Supreme Court Trawl
The final Monday in June has come and gone for the U.S. Supreme Court and we still are waiting for the two biggest decisions of the 2005-2006 term-- on congressional redistricting and the rights of detainees at Guantanamo Bay. But the Justices did manage both to wrap up some key cases on their docket and to schedule a real doozy for next term.
The most important move by the Justices Monday was to accept for review a case for next term that will evaluate the Bush Administration's efforts, or lack thereof, in reducing greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. The case is about the Clean Air Act, and the Environmental Protection Agency, and whether the White House has a legal duty to enforce certain regulations. The case is likely to come down to what the true definition of "pollution" is under the law. The White House says that carbon dioxide is not the kind of pollution that must be restricted under the Clean Air Act and even if it were the feds would not be required to limit it. The environmentalists say it is precisely the sort of pollution the law was intended to limit. You are going to hear an awful lot about this case between now and next June, when it likely will be resolved.
The Justices also on Monday struck down a valiant effort by Vermont legislators to take some of the money out of political campaigns. Although the Justices were all over the map on the implications of the case, a majority agreed that the first amendment's right to associate and "speak" (through the payment of money) precluded states from restricting both campaign funding and campaign spending. Someday some legislators somewhere will come up with a magic formula that both addresses the excess of campaign finance and comports with the first amendment. Until then, we are going to see the the Court, term after term, sadly slapping down these sorts of efforts.
The Court on Monday also gave a boost to supporters of capital punishment, issuing a ruling in a Kansas case that declares that a "tie" in a case (where the evidence of aggravating and mitigating factors is equal) can by law always go to the prosecutor and result in a capital case. Death penalty opponents had argued that a "tie" in such situations should always go to the defendant.
So now we wait, until Wednesday, for the top-shelf decisions to trickle down from on high.
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