Vital Signs

Crying “Halt!”

A federal judge whom I know lamented that the Supreme Court term that ended last June was the worst in recent memory.  That judge loves the Constitution but could find few signs that this term’s key decisions were based on that document.  A Court that can rule that medical marijuana grown for home use substantially effects interstate commerce; that states and localities may take for a “public purpose” the land of A to give to another private party, B, who will generate more tax revenues; and that it is permissible to display the Ten Commandments on public property when they have been there for 50 years but not when they have recently been installed is engaged in some very bizarre jurisprudence.

Still, there were some salutary developments.  The Supreme Court trashed the federal government’s wrongful prosecution of the once-venerable Arthur Andersen accounting firm.  (It was a Pyrrhic victory, however, since Andersen’s thousands of employees have gone on to other places, and the company could not be resurrected.)  The Court did also, in a sense, protect private property when it held that peer-to-peer file-sharing operations such as Grokster could be held responsible for their users’ breaches of copyright and when it ruled that cable operators could not be forced to allow competitors access to their lines.  Neither of those were predictably popular decisions—the...

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