Bench Memos

This Day in Liberal Judicial Activism—March 30

1989—According to the logbook maintained by the staff of the Morristown public library, squatter Richard R. Kreimer “spent 90 minutes—twice—staring at reference librarians.”  In response to this and other highly disruptive behavior, the library crafts written rules that prohibit, among other things, “unnecessary staring”.  But, in a wild ruling, federal district judge (and, later, Clinton appointee to the Third Circuit) H. Lee Sarokin declares the rules facially unconstitutional.  (See This Day entry for Feb. 14, 1992, for more on this case and the Third Circuit’s reversal of Judge Sarokin’s ruling.)

2001—After nearly six years in which his preliminary injunction has operated to prevent Indiana from implementing an informed-consent statute for abortion that is materially identical to the provisions that the Supreme Court held to be constitutionally permissible in 1992 in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, federal district judge David F. Hamilton enters a permanent injunction against the statute.  In doing so, Hamilton rests heavily on a statistical study, conducted by a sociologist at the Alan Guttmacher Institute, that related entirely to the effects of a waiting-period provision in Mississippi.  Never mind that the Seventh Circuit had already determined, in a 1999 case involving Wisconsin’s informed-consent law, that the Mississippi study should not be relied on.  A Seventh Circuit panel (with abortion radical Diane Wood in dissent) later reverses Hamilton’s injunction.

In 2009, Hamilton, a former ACLU activist, will become President Obama’s first nominee to a federal appellate seat.

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