, such a school of thought has existed in some form or other since, the foundation of the Roman Empire. Indeed both Machiavelli and Gracian discussed this tendency at length.

  • Mr. McClarey, I know very well how many fetuses are subjected to abortion because of their disabilities. I myself am possessed of cerebral palsy characterized by ataxic presentation.

    I merely sought to point out that in my opinion if an individual chooses to focus on the issue of abortion alone, while failing to review the positions taken by a prospective nominee on other sociopolitical issues is possessed of a focus so narrow that it fails to meet the standard set by Saint Basil Saint Thomas Aquinas and Saint Bonaventure, and Saint Aloysius Gonzaga

  • Nathan, I rather think all of the Saints you name would be protesting outside of abortion clinics constantly if they were alive today. Abortion is the human rights issue of our day, and to sit on our hands because of opposition from pro-aborts is not an option.

    I think Cardinal Ratzinger put it well in a letter:

    “2. The Church teaches that abortion or euthanasia is a grave sin. The Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae, with reference to judicial decisions or civil laws that authorize or promote abortion or euthanasia, states that there is a “grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection. […] In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to ‘take part in a propaganda campaign in favour of such a law or vote for it’” (no. 73). Christians have a “grave obligation of conscience not to cooperate formally in practices which, even if permitted by civil legislation, are contrary to God’s law. Indeed, from the moral standpoint, it is never licit to cooperate formally in evil. […] This cooperation can never be justified either by invoking respect for the freedom of others or by appealing to the fact that civil law permits it or requires it” (no. 74).

    3. Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”

    http://www.priestsforlife.org/magisterium/bishops/04-07ratzingerommunion.htm

    Catholics and all who cherish innocent human life must be untiring in their battle against the crime of abortion.

    In regard to your disability, my prayers. One of my sons is autistic. I have no doubt that if there were a test to determine autism in utero, many of his autistic peers would not be alive today, just as has occurred with 90% of Down Syndrome children where such a test does exist. This slaughter of the innocents must stop and I will never cease working against abortion until I take my final breath.

  • Phosphorious it would be much more concise if you simply said: “I’m a liberal and I don’t give a damn about abortion. Go Obama!” That is, after all, what your position boils down to.

    As opposed to saying that the mere mention of torture distracts from abortion, which is the only sin.

  • I agree they would be protesting, and they would be examining the positions held by candidates in regards to other issues as well so that could more fully ascertain the candidates in order to have a fuller understanding of their character, so that they could more effectively battle them.

  • Phosphorious your laborious dragging of red herrings through this thread merely demonstrates that my concise version of your position is totally accurate. Such tactics may work at Vox Nova, they are absolutely of no use on this blog.

  • I merely sought to point out that in my opinion if an individual chooses to focus on the issue of abortion alone, while failing to review the positions taken by a prospective nominee on other sociopolitical issues is possessed of a focus so narrow that it fails to meet the standard set by Saint Basil Saint Thomas Aquinas and Saint Bonaventure, and Saint Aloysius Gonzaga

    An aspirant for a seat on an appellate court of last resort who proposes to uphold Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton is in doing so subscribing to a particular conception of judicial review favored by Laurence Tribe. A judge engaging in authentic judicial review declines to apply administrative rules which conflict with statutes and statutes which conflict with constitutions. A judge engaging in Tribean judicial review assumes plenary authority to annul any statute or administrative rule incongruent with the policy preferences of law professors, so long as his shallow and smart-assed clerks can gin up a salable excuse. An adherent to Tribean judicial review is unfit for any office or public trust, period.

    Judge Stevens was one of four members of the federal Supreme Court who contended (in a dissenting opinion issued in 1977) that the federal and state governments were required by constitutional provisions to appropriate public funds to provide abortions on demand. Congress should have stuck a fork in this bastard a long long time ago.

  • In this country, ‘sociopolitical issues’ are the business of legislators, not judges.

  • The reason it appears that Roe v. Wade is all that matters is because, in addition to being about the civil rights issue of our time, it also has become a proxy for two opposing views of constitutional jurisprudence. How a judge is likely to vote on Roe tells me almost all I need to know about that judge.