Today's Supreme Court Case...

Monday, November 14, 2005
Illustrates the folly of trying to pin meaningful labels on judges or Supreme Court Justices.

In Schaffer v. Weast the Court held, 6-2 (Roberts not participating) that the "burden of proof" is on parents who make claims against public school systems under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The IDEA is a federal statute that requires public schools to provide individual education programs to each child suffering from a disability under the Federal Americans with Disablilties Act. As you might suspect, the IDEA is silent on the point.

Justice O'Conner wrote for the majority, and was joined by Justices Thomas, Scalia, Stephens, Kennedy and Souter. Justices Ginsburg and Breyer dissented. Affirmed was the decision of a Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals panel. So far, so predictable, right?

But who do you think wrote a dissenting opinion in the Fourth Circuit, the reasoning of which was adopted by Justice Ginsburg?

An anomolous liberal Fourth Circuit Judge? No, indeed. None other than that paragon of conservatism, the one judge that all "real conservatives" had in first place in the handicapping leading to the nomination of Judge Alito, Judge Michael Luttig.

Go figure.


terrye said...


The jutice that Bush should have picked instead of the incompetent crony Miers?

Justices are not supposed to be politicians and so the decisions they make should be a result of their judicial philosophy.

It seems this process might be more subjective than people realize.

In fact when you consider that conservatives have been wrong more often than right about how a judge will judge...maybe they should just look for qualified people and put less emphasis on ideology.

[and that goes for liberals too]

vnjagvet said...

Interesting, isn't it?

And I do not think that it is because Luttig is trying to appeal to his "liberal base".

Syl said...

Well, I'd love to read the opinions (erm, I'd love to understand them if I read them) but, in a perverse way, I love decisions like this.

Keep everybody guessing. :)

Nah. Actually if I think of these decisions in terms of two factors: reasoning and result, my conjecture is that Luttig came to his result through reasoning constrained by his judicial philosophy and he had no real choice as to the outcome.

Ginsburg, on the other hand, saw the result she wanted, so used his reasoning.

That's not fair and probably is about as close to the truth as Wilson is. But, what the hey. As I'm no expert I claim my opinion has no expertise behind it.

Rick Ballard said...

I'm at the Mrs. Gump point: pickin' judges is like a box of chocolates.