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“Escalation Of Tactics”: Supreme Court Leaks To Conservative Pundits May Have Started More Than A Month Ago

CBS News’ Jan Crawford confirms widespread rumors that Chief Justice John Roberts initially voted to strike down the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, but decided midway through the opinion drafting process that he could not support this constitutionally unjustifiable result. In what may be the biggest revelation of her piece, Crawford also reports that pseudo-moderateJustice Anthony Kennedy led the internal lobbying effort to bring Roberts back into the right-wing fold:

Roberts then withstood a month-long, desperate campaign to bring him back to his original position, the sources said. Ironically, Justice Anthony Kennedy – believed by many conservatives to be the justice most likely to defect and vote for the law – led the effort to try to bring Roberts back to the fold.

“He was relentless,” one source said of Kennedy’s efforts. “He was very engaged in this.”

But this time, Roberts held firm. And so the conservatives handed him their own message which, as one justice put it, essentially translated into, “You’re on your own.”

The conservatives refused to join any aspect of his opinion, including sections with which they agreed, such as his analysis imposing limits on Congress’ power under the Commerce Clause, the sources said.

Instead, the four joined forces and crafted a highly unusual, unsigned joint dissent. They deliberately ignored Roberts’ decision, the sources said, as if they were no longer even willing to engage with him in debate.

Crawford cites two unnamed sources, and there are a very limited universe of people who could have revealed this information to her. Only the justices and their personal staff would have access to this knowledge, and it is highly unlikely that a clerk or secretary would be willing to risk their entire career by revealing the Court’s confidential deliberations to the press. Crawford, moreover, is a very well connected conservative reporter who has, at times, worked closely with the Federalist Society to drive conservative legal narratives. Nothing is certain, but it is likely that one or both of Crawford’s sources is a conservative justice.

Moreover, as Linda Greenhouse points out, it is possible that the Court started springing leaks more than a month before Roberts handed down his opinion:

Around Memorial Day, a number of conservative columnists and bloggers suddenly began accusing the “liberal media” of putting “the squeeze to Justice Roberts,” as George Will expressed the thought in his Washington Post column. “They are waging an embarrassingly obvious campaign, hoping he will buckle beneath the pressure of their disapproval and declare Obamacare constitutional,” Mr. Will wrote. Although the court has been famously leakproof, Mr. Will and some of the others are well connected at the court, and I wondered at the time whether they had picked up signals that the chief justice, thought reliable after the oral argument two months earlier, was now wavering, and whether their message was really intended for him.

To be clear, at this point only two facts are confirmed: 1) According to Crawford, Roberts flipped his vote midstream; and 2) someone within the Court must have leaked her this information. It is perfectly appropriate for Justice Kennedy, or any other justice, for that matter, to internally lobby Roberts to try to obtain his vote in an important case. If a member of the Court has turned to conservative columnists like Will or reporters like Crawford in order to pressure and then embarrass Roberts, however, that would be a significant and unusual escalation from the justices’ regular tactics.


By: Ian Millhiser, Think Progress, July 1, 2012

July 2, 2012 Posted by | U. S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The World According To Clarence Thomas And Ayn Rand

The Los Angeles Times highlights some of Justice Clarence Thomas’s more extreme solo opinions, most of which seem to be rooted in this: every year Thomas has his new clerks come to his home to watch a movie—”the 1949 film version of the classic of libertarian conservatism, Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead.”

Explains a lot, and not just his willingness to be the only (often crazy) dissenter on key cases.

Among them, he has declared that the Constitution gives states a right to establish an official religion. Prisoners, he wrote, have no constitutional right to be protected from beatings by guards. Teenagers and students have no free-speech rights at all, he said in an opinion Monday, because in the 18th century, when the Constitution was written, parents had “absolute authority” over their children.Two years ago, the court ruled that a school official could not strip-search a 13-year-old girl to look for two extra-strength ibuprofen pills. Thomas — alone — dissented, calling the search of her underwear “reasonable and justified.”

Alone, he voted to strike down a key part of the Voting Rights Act that is credited with giving blacks political power in the South. And he was the lone justice to uphold the George W. Bush administration’s view that an American citizen could be held as an “enemy combatant” with no charges and no hearing….

“He is the most radical justice to serve on the court in decades,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the UC Irvine Law School and a liberal constitutional scholar. He “would change the law dramatically and give little weight to precedent. It’s easy to overlook how radical [he is] because his are usually sole opinions that do not get attention.”

He’s the Federalist Society’s dream Justice, a true “constitutional conservative.” Ed Kilgore writes about the radicalism of the movement in reference to Michele Bachmann, but it’s applicable here.

…[C]onstitutional conservatives think of America as a sort of ruined paradise, bestowed a perfect form of government by its wise Founders but gradually imperiled by the looting impulses of voters and politicians. In their backwards-looking vision, constitutional conservatives like to talk about the inalienable rights conferred by the Founders—not specifically in the Constitution, as a matter of fact, but in the Declaration of Independence, which is frequently and intentionally conflated with the Constitution as the part of the Founders’ design. It’s from the Declaration, for instance, that today’s conservatives derive their belief that “natural rights” (often interpreted to include quasi-absolute property rights or the prerogatives of the traditional family), as well as the “rights of the unborn,” were fundamental to the American political experiment and made immutable by their divine origin….The obvious utility of the label is that it hints at a far more radical agenda than meets the untrained eye, all the while elevating the proud bearer above the factional disputes of the conservative movement’s economic and cultural factions.

On the economic side of the coin, most mainstream politicians are not going to publicly say that the monstrosities they associate with ObamaCare, “redistribution of wealth,” or Keynesian stimulus techniques are rooted in their desire to reverse the New Deal, as well as a long chain of Supreme Court decisions that also happened to make possible the abolition of segregation. But many conservative activists actually think that way, and have in mind as their goal nothing so modest as a mere rollback of federal social programs to the levels of the Bush or even the Reagan administration. Bachmann and other candidates can talk to most voters as though they are simply trying to defend America from a vast overreach by the 44th president. But to the radicalized conservative base that dominates contests like the Iowa Caucuses, the constitutional conservative label hints broadly at a more audacious agenda ultimately aimed at bringing back the lost American Eden of the 1920s, if not an earlier era.

It’s an interesting concept for Thomas to align with, given that he would have been considered only 3/5ths of a man “in the 18th century, when the Constitution was written.” Or perhaps he’s interpreting it as three out of five African-Americans being counted, and assuming he’d of course be among the three. Of course, if we returned to his preferred era of governance, he could be in prison on the basis of his marriage alone. And it’s a pretty safe bet, had so many of the laws he has dissented from so strenuously not been passed and upheld, the last place he’d find himself now is on a seat in the highest court of the land.

All of which would only be an interesting quirk of Thomas’s personality if he weren’t part of an increasingly extreme majority on the court, manifesting this hard-right, highly corporatist, and dangerous philosophy. That he’s guided by Ayn Rand should be enough to put his place on the court in question, if his ethical lapses alone weren’t enough to do so.


By: Joan McCarter, Daily Kos, July 5, 2011

July 8, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Conservatives, Constitution, Corporations, Democracy, Equal Rights, GOP, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Iowa Caucuses, Politics, Public, Public Opinion, Republicans, Right Wing, SCOTUS, States, Voters | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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