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What Would People Think?

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Brief Supreme Court Roundup

As a law student, I guess I'm supposed to tell you, dear reader(s) about what's going on in the Supreme Court. In no particular order and with no deep analysis, here's the last 4 cases I've heard of.

1. I'm sure you've all heard of the Kelo case by now. And probably read more than you ever wanted about it. (If not, here's more, as written by law geeks.) Basically, the Court upheld a local government's right to take (with compensation) land from people against their will and give it to private developers. Takings is a complex issue and the media is, of course, oversimplifying the issue. But the popular outrage at this decision is essentially correct. It leaves no real limit that I can see on the government's ability to directly take people's property for any reason.

2. The Court continued to make its Religion Clause jurisprudence as clear as mud....mud that has been chemically treated to be even more unclear than mud usually is. A Ten Commandments display in a courtroom is unconstitutional. A Ten Commandments monument on the Texas state capitol grounds is ok. Please, pretty please, don't ask me to explain this. The Court's religion clause jurisprudence has called "jurisprudence of minutiae" and that about sums it up.

For the record, my professor (Erwin Chemerinsky) lost the Texas case. If you want law geek discussion of the Ten Commandments case, click here.

It may surprise you to know that I really don't care about these Ten Commandments cases. If the Ten Commandments are kicked out of public buildings, I don't feel like my faith is threatened. I suppose a fellow Christian could argue that from a non-legal standpoint this is showing disrespect toward God. To which I would respond: "you wanna show respect for God? Try obeying his commands....help the poor, be good stewards of the environment, live a pure life sexually, etc. etc." Putting up a token monument doesn't mean jack.

Similarly, for all those who believe the world will end if a stupid monument is put up somewhere....get a sense of perspective! We got ourselves a nation confronting war, racism, budget disaster, and a host of other issues that actually affect people's lives. Going after these monuments is not worth the time and effort. They are a far cry from theocracy.

3. So Grokster and other companies that facilitate illegally downloading can be held liable for it. Not being much of a downloader myself, I don't have much of a dog in the fight. I always like to stick it to the man....but frankly the law is the law. Until someone realizes a better business model and changes the law. Hopefully it will happen someday.

4. It's a good thing downloading companies are held responsible. That means our Court, emboldened with a sense of holding wrongdoers responsible, will let a grieving mother sue the city that failed to enforce a restraining order against her ex-husband....thus allowing the guy to kill her kids. Right? Well, actually not so much.

The Supreme Court has been greatly expanding the atrocious doctrine of sovereign immunity - under which governments cannot be sued unless the consent to it. It all started with the 11th Amendment - which says that citizens of one state can't sue another state. And somehow, from that, the court has (a) concluded that citizens can't sue their own state either without consent, (b) concluded that the sovereign immunity also protects the federal government (so much for originalism...that was never written in the Constitution) and (c) at first allowed local governments to be sued under 42 U.S.C. section 1983 and the 14th Amendment, but is increasingly cutting off that path too...as today's case illustrates.

Whatever happened to government accountability?

There WERE a couple great Death Penalty cases this term....I'll get around to them at some point.


  • "you wanna show respect for God? Try obeying his commands....help the poor, be good stewards of the environment, live a pure life sexually, etc. etc."

    I almost wept when I read that. (Well, admittedly, I don't agree with the third ;-) But I'm glad to hear (as I suspected) that you correctly regard the Commandments monuments as futile gestures that are essentially meaningless to the fulfillment of God's word.

    By Blogger Mike, at 6/30/2005 10:05 PM  

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