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The best of Chief Justice Rehnquist

Posted on 09/08/2005 10:14:10 PM PDT by Tarkin

ROE v. WADE, 410 U.S. 113, 171


The Court's opinion brings to the decision of this troubling question both extensive historical fact and a wealth of legal scholarship. While the opinion thus commands my respect, I find myself nonetheless in fundamental disagreement with those parts of it that invalidate the Texas statute in question, and therefore dissent. (...) I have difficulty in concluding, as the Court does, that the right of "privacy" is involved in this case. Texas, by the statute here challenged, bars the performance of a medical abortion by a licensed physician on a plaintiff such as Roe. A transaction resulting in an operation such as this is not "private" in the ordinary usage of that word. Nor is the "privacy" that the Court finds here even a distant relative of the freedom from searches and seizures protected by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which the Court has referred to as embodying a right to privacy. Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347 (1967). (...) While the Court's opinion quotes from the dissent of Mr. Justice Holmes in Lochner v. New York, 198 U.S. 45, 74 (1905), the result it reaches is more closely attuned to the majority opinion of Mr. Justice Peckham in that case. As in Lochner and similar cases applying substantive due process standards to economic and social welfare legislation, the adoption of the compelling state interest standard will inevitably require this Court to examine the legislative policies and pass on the wisdom of these policies in the very process of deciding whether a particular state interest put forward may or may not be "compelling." The decision here to break pregnancy into three distinct terms and to outline the permissible restrictions the State may impose in each one, for example, partakes more of judicial legislation than it does of a determination of the intent of the drafters of the Fourteenth Amendment. (...) Even today, when society's views on abortion are changing, the very existence of the debate is evidence that the "right" to an abortion is not so universally accepted as the appellant would have us believe.

To reach its result, the Court necessarily has had to find within the scope of the Fourteenth Amendment a right that was apparently completely unknown to the drafters of the Amendment. (...)


The Fair Labor Standards Act was amended in 1974 so as to extend the Act's minimum wage and maximum hour provisions to almost all employees of States and their political subdivisions. Appellants (including a number of cities and States) in these cases brought an action against appellee Secretary of Labor challenging the validity of these 1974 amendments and seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. (...)

MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

(...) If Congress may withdraw from the States the authority to make those fundamental employment decisions upon which their systems for performance of these functions must rest, we think there would be little left of the States' "`separate and independent existence.'" Coyle, 221 U.S., at 580 . Thus, even if appellants may have overestimated the effect which the Act will have upon [426 U.S. 833, 852] their current levels and patterns of governmental activity, the dispositive factor is that Congress has attempted to exercise its Commerce Clause authority to prescribe minimum wages and maximum hours to be paid by the States in their capacities as sovereign governments. In so doing, Congress has sought to wield its power in a fashion that would impair the States' "ability to function effectively in a federal system," Fry, 421 U.S., at 547 n. 7. This exercise of congressional authority does not comport with the federal system of government embodied in the Constitution. We hold that insofar as the challenged amendments operate to directly displace the States' freedom to structure integral operations in areas of traditional governmental functions, they are not within the authority granted Congress by Art. I, 8, cl. 3.(...)

STEELWORKERS v. WEBER, 443 U.S. 193, 219 (1979)

MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST, with whom THE CHIEF JUSTICE joins, dissenting.

In a very real sense, the Court's opinion is ahead of its time: it could more appropriately have been handed down five years from now, in 1984, a year coinciding with the title of a book from which the Court's opinion borrows, perhaps subconsciously, at least one idea. Orwell describes in his book a governmental official of Oceania, one of the three great world powers, denouncing the current enemy, Eurasia, to an assembled crowd:

"It was almost impossible to listen to him without being first convinced and then maddened. . . . The speech had been proceeding for perhaps twenty minutes when a messenger hurried onto the platform and a scrap of paper was slipped into the speaker's hand. He unrolled and read it without pausing in his speech. Nothing altered in his voice or manner, or in the content of what he was saying, but suddenly the names were different. Without words [443 U.S. 193, 220] said, a wave of understanding rippled through the crowd. Oceania was at war with Eastasia! . . . The banners and posters with which the square was decorated were all wrong! . . .

"[T]he speaker had switched from one line to the other actually in mid-sentence, not only without a pause, but without even breaking the syntax." G. Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four 181-182 (1949).

Today's decision represents an equally dramatic and equally unremarked switch in this Court's interpretation of Title VII. The operative sections of Title VII prohibit racial discrimination in employment simpliciter. Taken in its normal meaning, and as understood by all Members of Congress who spoke to the issue during the legislative debates, see infra, at 231-251, this language prohibits a covered employer from considering race when making an employment decision, whether the race be black or white. (...) Today, however, the Court behaves much like the Orwellian speaker earlier described, as if it had been handed a note indicating that Title VII would lead to a result unacceptable to the Court if interpreted here as it was in our prior decisions. Accordingly, without even a break in syntax, the Court rejects "a literal construction of 703 (a)" in favor of newly discovered "legislative history," which leads it to a conclusion directly contrary to that compelled by the "uncontradicted legislative history" unearthed in McDonald and our other prior decisions. Now we are told that the legislative history of Title VII shows that employers are free to discriminate on the basis of race: an employer may, in the Court's words, "trammel the interests of the white employees" in favor of black employees in order to eliminate "racial imbalance." Ante, at 208. Our earlier interpretations of Title VII, like the banners and posters decorating the square in Oceania, were all wrong. (...)

UNITED STATES V. LOPEZ 514 U.S. 549 (1995)

CHIEF JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court

In the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990, Congress made it a federal offense "for any individual knowingly to possess a firearm at a place that the individual knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, is a school zone." 18 U.S.C. 922(q)(1)(A) (1988 ed., Supp. V). The Act neither regulates a commercial activity nor contains a requirement that the possession be connected in any way to interstate commerce. We hold that the Act exceeds the authority of Congress "[t]o regulate Commerce . . . among the several States . . . ." U.S. Const., Art. I, 8, cl. 3. (...) We pause to consider the implications of the Government's arguments. The Government admits, under its "costs of crime" reasoning, that Congress could regulate not only all violent crime, but all activities that might lead to violent crime, regardless of how tenuously they relate to interstate commerce. See Tr. of Oral Arg. 8-9. Similarly, under the Government's "national productivity" reasoning, Congress could regulate any activity that it found was related to the economic productivity of individual citizens: family law (including marriage, divorce, and child custody), for example. Under the theories that the Government presents in support of 922(q), it is difficult to perceive any limitation on federal power, even in areas such as criminal law enforcement or education where States historically have been sovereign. Thus, if we were to accept the Government's arguments, we are hard-pressed to posit any activity by an individual that Congress is without power to regulate.

Although JUSTICE BREYER argues that acceptance of the Government's rationales would not authorize a general federal police power, he is unable to identify any activity that the States may regulate but Congress may not.

TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Extended News; Government; Miscellaneous; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: court; rehnquist; scotus; supreme; tribute
A truly great judge. He will be sorely missed...
1 posted on 09/08/2005 10:14:10 PM PDT by Tarkin
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To: Tarkin

BUMP that.

I just bought a book called "The Federalist", containing all of the Federalist Papers. I can't wait to read them, especially since there has been so much reference to them here on FR, and because current events invite a look back at them.

2 posted on 09/08/2005 10:30:06 PM PDT by Christian4Bush (The modern Democratic Party: Attacking our defenders and defending our attackers.)
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To: Christian4Bush

There are a few jems, mixed in with a lot of slow reading. Madison is VERY good. I believe Fed paper 10 was a great read and some in the 30's...

Highly recommended read.

3 posted on 09/09/2005 1:54:31 AM PDT by traviskicks (
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To: Christian4Bush

Especially #78.

4 posted on 09/10/2005 11:53:52 PM PDT by civis ("Paging Dr. John Burgess!" (Recent Changes in American Constitutional Theory, 1923))
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