Thursday, July 06, 2006

Bench press

This post requires us (used in the sense of the royal we, we swear) to consider the virtues and vices of several U.S. Supreme Court decisions issued in recent weeks. For numerous reasons that remain somewhat vague but perhaps relate to our desire to amuse ourselves by speaking in the first-person plural form, we will discuss multiple major rulings in bite-size form below.

Knock three no times on the ceiling front door: Don't worry if your individual civil liberties are violated; you still can vindicate your rights by spending years in expensive litigation that you're unlikely to win and that probably will pay a pittance if you do. That's the story of Hudson v. Michigan, in which the high court rejected the Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule in "knock and announce" cases due to "substantial social costs" that would result. It was a proud moment for Justice Antonin Scalia, whose aversion to decisions based heavily on social science research apparently lasted a little more than a year.

Money still talks: Want to run for office, Average Joe? (Do it. You can't be worse than the crew we have now.) Then we hope you cranked the fundraising machine a while back, because thanks to Randall v. Sorrell, your opponents have a constitutional right to spend as much on their campaigns as they want. Especially if it's their own money. You'll need a number with lots of zeroes, so get out there and show 'em how $10,000-a-plate dinners are done!

Tie goes to the dealer: Or to the prosecutor if we're playing Kansas death-penalty procedure instead of blackjack. When the jury finds that aggravating and mitigating factors are equal, as in Kansas v. Marsh, the Supreme Court said states are perfectly free to require execution in those circumstances. Not to permit it, but to require it. We'd cite this case in a letter asking the NCAA -- which once called Kansas home, after all -- to dictate an Alabama win every time a football game was deadlocked at the end of regulation, but we're skeptical that they'd see things our way.

Broken boundaries: After League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry, partisan-fueled gerrymanders of state legislative districts are welcome at any time, even between censuses. Well, as long as they don't discriminate against racial minorities in the process. And as long as they aren't, well, too partisan. Given that Justice Anthony Kennedy seems to break all the ties in the big cases these days, you probably just need to go ask him.

The nerve: What do you mean the president can't ignore any and all laws he wants indefinitely if he just declares he must to fight a never-ending war on terrorism? Five uppity justices in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld apparently felt that the Constitution and the other two branches of government still matter. But then, they probably did research on the Internet, too, and we know all about its bias.

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