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Testing the New Bush Court

October 1st, 2007

Now we come down to the home stretch, and find out what Bush’s new stacked Supreme Court is made of. Will Justice Kennedy prove to be the safety valve that Justice O’Connor likely hoped him to be? Or will he vote with Bush 41’s Alito and Roberts, Bush 43’s Thomas, and Reagan’s Scalia to form a conservative block?

Already we have seen that Roberts and Alito are completely content to ride along with Scalia and Thomas in blatantly manipulating the Constitution to claim it says what it clearly does not mean in order to impose their own personal views and ideologies on the nation. But how far will Kennedy go along with that?

One issue facing the court is a Washington D.C. gun ban–a law that bans handguns but allows shotguns and rifles, aimed at stemming street violence. This will be the first time since 1939 that the Second Amendment comes under this close scrutiny–and of course, it’s under a Bush-stacked court. Great.

The Supreme Court is known for being conservative and usually limits its decisions to the specific issue at hand. One way we’ll know if this is an ideological rather than legal decision is if the court, in a 5-4 decision along political lines, rules broadly about the interpretation of the Second Amendment. The only possible thing holding them back may be Kennedy, who the hard-right bloc may have to negotiate with to get him on their side. I fully expect the gun ban to be overturned, but Kennedy’s influence could keep it as restricted as, say, not re-interpreting the Second Amendment and only applying to such matters as whether or not D.C. can be treated like a state. Alternately, the court could easily say that the mention of “militias” has no bearing on the National Guard, and throw open the door to unrestricted access to firearms.

But that by far is not the most important issue to be reviewed this year. The court will decide on the reach of, or possibly existence of, habeas corpus, in regard to U.S. citizens or possibly just to non-citizen detainees in Guantanamo Bay. Free speech, voting rights, capital punishment, racism in crime sentencing, and states’ rights are all on the chopping block.

While this season may not necessarily constitute a bloodbath of civil liberties and well-established legal principles, one can at the very least expect a certain amount of injury to the Constitution and our concept of legal interpretation.

Stay tuned.

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