2001 News Archive – The U.S. Constitution Online – USConstitution.net

2001 News Archive

This page is an archive of articles presented on the Current News page of the USConstitution.net site. On
this page are articles that were posted in 2001.

12/10/01 Rights of parolees restricted by Supreme Court

The Supreme Court today ruled that if a prisoner agrees to warrantless searches
during the course of a probationary period, that any search my be conducted at
any time, even if the search is not related to determination of probationary
adherence. Mark James Knights was on probation for a drug offense, probation
which included an agreement to submit to warrantless searches of his person,
his home, property, or car at any time. He was searched by a deputy
investigating an arson, and was found to hold tools of arson. Knights
challenged his subsequent arrest, arguing that the searches outlined in the
probation contract were not to be used for investigations. The Court disagreed
unanimously and ruled the search was legal.

12/06/01 Ashcroft blasts critics of Government’s tactics

Attorney General John Ashcroft raised eyebrows around the nation when he seemed
to indicate, in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, that critics
of the administration were, in effect, aiding the enemy in the war on
terrorism. Said Ashcroft, “To those … who scare peace-loving people with
phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: your tactics only aid terrorists,
for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give
ammunition to America’s enemies and pause to America’s friends.” The statement
went unchallenged in the committee hearing, but rapidly drew criticism outside
the hearing.

11/08/01 Oregon sues United States over assisted suicide reporting

After Attorney General John Ashcroft announced new rules that prohibited
doctors from prescribing federally-regulated drugs for the purpose of causing
or hastening a patient’s death. The rule is in direct contradiction to an
Oregon law enabling physicians to do just that. The rule does not require that
doctors be charged with a crime, but it does remove their license to prescribe
such drugs. The rule overturns a rule instituted by Ashcroft’s Democratic
predecessor that barred federal law enforcement officials from pursuing such
cases in Oregon. Oregon has filed suit against the United States over the new
rule, calling it an unprecedented intrusion on the state’s rights to regulate
the practice of medicine within its borders.

11/02/01 Supreme Court returns to its quarters

After hearing oral arguments in the ceremonial courtroom of a nearby federal
courthouse for the past several days, the Supreme Court building has been
cleared of all anthrax contamination. The contamination forced the Court to
convene outside its building for the first time since the building opened in
1935. The search for those responsible for the contamination continues.

10/08/01 President establishes Office of Homeland

President Bush issued an executive order establishing the Office of Homeland
Security, and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge was sworn in as its first
director. The office’s mission is to establish a national strategy to defend
the United States against internal and external attack, coordinating the efforts
of other departments toward that goal. The following are seen as the main
themes: Detection, preparedness, prevention, protection, response, and recovery.
The E.O. also established a Homeland Security Council, consisting of the
President, Vice President, the Secretaries of the Treasury, Defense, Health and
Human Services, and Transportation, the Attorney General, the Directors of the
FBI, FEMA, CIA, and the director of the new Office, whose official title is
Assistant to the President for Homeland Security.

10/05/01 Georgia court rules electric chair

The Georgia Supreme Court ruled today that executions in that state can no
longer use the electric chair. Rather, lethal injection should be used. Saying
that the electric chair inflicted needless physical violence and mutilation,
the Court said that the continued use of the chair would violate both the
Georgia and United States constitutions.

09/20/01 Bush prepares nation for “new kind of war”

In an unusual address to a joint session of Congress, President Bush spoke
to the Congress, to the American people, and to the world, in reaction to the
terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. Bush also divided the
world’s nations into two groups – those who stand against terrorism and those
who stand for it. Vowing to bring all of the financial and military might of
the U.S. to bear, Bush issued ultimatums to Afghanistan, thought to harbor
Osama bin Laden, leader of the al-Qaeda terrorist network, and warned members
of the network and other global terrorist networks that the U.S. was coming
for them. Bush also announced the creation of the Office of Homeland
Security, a Cabinet-level position, to be headed by Governor Tom Ridge of

09/20/01 Judges nullifies POW restitution law

A U.S. District Court judge ruled that a California law that allowed former
prisoners of war from World War 2 to sue their former captors in a California
claims court overreached the authority of the state. The law reached too far
into the federal government’s ability to conduct all foreign affairs. The
judge made the ruling in the case of Chinese and Korean former POWs suing
Japan. In a concurrent ruling, the judge said that Filipinos could not sue
Japan because the Philippines signed the Treaty of Peace with Japan, which
forbade such tort claims.

09/14/01 Congress issues approval for action

The U.S. Congress issued an open-ended resolution authorizing the President to
retaliate against terrorists for the attacks on New York and Washington. The
bill authorizes the President to use “all necessary and appropriate force.” The
President issued a call-up for 35,000 reserve members of the armed forces.
Congress also unanimously approved a $40 billion spending bill to help pay for
the rescue and clean-up efforts.

09/13/01 Congress contemplates declaration of war

In response to the tragic terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington,
D.C., several members of Congress are contemplating issuing a declaration of war
against terrorist organizations. The ability to declare war against a
non-nation is in question, but many Congress people want to be able to give
President Bush the congressional authority to carry out hostilities against
terrorist groups as he sees fit.

08/28/01 IRS can confiscate cars parked in plan view

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that a car parked in a
driveway, in plain sight from a public road, could be confiscated by IRS agents
who had a levy on the car for unpaid taxes. In the case of Rogers v. Vicuna,
Richard Rogers of Northborough, MA, had received several notices from the IRS
informing him of their intention to levy some of his property to settle back
taxes unpaid from 1992 and 1993. Upon failing to respond to the notices,
agents Sophia Vicuna and Thomas Kilmartin seized the vehicles. They did not
have a warrant. Rogers sued, and his suit was denied in both District and now
the Appeals court.

08/17/01 South Carolina’s Floyd Spence dies

Republican Floyd Spence of South Carolina died today, after enduring several
weeks in hospital after an August 9 brain surgery. Spence was 73. Spence had
been active in South Carolina politics since 1956.

08/06/01 Arkansan Asa Hutchinson resigns to head DEA

Republican Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas resigned his seat in the United States
House of Representatives today. He has been tapped by the Bush Administration
to head the Drug Enforcement Agency. Hutchinson was confirmed as the DEA
Administrator on August 1, and is scheduled to transition to the DEA on August
8, 2001.

07/31/01 Commission recommends changes to national election

A panel made up of notable former government officials, including former
Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, recommended several changes to the
voting process in America, including making Election Day a national holiday.
The commission also called for a moratorium on news reporting on returns until
polls in the continental states close, nationwide uniform closure time, federal
standards for voting equipment, and federal matching funds for localities
looking to upgrade their systems. President Bush accepted the report in a Rose
Garden ceremony, saying that the recommendations would “strengthen our
electoral system.”

07/09/01 Arkansas Supreme Court to review all death penalty

Announcing that it will review all death penalty cases decided on August 1,
2001, or after, the Arkansas Supreme Court set criteria it will be looking for
the following: 1. Prejudicial error occurred. 2. The trial court failed in its
obligation to bring to the jury’s attention a matter essential to the jury’s
consideration of the death penalty. 3. The trial judge committed prejudicial
error about which the defense had no knowledge and therefore no opportunity to
object. 4. The trial court failed to intervene without objection to correct a
serious error by admonition or declaring a mistrial. 5. The trial court erred
in failing to take notice of an evidentiary error that affected a substantial
right of the defendant. 6. The evidence supports the jury’s finding of a
statutory aggravating circumstance or circumstances. 7. The sentence of death
was imposed under the influence of passion, prejudice, or any other arbitrary

06/28/01 Indefinite alien detention unconstitutional

Rules that allow an alien prisoner to remain in detention even after a set
jail term has expired were ruled unconstitutional today by a closely-split
Supreme Court. Writing for the 5-4 majority, Justice Stephen Breyer said that
alien ex-cons who cannot be deported cannot be held in indefinite detention.
The ruling allowed the government six months after the end of a jail term to
either deport or release such persons. The issue comes up when an immigrant
commits a crime in the U.S. – typically these persons are deported, but the
U.S. does not have repatriation treaties with all nations.

06/26/01 Court rules on civil cases against state officials for
acts on an Indian reservation

The Supreme Court ruled 9-0 today that a Tribal Court does not have the power
to assert jurisdiction in a civil suit against state officials who entered
tribal lands to execute a search warrant on a tribal resident thought to have
committed crimes off tribal lands. The residence of Floyd Hicks, a resident
member of Nevada’s Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe, sued Nevada officials for
entering his home in search of evidence of game violations. Hunting trophies
seized were found to not be of restricted animals and were returned. Hicks sued
in tribal court for violations of his civil rights in the searches. the Tribal
Court agreed that it had jurisdiction, but a federal court disagreed. The
Supreme Court agreed with the federal court, noting that the purpose of tribal
courts are to maintain tribal self-government, and that the “[t]ribal authority
to regulate state officers in executing process related to the off-reservation
violation of state laws is not essential to tribal self-government or internal

06/25/01 Limits on “coordinated spending” are OK

In a 5-4 close call, the Supreme Court ruled today that so-called “coordinated
spending” can be constitutionally limited. Federal election law allows an
individual to donate up to $2000 to a specific campaign, and up to $20,000 to a
specific party. The limit is designed to prohibit a person from contributing
to a party with a tacit understanding that the $20,000 is to benefit a
particular candidate. The decision has no effect on so-called “soft money,” or
dollars spent on the behalf of a candidate without the candidate’s cooperation.
The line between coordinated spending and soft money is a fine by
constitutionally important one.

06/18/01 Idaho Indian lands belong to the United States

In another of a series of original jurisdiction cases, the Supreme Court today
ruled that lands ceded to the United States by the Coeur d’Alene Tribe are held
in trust by the United States for the benefit of the tribe, and not by the
state of Idaho. From 1873 until 1891, the Government negotiated a series of
treaties with the tribe, which ceded vast tracts of land to the U.S., including
the submerged lands under Lake Coeur d’Alene and the St. Joe river. The
treaties were not formally ratified by Congress until after Idaho’s statehood
petition was granted by Congress. The Court ruled that despite the timing of
the bills and of executive orders issued regarding the lands, the intent if the
U.S. was clearly to bar passage of the title on the lands to Idaho. The case
was decided on a 5-4 vote, with the Court’s conservative bloc in the

06/12/01 Colorado must pay Kansas interest on water

In a 6-3 decision in a rare original jurisdiction case, the Supreme Court ruled
that Colorado must pay Kansas interest on monetary damages awarded earlier by a
Supreme Court special master. The case, over water rights to water from the
Arkansas River, awarded damages to Kansas. The special master recommended
interest be paid dating back to 1969. Colorado wanted to pay no interest and
Kansas demanded interest back to 1950. The Court settled on 1985, the year
Colorado should have known it was in violation of the 1949 Arkansas River
Compact. The ruling will reduce the damages from about $61 million to $40

06/11/01 Mothers and fathers are not the same for citizenship,
Court rules

U.S. citizen mothers confer U.S. citizenship upon their children from the
moment of birth, but fathers must formally claim and apply for citizenship for
their children. So said a 5-4 decision of the Supreme Court today. In the
case of Tuan Ahn Nguyen, born out of wedlock to an American father and a
Vietnamese mother, the fact that Tuan had lived with his father in the U.S.
since he was six years old was irrelevant in deportation hearings, because his
father, Joseph Boulais, did not formally apply for citizenship before Tuan’s
18th birthday. The opinion recognizes basic biological differences in the
relationship of mother and child and father and child. Women’s groups
denounced the opinion, saying that it gave legal approval to American men
impregnating foreign women with abandon, with one spokes person saying that
“mothers are drafted and fathers are volunteers.” Other groups praised the
decision, speculating that it would prohibit claims of U.S. citizenship from
children fathered by American sperm donors.

06/11/01 Religious group must be given access to school

Voting 6-3, the Supreme Court ruled today that a Christian youth group called
the Good News Club must be allowed to use school property if such use is
allowed for other non-religious groups. The ruling resolved opposite rulings
in several U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals by overturning the 2nd Circuit’s
ruling that the Club could not use school property. According to the majority
opinion, written by Justice Thomas, “When [the] Milford [New York School
District] denied the Good News Club access to the schools limited public forum
on the ground that the Club was religious in nature, it discriminated against
the Club because of its religious viewpoint in violation of the Free Speech
Clause of the First Amendment.”

06/11/01 Thermal scanning of a home requires a warrant

In a close 5-4 decision that saw a mixing of the traditional liberal and
conservative wings of the Supreme Court, the court today ruled that thermal
scanning of a home requires a warrant. In 1991, the home of Danny Kyllo was
scanned by police for evidence of possible indoor marijuana cultivation. When
the scan showed possible indoor growing lights in use, a warrant was issued and
Kyllo was arrested when over 100 plants were found. The decision struck down
lower court rulings that the scan was not an unreasonable search. More
importantly, perhaps, the decision sets new guidelines for determining when a
search does require a warrant. In the majority opinion written by Justice
Scalia, the Court said that the use of any device not generally available or in
use by the public used to peer into a private home and able to see things
previously unseeable without a physical search, constitutes a warrantable
search. Scalia was joined by Justices Thomas, Breyer, Ginsberg, and

06/06/01 Senate power shift

With the conversion of Vermont’s James Jeffords from Republican to Independent
complete, the Democrats today took control of the Senate in a rare mid-term
power shift. South Dakota’s Tom Daschle became the new majority leader, and
West Virginia’s Robert Byrd became the new President Pro Tempore. New committee
chair assignments were also doled out to Democrats, and to Jeffords.

05/29/01 Supreme Court rejects New Hampshire’s attempt to annex
Piscataqua River and Portsmouth Harbor

The Supreme Court reject an attempt by New Hampshire to overturn a 1977 consent
decree entered into by itself and Maine that its common border should be the
middle of the navigable channel of the Piscataqua River. New Hampshire wanted
to make the border be the Maine shore of the river, in effect placing the
entire river, and the whole of the Portsmouth Harbor inside New Hampshire. The
Court enforced “judicial estoppel,” a doctrine that essentially says that once
two parties agree to something, one party cannot reject the agreement simply
because it suits it to do so. The Court accepted Maine’s motion to dismiss by
a vote of 8-0, with Justice Souter (of New Hampshire) abstaining.

05/29/01 Martin can use golf cart on PGA Tour, Court

In a 7-2 ruling, the Supreme Court decided today that Casey Martin, former
player in the PGA Tour, should be able to use a golf cart on the course of a
PGA tournament. Martin, who did not qualify to play in the Tour this year, has
a congenital circulatory problem that can literally make it deadly for him walk
a full course. The Court ruled that the Americans With Disabilities Act does
apply to the PGA because their rule that golfers walk the course is not
fundamental to the game. Pointing out that carts are allowed in other PGA
events, such as the Senior’s Tour, Justice John Paul Stevens rejected the PGA’s
argument against the use of a cart. Reaction in the sports world was mixed,
ranging from doom-and-gloom predictions to blase resignation.

05/24/01 Senator leaves Republican party, shifts balance of

Vermont’s Republican Senator James Jeffords announced today that he intends to
drop out of the Republican Party to become an independent. The move breaks the
50-50 tie in the Senate, giving the Democrats control over the body, with a 50-
49-1 split. Jeffords, who has clashed with his party’s leadership for years
over his maverick views, noted in a speech that he felt he had no choice but to
disassociate from the party. Jeffords pledged to not make his change official
until after a crucial vote on the President’s budget – a budget many believe
was the last straw in Jeffords’ fight with the conservative party leadership.
While defections are no unheard of, rarely do they have such an effect on the
structure of the Senate.

05/21/01 Right to know trumps right to privacy

News organizations may air illegally obtained tape when such an airing is in
the public’s interest, the Supreme Court said today in a 6-3 decision. In the
case, an illegally intercepted cell phone call was taped by persons unknown.
The tape, which captured two union officials speaking during a 1993 teacher’s
union negotiation. The conversation, clearly thought to be private by the
participants, caught one official suggesting that the front decks of school
board members could be blown up to coerce them. The tape was delivered to, and
repeatedly played by, a Pennsylvania radio station. The Court noted that the
1st Amendment protected the disclosure of the contents of the tape. The case is
Bartnicki v. Vopper.

05/14/01 No exception for medical marijuana

In a unanimous 8-0 decision, the Supreme Court today affirmed that federal law
does not permit an exemption to its illegal drug rules for ill patients
prescribed the drug by doctors. Noting that the Court was presented with no
evidence of an accepted medical use, Justice Clarence Thomas noted that aside
from the federally-accepted research projects anticipated in the statute, no
exception for medical marijuana use was warranted.

04/30/01 Tribe cannot reverse contractual obligation

The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that a contract signed by the Citizen
Potawatomi Nation in Oklahoma contained an arbitration clause that the tribe
cannot ignore by claiming sovereign immunity. The tribe was accused of
reneging on a deal to roof a tribe-owned building. The contract, the Court
said, contained a clause requiring arbitration of any disputes arising from the
contract. That clause was entered into willingly by the tribe and cannot be

04/30/01 Nader suit rejected

A suit brought to the Supreme Court by 2000 presidential candidate Ralph Nader
was rejected by the Court today. The suit sought to end corporate
underwriting of presidential debates. Nader’s case, against the Federal
Election Commission’s rule that corporate sponsorship is permitted as long as a
non-profit organization runs the debate, was filed in October, 2000. Two
federal courts had denied Nader’s claims prior to the appeal to the Supreme

04/24/01 Court OK’s arrests for minor offenses

An unusual team voted 5-4 to allow a state law that allowed arrest for a
relatively minor traffic offense. A Texas woman, arrested when a police
officer found her and her two children unbelted in their car, appealed her
arrest. But the Supreme Court ruled that the state law that allowed such an
arrest is not unconstitutional… in fact, to change the law, the Court noted
that the election of representatives serves as the people’s voice on issues
such as the seat belt law. In the decision, Justice Souter, normally a more
liberal judge, sided with a conservative bloc, and normally conservative
Justice O’Connor sided with a liberal bloc.

04/18/01 Prisoner-lawyers do not have right to give legal

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that prisoners do not have a constitutional
right to provide legal information to each other. The argument of a Montana
prisoner that his legal advice constituted speech which should be free of
restriction was rejected by the Court. Writing for the Court, Justice
Clarence Thomas said that prisoner law clerks often create more harm than good,
by inciting prisoners to file frivolous suits, or by using documents marked as
legal and privileged to pass bomb- or drug-making instructions. Kevin Murphy
had actually been trained by Montana prison officials to offer legal advice to
prisoners. Murphy wrote to a prisoner in a maximum security unit, which is
against prison rules. Murphy sued over the incident and a federal judge agreed
with Murphy. The Court overturned the federal judge’s order.

04/17/01 Back pay subject to current tax law, Court says

In a case stemming from a 1980’s labor dispute, the Supreme Court ruled
unanimously for the IRS, saying that back pay paid today must be taxed
according to today’s tax law, and not the tax law at the time the pay would
have been paid. In 1994, the Cleveland Indians professional baseball team paid
$2.7 million to 22 players, and paid the taxes in a lump sum based at the time,
but requested a refund based on what would have been owed on that same money
from 1986 and 1987. The Indians, and two lower courts, based their decision on
a 1946 Supreme Court case concerning Social Security benefits. But the 2001
Court disagreed that back benefits and back taxes must be calculated the same

04/02/01 Right to have a lawyer present during questioning

A highly split Supreme Court decided today that the right to have a lawyer
present during questioning for one offense does not automatically extend to
questioning done on related offenses. In the 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court
overruled an appeals court ruling that overturned a murder conviction. In
1995, Raymond Cobb was interrogated about a murder he had been suspected of two
years earlier. In 1993, Cobb’s attorney in a robbery case had given police
permission to ask Cobb about the murder, but the interviews led nowhere. In
1995, Cobb confessed to the murders. He appealed after being convicted, saying
that his lawyer should have been notified about the 1995 interview. In the
opinion of the Court, Chief Justice William Rehnquist said that he did not
think that this new ruling would have an extensive effect on rights, as many
other protections are in place.

03/28/01 Bush signals rejection of global-warming treaty

President Bush’s spokesman today announced that an international treaty signed
by the U.S. in 1997 would not be supported by the administration. The Kyoto
Treaty, named after the Japanese city where it was hammered out, would have
allowed stiff fines on nations that produced too large a percentage of the
world’s greenhouse gases. The treaty, signed by President Clinton but never
sent to the Senate for ratification, could have been devastating to the U.S.
economy, according to Bush. Pacific island nations and European nations
lamented the decision, which comes in the middle of separate talks aimed at the
implementation of the treaty.

03/21/01 Drug testing on new moms unconstitutional

The Supreme Court today ruled 6-3 that drug tests could not be conducted on
mothers after giving birth to new babies, without their consent. The case
revolved around the 1989 policy of the Medical University of South Carolina,
which conducted drug tests post-partum on patients that exhibited symptoms of
drug abuse. The results, if positive, were reported to local police. The
hospital argued that the patients consented to the tests in the paperwork signed
upon entry to the hospital. The hospital ended the policy in 1994. The policy
required positive-testing women to accept drug counseling or a criminal

03/19/01 Marine who refused vaccination has appeal

Lance Corporal Matthew Perry’s bid to defy military orders to submit to an
anthrax vaccination ended today when the Supreme Court rejected his case
without comment. Perry maintains that the government violated his civil rights
when a military judge ruled pre-trial that the military order to be vaccinated
was lawful. He argued that the pre-trial finding violated his 5th and 6th
Amendment rights of due process. Perry has been convicted of refusing to obey
the order of a superior.

02/28/01 Poll “branding” found unconstitutional

A Missouri state law that required candidates to elective office to declare on
the ballot whether or not they supported term limits was ruled unconstitutional
by a unanimous Supreme Court. The Court called the rule an attempt to dictate
electoral outcomes. The law was passed after the Supreme Court struck down
congressional term limit laws in 1995.

02/28/01 Welfare recipients can sue for benefits with government
lawyers, Court rules

In a 5-4 split decision that grouped the justices outside their normal
liberal/conservative split, the Court ruled that welfare recipients can use
government-funded lawyers to sue for welfare benefits. Calling a 1996 law that
barred such use of the lawyers an unconstitutional gag order, Justice Kennedy
wrote that the law placed free-speech burdens on both litigants and the
attorneys. The law targeted lawyers of the Legal Services Corp., which
received federal dollars, restricting them from challenging federal law even
using private funds.

02/28/01 Unanimous Supreme Courts upholds Clean Air Act

In a blow to industry interests, even the most conservative of the members of
the Supreme Court upheld one of the nation’s premier environmental laws. The
Court rejected arguments that the rules of the Environmental Protection Agency
must take cost into consideration when they are set. The way the law is
currently written, only science is to be taken into consideration, and not
cost. The Court did reject a current set of ozone and soot rules, but in doing
so did not strip the EPA of its rule-making power. The law requires the EPA to
set standards required to ensure the health of the population without regard to
how much it will cost to implement the standard. Justice Scalia, writing for
the Court, said that the law is clear in its mandate that cost considerations
not be taken into account. The ruling also denied the contention that the
delegation of powers to the EPA was too great.

02/20/01 Supreme Courts rules in detention case

Suspects can be kept from entering their home while police obtain a search
warrant, the Supreme Court ruled 8-1 today. The Court ruled that the facts of
case warranted the police action. Tera McArthur requested police assistance
when she moved out of her home – upon leaving, she informed the officers that
her estranged husband had marijuana in the home. Police detained Charles
McArthur outside the home for two hours, until a search warrant could be
obtained. McArthur’s argument was that the police should have let him go back
into the home unsupervised. The Court agreed with the police that the
likelihood that he would have destroyed the evidence made the brief detention

02/18/01 Clinton defends pardons

President Clinton, writing in an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times, defended
his 11th-hour pardons, including that of fugitive financier Mark Rich. Clinton
has been criticized for some pardons granted the last day of his presidency.
Rich has been a fugitive from U.S. authorities since 1983. In the piece,
Clinton defended the Rich pardon, insisting that there was no quid pro quo for
the pardon – that it had been affected out of a sense of justice, and based on
pleas from Israel and Jewish Americans who concentrated on Rich’s philanthropic
efforts over the past 20 years.

02/08/01 Congress holds hearings on Clinton pardons

The House Committee on Government Reform held hearings today concerning
President Clinton’s pardon of Mark Rich, a fugitive from U.S. authorities
living in Switzerland. He was found to have evaded more than $48 million in
taxes. The Committee focused on who knew what, and when – the pardon
apparently bypassed the normal pardon channels and was taken directly to the
President by Rich’s attorney Jack Quinn. Rich’s ex-wife is an active fund
raiser for the Democratic Party and helped raise funds for the Clinton
Presidential Library. Some of the testimony focused on whether Rich had
formally renounced his U.S. citizenship, and if so, whether the President’s
broad pardon power could reach that far.

02/01/01 Bush’s cabinet complete

In the closest confirmation vote so far, President Bush’s final cabinet-level
appointment was confirmed today. The Senate voted 58-42 to confirm former
Senator John Ashcroft as Attorney General, head of the Justice Department.

01/30/01 All but one of Bush’s cabinet secretaries now

With all of his cabinet secretaries but one confirmed by the Senate, and in his
second week of office, President Bush prepared to get into the full swing of
governance. After devoting his first week in office to the subject of
education, Bush prepared a controversial plan to use faith-based charities to
help distribute welfare services. He and his cabinet also talked up the $1.6
trillion tax cut Bush wants to put into place. But the Senate was still
debating Bush’s choice for Attorney General, former Senator John Ashcroft.
After squeaking through his committee hearings, Ashcroft was expected to be
confirmed, but several Democratic Senators vowed a fight on the floor. Bush
prepared to call his first cabinet meeting without Ashcroft’s confirmation and
without HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, who still has not resigned as governor of

01/18/01 Supreme Court OKs civil confinement

In a case pitting victims’ rights advocates against civil libertarians, the
Supreme Court decided today that civil confinement, where a convict is kept
under lock and key after the term is served, is constitutional. In a decisive
8-1 ruling, the Court said that a six-time rapist could be held after his
sentence was up, and that the state’s failure to provide mandated treatment to
him is not grounds to have the confinement overturned. The Court noted that a
civil suit can be filed for relief. The case is Selling v Young.

01/09/01 Length of time sentenced is not relevant to determining
if counsel is ineffective

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court today ruled that the Sixth Amendment
does not differentiate between long and short jail sentences, and as such, if a
defendant’s legal counsel is ineffective, the length of any extra jail time
cannot be used as a counter-claim. In the case of Glover v U.S., Paul Glover
maintains that his lawyer should have challenged a 21-month sentence for a host
of charges, including racketeering. He was sentenced to 84 months in prison,
though Glover’s own count showed that the convictions should have added up to
no more than 78 months. A federal judge had rejected Glover’s claim, saying
that up to 21 months difference was not enough to provide Glover with cause to
appeal. Writing for the Court, Justice William Kennedy said, “Our
jurisprudence suggests that any amount of actual jail time has Sixth Amendment

01/09/01 Supreme Court limits Clean Water Act

Noting that the Clean Water Act was not meant to allow federal control over
small local ponds and mud flats, a sharply divided Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that
a local community has the right to use an abandoned mine as a landfill, even
though migratory birds were using the water-filled site as a stop-over.
Writing for the majority, Chief Justice William Rehnquist said “Permitting the
(government) to claim federal jurisdiction over ponds and mud flats … would
also result in a significant impingement of the states’ traditional and primary
power over land and water use.”

01/06/01 Gore confirms Bush victory

President of the Senate Al Gore read the electoral votes to a joint session of
Congress today, confirming George Bush’s win the presidential race. There were
no surprises in the votes, as many held their breath to see if a surprise
faithless elector might have thrown a wrench into the works. The Black Caucus
tried to mount an effort to challenge the votes of Florida, but the challenge
was turned away as it was endorsed only by Representatives, and no Senators, as
required by the rules. One electoral vote from Washington, D.C., was uncast,
providing Bush with a slightly higher 271-266 margin of victory than

01/05/01 Court affirms that Cheney is a Wyoming resident

Letting stand a lower court ruling, the Supreme Court rejected a case that
alleged that Vice President-elect Dick Cheney’s residence status in Wyoming was
a hoax engineered to allow Texas electors to vote for him as Vice President and
for George Bush as President. Cheney spent most of the past several years as a
resident of Texas, though he changed his residence to Wyoming when he was
selected as Bush’s running mate. The Constitution prohibits the electors from
a state from voting for both a President and Vice President from the same
state. If Texas electors had not been able to vote for Cheney, the choice would
have had to devolve to the Senate.

01/03/01 107th Congress convenes

The unusual 107th Congress opened today, with several firsts and twists. The
first First Lady to ever serve in Congress, Hillary Clinton, was sworn in as a
Senator from New York. Tom Daschle, D-SD, was made majority leader until
January 20th, when George Bush is sworn in – with the 50-50 split in the
Senate, Al Gore casts the deciding vote until Dick Cheney becomes the President
of the Senate. Mel Carnahan’s wife Jean took her seat in the Senate after
having been appointed by the Missouri governor to the post. She will hold the
seat for two years when a special election will be held. The House started out
with a vacancy from Day 1, as Representative Julian Dixon of California died
the day after the election. Meanwhile, the Senate began to move forward with
confirmation hearings of Bush appointees even before the inauguration.

Last Modified: 24 Jan 2010

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