Sept. 11 1980—Less than two months before the election of President Reagan, the Senate confirms the controversial nomination of now-notorious judicial activist Stephen Reinhardt to a newly created seat on the Ninth Circuit. Twenty-seven years later, Reinhardt, still in active (mis)service, continues his hijinks.
In Reinhardt’s overtly political view of judging, “The judgments about the Constitution are value judgments. You reach the answer that essentially your values tell you to reach.” Reinhardt is probably the most overturned judge in history: In one year alone, the Supreme Court reversed him on eleven occasions, including (as Yale law professor Akhil Amar put it) “unanimously an unbelievable five times.” Ever defiant, he declares, “They can’t catch them all.”
1992—Responding bitterly to the Third Circuit’s order removing him from a personal-injury action against tobacco manufacturers (see This Week for Sept. 4, 1992), federal district judge H. Lee Sarokin recuses himself from a closely related case. In so doing, he issues this brazen broadside that both misstates the basis of the Third Circuit’s ruling and impugns the integrity of the Third Circuit judges: “I fear for the independence of the judiciary if a powerful litigant can cause the removal of a judge for speaking the truth based upon the evidence, in forceful language that addresses the precise issues presented for determination.” Sarokin adds this statement of politicized nonsense: “If the standard established here had been applied to the late Judge John Sirica, Richard Nixon might have continued as President of the United States.”
Sept. 13 1999—Is Ninth Circuit judge Stephen Reinhardt trying to hide his handiwork? In an unsigned opinion that bears the marks of Reinhardt, a Ninth Circuit panel on which Reinhardt sits rules (in United States v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers’ Cooperative) that a district court, in crafting an injunction that barred cannabis clubs from distributing marijuana, improperly failed to consider modifying its injunction to permit those clubs to distribute marijuana in cases of medical necessity.
On review, the Supreme Court unanimously reverses, ruling that there is no medical-necessity exception to the federal Controlled Substances Act’s prohibition on the manufacture and distribution of marijuana.
For an explanation of this recurring feature, see here.