CBS legal analyst Andrew Cohen makes clear his disdain for conservative congressional Republicans, particularly their view that Congress should rein in the power of the courts, by the legislative and constitutional remedies availed of Congress by the Constitution, in his latest online column, "Lady Justice Rising." The extent to which Congress can and should limit the scope of federal courts is a reasonable debate to have---particularly after the Court's recent 5-4 Kelo v. New London decision which ran roughshod over property rights and the traditional understanding of the limits of government's power to seize private property---but not to Cohen, who praises outgoing Justice Sandra Day O'Connor for her criticism of Republican Hill leaders regarding their recent rhetoric on curtailing the courts in his latest opinion piece on CBSNews.com.
United States Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor
refuses to go gently into the night. Late last week, while her
political friends were rallying around her heir apparent, she said
something as important as anything she had said while sitting on the
High Court for nearly a quarter of a century. She loudly and
passionately called out the Republican leadership in Congress for its
cynical, sinister, and relentless assault upon the independence of the
In some of the frankest tones you will ever hear from a sitting
Justice, O'Connor, the Reagan appointee, gray-haired grandmother, and
symbol of middle-American courtliness, blasted the very people on
Capitol Hill who are cheering the loudest these days for John G.
Roberts, Jr., the man who will almost certainly take over her
consistently conservative vote from the bench on the first Monday in
October. Speaking in Spokane, Wash., to a group of lawyers and judges,
O'Connor warned that "the present climate is such that I worry about
the future of the federal judiciary ... In our country today, we're
seeing efforts to prevent an independent judiciary."
Madame Justice is speaking out to you and me while we still are willing
to pay attention to her. She is speaking out before her successor is
confirmed, speaking out in the hope that this issue will be addressed
during the long run-up to the Roberts confirmation hearing. She is
speaking out so that one senator, or maybe two, will make the "Have you
left no sense of decency, sir?" speech that might serve to end this
nonsense once and for all (or at least for the time being). If the
issue of the Congressional sabotage of the federal judiciary gets
one-tenth of the attention that the issue of abortion rights receives
between now and Roberts' first day at the hearing, it will be a
pleasant surprise; a horrible shame but a pleasant surprise.
And a pleasant surprise for this conservative would be to see a highly-paid legal expert for a major news agency taking seriously the debate about the scope and power of the federal judiciary. I'm not holding my breath.