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What I Have Learned from the Senate Judiciary Hearings

I never knew that Thurgood Marshall was an activist judge. Foolishly, I thought he was somebody to be admired and even emulated. It is clear that in 1954, when he argued Brown versus the Board of Education he did not share the mainstream view that separate could be equal. It took Senator Jeff Sessions (Republican — Alabama) to point out the craziness that was Thurgood Marshall.

Dana Milbank noted: Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.), the ranking Republican on the panel, branded Marshall a “well-known activist.” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said Marshall’s legal view “does not comport with the proper role of a judge or judicial method.” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) pronounced Marshall “a judicial activist” with a “judicial philosophy that concerns me.”

From TPM:

Looks like Senate Judiciary Republicans have at least one unified talking point today: Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American to ever serve on the Supreme Court, was an “activist judge.” As Elena Kagan kept on her listening face, multiple senators slammed both Marshall’s judicial philosophy and her service as his clerk in the late 1980s.

Ranking member Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) criticized Kagan for having “associated herself with well-known activist judges who have used their power to redefine the meaning of our constitution and have the result of advancing that judge’s preferred social policies,” citing Marshall as his son, Thurgood Marshall Jr., sat in the audience of the Judiciary Committee hearings.

In an example of how much the GOP focused on Marshall, his name came up 35 times. President Obama’s name was mentioned just 14 times today.

Thankfully, the Democrats had a thoughtful response. From TP:

These attacks on Justice Marshall sparked what was easily the most eloquent moment of the hearing, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) reminding Senate Republicans exactly who they were going after:

On at least three or four occasions I have been disappointed by my Republican colleagues warning us that you just might follow in the tradition of Justice Thurgood Marshall. . . . Let me say for the record, America is a better nation because of the tenacity, integrity and values of Thurgood Marshall. Some may dismiss Justice Marshall’s pioneering work on civil rights as an example of “empathy”—that somehow as a black man that had been a victim of discrimination, his feelings became part of his passionate life’s work—and I say “thank God.” The results which Justice Marshall dedicated his life to broke down barriers of racial discrimination that had haunted America for generations. . . . And I might also add that his most famous case, Brown v. Board of Education—if that is an activist mind at work, we should be grateful as a nation that he argued before the Supreme Court, based on discrimination in this society and changed America for the better.

Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma was happy to let us know that we had more freedom 30 years ago that we have today.

From TP:

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) then responded to Coburn by pointing out that Coburn’s idea of a more “free” society was when women had fewer rights:

KLOBUCHAR: I was really interested and listening to Senator Coburn. … He was actually asking you, just now, back 30 years ago if you thought that we were more free. … But I was thinking back 30 years ago, was 1980. … And then I was thinking, were we really more free, if you were a woman in 1980? Do you know, solicitor general, how many women were on the U.S. Supreme Court in 1980?

KAGAN: I guess zero.

KLOBUCHAR: That would be correct. There were no women on the Supreme Court. Do you know how many women were sitting up here 30 years ago in 1980?

KAGAN: It was very striking when Senator Feinstein said she was one of two women. I thought, how amazing. So, how many?

KLOBUCHAR: There were no women on the Judiciary Committee until after the Anita Hill hearings in 1991. Do you know how many women were in the United States Senate in 1980, 30 years ago?

KAGAN: I’m stumped again.

KLOBUCHAR: No women were in the United States Senate. There had been women in the senate before, and then in 1981, Senator Kassebaum joined the Senate. So, as I think about that question about if people were more free in 1980, I think it’s all in the eyes of the beholder.

(Klobuchar corrected herself later to note that Kassebaum was already serving in the Senate at the time, having been sworn in in 1978.)

By |2010-07-01T07:24:01-04:00July 1st, 2010|Legal, Senate|Comments Off on What I Have Learned from the Senate Judiciary Hearings

What's Going On: Evening News Round-up

  • The House Judiciary Committee voted in favor of charging Karl Rove with contempt of Congress.
  • A brief filed by the Bush administration with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court asked the court to keep any challenges to the wiretapping law passed earlier this year secret.
  • New documents reveal that the state of Georgia actually knew about the “patch” that Deibold placed after the election. Cathy Cox, Georgia Secretary of State, inquired about the patch. This patch was selectively applied to certain computers just before the 2002 election in Georgia.
  • President Bush signs the Housing Relief Bill. Unfortunately, after further review, I’m not sure that it really brings all that much relief.
  • Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced that he will not seek re-election. He is in the middle of a corruption investigation that has marred his administration.
  • The CIA finally documents ties between Pakistan senior officials and militants. Many books, including Richard Clarke’s “Against All Enemies,” have already pointed to the Pakistani government as a problem.
By |2008-07-30T19:21:59-04:00July 30th, 2008|Domestic Issues, Foreign Affairs|3 Comments

Judiciary Committee discusses Domestic Spying

Today Senator Arlen Specter, chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee, will propose a measure that will grant amnesty and will legalize the activities that the Bush administration already says is legal.  If the process is legal, as the Bush administration claims, then why should the committee grant amnesty to anyone?

NY Times has an op-ed:

“On Monday, the Bush administration told a judge in Detroit that the president’s warrantless domestic spying is legal and constitutional, but refused to say why. The judge should just take his word for it, the lawyer said, because merely talking about it would endanger America. Today, Senator Arlen Specter wants his Judiciary Committee to take an even more outlandish leap of faith for an administration that has shown it does not deserve it.

Mr. Specter wants the committee to approve a bill he drafted that tinkers dangerously with the rules on wiretapping, even though the president has said the law doesn’t apply to him anyway, and even though Mr. Specter and most of the panel are just as much in the dark as that judge in Detroit. The bill could well diminish the power of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA, which was passed in 1978 to prevent just the sort of abuse that Mr. Bush’s program represents.”

Just to make matters more confusing, Senator Specter denies that he wishes to grant amnesty to the Bush Administration.  He wishes us to believe that the Washington Post broke the story on a whim.  Fortunately Glenn Greenwald of Unclaimed Territory and the author of the new book, How Should a Patriot Act?, has gotten a copy of the proposed legislation.  (He has allowed me to post it here.)

Senator Specter seems to stand strong and tall on Monday but then seems to whither under the pressure of the Bush administration.  By Friday, he is cowering in the corner like Roberto Duran, yelling, “no mas.” 

By the way, I discussed the NSA spying program and electronic privacy on my radio show with Peter Swire from the Center for American Progress, two weeks ago.  National Public Radio’s Morning Edition got around to talking with Peter Swire this week.

By |2013-10-15T13:50:26-04:00June 15th, 2006|Domestic Spying|Comments Off on Judiciary Committee discusses Domestic Spying
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