Bench Memos

NRO’s home for judicial news and analysis.

Disturbing Patterns in the Obama Administration


Today highlights two disturbing trends in the way President Obama has been doing business. 

First, this morning I commented on Senator Specter’s seemingly-irrational decision to support Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court, despite her refusal to answer his questions during her hearing, which was enough to lose her his vote for SG.  Turns out my snarky suggestion that he was after a Sestak-style administration position was not far off the mark: ABC news is now reporting that Specter has indeed been angling for just such a position.  It’s shocking that Specter would fall for the same trap that his opponent outshone him by steering clear of.  Don’t worry, we are assured there is no quid-pro-quo, and I’m sure these two are the only instances of this type of “reaching out” by the White House.  Better get going fast on the negotiations, Senator, or there’ll be nothing left but a long weekend in the Lincoln Bedroom.

In other news, Ed Whelan highlighted the egregious legal reasoning employed by former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Louis B. Butler, Jr., allowing Wisconsin courts to find companies liable for that state’s lead paint injuries even if it can’t be shown that they ever even sold paint in Wisconsin, let alone the paint that injured the plaintiff.  That ruling has been held unconstitutional by a federal district court as a violation of due process, but that holding is being appealed and may not last.  And it’s not over for Butler.  After the voters of Wisconsin ousted him, President Obama nominated the former judge to the federal bench.  So Butler may have a chance to reinstate his view of the law after all.

If Butler’s far-fetched legal theory sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the same type of guilt-by-association for paint manufacturers advocated by another Obama nominee for a federal judgeship: John J. McConnell, Jr.  President Obama seems to be using the federal bench to advance his standing with the trial lawyers and to advance legal theories that are willing to sacrifice due process rights of defendants (after all, they’re just evil “corporations,” right?) to achieve a win for his favored party.


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