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America's Debate > Archive > Assorted Issues Archive > [A] Big Trials and Legal Cases
Just Leave me Alone!
We discussed this case some here and ad.gif voted largely in favor of Oregon. So this should please most of you out there.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday blocked the Bush administration's attempt to punish doctors who help terminally ill patients die, protecting Oregon's one-of-a-kind assisted-suicide law.

It was the first loss for Chief Justice John Roberts, who joined the court's most conservative members -- Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas -- in a long but restrained dissent.

In Thomas' defense, his opinion(last 4 pages) was essentially a tirade on the hypocrisy of the Court for ruling in favor of the States here, and ruling against them 7 months before in California's medical marijuana case Gonzales vs Raich.

QUOTE(Justice Thomas)
The majority's newfound understanding of the (Controlled Substances Act) as a statute of limited reach is all the more puzzling because it rests upon constitutional principles that the majority of the Court rejected in Raich... the Raich majority concluded that the CSA applied to the intrastate possession of marijuana for medicinal purposes authorized by California law because "Congress could have rationally" concluded that such an application was necessary to the regulation of the "larger interstate marijuana market."  Here, by contrast, the majority's restrictive interpretation of the CSA is based in no small part on "the structure and limitations of federalism, which allow the States'"great latitude under their police powers to legislate as to the protection of the lives, limbs, health, comfort, and quiet of all persons."'

Questions for Debate:

Is Thomas correct that Stevens, Kennedy, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer can not reconcile ruling for Oregon here after setting the precedent of federal power in Raich? Why or why not?
Gray Seal
The Supreme Court has in the past demonstrated a reluctance to reach verdicts which set broad precedence. They are typically very focused on a single specific instance of a case. The Raich case dealt specifically with medical marijuana and the majority opinion was based upon it, not a broad basis concerning all controlled substances in all instances.

Neither case makes any definite conclusions on controlled substances in general but only the specific ones used in the specific manner for each case.

Neither case sets precedence either way for or against federal power.
Just Leave me Alone!
QUOTE(Gray Seal @ Jan 17 2006, 11:03 PM)
The Supreme Court has in the past demonstrated a reluctance to reach verdicts which set broad precedence. 


QUOTE(Justice Stevens Raich Opinion Page 29)
The Supremacy Clause unambiguously provides that if there is any conflict between federal and state law, federal law shall prevail.

What about Roe v Wade? Pretty broad precedent IMO. That is what law is. General rules so that we know how to behave.

I am asking a very difficult question here. Where is the line drawn for CSA trumping state law on the use of medicines according to the Supreme Court? Is it Schedule I drugs only that the feds can regulate because of there potential commerce uses? Stevens said,
QUOTE(Stevens Raich Opinion)
The CSA is a statue that regulates the production, distribution, and consumption of commodities for which there is an established, and lucrative, interstate market. 
Isn't there a market for the prescription drugs used in assisted suicide? Those asking for the drugs do not have to take them in Oregon. They can keep them around for 'comfort' (or sell them to the highest bidder).

The thing is, I don't even disagree with Steven's ruling in Oregon. I'm just curious what this means for the power of the CSA. I'm hoping that the CSA's reach is allowed only on the personal production of drugs. That is the only way that I can see that the Court liberals can reconcile their two seemingly opposite opinions.
Is Thomas correct that Stevens, Kennedy, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer can not reconcile ruling for Oregon here after setting the precedent of federal power in Raich? Why or why not?
He is. Then again Thomas is in the same boat, which is why finding for California in Gonzales v. Raich and finding for the government in Gonzales v. Oregon makes him such a grandstanding jerk. The government’s stated reasons for blocking medical marijuana and assisted suicide are based on the Controlled Substance Act, a “30 year-old law aimed at hippie stoners.” (Link)

This is what Thomas had to say in his dissenting opinion about Raich:

Finally, the majority's view—that because some of the CSA's applications are constitutional, they must all be constitutional—undermines its reliance on the substantial effects test. The intrastate conduct swept within a general regulatory scheme may or may not have a substantial effect on the relevant interstate market. "[O]ne always can draw the circle broadly enough to cover an activity that, when taken in isolation, would not have substantial effects on commerce." Id., at 600 (Thomas, J., concurring). The breadth of legislation that Congress enacts says nothing about whether the intrastate activity substantially affects interstate commerce, let alone whether it is necessary to the scheme. Because medical marijuana users in California and elsewhere are not placing substantial amounts of cannabis into the stream of interstate commerce, Congress may not regulate them under the substantial effects test, no matter how broadly it drafts the CSA.

Thomas offers a limited interpretation of the CSA and calls on states rights, alleging that stopping terminally ill Californians from smoking pot on the basis of the commerce clause amounts to usurping the state’s police powers. In Oregon the substance in question doesn’t alleviate pain, it ends it. Thomas can’t quite bring himself to the same conclusion. Or perhaps he does, but instead of agreeing with the majority he dissents in what amounts to a political statement by sticking his thumb in the majority’s eye.

Scalia doesn’t look much better even though he sided (incorrectly, IMO) with the majority in Raich. In abortion cases he derides the majority for relying on their individual “moral intuition,” making “value judgment[s]” and creatively stretching the scope and meaning of the law. However, in Oregon:

QUOTE(William Saletan)
[Scalia’s] Principle 2 is to stick to the text of what you're evaluating—the Constitution, laws, regulations—and avoid reading new meanings into it. In Casey and Stenberg, Scalia said the Constitution can't protect a right to abortions, since it doesn't mention them. He criticized Roe for asserting "a value found nowhere in the constitutional text." He insisted that "the text of the Constitution, and our traditions, say what they say and there is no fiddling with them." He chided his colleagues for suggesting that "the Constitution has an evolving meaning." Wednesday's ruling in Ayotte, which Scalia joins, reaffirms, "The touchstone for any decision about remedy is legislative intent."

Scalia's six colleagues follow this principle scrupulously in the assisted-suicide case. Since the CSA's text applies to drug addiction and recreational abuse, and since Congress "relied not on Executive ingenuity, but rather on specific legislation" when it wanted to broaden the law's coverage, the justices conclude that the CSA says what it says and shouldn't be fiddled with. Scalia, however, discards legislative intent and discovers the law's evolving meaning. "Even assuming, however, that the principal concern of the CSA is the curtailment of 'addiction and recreational abuse,' there is no reason to think that this is its exclusive concern," he writes. "We have repeatedly observed that Congress often passes statutes that sweep more broadly than the main problem they were designed to address."

Principle 3 is to defer to the states. In Stenberg, Scalia urged his colleagues to "return [abortion] to the people—where the Constitution, by its silence on the subject, left it—and let them decide, State by State, whether this practice should be allowed." In Casey, he warned that the court's job wasn't "determining some kind of social consensus," and he explained the arrogance and folly of nationalizing moral issues: […]

It's a pretty compelling argument. Not compelling enough to sustain the loyalty of its author, however. In the assisted-suicide case, he argues exactly the opposite: "The fact that many in Oregon believe that the boundaries of 'legitimate medicine' should be extended to include assisted suicide does not change the fact that the overwhelming weight of authority (including the 47 States that condemn physician-assisted suicide) confirms that they have not yet been so extended."

There you have it. In reality Scalia agrees with Kennedy’s math in Roper v. Simmons, the case that outlawed juvenile executions because, in part, few states allowed it.

Scalia doesn’t like textualist interpretations when the conclusion gnaws at his conscience.
Just Leave me Alone!
QUOTE(Lesly @ Jan 19 2006, 04:13 PM)

Scalia doesn’t like textualist interpretations when the conclusion gnaws at his conscience.

So true. 2 big government ruling from Scalia. Good analysis Lesly. Thomas used a prior precedent that he disagreed with to rule the way he wanted here. He's always an interesting read.

What is scary is that Rhenquist and O'Connor went with the States in Raich. Roberts the feds in Oregon. That's 1 for Justice Roberts being what the Senate Democrats believed - just another Republican.

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