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This Week in Liberal Judicial Activism—Week of November 10



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Sham arrests, the Zion of the South, Blackmun’s emergence, white liberals vs. female conservatives, and real irrationality:

 

 

Nov. 10

1961—Phony cases make silly law.  Estelle Griswold, executive director of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut, and Lee Buxton, a Yale medical school professor who doubles as medical director of the League’s New Haven facility, contrive to get themselves arrested for violation of an 1879 Connecticut law against using, or being accessories to the use of, contraceptives—a law that had never been enforced.  They succeed in being found guilty and fined $100 each, and thus begin to lay the stage for the Supreme Court’s 1965 ruling in Griswold v. Connecticut.  (See This Week for June 7, 1965.)

1992—Is orthodox Judaism the state religion of Georgia?  A panel of the Eleventh Circuit rules (in Chabad-Lubavitch of Georgia v. Miller) that the display of a menorah in the rotunda of Georgia’s capitol building would violate the Establishment Clause.  Eleven months later, the en banc Eleventh Circuit unanimously reverses the panel ruling and permits the menorah display.   

Nov. 12

1908—In Nashville, Illinois, the human fetus to become known as Harry A. Blackmun emerges safe and sound from his mother’s womb.  Some sixty-five years later, Justice Blackmun authors the Supreme Court opinion in Roe v. Wade.  (See This Week for Jan. 22, 1973.)  Somehow the same people who think it meaningful to criticize Justice Thomas for opposing affirmative-action programs from which he putatively benefited don’t criticize Blackmun for depriving millions of other unborn human beings the same opportunity that he was given. 

1975—Justice William O. Douglas (see This Week for April 4, 1939) retires from the Court—only to be replaced by Justice John Paul Stevens.

Nov. 13

1980—Days after Ronald Reagan has defeated Jimmy Carter in his bid for re-election and after Republicans have won control of the incoming Senate, President Carter nominates Stephen G. Breyer, then serving as chief counsel to Teddy Kennedy on the Senate Judiciary Committee, to a newly created seat on the First Circuit.  Less than four weeks later, the Senate confirms Breyer’s nomination.

Nov. 14

2003—Demonstrating their particular animus against female nominees whom they regard as judicial conservatives, Senate Democrats filibuster President George W. Bush’s nominations of Judge Priscilla Owen to the Fifth Circuit, Judge Carolyn B. Kuhl to the Ninth Circuit, and Judge Janice Rogers Brown to the D.C. Circuit.  Cloture motions on each of the nominations (in Owen’s case, the fourth such motion) fail, as only two Democrats—Zell Miller of Georgia and Ben Nelson of Nebraska—vote in favor of cloture.

In May 2005—more than four years after her initial nomination—Owen is finally confirmed.   Brown is confirmed in June 2005, nearly two years after she was first nominated.  Kuhl, first nominated in June 2001, withdraws her candidacy in December 2004.

Nov. 16

1993—In Steffan v. Perry, a trifecta of Carter appointees on the D.C. Circuit—Abner J. Mikva, Patricia M. Wald, and Harry T. Edwards—rules that Department of Defense Directives excluding homosexuals from military service cannot constitutionally be applied to someone who has identified himself as a homosexual but who has not been shown to have engaged in homosexual conduct.  Purporting to apply rational-basis review, the opinion authored by chief judge Mikva determines that it is irrational for the Department of Defense to employ the rebuttable presumption that (in Mikva’s summary) “a person who, by his own admission, ‘desires’ to engage in homosexual conduct has a ‘propensity’ to engage in repeated homosexual conduct.”  One year later—after Mikva’s resignation—the en banc D.C. Circuit reverses Mikva’s ruling (with Wald, Edwards, and Clinton appointee Judith Rogers dissenting).

 

 

For an explanation of this recurring feature, see here.

 


Tags: This Day in Liberal Activism


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