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  • John Paul Stevens
    On Every Question of Construction

    A couple of items in the news lately have brought the judiciary back into the consciousness of the American public; the announced retirement of Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, and the recent decision by federal judge Barbara Crabb in Wisconsin in which she ruled that the National Day of Prayer is a violation of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. In the rulings of both justices we find an egregious disrespect for the plain meaning of the Constitution, and it is a failure of the American people to learn the Constitution that has allowed us to stray so far.

    As a nation, we have reached a point where we bestow upon the courts an unjustified level of deference to their perceived wisdom. In fact, the Founding Fathers created the judiciary to be the weakest of the three branches, vested as they are with lifetime appointments.

    Thomas Jefferson wrote (in a letter to William C. Jarvis, 1820) that “To consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions [is] a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy. Our judges are as honest as other men and not more so.” Yet today we have allowed the courts to be elevated to the level of an oligarchy, where we accept rulings that are clearly unaligned with the Constitution without so much as a whimper.

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    Today in Liberty: Cantor unwilling to fight for Ex-Im Bank reauthorization, Obama’s 442 tax hike proposals

    “It is impossible to enumerate a priori all the rights we have; we usually go to the trouble of identifying them only when someone proposes to limit one or another. Treating rights as tangible claims that must be limited in number gets the whole concept wrong.” — David Boaz (Politics of Freedom: Taking on The Left, The Right and Threats to Our Liberties)

    — Cantor backing away from cronyism: The Hill notes that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor isn’t going to spend political capital over the reauthorization of the controversial Export-Import Bank, a government-backed entity known for rampant cronyism. (They also read websites which mention them, at least that’s what our Google Analytics reports tell us.) “Cantor…has privately told members he does not intend to get involved this time around,” The Hill reports, “a message that some see as an indication that he is wary of battling conservatives angered by a number of his recent legislative moves.” It looks like House conservatives are going to make Ex-Im reauthorization their big issue this spring, part of a push to end corporate welfare and change the narrative about the Republican Party.

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    John Paul Stevens: No friend of liberty

    As Justice John Paul Stevens prepares to leave the Supreme Court, Ilya Shapiro takes a look back at his career:

    John Paul Stevens, the oldest-ever and (by the end of the term) second-longest-serving Supreme Court justice, has had a long career that, judging by his fitness regimen—the envy of men much younger than he—could have continued for many years yet.  Justice Stevens is to be commended for his record of service in a variety of positions in the public and private sector.

    Unfortunately, the jurisprudential legacy he leaves behind is much more checkered than his personal integrity and professionalism: Justice Stevens “grew” from his country-club Republican roots to becoming the Court’s liberal lion.  While a friend of liberty in certain limited circumstances, he ultimately hangs his hat on supporting government action over the rights of individuals in contexts ranging from property rights (Kelo v. New London) to the Second Amendment (D.C. v. Heller) to free speech (Citizens United and Texas v. Johnson, the flag-burning case) to executive agency power (Chevron).  And even on those issues where friends of liberty can disagree in good faith as a matter of policy, such as abortion and the death penalty, Stevens admittedly and unabashedly asserted his own policy preferences instead of following the law.

    Republican SCOTUS Nomination Plans: A Fight, But No Filibuster

    Republicans are readying themselves for a fight over the upcoming Supreme Court nomination hearings, but appear to have already taken the filibuster option off the table:

    Conservative judicial activists say they won’t ask their Republican allies to go to the mat over President Barack Obama’s nominee to replace Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens by pressing for the ultimate weapon in a court fight – a filibuster.

    Instead, they say the nomination of a Democrat to the court will be an opportunity to cement the support of the tea party movement, broaden their base, and motivate supporters to turn out to support Republicans in the mid-term elections in November.

    Taking the filibuster off the table is a smart idea. To put it bluntly, it’s unlikely that the 41 Republicans in the Senate will be able to stick together to filibuster the kind of “liberal but not controversial” nominee that we’re likely to see from Obama. At the very least, I would expect to see most if not all of the nine Republicans who ended up voting for Sonia Sotomayor to walk across the aisle to vote to invoke cloture should there be any attempt to filibuster. Moreover, unless Obama does surprise everyone and select someone with a controversial record, which I find unlikely, Senate Republicans would likely lose the public relations war over the nomination. Not a smart thing to do only months before a crucial mid-term election.

    Stevens to retire from SCOTUS

    Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens will retire this summer, giving President Barack Obama his second SCOTUS pick:

    Stevens said Friday he will step down when the court finishes its work for the summer in late June or early July. He said he hopes his successor is confirmed “well in advance of the commencement of the court’s next term.”

    Stevens’ announcement leaves ample time for the White House to settle on a successor and for Senate Democrats, who control a 59-vote majority, to hold confirmation hearings and a vote before the court’s next term begins in October. Republicans have not ruled out attempts to delay confirmation.

    Stevens’ announcement had been hinted at for months. It comes 11 days before his 90th birthday.

    Appointed by Gerald Ford in 1975, Stevens has aligned himself with “liberal” wing of the Court, so with Obama making the pick the ideological divide will not be affected.

    Slate already has a list of potential nominees. Whoever it is will be named quickly and they will be a safe pick. President Obama and Democrats will want to avoid a tough confirmation fight that could stretch into late summer of an election year.

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    Justice John Paul Stevens Says He Will Retire Within Three Years
    BREAKING: Souter to retire from SCOTUS

    Supreme Court Justice David Souter has announced his retirement:

    Souter is expected to remain on the bench until a successor has been chosen and confirmed, which may or may not be accomplished before the court reconvenes in October.

    At 69, Souter is nowhere near the oldest member of the court, but he has made clear to friends for some time now that he wanted to leave Washington, a city he has never liked, and return to his native New Hampshire.

    Now, according to reliable sources, he has decided to take the plunge and has informed the White House of his decision.

    Souter’s retirement would give President Obama his first appointment to the high court, and most observers expect that he will appoint a woman.


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