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The Rehnquist Court

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You need us in that trough.

“The Republican Party’s suit was clearly prompted by its troubles in the 2008 election, in which Mr. Obama proved far more adept at fund-raising than John McCain. It is disturbing that the R.N.C. sees its salvation in clearing the way for corporations and other special interests to flood its campaign coffers once again.”

I missed this when it first went down, but the NYT just apprised me of it: On the verge of electoral oblivion — the retirements of Sens. Martinez, Brownback, Bond and Voinovich don’t help — the Republicans have filed two lawsuits aimed at overturning McCain-Feingold, apparently in the hope that they could then feasibly prostitute themselves back into power. (Feingold’s response.)

In 2003, in McConnell v. F.E.C., the justices upheld the precise provisions the Republicans are now challenging…The McConnell decision should end the matter. But the R.N.C. seems to be hoping that because of changes in the court — in particular, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s replacement by Samuel Alito — it can persuade the court to undo this recent and important precedent.” Hmm. I’ve got a bad feeling about this.

Ground Control to Justice Bill.

Newly released — and somewhat controversial — FBI files, dating from the former Chief Justice’s two confirmation battles in 1971 and 1986, disclose that William Rehnquist battled a painkiller addiction in the early ’80s while serving on the Court. “Doctors interviewed by the FBI told agents that when the associate justice stopped taking the drug, he suffered paranoid delusions. One doctor said Rehnquist thought he heard voices outside his hospital room plotting against him and had ‘bizarre ideas and outrageous thoughts,’ including imagining ‘a CIA plot against him’ and ‘seeming to see the design patterns on the hospital curtains change configuration.’ At one point, a doctor told the investigators, Rehnquist went ‘to the lobby in his pajamas in order to try to escape.’

Fallen Chief.

Breaking News: Segregationist, federalist, kingmaker, lousy historian, fashion maven, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court William Rehnquist has died. Can’t say I’m looking forward to the Dubya gang getting to pick a new Chief Justice. Nope, not at all. Update: Dahlia Lithwick weighs in, and the nomination calculus begins anew. Update 2: It’s Roberts for Chief.

Rehnquist Remains.

Soon after returning from a two-day stint at the Virginia Hospital Center, Rehnquist announces he’s staying on the Court (which may well speed up Dubya’s announcement of O’Connor’s replacement.) Well, big of the Chief to finally tell us. What was the holdup, and why so coy a week ago?

Courtside.

As Washington waits for word from Rehnquist, Senate Dems sit by the phone, and the Left arms for a Last Battle of sorts, Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter muddies the waters by suggesting that the new Chief Justice be…Sandra Day O’Connor?

Double Down Dubya.

Can Dubya have his cake and eat it too? Crossfire correspondent and Douchebag of Liberty Robert Novak hints that Rehnquist will also leave the Court this week. As the article suggests, this may be good news for the Dems, as it seems unlikely that Dubya will be able force through two hard-core right-wingers in a row, even with Fred Thompson at the helm…or at least one hopes. Update: The terrain shifts for twin appointments.

S9 > G8.

As Dubya heads off to G8 (although not before pushing back on Gonzales), Washington DC continues to gird for the Supreme Court fight ahead, with Senators of both parties airing their respective views on questioning candidates, the Post previewing the fall 2005 Supreme slate, and everyone else trying to guess Dubya’s probable pick. Of course, even a hardline conservative may not decide as Dubya intended…although that’ll be small consolation for the Dems should one get through.

Big Doings.

It’s on…Justice Sandra Day O’Connor announces her retirement. “Because she is a moderate, her departure gives President Bush a major opportunity to alter the direction of the court if he so chooses.” Round 1 looks to begin July 8. (Possible contenders.)

It’s not easy being green.

A defeat for medicinal weed is a victory for federal authority under the Interstate Commerce Clause in today’s 6-3 Supreme Court ruling upholding federal laws against marijuana. Wrote John Paul Stevens in the majority opinion, “[t]he Controlled Substances Act is a valid exercise of federal power, even as applied to the troubling facts of this case.” (The losing side consisted of Justices O’Connor, Rehnquist, and Thomas.) This is a tough one. I think prosecutions of sick people seeking medicinal marijuana to alleviate their daily miseries are grotesquely ill-conceived, but, then again, I’m not for rolling back federal power to pre-Civil War levels, either. And, for what it’s worth, “some lawyers who have followed the controversy closely predicted that the ruling, while disappointing, would not bring sweeping changes, since most marijuana prosecutions are undertaken by state and local officials rather than federal authorities.

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