Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Liptak Assesses Direction of U.S. Supreme Court

Adam Liptak of the New York Times wrote a lengthy article on the U.S. Supreme Court
as it goes into its summer recess and through the fifth year of the Roberts Court. Below are excerpts from the article. If you are an ardent Supreme Court watcher or are just interested in the direction our country may be going--Roberts appears to be heading for a long and active career on the Court--it is worth a read.

From the New York Times:

Chief Justice Roberts, 55, is settling in for what is likely to be a very long tenure at the head of a court that seems to be entering a period of stability.

If the Roberts court continues on the course suggested by its first five years, it is likely to allow a greater role for religion in public life, to permit more participation by unions and corporations in elections and to elaborate further on the scope of the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms. Abortion rights are likely to be curtailed, as are affirmative action and protections for people accused of crimes.

The recent shift to the right is modest. And the court’s decisions have hardly been uniformly conservative. The justices have, for instance, limited the use of the death penalty and rejected broad claims of executive power in the government’s efforts to combat terrorism.

But scholars who look at overall trends rather than individual decisions say that widely accepted political science data tell an unmistakable story about a notably conservative court.

With regard to individual rights in criminal cases Liptak explored the implications of former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor replacement with Justice Samuel Alito. Liptak wrote:

Just weeks before she left the court, for instance, Justice O’Connor heard arguments in Hudson v. Michigan, a case about whether evidence should be suppressed because it was found after Detroit police officers stormed a home without announcing themselves.

“Is there no policy protecting the homeowner a little bit and the sanctity of the home from this immediate entry?” Justice O’Connor asked a government lawyer. David A. Moran, a lawyer for the defendant, Booker T. Hudson, said the questioning left him confident that he had Justice O’Connor’s crucial vote.

Three months later, the court called for reargument, signaling a 4-to-4 deadlock after Justice O’Connor’s departure. When the 5-to-4 decision was announced in June, the court not only ruled that violations of the knock-and-announce rule do not require the suppression of evidence, but also called into question the exclusionary rule itself.

The shift had taken place. Justice Alito was in the majority.

“My 5-4 loss in Hudson v. Michigan,” Mr. Moran wrote in 2006 in Cato Supreme Court Review, “signals the end of the Fourth Amendment” — protecting against unreasonable searches — “as we know it.”

To read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/25/us/25roberts.html?_r=1&hp=&pagewanted=print

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