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Sandra Day O'Connor warns of beginnings of dictatorship

 
 
Reply Sat 11 Mar, 2006 09:17 am
Retired Supreme Court Justice hits attacks on courts and warns of dictatorship
RAW STORY
Published: March 10, 2006
Nina Totenberg, NPR News, Washington.

Supreme Court justices keep many opinions private but Sandra Day O'Connor no longer faces that obligation. Yesterday, the retired justice criticized Republicans who criticized the courts. She said they challenge the independence of judges and the freedoms of all Americans.

O'Connor's speech at Georgetown University was not available for broadcast but NPR's legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg was there.

Nina Totenberg: In an unusually forceful and forthright speech, O'Connor said that attacks on the judiciary by some Republican leaders pose a direct threat to our constitutional freedoms. O'Connor began by conceding that courts do have the power to make presidents or the Congress or governors, as she put it "really, really angry." But, she continued, if we don't make them mad some of the time we probably aren't doing our jobs as judges, and our effectiveness, she said, is premised on the notion that we won't be subject to retaliation for our judicial acts. The nation's founders wrote repeatedly, she said, that without an independent judiciary to protect individual rights from the other branches of government those rights and privileges would amount to nothing. But, said O'Connor, as the founding fathers knew statutes and constitutions don't protect judicial independence, people do.

And then she took aim at former House GOP leader Tom DeLay. She didn't name him, but she quoted his attacks on the courts at a meeting of the conservative Christian group Justice Sunday last year when DeLay took out after the courts for rulings on abortions, prayer and the Terri Schiavo case. This, said O'Connor, was after the federal courts had applied Congress' onetime only statute about Schiavo as it was written. Not, said O'Connor, as the congressman might have wished it were written. This response to this flagrant display of judicial restraint, said O'Connor, her voice dripping with sarcasm, was that the congressman blasted the courts.

It gets worse, she said, noting that death threats against judges are increasing. It doesn't help, she said, when a high-profile senator suggests there may be a connection between violence against judges and decisions that the senator disagrees with. She didn't name him, but it was Texas senator John Cornyn who made that statement, after a Georgia judge was murdered in the courtroom and the family of a federal judge in Illinois murdered in the judge's home. O'Connor observed that there have been a lot of suggestions lately for so-called judicial reforms, recommendations for the massive impeachment of judges, stripping the courts of jurisdiction and cutting judicial budgets to punish offending judges. Any of these might be debatable, she said, as long as they are not retaliation for decisions that political leaders disagree with.

I, said O'Connor, am against judicial reforms driven by nakedly partisan reasoning. Pointing to the experiences of developing countries and former communist countries where interference with an independent judiciary has allowed dictatorship to flourish, O'Connor said we must be ever-vigilant against those who would strongarm the judiciary into adopting their preferred policies. It takes a lot of degeneration before a country falls into dictatorship, she said, but we should avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 2 • Views: 1,212 • Replies: 19
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blueflame1
 
  1  
Reply Sat 11 Mar, 2006 10:05 am
Amazing history. A warning to take to heart.
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littlek
 
  1  
Reply Sat 11 Mar, 2006 04:56 pm
Eeeenteresting!
0 Replies
 
Anon-Voter
 
  1  
Reply Sat 11 Mar, 2006 05:03 pm
Isn't is funny that SHE was the one that cast the deciding vote to annoint King George in the first place!! Now she's warning us. Thanks for nothing!!

Anon
0 Replies
 
Amigo
 
  1  
Reply Sat 11 Mar, 2006 05:06 pm
Words to take heed of but whos listening, and who understands, and who cares. American Idol is on.
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boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Sat 11 Mar, 2006 05:32 pm
Quote:
O'Connor said we must be ever-vigilant against those who would strongarm the judiciary into adopting their preferred policies


Unless, of course, you're ready to retire.
0 Replies
 
blueflame1
 
  1  
Reply Sat 11 Mar, 2006 05:46 pm
Anon, she sure did cast the deciding vote. And the threat was there from the beginning.
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Baldimo
 
  1  
Reply Sun 12 Mar, 2006 06:38 am
blueflame1 wrote:
Anon, she sure did cast the deciding vote. And the threat was there from the beginning.


Do you mean the vote that stated Flordia has to follow its voting rules? It's good to see that she didn't just let Florida change its voting laws because some people didn't like the out come. God Bless her!
0 Replies
 
au1929
 
  1  
Reply Sun 12 Mar, 2006 07:37 am
Let us all remember that one of the first things that Hitler did was to "capture" the judiciary. This administration has tried to follow the same path.
0 Replies
 
Anon-Voter
 
  1  
Reply Sun 12 Mar, 2006 01:04 pm
Baldimo wrote:
blueflame1 wrote:
Anon, she sure did cast the deciding vote. And the threat was there from the beginning.


Do you mean the vote that stated Flordia has to follow its voting rules? It's good to see that she didn't just let Florida change its voting laws because some people didn't like the out come. God Bless her!


I'm afraid it goes much deeper than that.

Anon
0 Replies
 
blueflame1
 
  1  
Reply Sun 12 Mar, 2006 01:36 pm
Baldimo, sorry but the FSC followed the letter of Florida law as it existed on election day. The USSC ordered the FSC to count the ballots in a way inconsistent with Florida law.
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mele42846
 
  1  
Reply Tue 14 Mar, 2006 04:34 am
I am very much afraid that Blueflame's contention that the USSC ordered the FSC to count the ballots in a way that was contrary to Florida law is quite in error.


source-"Breaking the Deadlock"- Judge Richard Posner--P. 254

"...the Florida court had violated the clause of Article II of the Federal Constitution than commits the "Manner" of appointing Presidential electors to the "legislature" of each state. Florida's legislature had spoken in the state election code. The Florida Supreme Court so far deformed the code-primarily though not only by abrogating the discretionary authority that the code unmistakably grants to state and local election officials--as to have arrogated the legislative function to itself. There was no basis in the Florida election code for any of the hand recounts after the initial sample recounts failed to disclose a defect in the design, maintenance, or operation of the tabulating machinery...A MAJORITY OF THE JUSTICES OF THE SUPREME COURT DECIDED THAT THE CRITERIA(or rather lack of criteria) PRESCRIBED BY THAT COURT IN ITS DECISION OF DECEMBER 8 WERE SO ARBITRARY THAT THE RECOUNT WOULD DENY THE VOTERS OF FLORIDA THE EQUAL PROTECTION OF THE LAWS."



The decisions of the Supreme Court, until revised or nullified by themselves, such as Roe vs. Wade or Brown vs.Board of Education, are THE LAWS OF THE LAND!!!!
0 Replies
 
BumbleBeeBoogie
 
  1  
Reply Tue 14 Mar, 2006 09:36 am
Justice Ginsburg, with whom Justice Stevens joins, and with whom Justice Souter and Justice Breyer join as to Part I, dissenting.But we have dealt with such cases ever mindful of the full measure of respect we owe to interpretations of state law by a State's highest court.Rarely has this Court rejected outright an interpretation of state law by a state high court.

The Chief Justice says that Article II, by providing that state legislatures shall direct the manner of appointing electors, authorizes federal superintendence over the relationship between state courts and state legislatures, and licenses a departure from the usual deference we give to state court interpretations of state law. Ante, at 5 ("To attach definitive weight to the pronouncement of a state court, when the very question at issue is whether the court has actually departed from the statutory meaning, would be to abdicate our responsibility to enforce the explicit requirements of Article II."). The Framers of our Constitution, however, understood that in a republican government, the judiciary would construe the legislature's enactments. See U.S. Const., Art. III; The Federalist No. 78 (A. Hamilton). In light of the constitutional guarantee to States of a "Republican Form of Government," U.S. Const., Art. IV, §4, Article II can hardly be read to invite this Court to disrupt a State's republican regime. Yet The Chief Justice today would reach out to do just that. By holding that Article II requires our revision of a state court's construction of state laws in order to protect one organ of the State from another, The Chief Justice contradicts the basic principle that a State may organize itself as it sees fit. See, e.g., Gregory v. Ashcroft, 501 U.S. 452, 460 (1991) ("Through the structure of its government, and the character of those who exercise government authority, a State defines itself as a sovereign."); Highland Farms Dairy, Inc. v. Agnew, 300 U.S. 608, 612 (1937) ("How power shall be distributed by a state among its governmental organs is commonly, if not always, a question for the state itself.").2 Article II does not call for the scrutiny undertaken by this Court.

The extraordinary setting of this case has obscured the ordinary principle that dictates its proper resolution: Federal courts defer to state high courts' interpretations of their state's own law. This principle reflects the core of federalism, on which all agree. Even if there were an equal protection violation, I would agree with Justice Stevens, Justice Souter, and Justice Breyer that the Court's concern about "the December 12 deadline," ante, at 12, is misplaced. Time is short in part because of the Court's entry of a stay on December 9, several hours after an able circuit judge in Leon County had begun to superintend the recount process. More fundamentally, the Court's reluctance to let the recount go forward-despite its suggestion that "[t]he search for intent can be confined by specific rules designed to ensure uniform treatment," ante, at 8-ultimately turns on its own judgment about the practical realities of implementing a recount, not the judgment of those much closer to the process.

Equally important, as Justice Breyer explains, post, at 12 (dissenting opinion), the December 12 "deadline" for bringing Florida's electoral votes into 3 U.S.C. § 5's safe harbor lacks the significance the Court assigns it. Were that date to pass, Florida would still be entitled to deliver electoral votes Congress must count unless both Houses find that the votes "ha[d] not been … regularly given." 3 U.S.C. § 15. The statute identifies other significant dates. See, e.g., §7 (specifying December 18 as the date electors "shall meet and give their votes"); §12 (specifying "the fourth Wednesday in December"-this year, December 27-as the date on which Congress, if it has not received a State's electoral votes, shall request the state secretary of state to send a certified return immediately). But none of these dates has ultimate significance in light of Congress' detailed provisions for determining, on "the sixth day of January," the validity of electoral votes. §15. [/u]

The Court assumes that time will not permit "orderly judicial review of any disputed matters that might arise." Ante, at 12. But no one has doubted the good faith and diligence with which Florida election officials, attorneys for all sides of this controversy, and the courts of law have performed their duties. Notably, the Florida Supreme Court has produced two substantial opinions within 29 hours of oral argument. In sum, the Court's conclusion that a constitutionally adequate recount is impractical is a prophecy the Court's own judgment will not allow to be tested. Such an untested prophecy should not decide the Presidency of the United States.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Tue 14 Mar, 2006 10:37 am
mele42846 wrote:
I am very much afraid that Blueflame's contention that the USSC ordered the FSC to count the ballots in a way that was contrary to Florida law is quite in error.


source-"Breaking the Deadlock"- Judge Richard Posner--P. 254

I was debating with myself whether mele42846 was or was not a reincarnation of Italgato. This post removed all doubt.
0 Replies
 
blueflame1
 
  1  
Reply Tue 14 Mar, 2006 11:11 am
"Any effort by the Florida Supreme Court to have set a specific standard would have invited the argument that they were making "new law" beyond the Legislature's established "intent of the voter" standard and thereby violating Article II of the Constitution." http://72.14.207.104/search?q=cache:z4iKx67EndcJ:jurist.law.pitt.edu/election/electionques.htm+fsc+followed+letter+of+law+2000+election&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=1&ie=UTF-8
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okie
 
  1  
Reply Tue 14 Mar, 2006 11:41 am
Sandra Day O'Connor's statements are fairly surprising. I think the threat is there, but the source of the greatest threat is perhaps the one greatest source of debate. Much of the recent dissatisfaction of citizens and Congress concerning the Judicial branch is I think more of a reactionary response to what they viewed as a power grab by the judiciary in terms of laws being declared unconstitutional, based on questionable and murky, unsound opinions. So what we are dealing with here is, is the Judiciary or is it the Legislative branch becoming too arrogant and overstepping their bounds? If one is perceived as doing that, then the other tends to have a reactionary response.

It is my personal opinion that the Supreme Court has in fact overstepped their bounds in the last 30 or 40 years, and what we see now is simply a debate over where the pendulum should be.
0 Replies
 
old europe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 14 Mar, 2006 12:41 pm
joefromchicago wrote:
mele42846 wrote:
I am very much afraid that Blueflame's contention that the USSC ordered the FSC to count the ballots in a way that was contrary to Florida law is quite in error.


source-"Breaking the Deadlock"- Judge Richard Posner--P. 254

I was debating with myself whether mele42846 was or was not a reincarnation of Italgato. This post removed all doubt.


Yes. The "I am very much afraid" and the caps gave it away.....
0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Tue 14 Mar, 2006 02:33 pm
joefromchicago wrote:
mele42846 wrote:
I am very much afraid that Blueflame's contention that the USSC ordered the FSC to count the ballots in a way that was contrary to Florida law is quite in error.


source-"Breaking the Deadlock"- Judge Richard Posner--P. 254

I was debating with myself whether mele42846 was or was not a reincarnation of Italgato. This post removed all doubt.


I have been referring to it as MeleeGate for some time.
0 Replies
 
blueflame1
 
  1  
Reply Tue 14 Mar, 2006 06:54 pm
Former NSA lawyer Johnathan Turley at Conyers' NSA Hearing: Bush Committed a Crime
Former NSA Lawyer Jonathan Turley at the NSA Hearing
(C-span) rtsp://video.c-span.org/project/ter/ter012006_spying.rm

Audio #1 (more to follow): Bush Committed a Crime http://www.archive.org/download/ill... Please download this mp3 audio to share with others. Do you work at a business with a sound system... Wink more download options at archive.org

Professor Turley (rough transcript):

President Bush has for many years asserted authority that is both absolute and in my view, quite dangerous.

In August 2002, there was the infamous torture memo, put out by the justice department, that stated that the President could indeed order gov't officials to violate federal law. In fact, that memo said that imposing a limitation on his ability to conduct exercises that constitute torture would be a constitutional infringement on his authority.

The President also claimed authority to unilaterally declare a citizen an enemy combatant, to strip him entirely of his constitutional rights, including the right of access to counsel.

On Dec 30th 2005, the President signed the torture bill and he used a "signing statement"- reserving the right to violate that law. Now we know that there is an NSA operation based on the same extreme theory of Presidential power.

The problem with these claims is that they are devoid of any limiting principles. They place this country on a slippery slope that inevitably leads to a maximum leader.

I read the document put out by the Dept of Justice and I've changed my testimony to address that document. Frankly what is most remarkable is not the sweeping claims of authority, but the conspicuous lack of authority to support those claims.

The Supreme Court has rejected the very claims being made by the President with regard to the NSA operation, it is in direct contradiction of FISA.

Now I want to be absolutely clear, what the President ordered in this case was a crime. Now we can debate whether he had a good or bad motivation, but it was a crime.

The federal law makes it clear- you cannot engage in this type of domestic surveillance without comitting a crime.

We can debate the wisdom of that, we can debate why the President may have done it, but in my view, the President committed a crime, and we have to deal with that as citizens. And unfortunately, you have to deal with that as members of Congress.

It strikes an alarming circumstance when the President can go into a press conference and announce that he has violated a federal statute 30 times, and promises to continue to do so until someone stops him. That is the most remarkable admission that I have ever heard from a President of the United States...

I was shocked at what I saw [at FISA], I was convinced the judge would sign anything that we put in front of him, and I wasn't entirely sure that he actually read what we put in front of him. But I remember going back to my supervisor at NSA and saying that place scared the daylights out of me. And my supervisor said, "you know what, it is scary, but we're here. We won't let a president exceed his authority."

Well, this president has exceeded his authority.

Under FISA there are three exceptions that allow in one case, to engage in surveillance and proceed later to get approval.

The suggestion that, "time is of the essence", is a ludicrous one.

I'll just remind this instutition of it's duty. Despite any affiliation to the President, it's Congress duty to protect it's authority.

What's at stake is not a president that has committed a crime- it's much more serious than that. What's at stake is a president who is committing a crime under the pretense of legality, he says he has the authority to do that.

Very few members have faced this type of test of faith, but you're facing it now. And as citizens and as members, it's now up to us, we're called to account. For the many benefits that we have gotten from this system, we're called to account to do something. http://benfrank.net/blog/2006/01/24/nsa_hearing_audio/#more-208
0 Replies
 
blueflame1
 
  1  
Reply Wed 15 Mar, 2006 05:43 pm
Supreme Court Justice Reveals Death Threats
By GINA HOLLAND, AP

WASHINGTON (March 15) - Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said she and former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor have been the targets of death threats from the "irrational fringe" of society, people apparently spurred by Republican criticism of the high court.

Ginsburg revealed in a speech in South Africa last month that she and O'Connor were threatened a year ago by someone who called on the Internet for the immediate "patriotic" killing of the justices.

Security concerns among judges have been growing.

Conservative commentator Ann Coulter joked earlier this year that Justice John Paul Stevens should be poisoned. Over the past few months O'Connor has complained that criticism, mainly by Republicans, has threatened judicial independence to deal with difficult issues like gay marriage.

Worry is not limited to the Supreme Court. Three quarters of the nation's 2,200 federal judges have asked for government-paid home security systems, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said this week.

Ginsburg said the Web threat was apparently prompted by legislation in Congress, filed by Republicans, that would bar judges from relying on foreign laws or court decisions.

"It is disquieting that they have attracted sizable support. And one not-so-small concern - they fuel the irrational fringe," she said in a speech posted online by the court earlier this month and first reported Wednesday by LegalTimes.com.

According to Ginsburg, someone in a Web site chat room wrote: "Okay commandoes, here is your first patriotic assignment ... an easy one. Supreme Court Justices Ginsburg and O'Connor have publicly stated that they use (foreign) laws and rulings to decide how to rule on American cases. This is a huge threat to our Republic and Constitutional freedom. ... If you are what you say you are, and NOT armchair patriots, then those two justices will not live another week."

Rep. Tom Feeney, R-Fla., a sponsor of one of the congressional proposals, wrote about the legislation on his Web site and in bold letters featured a quote from O'Connor predicting the Supreme Court would probably increasingly rely on foreign courts.

Ginsburg pointed out that the legislation was first proposed in 2004, an election year.

Justices, in some of their most hotly contested rulings, have looked overseas. Last year, for example, justices barred the executions of juvenile killers on a 5-4 vote. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said then that "it is proper that we acknowledge the overwhelming weight of international opinion against the juvenile death penalty."

In an angry dissent to that decision, Justice Antonin Scalia said capital punishment policy should be set by states, not "the subjective views of five members of this court and like-minded foreigners."

Ginsburg said, "Critics in Congress and in the media misperceive how and why U.S. courts refer to foreign and international court decisions." She said those decisions are used for guidance only.

O'Connor said last week during a speech at Georgetown Law School that the justices have received threats. But the Ginsburg remarks at the Constitutional Court of South Africa provide unusual detail.

Ginsburg, who turned 73 Wednesday, told the audience O'Connor "remains alive and well - as for me, you can judge for yourself."
0 Replies
 
 

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