Thursday, May 31, 2007

Bush Warms to Policies Addressing Climate Change

Signaling a change from his position of refusing to sign onto the Kyoto Protocol, Bush called upon 15 other nations today to "reduc[e] greenhouse gas emissions to 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050."

His announcement to work with other countries on reducing global emissions of greenhouse gases comes nearly two months after the USSC's decision in
Massachusetts v. EPA (2006) which allowed Massachusetts (and other states) the power to force the EPA to regulate and curb the emissions of greenhouse gases.

While no real conclusions can be drawn about the cause of the sea change in Bush administration policy toward climate change, one has to wonder whether or not the USSC decision had any influence upon Bush's decision. While the judiciary may be the "least dangerous branch of government," it certainly is not the least powerful of the three.

Affirmative Action & Freedom of Expression

Two blockbuster cases await decision as the onset of June approaches and the 2006 term of the Supreme Court comes to a close.

The first case deals with the ability of public schools in the state of Washington to use race as a factor for assigning seats in high school assignments. Certain public schools in the city of Seattle are oversubscribed by public high school students and as such high schools use certain criteria to determine which students to accept. Race is the last factor among three others considered in the selection process.

Justices took great pains during oral argument, however, to make sure that they communicated the fact that the "integration tie breaker" used by the Seattle school districts is different from the affirmative action plan seen in the Grutter University of Michigan Law School case from 2003.

Because of this distancing from previous precedent upholding the use of race, On the Docket believes that USSC will strike down the integration tie breaker.

The second case deals with freedom of expression. Namely, the phrase, "Bong Hits 4 Jesus," which was displayed during a public school parade in Anchorage, Alaska. During oral argument justices were quite concerned with the ability of school officials to ban this type of free speech (one which did not harm others) as too limiting a regulation in violation of the First Amendment. The justices seemed to imply that if they ruled in favor of the school, school administrators would then be free to regulate views of school teachers, books, and other learning materials that school adminstrators may perhaps not agree with.

It is therefore our prediction that the Justices will rule in favor of the students.

Media Buzz Around Ginsburg's Oral Dissent in Ledbetter

The Washington Post and The New York Times have seized upon what they believe to be Ginsburg standing up for the an increasingly unsatisfied liberal contingent of Justices sitting on the Supreme Court in Ledbetter. But it is questionable as to whether or not the court--since the confirmation of more conservative Bush appointees--has shifted from one "that once proudly stood up for the disadvantaged...[to] increasingly protective of the powerful."

According to
an article by Linda Greenhouse of The New York Times, Ginsburg has read aloud her dissents in the 2006-2007 term more than any other term in her 15 years sitting on the court. It is a technique that has rarely been employed by justices past and present on the Court. Ginsburg has, herself, rarely used the technique.

The Washington Post's Robert Barnes, however, hints in his
article that Ginsburg's recent desire to speak up may due more in part to her commitment to women's rights issues rather than in response to the shifting ideology of the Court. Her dissent in Ledbetter was related to pay inequity between men and women in the workplace. Her previous dissent this term was related to the Court's decision to uphold a law banning partial birth abortions.

On the Docket believes it too soon to tell whether Ginsburg is speaking for a disatisfied liberal cohort of justices in response to an increasingly conservative Court ideology