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This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Monday, November 29, 2010

More on Stevens

And Also: God of liberty: A Religious History of the American Revolution by Thomas S. Kidd is interesting but incomplete. Much on evangelistic faiths while deism and such is covered less. The essential unifying function of religion is not quite shown. Still worthwhile.

My quick comment on the Stevens' book review was too quick on one point. It was not his comments on "activism" that I was thinking about but his "agenda" point.
In 1972, in Furman v. Georgia, the Court effectively invalidated all forty-one existing state and District of Columbia capital punishment statutes. Rather than advancing Justice Goldberg’s purported campaign, Furman, in Garland’s view, was a failure: a temporary moratorium on executions that energized and motivated a powerful pro–death penalty movement. But that analysis presumes that the Court should have been or sought to be an “engine of reform.” That is quite wrong. The Court has no agenda of its own, but may (and must) only decide issues that litigants raise in cases over which the Court has jurisdiction.
The Court continuously has some sort of "agenda" and has various means, including docket control, to carry it out. There are various limits to this "agenda," but suffice to say "Gideon's Trumpet" just didn't fall into their laps. Other examples, back to the days of John Marshall, suggests some sort of "agenda." Some discussed his comments on "judicial activism" and so forth. I responded. Simply put, the best approach there is to focus on the merits, not just "he likes or dislikes the result" sort of thing.

Stevens also was on 60 Minutes, part of his end of his tenure media blitz, this time shown on television. The most notable bit probably is getting Souter to consent to on camera comments, including commenting how one strong opinion by Stevens was an example of him "earning his salary." To be honest, when he was nominated, I wasn't sure about the guy. Now, I think he is probably the best selection in my lifetime. Stevens was selected when I was quite young, but Souter was nominated post-Bork, when nominations were more complicated. So, that underlines the value of his pick.

The Supreme Court is back to work. A couple interesting statements regarding orders. The "liberals" via Sotomayor went out of their way to make a statement regarding a capital case that agreed with the denial, but noted that some other like event might not be as "harmless" as this one. Justice Sotomayor has shown signs of being the future strong voice on the liberal side. This is not the first time she went out of her way to flag an issue of concern.

Meanwhile, Alito pointed to a copyright case involving a teenager downloading files, agreeing there is no apparent circuit split, but the question is worth review. And, tossed in that if the case will be easy to make, some discretion to take age and other criteria into account might be warranted. Recently, I was thinking that overall Alito has not impressed me much at all, coming off as a bland conservative with some asshole tendencies. But, here he shows some promise.