Thursday, August 25, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the NYT: Justice Weighs Desire v. Duty (Duty Prevails)

Addressing a bar association meeting in Las Vegas, Justice Stevens dissected several of the recent term’s decisions, including his own majority opinions in two of the term’s most prominent cases. The outcomes were “unwise,” he said, but “in each I was convinced that the law compelled a result that I would have opposed if I were a legislator.”

In one, the eminent domain case that became the term’s most controversial decision, he said that his majority opinion that upheld the government’s “taking” of private homes for a commercial development in New London, Conn., brought about a result “entirely divorced from my judgment concerning the wisdom of the program” that was under constitutional attack.

His own view, Justice Stevens told the Clark County Bar Association, was that “the free play of market forces is more likely to produce acceptable results in the long run than the best-intentioned plans of public officials.” But he said that the planned development fit the definition of “public use” that, in his view, the Constitution permitted for the exercise of eminent domain.

Justice Stevens said he also regretted having to rule in favor of the federal government’s ability to enforce its narcotics laws and thus trump California’s medical marijuana initiative. “I have no hesitation in telling you that I agree with the policy choice made by the millions of California voters,” he said. But given the broader stakes for the power of Congress to regulate commerce, he added, “our duty to uphold the application of the federal statute was pellucidly clear.”

While I wholly appreciate that a Justice should not be supplanting the law with his or her opinion, it seems to me that the very definition of “public use” was what was at issue, and that it is most difficult to look at the Takings Clause and come to the conclusion that Stevens reached.

Further, in the marijuana case, the ruling relied heavily on a dubious precedent, that it seems to me that Stevens and his colleagues had ever right to revisit. I will state that I can far better accept Stevens’ reasoning on the marijuana case than in Kelo.

As such, I am not so impressed with Stevens’ argument that judicial restraint made him do it.

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3 Responses to “Justice Stevens Speaks”

  • el
  • pt
    1. SoloD Says:

      However, this certainly does run counter to the arguments made by too many people (both left and right, although seemingly more so on the right) that Supreme Court Justices are simply asserting their own personal policy opinions, instead of attempting to interpret the laws.

      Whether they made the right decision is a different argument. But it is infinitely preferable that we argue the merits of a particular decision rather than the sweeping generalizations that the Court is merely asserting their own policy opinions (either left or right).

    2. Don Singleton Says:

      Justice Weighs Desire v. Duty (Duty Prevails)

      But the public were not going to use the land in Kelo; it was to go to a private development area. And exactly what “law” required you to overrule what the Constitution says? This may be news to Justice Stevens, but I thought that all Supreme Court…

    3. dean Says:

      I do not necessarily like either ruling. Both seem a bit of a reach. However, it is rather refreshing to hear this type of discussion from a Justice.

      Only time will tell of he actually backs this up with Judicial opinion.

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