New Page -- 6 September 2003
Updated -- 21 September 2004
And again -- 15 June 2005
In a 2003 survey  71% of adults could name at least one member of the rock band U2. In the same survey, only 15% could name the Chief Justice of the United States. This may be exceedingly good news for then reigning Chief Justice William Rehnquist.
At 78 years of age, and 31 years of hanging around the Supreme Court, Rehnquist and his fellow conspirators may prefer a degree of anonymity for the immediate future -- if only for their personal safety, comfort, and supreme status among the citizenry. The reason for this is that despite major decisions on the death penalty, independent counsels, gun-free zones, affirmative action, and school vouchers -- or precisely because of all of the above, Chief Justice Rehnquist -- along with his fellow co--conspirators, Sandra Day O'Connor, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Anthony Kennedy -- may be best remembered in history for issuing a politically-motivated, unscrupulous and unsigned, narrow-minded 5 to 4 opinion that stopped the recounting of votes in Florida in the 2000 Presidential race. This incidentally is the same line up who limited the reach of the Americans With Disabilities Act, ruling in 2001 that state workers cannot file employment-discrimination lawsuits against their employers under the federal disability-rights law.
The election case was one where, according to Richard Lacayo and Viveca Novak , Rehnquist opted for a means of "marshaling five votes" -- by whatever means -- rather than employing some form of legal reasoning behind the votes -- the entire effort being done in order to throw the election to George Bush, the decidedly junior. "Rehnquist worked intently behind the scenes to assemble a majority consensus. The underpinning of that decision -- an equal-protection argument that would normally be anathema to conservatives -- was described by many Republican lawyers as being weak and unsustainable as a precedent." [emphasis added]
In other words, the highest court in the land used a particular legal argument to put a Republican into the White House, but lawyers supportive of the decision made a point of insisting that they would never want to see such a precedence ever used again -- especially if it was not working in their favor at the time. This legal technique is referred to at the bar as having your cake and eating it too.
Being a potential "family values" advocate, the Rehnquist orchestrated decision may have been influenced by William's daughter, Janet, who as a former White House staff member for the first President Bush needed work. She got it by being appointed by the second Bush (payment in lieu of cash for services rendered by Chief Justice Rehnquist) to the post of inspector general at the Health and Human Services (HHS) Department.
Since then, the General Accounting Office (GAO) has begun in investigation into charges of Janet Rehnquist -- in the tradition of her family -- having mismanaged her office . "Among the allegations: that she forced out a number of senior career staff members, improperly kept a gun in her office and ran up questionable travel bills. She is also under fire for delaying an audit of a Florida pension fund at the request of a top aid to Governor Jeb Bush." Subsequently, the GAO reportedly discovered a lot of documents potentially important to their inquiry having been shredded. Obviously, Janet is a chip off the old block.
This sort of thing might also explain why Janet is not being sought by every headhunter in the country, and why Daddy Rehnquist may have been strongly encouraged to ensure that was another Bush and potential Janet-employer in the White House. The same can be said for Antonin Scalia's kid, who was working for the Bush family when Antonin joined Rehnquist in throwing the election to Bush. Obviously, blood is thicker than Constitutional Law.
Rampant nepotism aside, one might wish to view some of the decisions by Rehnquist's court, and see if any possible good can come from them. There is, for example:
According to Erwin Chermerinsky, a law professor at the University of Southern California , "Few Supreme Court Justices have had such a devastating effect on civil liberties and civil rights as William Rehnquist. While his quest to limit federal power has got the most attention, his assault on individual rights has been particularly effective in fraying constitutional protections for criminal defendants. Not only has Rehnquist been a consistent advocate for the death penalty, but he also authored an astounding opinion that the Constitution is not violated when a state executes an innocent person." [emphasis added]
It gets worse. Under Rehnquist's and his fellow in-Justices, the "great writ of habeas corpus -- the right of the accused to be released from unlawful detention -- has been gutted and is rarely available to state prisoners."  [Constitution for the United States of America, Article I, Section 9 (2).] This monstrous act included a decision that habeas corpus relief was not available to a state prisoner given a life sentence for stealing $153 of videotapes.
"Throughout American history, there have been tremendous advances in equality and the protection of individual rights. William Rehnquist's legacy has been to halt and retard that progress. The simple and sad reality is that Americans have fewer civil liberties and civil rights because of Rehnquist's tenure on the court."  [emphasis added]
But it gets worse. In religious matters, Chief Justice William Rehnquist once said : "The separation of church and state was 'a misleading metaphor based on bad history.' To his way of thinking, the framers of the Constitution intended merely to forbid the establishment of an official state religion, as exists in England." Benjamin Franklin, one of the framers of the Constitution most decidedly disagreed with Rehnquist's revisionist history, to wit: "A man compounded of law and gospel is able to cheat a whole country with his religion and then destroy them under color of law." In attempting to destroy his country under color of law, Rehnquist failed to entice the court to allow for student-led prayer and graduation prayers by clergyman [the good news], but was successful in allowing government money to be used to promote religion [the bad news].
Saint Paul has said, "All things are lawful, but all things are not expedient." Rehnquist, taking this religious view to heart, has decided that expediency rules over principal. For example, Rehnquist's politically partisan majority "ruled that the Florida recount was flawed because ballots were being treated differently and that the situation could not be resolved in a timely manner. This was a departure from its usual deference in election law to a state's highest court."  [emphasis added] Rehnquist has thus advocated that if law cannot be served expeditiously, then it need not be served at all.
An important factor in this horror tale is that William Rehnquist has not been alone in his quest for gutting the United States Constitution. He has all too often been joined by others -- the marginal group that provides the majority decisions. For example...
All in all, the fact that the vast majority of the nation's citizenry has no clue as to who [*] the Supreme Court In-Justices are -- or what many of them have been doing lo these many years -- is probably really good news... for the Supremes. It's probably really bad news for everyone else. Except for George, of course. And Dick. And John (Ashcroft). And Donald (Rumsfeld). And... Sigh.
The Supreme Court, admittedly, does upon occasion do something right. Let me rephrase that. They almost always do something "right". But only occasionally do they do something which is freedom enhancing -- as opposed to a right wing, knee jerk reactionary act. In June 2003, for example, a "landmark Supreme Court decision... struck down a Texas anti-sodomy law and by extension, all state laws that criminalized homosexual acts. In his 6-3 majority opinion, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy insisted that the case 'does not involve whether the government must give formal recognition to any relationship homosexual persons seek to enter.' In a concurrence Justice Sandra Day O'Conner wrote that the 'traditional institution of marriage' was not in play. But in his furious dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia warned that the ruling would nonetheless lead to challenges not only to state laws that ban same-sex marriage but also to those that prohibit 'adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality and obscenity.'" 
Masturbation is illegal!!!?That's hardly good news! [Forget the fact that Scalia's logic is so woefully inadequate, not to mention willfully ignorant.]
But seriously, there may be some hope for the Supreme Court. Of course, the fact that Vice President Cheney's daughter Mary is openly gay may have had some effect on the June 2003 ruling. Not enough, of course, to prevent President Bush from calling for a constitutional ban on gay marriage, but sometimes people have to take what freedoms they can get whenever they can get them. Any ruling which increases freedom is obviously a good thing. Those which limit choices are almost always a bad thing.
In this connection, there is the "Defense of Biblical Marriage", which notes that a "Presidential Prayer Team is currently urging us to: 'Pray for the President
as he seeks wisdom on how to legally codify the definition of marriage. Pray that it will be according to Biblical principles. With many forces insisting on variant definitions of marriage, pray that God's Word and His standards will be honored by our government.' This is true.
This brilliant peace of reality comes from protestants for the common good
The other side of the coin is that we may not be out of the woods just yet. Despite many reports in early 2003 around the expected retirements of the Chief Justice and a couple of his co-conspirators -- the idea being for them to retire while there was a Republican president who could then replace them with an equally conservative or neo-conservative justice -- there was in fact no announcements of retirements or even thinking about stepping down. Why would these sitting justices delay their retirement you might ask, when there was even the slightest chance that a Democrat -- perish the thought -- might be sitting in the office of the President from 2005 through 2008... even through 2012? Isn't this a bit risky for the five justices -- who are fully capable to trashing the Constitution in order to ensure their choice is appointed President of the United States -- to allow the possibility of a moderate being appointed to the Supreme Court?
Well... perhaps not. It may be that these near-retirement justices are all remaining on the bench in order to rule once again in such a way as to ensure that their choice will be President in 2005-2008. In other words, there is no likelihood of having a Democrat in the Presidency for the next four years, because the Supremes know the election is rigged and that at the very least, they can once again step in and appoint George W. Bush as President. After which they can gracefully retire knowing that their boy will be able to replace them appropriately with someone equally demented.
[There is, of course, the outside chance that at least one of the Supremes has been more than slightly horrified at the excesses of the Bush Presidency, and thus may be hanging around to tilt the balance to a Democrat! Wouldn't that be a surprise! Of course, they would have to accept the fact that their replacement might besomeone with brains... even a somewhat more liberal tendency in matters of law. Is this a possibility? Fat chance, you say? Yes, you're probably right! Forget I said anything.]
[*] For the sake of completeness, the other four Justices of the Supreme Court are: John Paul Stevens -- apparently no relation to the Pope -- David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer.
(6/15/05) LATE BREAKING NEWS: In Gonzales v. Raich, the traditional 5-4 split we've grown woefully accustomed to went out the window with another blow against freedom. Imagine, if you will, Rehnquist, O'Conner and Thomas teaming up on the good side and the other six (naturally including Scalia) taking the low road. Wow! What a switch-a-roo! And all because of the medical use of marijuana, which in California is legal under that state's Compassionate Use Act.
As it turns out, the demented six used the following logic to rule against people growing marijuana for medical purposes: An earlier decision which gave Congress the power to regulate wheat, even when the wheat was being grown for one's own consumption, had "striking" similarities with the marijuana case. "In both cases, the regulation is squarely within Congress' commerce power because production of the commodity meant for home consumption, be it wheat or marijuana, has a substantial effect on supply and demand in the national market for that commodity." No kidding; they really said that!
Obviously, growing something for medical reasons and something for food are not part of the "striking similarities". Neither is the fact that one is an illegal substance, and thus does not ipso facto have a national market. This logic is just so much smoke screen.
The real reason for the decision, apparently, lies in the statement:
Concerns of what might happen is just another example of Preemptive Rule, where the fears of one person or group as to what might happen is foisted upon and thereby infringes upon the freedoms of others. In this case, the anal-retentatives who are in dire fear of maybe something they don't like being used in a negative way, have added serious pain to those who are dealing with serious medical problems. Perhaps the same logic should be used to take away all of the alcohol and (legally prescribed) drugs these people are using, because of the fear that such booze and drugs might be used inappropriately. When the demented nine are in pain (and possibly sober), their thinking might change ever so slightly. What after all is more important: Doing what is right or making sure there are no holes in the CSA?
The problem with civil liberties being so easily degraded was heightened by another Supreme Court decision, this one to allow the use of trained dogs to sniff-out possible drugs at routine stops for apparent traffic violations. In this case, a 6-2 decision overturned an Illinois Supreme Court ruling, and in the process significantly increased the authority of law enforcement agencies to use "traffic stops as a pretext to question motorists about suspected illegal activity for which they have no proof." 
Such is the State of the Union.
Or forward to:
 "Numbers", Time Magazine, 2003.
 Richard Lacayo and Viveca Novak, "How Rehnquist Changed America", Time Magazine, June 20, 2003.
 "Notebook", Time Magazine, 2003.
 Joe Klein, "How the Supremes Redeemed Bush", Time Magazine, July 7, 2003.
 Richard Lacayo, "For Better or For Worse?", Time Magazine, March 8, 2004.
 "Court OKs Dog Sniff During Traffic Stop", Associated Press, January 24, 2005.
2003© Copyright Dan Sewell Ward, All Rights Reserved [Feedback]