September 14, 2005

APPOINTED TO INTERPRET THE LAW

Guest opinion submitted by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo

APPOINTED TO INTERPRET THE LAWGuest opinion submitted by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo As an attorney formerly in private practice, Iâ??ll readily admit that case law generally isnâ??t exciting reading, and usually, Iâ??d much rather sit down with a great Western. But, buried in centuries of Supreme Court rulings, you will find the foundation of laws that regulate our daily lives. Laws that govern everything from the movement of goods across state lines to freedom of speech have been upheld or struck down by 110 Justices over 216 years. In a society based upon the rule of law, those who hold that law accountable to the Constitution play a vital role indeed. From the first years of our nationâ??s history, the Supreme Court has asserted its right to review laws for their Constitutionality and, in doing so, preserved the timeless nature of that remarkable document. We have only had sixteen Courts. Unlike the Executive or Legislative branches, the Supreme Court represents the longer view of history and the law. Although many disagree with some Court rulings over the years including the recent decision on eminent domain, its role is critical. Justices should be selected based on a record of discerning interpretation of the Constitution. Care should be taken to avoid those who would change the law to suit personal convictions. Some significant Supreme Court cases demonstrate the influence of the Judiciary.Marbury v. MadisonWhen John Marshall was Chief Justice from 1801 to 1835, the Supreme Court firmly established its role as the third branch of government. In Marbury, the Marshall Court declared an act of Congress unconstitutional stating â??It is, emphatically, the province and duty of the judicial department, to say what the law is.â?? This 1803 ruling affirmed the legal supremacy of the Constitution.McCullough v. Maryland and Gibbons v. OgdenIn 1819 and 1824, the Marshall Court made history again, asserting the power of the Constitution to regulate interstate commerce. Subsequent rulings have alternately expanded and limited the definition and reach of the Commerce Clause in the Constitution, decisions which affect Idaho businesses to this day. Plessy v. FergusonIn 1896, the Fuller Court maintained that â??separate but equalâ?? laws were Constitutional; unfortunately, the challenge that would grant true equality to all under the law was not to come for many years. United States v. â??The Spirit of â??76â??In 1918, the White Court determined that the Bill of Rights does not protect words that create a â??clear and present dangerâ??--words that Congress can pass laws to prevent. Brown v. Board of EducationIn 1949, the Warren Court ruled that in public schools, the â??separate but equalâ?? doctrine had no place, abolishing segregation. Since 1950, the Supreme Court has ruled on religious freedom and abortion and, in the last thirty years, has heard more cases regarding freedom of the press than in the previous 175. Legal questions regarding freedom of speech and property rights are becoming increasingly complicated with modern technology, higher population density and public land access. On September 12th, Senate hearings to consider John G. Roberts, Jr., for Chief Justice began. As history demonstrates, this deliberation is profoundly relevant to our nationâ??s future. The sovereignty of statesâ?? rights are paramount to the preservation of individual liberties and private property. Judge Robertsâ?? opening statement reveals his view on the role of the Judiciary: â??Judges and justices are servants of the law, not the other way around. Judges are like umpires. Umpires don't make the rules; they apply them." Iâ??m confident that Judge Roberts has the experience and ability to faithfully interpret our Constitution, preserving the rights that we Idahoans hold dear. WORD COUNT: 593