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A Role For Congress


No one questions the power of Congress to issue subpoenas to pursue its core function, i.e., to conduct hearings and investigate issues where there might be a legislative purpose. And clearly, in this case, Congress is genuinely interested in taking up the issue of protecting disabled and incapacitated people. And Congress is certainly free to use the most widely known example of court-ordered starvation as a basis for its inquiry. If its purpose is also to save from starvation the person at the center of its inquiry, that’s perfectly legitimate as well.

And when Congress issues subpoenas, they are to be honored by the recipients, or they face possible prosecution for contempt of Congress. Compliance with congressional subpoenas is every bit as critical to maintaining the rule of law under our constitutional system as is compliance with a court order. And a state trial judge is not free to blithely dismiss such congressional action, whether he agrees with it or not. He stands in the same shoes as others in this regard, i.e., he cannot take affirmative steps to contravene a congressional subpoena. Even if one wishes to descend into some kind of balancing test, the state trial judge could have easily prevented a constitutional confrontation by delaying his order until Congress could at least conduct hearings, thereby ensuring that the authority of both branches of government were not offended. Instead, the state trial judge did what too many judges do, i.e., he vetoed a decision or action by Congress. The mainstream media will ignore this aspect of what has occurred, as it already has, preferring to regurgitate the shrill accusations of academics and lawyers who worship before the bench.


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