2005 News Archive – The U.S. Constitution Online – USConstitution.net

2005 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 2005.

12/20/05 Pennsylvania court rebukes Intelligent Design instruction

In a strongly-worded judgement against supporters of Intelligent Design, a
Pennsylvania federal court judge today struck down a provision in the curriculum
of the Dover Area schools. The provision required 9th grade biology teachers to
read a short caveat prior to instruction on evolution. The caveat mentioned
Intelligent Design (ID), a theory that postulates that the universe was created
and set in motion by a Designer. Detractors say that ID is simply a new name
for Creationism, which has uses the creation story of the Bible, and the
Designer is another name for God. The policy which has been in place for just
over a year, was the brainchild of a group of ID supporters on the Dover school
board. In the last round of elections, the ID supporters were ousted in favor
of people who had vowed to do away with the provision. Judge John Jones, a Bush
appointee, wrote “We find that the secular purposes claimed by the Board amount
to a pretext for the Board’s real purpose, which was to promote religion in the
public school classroom.”

12/19/05 Bush admits to authorizing domestic spying

The President and members of his Cabinet admitted over the weekend that reports
that he had authorized secret spying on U.S. citizens were true. The reports
were partially to blame for Friday’s failure of key provisions of the Patriot
Act to be reauthorized by the Congress. Bush said that he authorized the NSA
to secretly wiretap U.S. citizens by Executive Order, and has reauthorized the
order over 30 times since the original. Democrats were “stunned” by the
revelation. Bush said that he was surprised the secret Executive Order was
revealed by the press, calling it “a shameful act.”

12/15/05 Bush agrees to ban on torture

After months of opposition to a legal ban on torture of prisoners by U.S.
personnel held overseas, President Bush today agreed to the ban. The ban has
been championed by former POW John McCain (R-NV), who said “We’ve sent a
message to the world that the United States is not like the terrorists.” Some
Republicans in the House, however, announced that they planned to oppose the
McCain amendment, which was to be attached to a spending bill in a House/Senate
conference committee: Duncan Hunter (R-CA) said that he did not agree with the
compromise the President reached, and may try to block the amendment in the

11/28/05 Supreme Court loses marble moulding

A piece of marble moulding fell from the Supreme Court building today, landing
on the Court’s steps near a group of tourists. The basketball-sized chunk of
Vermont marble fell from the top of the frieze that adorns the building. The
Supreme Court building was opened in 1935.

11/28/05 Representative resigns after admitting taking bribes

Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-CA) resigned his position in the House of
Representatives today, after admitting in court that he took bribes in exchange
for steering defense contracts to several companies. Payments to Cunningham
included checks, cash, and vacations. The transaction that caught
investigators’ eyes was the sale of Cunningham’s home to a defense contractor
for an inflated price – the home was later sold for a $700,000 loss.
Cunningham was taken into custody in California, was finger printed, and
released on his own recognizance.

11/09/05 Off-year election results

Democrats in Virginia and New Jersey claimed victory in gubernatorial races in
both states, and California’s governor suffered defeat in popular referenda
votes yesterday. Tim Kaine replaces Democrat Mark Warner, unable to run
because of term limits, in Virginia. Kaine defeated Republican Jerry Kilgore,
despite a personal plea and campaign help from President George Bush. In New
Jersey, Democratic Senator Jon Corzine defeated Republican Douglas Forrester in
a race that had been termed “nasty” by its conclusion. In California,
Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger suffered the loss of four ballot
initiatives he supported. In Texas, a constitutional amendment banning gay
marriage in the state was passed overwhelmingly.

11/03/05 Alito hearings scheduled for 2006

Senate Judiciary Chair Arlen Specter (R-PA) announced today that he has
scheduled hearings for Samuel Alito for early January, 2006. President Bush
had called for a confirmation vote by the end of 2005, but Specter noted that
because of Alito’s long judicial career, there were thousands of opinions to
research, and the extra time was necessary to be thorough. Hearings would
begin on January 9, with the floor vote tentatively scheduled for the 20th.

10/31/05 Bush nominates Samuel Alito to replace O’Connor

President George Bush today announced his nomination of Judge Samuel Alito to
replace Sandra O’Connor on the Supreme Court. Alito is a judge in the 3rd
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia and, unlike previous nominee
Harriet Miers, has an extensive record of rulings to examine. Some Democrats
immediately called Alito too conservative and criticized the President for not
consulting with Senate Democrats before making a choice. Some have said that
Alito may trigger a filibuster attempt by Democrats, who were hoping for
someone more moderate.

10/27/05 Miers withdraws nomination

In a letter to President George Bush, Supreme Court Justice-nominee Harriet
Miers withdrew her nomination today. Citing the fact that Senators had informed
her that she should be expected to reveal details of her time in service as
White House counsel either through documents or oral testimony, Miers wrote
that she did not feel she would be able to maintain confidentiality and answer
the Senators’ questions.

10/18/05 White House: Miers has no opinion on Griswold

Harriet Miers, making the rounds in the Senate, spoke with Arlen Specter
(PA-R), a meeting Specter later reported on. Specter said that Miers had told
him that she supported the Supreme Court’s 1965 Griswold v Connecticut
decision. That decision, which allowed married couples to buy contraceptives,
is seen as a landmark case in the establishment of a right to privacy, and a
progenitor of the abortion case Roe v Wade. The White House later
issued a statement saying that Specter had misunderstood Miers, and that Miers
has not established an opinion of Griswold nor of any right to privacy.
Any support of a right to privacy is seen as a blow to Miers’s nomination as
the religious right opposes the concept of the right to privacy, especially as
applied to the abortion issue. This is the latest in a string of controversies
surrounding Miers, who has received opposition from several political

10/17/05 Supreme Court allows imprisoned woman to have abortion

The Supreme Court today ordered the state of Missouri to pay for a female
inmate’s transportation to an abortion clinic. Missouri law forbids the
spending of public funds to facilitate any abortion. A federal court had said
that the state does not have to pay for the abortion, but it must pay
transportation costs, amounting to $350. Justice Clarence Thomas issued an
emergency stay of the federal court order on Friday, but the Court unanimously
upheld the order today. The order came without any opinion or dissent, so
Court-watchers are not yet placing any significance on the order. They are
instead waiting for arguments and opinions on an upcoming parental notification

10/03/05 Bush nominates Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court

President George Bush nominated his White House counsel, Harriet Miers, to
replace Sandra O’Connor on the Supreme Court. Bush had previously nominated
John Roberts to the seat, but elevated Roberts to the Chief Justice seat when
William Rehnquist died. 60-year-old Miers has not served as a judge before,
which means the Senate may have a harder time trying to divine her stand on
some issues. Miers was named to head the scandal-ridden Texas Lottery
Commission by Bush in 1995, and she is credited with returning public
confidence to the commission. She also served as president of the Texas Bar
Association. She has been White House counsel since 2004.

09/29/05 Roberts confirmed to be 17th Chief Justice

In a 77-22 vote, the Senate today confirmed Judge John Roberts to the position
of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Roberts replaces William Rehnquist on
the bench; Rehnquist died almost a month ago. Roberts had originally been
picked to replace retiring Justice Sandra O’Connor. President George Bush
switched the seat he nominated Roberts to after Rehnquist’s death. Roberts
will be the youngest Chief Justice in over 200 years. Roberts will be sworn in
at a White House ceremony later today. The Supreme Court is set to open its
October session on Monday.

09/28/05 DeLay indicted by Texas Grand Jury, steps aside

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) was indicted today on one count of
criminal conspiracy by a grand jury in Travis County, Texas. The case involves
contributions to DeLay’s political action committee, TRMPAC. The contributions
were allegedly made with the express purpose of being redirected to candidates
by the Republican Party, donations that would not have been allowed if made
directly. The donation from the PAC to the Party was accompanied by a list of
names to receive portions of the donation. In light of the indictment, DeLay
announced that he was temporarily stepping down as majority leader, in
accordance with House rules. DeLay’s spokesperson dismissed the indictment as
politically motivated.

09/22/05 Roberts clears first hurdle towards Chief Justice

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 13-5 today to send John Roberts’s
nomination to the Chief Justice seat on the Supreme Court to the full Senate
for a floor vote. The five dissenters were all Democrats, but Roberts got the
nod from the senior Democrat on the committee, Patrick Leahy (D-VT). Leahy
said that he took Roberts at his word that he would work on the court to keep
presidential power in check. Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI) also voted for Roberts,
saying “I will vote my hopes today and not my fears.” The floor vote before
the full Senate will take place next week. Roberts, if confirmed, will become
the 17th chief justice.

09/05/05 Bush renominates Roberts to take Chief Justice seat

Bypassing current Supreme Court justices, and thus avoiding an extra set of
confirmation hearings, President Bush today nominated John Roberts, already
scheduled for confirmation hearings for an associate justiceship, to replace
William Rehnquist as Chief Justice. By tradition, though not by the
Constitution, the Chief Justice has been separately nominated by the President.
To have elevated a current justice, like Clarence Thomas or Antonin Scalia, to
Chief would have required two sets of hearings – one for the promotion and one
to replace the promoted justice – in addition to those already scheduled for
Roberts. Roberts had clerked for Rehnquist earlier in his career. Officially,
Roberts will now be taking Rehnquist’s seat and not retiring justice Sandra
O’Connor. O’Connor has vowed to stay with the Court until her seat is

09/03/05 William Rehnquist dies at age 80

Chief Justice William Rehnquist, appointed to the Supreme Court in 1971 by
Richard Nixon, died today in his home in Virginia. Rehnquist was 80 years old
and suffering from recurring bouts of throat cancer. Rehnquist was known as a
strong conservative voice on the Court. Rumors that Rehnquist would resign from
the Court because of his health echoed for over a year in Washington, but were
continually stifled by Rehnquist himself as he returned to work again and again,
ever after having a tracheotomy tube inserted in his throat. Rehnquist had a
summer home in Greensboro, Vermont and was frequently seen giving civics talks
in local Vermont towns.

08/24/05 War protest leader returns to Crawford

Cindy Sheehan, leader of a protest against the war in Iraq that has its
headquarters near the entrance to President Bush’s Crawford, Texas ranch, has
returned to the site. Sheehan left a week ago to tend to her ailing mother.
Sheehan is asking for an audience with the President so that he can explain to
her directly why her son was in Iraq. Her son, Casey Sheehan, was a soldier in
Iraq, and was killed there last year. Bush has repeatedly refused to meet with
Sheehan, saying that the U.S. must “stay the course” in Iraq.

08/17/05 Roberts given Bar Association’s top rating

Supreme Court justice nominee John Roberts was given the American Bar
Association’s top rating today, three weeks before Roberts’s confirmation
hearings are scheduled to begin the Senate. Roberts was screened by a special
committee of the ABA that reviews all nominees to the federal bench. The
committee gave Roberts a “well-qualified” rating, the highest available. The
ABA does the rating to provide an unbiased look at each nominee for use by the
public and the Senate, and has been providing the ratings for the last 50

08/11/05 Bush responds to calls to pull out of Iraq

Addressing the concerns of protesters camped out near his Crawford, Texas
ranch, where the President is vacationing, George Bush said today that pulling
U.S. troops out of Iraq now would be a “terrible signal” to the enemy. Saying
that while he sympathizes with Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier killed in
Iraq and leader of the group outside the ranch, he said that to pull out now
would be premature: “it would be a mistake for the security of this country and
the ability to lay the foundations for peace in the long run if we were to do

08/11/05 Bush signs highway bill

President Bush today signed the Highway Bill passed overwhelmingly by Congress
two weeks ago. The bill, criticized by some because of charges that it is
loaded with political pork, authorizes $286 billion in spending over the next
six years. Bush praised the bill because of the jobs he says it will create.
The bill includes provisions designed to improve seat belt usage rates and to
create automobile stability standards to help prevent rollovers. The bill also
includes $941 million for road and bridge projects in Alaska, the fourth most
money for the third least populated state.

08/01/05 Bolton appointed Ambassador to United Nations

Avoiding a stalled Senate confirmation process, President Bush today appointed
John Bolton to fill the vacant Ambassador to the United Nations position.
Bolton’s nomination had been held up in committee by Democratic opposition,
which had been joined by some Republican critics. Bush used his power to
appoint Bolton to the position during a Senate recess. The recess appointment
power is reserved to the President by the Constitution. Bolton’s appointment
is temporary, however – it will only last until the beginning of the next
congressional session, sheduled to meet in January 2007. Bolton can be
re-nominated at that time, and subjected again to the Senate’s process.

07/19/05 New Supreme Court justice nominated

President George Bush today nominated District of Columbia Court of Appeals
Judge John G. Roberts to the seat on the Supreme Court being vacated by Sandra
O’Connor. Bush expressed his hope that Roberts’s confirmation would be
complete before the beginning of the Court’s next session in October. It is
thought that confirmation hearings will begin in September. Bush noted that he
had looked at several candidates and had received advice from leaders of both
parties before making his choice. He also noted that Roberts had been
confirmed to his current position by unanimous consent two years ago.

07/01/05 Justice O’Connor announces her retirement

Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor announced her plans to retire from
the bench once a successor has been confirmed by the Senate. O’Connor was the
first woman to serve on the Court. She was appointed to the Court in 1981 by
President Ronald Reagan. She is considered a moderate conservative and has
been the swing vote in many cases.

06/27/05 Supreme Court allows Ten Commandment displays on government land

The Supreme Court today allowed displays of monuments to the Ten Commandments
on government land to remain in place. The case involved a monument that is
among 16 others on the grounds of the Texas Legislature. Writing for the 5-4
majority, Chief Justice William Rehnquist noted that the Ten Commandments have
obvious religious significance, but “simply having religious content or
promoting a message consistent with a religious doctrine does not run afoul of
the Establishment clause.” Rehnquist did not apply the Lemon Test to the Texas
case because it is a passive display that does not fit into the criteria for
looking to Lemon. The case is Van Orden v Perry.

06/27/05 Ten Commandment displays in courthouses usually not permissible

The Supreme Court, in a close 5-4 decision, ruled today that most courthouse
displays of the Ten Commandments are not permissible under the 1st Amendment’s
Establishment Clause. The Court did leave the door open to some displays,
however, like its own display of the Commandments in a frieze that displays the
stone tablets among several other historical scenes that set the historical
trail that leads to today’s law. The case revolved around framed displays of
the Ten Commandments in two Kentucky courthouses. In his dissent, Justice
Antonin Scalia wrote that while the original display, put up in 1999, was
probably unconstitutional, the dilution of the significance of the display, by
the addition of other historical legal documents, has lead to the very
exception the majority had noted. The other documents traced “America’s
Christian Heritage,” and included the national motto, “In God We Trust,” and a
copy of a bill that declared 1983 the “Year of the Bible.” The case is
McCreary County v ACLU of Kentucky.

06/23/05 Court rules on eminent domain case

The Supreme Court upheld the ability of cities to take the property of
individuals by eminent domain even when the purpose is not to use the land for
public purposes, but instead to help increase the tax base for a community. In
the case, New London, Connecticut homeowners sued the city when the city told
them their homes were to be torn down to make room for an office building. The
Court found that though the land would not be put to public use, the fact that
the new building would be taxed for the public good was a sufficient to fall
under the Takings Clause. The liberal wing of the Court joined with Justice
Kennedy to uphold the city’s actions, with the conservative wing writing a
stinging rebuke of the majority: “Under the banner of economic development, all
private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another
private owner, so long as it might be upgraded – i.e., given to an owner who
will use it in a way that the legislature deems more beneficial to the public –
in the process.”

06/13/05 Court overturns death sentence citing racial bias

The Supreme Court today, in a 6-3 vote, reversed the death sentence of Thomas
Miller-El, convicted for the 1985 murder of a hotel clerk. Miller-El had been
convicted in Texas, the state responsible for the most executions in the nation.
Miller-El alleged that the state stacked the jury with white jurors, denying
him a fair trial. The Court agreed and overturned the sentence. The state had
used 10 of 11 peremptory strikes against black prospective jurors. The case is
Miller-El v Dretke. The Court decided another similar case, Johnson v California,
on an 8-1 vote. In this case, peremptory strikes eliminated all black jurors
from the jury pool – though the trial judge indicated that it was possible the
strikes were purely race-based, California law required him to rule that the
strikes were not race-based. The Court said that California’s standard is

06/06/05 Foreign-flag cruise ships must adhere to US disability laws

Norwegian Cruise Line, which sails cruise ships such as the Norwegian Sea and
the Norwegian Star, must have its ships comply with the United States American
with Disabilities Act (ADA). Lower courts had found that since Congress has
not explicitly included foreign-flag ships in the ADA, it did not apply. The
Supreme Court disagreed, ruling that the Act is applicable when a foreign-flag
ship is operating in US waters. Justice Kennedy wrote that though cruise ships
were not specifically mentioned, they easily fell under the categories of
public accommodation and specified public transportation. The case, Spector v
Norwegian Cruise Lines, was decided in a complicated tangle of opinions, parts
of which were decided 5-4 and others 6-3.

06/06/05 States cannot overrule federal drug policy concerning marijuana

The Supreme Court today ruled that a California law that permits the
cultivation of small amounts of marijuana for prescribed medical use does not
trump federal law prohibiting any such cultivation. The Supreme Court said
that Congress’s power to regulate drug manufacture and use is without bound,
and because marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 drug, one with no approved
medical use and a high risk of abuse, the California law allowing its
cultivation and use is contrary to the law. The Court decided the case,
Gonzales v Raich, on a 6-3 vote.

06/06/05 Supreme Court rules on land dispute between US and Alaska

Both the United States and Alaska lay claim to the submerged lands in two areas
in the Alaska area: in the Alexander Archipelago in Southern Alaska and in
Glacier Bay. The presumption in the law is that Alaska retains claim on these
lands, and to claim them, the United States had to rebut that presumption. The
Special Master appointed by the Court recommended the Court find for the United
States. The Court agreed with the Special Master’s recommendations and ruled
for the United States. In the case of the archipelago, it was determined that
historic use by international shipping precluded the state’s claim. In the
case of the bay, it was found that since the United States had made the area a
federal land prior to statehood, the United States retained control over the
entire area. The case was Alaska v US, original jurisdiction case 128, and
was decided unanimously.

05/31/05 Prison law not a violation of 1st Amendment

In a unanimous ruling, the Supreme Court today affirmed that a federal law
guaranteeing equal worship rights to all prisoners in any facility using
federal funds does not violate the 1st Amendment’s Establishment Clause.
States have balked at the law, reasoning that it could make managing some
inmates more difficult – the Court acknowledged this concern. The law, called
the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, does not trump a
facility’s need for security and order, but it does require reasonable
accommodation whenever possible. The suit was brought against the state of Ohio
by a Satanist, a Wiccan, and a racial separatist. The Court’s ruling was on a
very narrow issue, and the possibility exists that it could be challenged for
other reasons. The case is Cutter v Wilkinson.

05/24/05 Senate avoids “nuclear option,” compromises on filibusters

A bipartisan group of 14 Senators, seven Democrats and seven Republicans,
agreed to a plan that they hoped would prevent the Majority Leader, Bill Frist,
from invoking what has been termed the “nuclear option” in dealing with
filibusters of judicial nominees. Under the nuclear option, the Senate would
have voted to change the Senate’s rules to allow filibusters to be broken by a
majority vote, rather than the 60 percent vote currently required. The
agreement called for Democrats to allow three of five judicial nominees to
proceed to a vote on the Senate floor while two others could still be subject
to filibuster. The group also said they would oppose future filibusters unless
extraordinary circumstances required it. The circumstances that would be
considered extraordinary were not specified. Frist acceded to the plan,
though he opposes it.

05/23/05 Court supports “Beef – it’s what’s for dinner” campaign

A group of cattlemen whose beef sales are subject to a “checkoff” fee, which
is used to fund advertising supporting the beef industry, objected to the use
of the checkoff funds for various advertising campaigns. The campaigns, funded
by the Beef Promotion and Research Board, include the often-heard “Beef – it’s
what’s for dinner” slogan. The Beef Board is a government entity. The
cattlemen who objected to the campaign cited their own 1st Amendment rights, as
a compulsion to support speech to which they object. The Supreme Court
disagreed, noting that because the Beef Board is a government body, it is not
susceptible to 1st Amendment challenges. The decision differed from other
recent decisions, in particular a checkoff-like fee paid by mushroom producers,
because the Court said that in this case, unlike in the mushroom case, the
advertising was produced by a government body. The Court noted that other
challenges to the campaigns can continue – this decision was for the 1st
Amendment-based challenge only. The Court decided the case, Johanns v Livestock
Marketing Association, on a 6-3 vote.

05/16/05 Wine can be brought across state lines, Supreme Court rules

The Supreme Court today ruled that laws in states that do not permit consumers
to buy wine directly from wineries are unconstitutional. The ruling exposes a
market that wineries have long-sought to open up. Both Michigan and New York
have a series of rules and licenses that allowed only in-state wineries to make
direct sales to consumers. Michigan residents sued their state over the rules,
and Michigan defended the rules under state powers granted under the 21st Amendment. The Supreme Court found that the
rules discriminated against out-of-state wineries in a way not authorized by
the 21st Amendment. The Court found that the discrimination was obvious and
would have been invalid on its face based on prior rulings, were it not for the
21st Amendment claim. The 21st does give states broad powers over
transportation, importation, and use, but it does not authorize “nonuniform
laws.” The case was decided in a 5-4 vote, with the majority being an unusual
mix of the Court’s liberal and conservative wings. The case is Granholm
v Heald.

03/24/05 Supreme Court rejects Schiavo appeal

The Supreme Court rejected an appeal by the parents of Terri Schiavo, which may
signal an end to the contentious case. The appeal was last in a series of
moves by Schiavo’s parents to restore a feeding tube, which was removed by her
husband last Friday, a move Michael Schiavo says his wife would have wanted.
The Schiavo case is extraordinary for its longevity and its public profile.
Most cases like this pass with little or no public fanfare, but the dispute
between Schiavo’s husband and parents became messy and public. The Congress
passed a bill, which was quickly signed by President Bush, forcing the federal
courts to hear the case. The bill passed and was signed on Monday; on Tuesday,
a federal judge heard the case and ruled against restoring the feeding tube; on
Wednesday, an appeals court sided with the federal judge; and today the Supreme
Court refused to hear the case. Florida governor Jeb Bush and Schiavo’s
parents continued legal wrangling in Florida on the issue.

03/22/05 Rehnquist returns to the bench

Obviously still recovering, but well on his way to recovery, Chief Justice
William Rehnquist returned to the active bench of the Supreme Court today.
After a five-month absence to be treated for thyroid cancer, Rehnquist wasted
no time returning to his old form, cutting off lawyers who reached their time
limit and retreating behind the curtains for a few moments between arguments to
stretch. Rehnquist is 80 years old, and has served as Chief for 19 years.

03/01/05 Court rules that juvenile death penalty is

A divided Supreme Court today ruled that the death penalty cannot be imposed on
juvenile offenders. Only 19 states allow the execution of juvenile offenders,
those under the age of 18 at the time of the offense, but the a sentence were invalidated by the Supreme Court ruling. About 70 such
offenders are currently on various death rows across the country. The Court
had previously ruled that the death penalty for offenders under the age of 15
was unconstitutional, and this ruling further narrows the window. Writing for
the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said, “The age of 18 is the point where
society draws the line for many purposes between childhood and adulthood. It
is, we conclude, the age at which the line for death eligibility ought to
rest.” The case was decided on a 5-4 vote.

02/16/05 Last member of cabinet confirmed

Federal judge Michael Chertoff, was unanimously confirmed by the Senate today,
closing the book on President Bush’s newly staffed cabinet. Chertoff, who
faced pointed questioning from Democrats during confirmation hearings because
of his role as head of the Justice Department’s criminal division, was most
recently a federal judge.

02/03/05 Tough battle over for Attorney General

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales took his oath of office today after a tough
fight in the Senate. He was finally confirmed in a 60-36 vote. All of the
“no” votes came from Democratic and Independent Senators.

01/31/05 Secretary of Energy confirmed

Samuel Bodman was confirmed as the new Secretary of Energy by the Senate today.
The confirmation was by unanimous voice vote. Only Attorney General Alberto
Gonzales and Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff remain

01/26/05 More cabinet approvals

Secretary of Veterans Affairs nominee Jim Nicholson and Secretary of Health
and Human Services nominee Michael Leavitt were approved by voice vote in the
Senate today.

01/26/05 Rice approved as Secretary of State

Condoleezza Rice won approval of the Senate today, garnering a 85-13 vote for
her new position as Secretary of State. Also today, the nomination of Alberto
Gonzales for Attorney General left the Senate Judiciary Committee with its

01/24/05 Supreme Court issues ruling on dog searches

The Supreme Court ruled today, in a 6-2 decision, that animal searches of a car
stopped for a traffic violation are within Fourth Amendment bounds. In the
case of Illinois v Caballes, Roy Caballes was pulled over for speeding by an
Illinois State Trooper. When the trooper reported that Caballes appeared to be
overly nervous during the stop, another trooper with a drug-sniffing dog came
to the scene. The dog alerted on the man’s trunk, which was later searched and
found to contain marijuana, for which Caballes was arrested. The question was
not if the dog alert was probably cause for the search, but if there was any
probable cause to do the dog search at all. The Court first noted that if
Caballes had been detained or had been held for an unreasonable amount of time,
the search may have been illegal, but the response of the second trooper was
within a reasonable time. The Court ruled that since the drug sniff is not
invasive and is designed solely to detect contraband which is, by definition,
illegal to possess, no privacy interest was violated. The drug sniff, and the
subsequent search, were legal. Chef Justice Rehnquist did not participate in
the ruling.

01/24/05 Gutierrez approved by Senate

Secretary of Secretary of Commerce nominee Carlos Gutierrez was approved by
voice vote in the Senate today.

01/20/05 Approvals for Bush’s new cabinet

On a voice vote, two of President Bush’s new cabinet nominees were approved by
the Senate today. Margaret Spellings, a long-time Bush advisor, was approved as
Secretary of Education, and Nebraska governor Mike Johanns was approved as
Secretary of Agriculture. Bush’s other two major appointments, Condoleezza Rice
to Secretary of State and Alberto Gonzales to Attorney General, would have to
wait a bit longer for confirmation. Rice was approved by the Foreign Relations
Committee, but a vote in the full Senate has been put off until next week. The
Senate Judiciary Committee vote on Gonzales was delayed until answers to all
submitted written questions were submitted and reviewed.

01/20/05 Bush takes oath for second term

President George W. Bush took the oath of office today, as read by Supreme
Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Bush begins his second term with the
oath, the seventeenth president to be elected to a second full term.

01/12/05 Supreme Court rules on immigration detention

The Supreme Court today ruled that immigrants found to be inadmissible to the
country must be removed from the country within a proscribed 90-day period. Any
time the aliens are held past the 90 day period must be only to successfully
remove them from the country. In the case of Clark v Martinez, Sergio
Martinez, who arrived in the United States in 1980 as a part of the Mariel
boatlift, sued the government for release from detention. After his arrival in
the US, but before his application for asylum application, Martinez had been
arrested and convicted of several crimes within the US. These convictions made
him ineligible for asylum. He was taken into INS custody in 2000 and removal
proceedings were started; an immigration judge found him ineligible for
admission to the US and order him returned to Cuba. Because removal to Cuba
was not forthcoming, and would not come in the foreseeable future, Martinez was
held in detention. The Supreme Court, in a 7-2 decision, the Court agreed with
a lower court, which said that the 90-day limit must be in place with
reasonable extensions available only when those extensions are needed to effect
removal. The Court noted that if Congress wishes to provide for longer
detention periods when removal cannot be effected, then it must do so

01/12/05 Court rules on judicial modification of sentences

The Supreme Court today ruled that its prior decisions regarding the addition
of time to the sentences of convicted criminals can only be done by juries and
not by judges also apply to federal sentencing guidelines. The decision
strongly split the court, with a 5-4 vote against the guidelines. The majority
was an unusual combination of the Court’s left and right wings: Justices
Scalia, Thomas, Stevens, Souter, and Ginsberg. The ruling means that
sentencing, which had been left to judges after consideration of the facts of
the case, must now more heavily involve the jury, which had only been
responsible for the determination of guilt. The decision opens the doors to
possibly thousands of requests for sentencing review. The cases are US v Booker
and US v Fanfan.

01/11/05 Second time’s the charm for Security Secretary?

After the embarrassing loss of Bernard Kerik due to a Nannygate-style issue,
President Bush has nominated a new face to be Secretary of Homeland Security.
Michael Chertoff is currently a federal appellate court judge, also appointed to
that position by Bush. He also served as an assistant attorney general under
John Ashcroft.

01/06/05 After a rare challenge, electoral votes are counted

Democratic Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones and Democratic Senator Barbara
Boxer challenged the electoral votes submitted by Ohio today, delaying what is
normally a perfunctory task of opening and counting certifications. If any one
Representative and any one Senator challenge the votes, however, rules state
that the respective houses must convene and debate the challenge. Boxer and
Tubbs Jones said that they wanted to bring electoral deficiencies in Ohio to
light by issuing the challenge. The House defeated the challenge 267-31 and
the Senate by 74-1. After the separate debates were over, the full Congress
met again and counted the votes. George W. Bush defeated John Kerry 286 to 251,
with John Edwards garnering one vote. In the Vice Presidential race, Dick
Cheney defeated John Edwards 286 to 252.

01/04/05 109th Congress opens

At 2:16 PM, the Dean of the House of Representatives administered the Oath of
Office to the just-reelected Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert. At 2:17 PM,
Hastert administered the Oath of Office to the assembled members of the House,
kicking off the 109th Congress.

01/02/05 California Representative Matsui dies

Just days before taking the oath of office, California Democrat Robert Matsui
died today of complications of a rare disease. Matsui, 63, had just been
reelected to his 14th term as a representative.

Last Modified: 24 Jan 2010

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