2006 News Archive – The U.S. Constitution Online – USConstitution.net

2006 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 2006.

12/26/06 President Ford dies

President Gerald Ford, 38th president of the United States, died today. Ford
rose to office in the wake of the Watergate scandal that forced Richard Nixon
to resign. He had replaced Nixon’s running mate Spiro Agnew after Agnew
resigned over charges of tax evasion.

12/18/06 Gates takes helm at Defense

Robert Gates was sworn in today as the new Secretary of Defense. In remarks at
his ceremony, Gates noted that failure in Iraq would haunt the United States
for years to come, and that though he wants to bring U.S. troops home as soon
as possible, it must be done in victory and not defeat.

12/13/06 Hospitalized Senator threatens Democratic majority

Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) was hospitalized today with symptoms that were
described as stroke-like. Later tests showed that Johnson suffers from a
congenital condition where blood vessels in his brain are too close together.
If Johnson cannot serve the last two years of his term, the Republican governor
of South Dakota would appoint a replacement (South Dakota law does not provide
for a special election for a Senator until the next general election). If that
replacement is a Republican, the Democrats would lose their slim majority in
the Senate. However, there is no constitutional provision requiring Johnson to

12/06/06 Gates confirmed

After a quick hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday,
Robert Gates, President Bush’s choice to replace outgoing Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld, was confirmed in the Senate today on a 97-2 vote. Gates is
expected to take the reins of the Department in January.

11/08/06 Rumsfeld resigns

President Bush and Donald Rumsfeld today announced that Rumsfeld would be
stepping down as Secretary of Defense. Bush announced that Robert Gates,
former CIA director, will be nominated to replace Rumsfeld.

11/08/06 2006 mid-term election results

In what some are calling a repudiation of the President’s conduct of the war in
Iraq, Democrats scored big in the mid-term elections held yesterday. The
Democrats needed to pick up 15 House seats from Republicans to take control of
that house of Congress, and ended up picking up at least 28. In the Senate,
where only 33 seats were up from grabs, the Democrats need to have 51 seats to
take the majority (50 seats would result in a tie, and ties would be broken by
Vice President Cheney). The results in one state, Virginia, holds the fate of
the Democrats, with Republicans holding 49 seats, Democrats holding 48, and
with two Independent seats going to left-leaning individuals. The President
today also announced the resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
Rumsfeld was a key architect of the war in Iraq, and it blamed by many in the
electorate for the “stay the course” stance that the administration had taken
for the past couple of years.

11/04/06 Ney resigns

Representative Robert Ney (R-OH) resigned today, his chief of staff said today.
The Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, confirmed receipt of Ney’s
resignation letter.

10/25/06 New Jersey Supreme Court rules on same-sex unions

The New Jersey Supreme Court today ruled that same-sex couples in New Jersey
must have the same access to rights enjoyed by opposite-sex couples bound in
marriage. The court did not rule that same-sex couples must be able to marry as
Massachusetts courts had done in their state. It gave the New Jersey
legislature 180 days to either rewrite the state marriage laws to include gay
couples or to create a new system for gay couples, similar to the civil union
provided by Vermont.

10/13/06 Ohio Representative pleads guilty to bribery charges

Representative Robert Ney (R-OH) plead guilty to charges of conspiracy and
making false statements today. Ney was entangled in the scandals surrounding
former lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Ney, who faces up to 10 years in prison, has
not resigned from Congress and did not resign as he entered his plea. Friends
of Ney reported that he is broke and needs to receive his Congressional
paycheck as long as possible. Both the House majority and minority leadership
vowed to start expulsion proceedings as soon as possible.

10/10/06 Supreme Court refuses to rehear Doe case

Sandra Cano, the “Mary Doe” in the Doe v Bolton case that was a
companion of and decided with the Court’s infamous Roe v Wade case,
asked the Supreme Court to reconsider the decision in her 1973 case. While
Roe found that abortion was protected by the unenumerated right to
privacy, Doe loosened medical restrictions on abortion seekers. Cano
appealed to the Court, noting that she never wanted an abortion and had been
forced to bring the case by her lawyer. The appeal to reconsider the case was
rejected by the Court. The Court will hear an abortion case in November.

10/04/06 Hastert under fire over Foley case

After several calls for him to step down, including some from conservative
editorial boards, House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) steadfastly refused to do
so. Critics have said that he mishandled the case of Mark Foley, who recently
resigned after revelations that he had maintained a sexually suggestive
relationship via email with a former page. Hastert’s office admits that he was
aware of the reported email exchanges some time ago. Republicans publicly
questioned the timing of the revelation of the exchanges, considering the
upcoming elections in November.

10/02/06 Supreme Court opens session

The Supreme Court today opened its 2006 session on the traditional first Monday
in October. It began the session by rejecting several cases, including that of
a former Nazi SS member who has had deportation proceedings brought against
him, and that of a Texas sex toy shop employee who was cited for promoting a
toy in the shop that was shaped like a human organ (sales are permitted but not
“promotion”). The justices also refused to hear a case that put a gag order on
celebrity attorney Gloria Alred. Alred argued that the gag order was an
unconstitutional prior restraint of free speech.

09/30/06 Member of Congress resigns over emails to page

Representative Mark Foley (R-FL) resigned today after it was revealed that he
had maintained an email relationship with a former male page. Various news
outlets released transcripts of emails and instant messages between the teenage
boy and Foley. The messages were sexually suggestive if not sexually explicit.
Foley delivered a letter of resignation to House Speaker Dennis Hastert and to
Florida governor Jeb Bush. Foley was considered an easy win for Republicans in
his Florida district. The state party will now have to decide how to handle
the vacancy on the ballot.

09/20/06 Military court rules Senator cannot be a military judge

The United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces overturned a drug
conviction of an airman because in one of the appellate courts, Senator Lindsey
Graham (R-SC) served as a judge. The court ruled that Graham cannot serve as a
military court judge because that is an office he is disqualified from by the
Constitution’s Incompatibility Clause, which
also prevents members of Congress from serving, for example, in the President’s
cabinet. Graham is a member of the US Air
Force Standby Reserve and holds the rank of lieutenant colonel. The conviction
was returned to the lower court for processing. The ruling raises a question,
raised in the past but left unresolved: whether a member of Congress can
constitutionally serve in the reserve military forces.

09/06/06 Bush: holding prisoners in cognito saved lives

For the first time, President Bush today publicly admitted what has been
long-suspected: the U.S. has held some prisoners in secret CIA prisons. He
also announced that all such prisoners are being transferred to military
prisons and will be afforded the protections of the Geneva Conventions. Holding
these suspects in secret prisons outside the U.S. helped save lives, Bush said.
He also said that torture was not part of the program and was not authorized.
The locations of the CIA prisons will remain a secret.

08/17/06 Court: NSA Wiretapping program unconstitutional

In a blow to the Bush Administration’s terrorist eavesdropping program, a
federal district court judge ruled that a key National Security Agency’s
Terrorist Surveillance Program is unconstitutional. The program allowed the
NSA to listen in on telephone conversations and to monitor Internet traffic
without a warrant. The court ruled that the program “violates the separation
of powers doctrine, the Administrative Procedures Act, the First and Fourth
amendments to the United States Constitution, the FISA and Title III.” The
court ruled that the program be stopped immediately, but the program continues
while the ruling is appealed.

07/24/06 Congressman: Impeachment efforts impractical

Vermont’s lone member of the House of Representatives, Bernie Sanders (VT-I),
told Vermonters today that efforts to have the state formally request
impeachment proceedings against President Bush are impractical because of the
current make-up of both houses of Congress. Seven Vermont towns passed
resolutions calling for the Vermont legislature to make a formal request for
impeachment of the U.S. House. Sanders said that because of the Republican
majorities in the House and Senate, the issue would get no traction. A better
use of time would be to work for a change in the leadership of the House and
Senate, Sanders said. Sanders is running for Vermont’s Senate seat being
vacated by retiring James Jeffords (VT-I).

07/24/06 ABA: Signing statements unconstitutional

A task force working under the auspices of the American Bar Association has
determined that President Bush’s use of the signing statement to comment on
legislation is unconstitutional. The presidential signing statement, a
statement issued by the White House as the President signs a bill into law, is
nothing new, having been used by all presidents since at least Reagan. What
has set Bush’s statements apart, however, are comments that certain parts of
the new laws may not be enforced under some circumstances or may be revised or
reinterpreted under others. The task force will present their report to the
full ABA next month. While the ABA has no legal power, they are an influential
group, and their findings may bolster congressional efforts to examine the use
of signing statements.

07/19/06 Bush issues first veto

President Bush today used his veto pen for the first time in his presidency,
rejecting a bill that would have permitted couples who had banked embryos for
fertilization treatments to donate unused materials to researchers to create
new lines of stem cells. The bill had passed the Senate on a 63-27 vote and
the House on a 238-194 vote. Neither majority was high enough to override the

06/29/06 Supreme Court rejects military trials for Guantanamo detainees

The Supreme Court today, in a 5-3 ruling, rebuked the President’s plan to try
Guantanamo detainees in military tribunals, calling the trials a violation of
U.S. and international law. The plan was implemented for Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a
captured driver for Osama bin Laden. He has been in prison at Guantanamo for
four years and faces trial for a single count of conspiring to commit treason.
The ruling does not mean the detainees must be set free, but instead that they
must be tried in military courts-martial, with all the established rules set by
the UCMJ and Geneva conventions. The Court did note that the President’s
actions, absent Congressional directive, were a violation of his constitutional
powers. In that light, the President and Republican members of Congress quickly
met to discuss possible legislation to grant the President the powers to do
what the Court had struck down. The opinion in Hamdan v Rumsfeld was
opposed by Justices Alito, Scalia, and Thomas. Chief Justice Roberts did not
participate since he had heard the case as a lower-court judge.

06/28/06 Supreme Court: Voting district borders can be redrawn at any time

In League Of United Latin American Citizens v Perry, decided today, the
Supreme Court clarified that neither the Constitution nor current federal law
requires that voting district lines only be redrawn on a 10-year cycle,
following the decennial census. The case, which was brought by Democratic
interests in Texas, concerned Republican lawmakers’ redrawing of district lines
which benefited the party after they won a majority in the Texas House. The
Court rejected one argument that such redistricting must only be done after a
census, saying that as long as a plan is consistent with the census, it can be
redrawn at any time. The Court accepted some arguments in the case that some
Hispanic voters had been denied fair elections because of gerrymandering, and
required the districts in question be redrawn. The Court rejected the
argument, however, that the entire redistricting plan was illegal. The
decision was decided 5-4, 7-2, or 9-0, depending on the count of varying
joinings and concurrences.

06/27/06 Flag protection amendment fails to pass Senate

By just one vote, the Senate failed to pass an amendment to the Constitution
which would have given the Congress the power to pass legislation protecting the
U.S. flag from desecration. Said Senator James Jeffords (I-VT), “Our commitment
to free speech must be strong enough to protect the rights of those who express
unpopular ideas, or who choose such a distasteful means of expression. This
concept is at the core of what we stand for as Americans.” The final vote was
66-34, one short of the two-thirds majority needed to send the amendment to the
states. The amendment, had it passed, would have required the affirmative vote
of 38 states within seven years to be ratified.

06/26/06 Supreme Court rules that denial of choice of attorney was unconstitutional

In an unusual pairing, Justice Scalia delivered the opinion of the Court in a
close 5-4 decision. The other members of the majority are commonly seen to be
the “liberal wing” of the Court. The case, U.S. v Gonzalez-Lopez,
centered around the defendant’s choice of attorney. Cuauhtemoc Gonzalez-Lopez
decided to use attorney Joseph Low as his counsel in a drug distribution trial.
Low, however, had been disqualified in an earlier hearing in the case for
passing notes to then-co-counsel John Fahle. The District Court refused to
allow Low to appear for Gonzalez-Lopez. The Court found that the
disqualification was in error, and hence the deprivation “violated respondent’s
Sixth Amendment right to counsel of choice.” The previous decision was
overturned and the case remanded for further processing.

06/26/06 Vermont campaign finance law too restrictive

The Supreme Court today ruled that a campaign finance law passed in Vermont in
1997 is too restrictive. The law, Act 64, placed a limit of $300,000 on
gubernatorial election campaigns and less on other state offices. The laws,
viewed as the nation’s most restrictive, was set aside, the Court said,
singularly. The ruling came with a plethora of opinions, with concurrences and
dissents finally adding up to about a 6-3 vote against the Vermont law. The
case is Randall v Sorrell. Justice Breyer, who delivered the opinion
from the bench, wrote, “The contribution limits are unconstitutional because in
their specific details … they fail to satisfy the First Amendment’s
requirement of careful tailoring. That is to say, they impose burdens upon
First Amendment interests that … are disproportionately severe.”

06/15/06 Senate committee approves flag-burning amendment

The Senate Judiciary Committee, one of the initial hurdles for any
constitutional amendment to clear, passed a bill to propose an amendment to ban
flag burning. The amendment passed the committee on an 11-7 vote.
Vote-counters say the full Senate is only a vote or two away from the
two-thirds required to pass the bill through the Senate. The House passed a
bill by more than the required two-thirds majority last year. If the same
exact bill passes the Senate as passed the House, the amendment will then be
forwarded to the states for action.

06/12/06 Fresh evidence in death penalty case must be heard

The Supreme Court today ruled that an inmate must be allowed to bring new DNA
evidence to light in order to challenge his guilty finding. The Court noted
several cases where DNA evidence had recently exonerated several death row
inmates, and the ability to bring such evidence before a court is essential in
ensuring that only the guilty are executed. The case involves Paul House,
convicted of killing a mother of two in Tennessee in 1985. DNA tests performed
on semen found on the victim’s bedclothes had been presumed to be House’s but
recent DNA testing showed it to be that of the victim’s husband. The Court
decided the case 4-3, with Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia and Thomas
dissenting. Justice Alito did not participate in the case.

06/12/06 Supreme Court allows appeals of lethal injection execution

A unanimous Supreme Court today allowed an appeal by a death row inmate of his
state’s method of execution, lethal injection. The justices said the appeal
could go forward even though the inmate had exhausted all other avenues of
appeal. In the case, Florida inmate Clarence Hill had actually been strapped to
a gurney to be injected with the Court issued an injunction allowing his case to
be heard. The Court’s ruling today allows his appeal of the method of execution
to go forward. The Supreme Court did not rule today on the constitutionality of
lethal injection.

06/07/06 Marriage Amendment fails to pass Senate

A bill that would have been the first step in defining marriage as the union
between one man and one woman, an attempt to thwart the same-sex marriage
efforts on some states, failed to pass a procedural vote today, effectively
killing it. The vote to close debate, which requires 60 votes, only garnered 49
votes. To pass the Senate with the constitutionally required two-thirds
majority, the bill would have needed the support of 67 of the 100 Senators.

05/30/06 New Treasury Secretary named

The President today named the chair and CEO of Goldman Sachs, Henry Paulson, to
replace John Snow as Secretary of the Treasury. Paulson will leave a
prestigious and lucrative job to join the Bush cabinet. Insiders have said that
Paulson has been courted for the job for some time.

05/22/06 Police given power to enter a home to stop a fight

The Fourth Amendment does not apply when police have an “objective reasonable
basis” for believing that someone is in physical danger, the Supreme Court
ruled today. In the case of Brigham City v Stuart, the Court looked at
the actions of Utah police when they entered a home uninvited to stop an early
morning altercation between an intoxicated juvenile and four adults. The
police has announced their presence but had gone unanswered and after
witnessing the juvenile strike one of the adults, entered and arrested the
adults. They challenged the charges of disorderly conduct and contributing to
the delinquency of a minor. The Utah Supreme Court had ruled the search
unconstitutional. A unanimous Supreme Court overruled that decision today,
noting that the police witnessed and stopped ongoing violence.

05/22/06 Supreme Court refuses lethal injection case

The Supreme Court today refused to hear a case calling the constitutionality of
lethal injection as a method of execution into question. The case was brought
to the Court by a Tennessee death row inmate who contends that the painkiller
in the drug cocktail given to inmates can wear off prior to death. One study
stated that this would lead to excruciating pain. The Court has already agreed
to hear a challenge to lethal injection brought by a Florida inmate, but the
issues brought in that case are not exactly the same. Death penalty supporters
contend that the Constitution does not guarantee a pain-free execution.

05/19/06 Senate bill sets up vote on English language

The Senate voted today to make English the national language of the United
States, but later reconsidered and amended the bill to call English the U.S.’s
“common and unifying language.” The first vote passed 63-34, and the amendment
passed 58-39. The bill mirrors one in the House, and others proposed this
legislative term. It calls for all official work of the government to be
conducted in English except where otherwise provided for by law (the Voting
Rights Act, for example, requires bilingual ballots in certain areas). The
Senate votes were for language to be added to the latest immigration bill aimed
at addressing the concerns of the public and the President.

05/05/06 CIA Director resigns

CIA Director Porter Goss resigned from his post today. No immediate
announcement came as to whom would replace Goss as the head of the U.S. spy
agency. Goss was nominated to the post in August 2004.

05/01/06 Supreme Court rules in Anna Nicole’s favor

Anna Nicole Smith’s efforts to win some or all of her deceased husband’s fortune
took a turn in her favor in the Supreme Court today. Smith, who married
octogenarian billionaire J Howard Marshall in 1994, is battling Marshall’s son
for what she says is her share of his estate. A state court ruled against her
claim, but a federal court later awarded her $449 million. Another court cut
her inheritance to $88 million, and yet another awarded the entire estate to
Marshall’s son. The Supreme Court ruling allows Smith to pursue her case for
the $88 million in federal court. Probate matters are rarely heard in federal
courts – the Court’s decision accepted Smith’s argument that certain probate
matters had at least a limited federal scope. Smith filed her case as Vickie
Marshall. The case is Marshall v Marshall.

04/26/06 Fox News host Snow takes on press position

Fox News personality Tony Snow was announced as President Bush’s choice to
replace Scott McClellan as the White House Press Secretary today. Sources said
that Snow was promised that his role would include participation in internal
debates over policy, and that he would have a significant role concerning
staffing in the press office.

04/19/06 White House Press Secretary McClellan resigns

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan announced his resignation today.
McClellan became Press Secretary in July 2003. Also announced was that Karl
Rove, a chief adviser of the President, would transition to a role focused less
on policy and more on long-range planning.

04/04/06 DeLay announces retirement

Embattled former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) announced his
retirement from public office today. Though DeLay had recently won the
Republican primary race for his seat, polls indicated that he faced tough
competition in his district, which is generally considered Republican-safe. The
announcement also comes on the heels of former aide Tony Rudy’s admission that
he had conspired to help influence decisions from DeLay’s office, an admission
that is wrapped in the recent Jack Abramoff scandal. DeLay is also under
indictment in Texas for illegal use of funds in state races. DeLay reportedly
plans to move to Virginia so that he is disqualified from running for his seat,
and giving the party a chance to name a replacement candidate. The retirement
is expected to be effective in June.

04/03/06 Padilla appeal rejected by Supreme Court

Jose Padilla, taken into custody in Chicago in May 2002 and held
incommunicado for several years as an enemy combatant, had his appeal of that
detention rejected by the Supreme Court today. In a 6-3 ruling, the Court
ruled that the issue at hand, whether Padilla could be designated an enemy
combatant, was moot. In November 2005, the government dropped the enemy
combatant charge and charged him with criminal counts of conspiracy. Trial
under the criminal charges introduced by the government will now proceed.

03/22/06 Court rules one “no” overrules any “yes” in a search

In a 5-3 ruling, the Supreme Court today said that if one occupant of a home
says no to a police search, it must be heeded even if another occupant
consented to the search. In the case of Georgia v Randolph, Scott
Randolph and Janet Randolph were in the middle of a marital dispute in 2001.
Janet told police that Scott had drugs in the home. The police asked Scott if
they could search the home, and he refused permission. The police asked Janet
for permission, which she gave. When the police searched the house, they found
evidence of drug use. Based on the search, the police applied for a search
warrant. Scott Randolph’s case sought to suppress the evidence based on his
refusal to consent to a search. Georgia courts had suppressed the evidence,
and prosecutors had appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled
that the initial search should not have been conducted based on Janet’s consent
only, because Scott’s rejection should have overruled the consent. Justice
Alito did not take part in the decision; Chief Justice Roberts and Justices
Scalia and Thomas dissented.

03/20/06 Supreme Court turns down Puerto Rico appeal

The Supreme Court today turned down an attempt by a Puerto Rican lawyer to gain
presidential electors for the island, which holds territorial status in the
United States. The 1st US Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled that Gregorio
Igartua’s attempt to gain electors for Puerto Rico was not supported by the
Constitution, which grants electors only to states and, via the 23rd Amendment, to Washington, DC. By rejecting
the appeal, the Supreme Court let the appeals court ruling stand.

03/06/06 Supreme Court upholds military recruitment access law

The Supreme Court today unanimously upheld the military’s right to recruit on
college campuses, even when the colleges find issue with the military’s “don’t
ask, don’t tell policy.” The case arose out of a legislated condition for
receipt of federal funds by U.S. colleges and universities: the campuses cannot
refuse to allow military recruiters on campus. But several colleges challenged
the law, saying that the military’s stance on gay soldiers violated the
colleges’ published anti-discrimination policies. The law, known as the
Solomon Amendment, requires access or forfeit of federal funds. Such funds
total $35 billion per year to all colleges and universities. The decision was
delivered by Chief Justice John Roberts; Justice Alito did not participate in
the decision.

03/03/06 Cunningham sentenced

Disgraced former House Representative Randy “Duke” Cunningham was sentenced to
serve eight years and four months in prison for accepting $2.4 million in
bribes. Prosecutors had argued for the maximum of 10 years, and defense
attorneys had argued for less considering Cunningham’s age and poor health.
Cunningham was also ordered to pay $3.65 million in back taxes and

02/28/06 Court rules that anti-abortion protesters not subject to RICO

A unanimous Supreme Court today upheld one of its own rulings and ruled that
anti-abortion protesters are not subject to extortion and racketeering laws.
The ruling affirmed a similar ruling made in 2003 that essentially said the
same thing. The Court ruled that Congress had created law specifically to
address anti-abortion protests in the 1994 Freedom of Access to Clinic
Entrances Act, and that the Hobbes Act, concerning extortion, and the Racketeer
Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act did not apply. Justice Alito did not
take part in the decision. Two cases, Scheidler v NOW and Operation Rescue v
NOW, were combined in the single decision.

02/21/06 Small church may continue to brew hallucinogenic tea

The Supreme Court today unanimously ruled that a church which blends South
American traditions with Christianity may continue to use a hallucinogenic tea
in its religious ceremonies unfettered. The Uniao do Vegetal Church uses
hoasca in a tea to induce hallucinations in order to “understand God.” Hoasca
contains DMT, a controlled substance. In 1999, a shipment of hoasca destined
for the church was seized and the DEA threatened prosecution. The UDV sued
claiming the government was preventing members from practicing their religion.
The District Court agreed with the church and permitted importation of hoasca
for religious use pursuant to proper permits and warnings to church members
about possible health effects of hoasca use. The Supreme Court upheld the
District Court’s ruling. Justice Alito did not participate in the case. The
case is Gonzales v O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal.

02/02/06 Boehner elected House Majority Leader

John Boehner (R-OH) was elected House Majority Leader today, replacing
embattled former leader Tom DeLay. Acting leader Roy Blunt (R-MO) was the
favorite in the race, based on public statements from Republican House members,
but the election is by secret ballot, and upsets are not unheard of. Boehner
beat out Blunt by a vote of 122 to 109.

01/31/06 Alito confirmed by Senate

Samuel Alito, George Bush’s third nominee to fill the seat to be vacated by
Justice Sandra O’Connor’s retirement, was confirmed by the Senate today. The
vote was 58-42 and followed a failed attempt at a filibuster by a group of
Democratic Senators. The confirmation comes just hours before President Bush’s
annual State of the Union address. Upon Alito’s swearing-in, O’Connor’s
retirement will be official.

01/18/06 New Hampshire abortion law sent back for review

In what some are calling Sandra O’Connor’s last decision from the bench, the
Supreme Court today sent a New Hampshire abortion law back to lower courts for
processing, dodging a real decision on the law. The Court was unanimous in its
ruling. The law, which requires parental notification prior to an abortion
performed on a minor, was challenged because it contained no exception
provision for any time the minor’s life or health were in danger. The lower
court, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, had held that the law was
unconstitutional. The Supreme Court’s order forces that court to hear the case
again, and rule again on the constitutionality of the law.

01/17/06 Oregon’s assisted suicide law upheld

In a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court today decided that an Oregon law that permits
physicians to dispense controlled substances in fatal doses to patients who
request them. The law permits patients with less than six months to live to
get certification of that fact from two doctors; once certified, the patient
can request a fatal drug dose from a doctor. Once prescribed, the patient
takes the drugs themselves. Former Attorney General John Ashcroft ruled that
the prescription was not for a “legitimate medical purpose” and was hence
contrary to federal controlled substances laws. The law has been in effect
since 1997 and has been used by over 200 people. The case is Gonzales v
Oregon. The three dissenters are the Court’s most conservative justices:
Scalia, Thomas, and Roberts.

01/12/06 Alito hearings conclude

After three days of testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Judge
Samuel Alito left to wait for the committee’s, and the Senate’s, decision on
his nomination. Committee chair, Arlen Specter (R-PA) said that he hoped the
committee would vote on the nomination next week and the full Senate the week
after. Democrats signaled that they might request a one-week delay of the
committee vote. After Alito’s testimony ended, testimony from judges Alito had
worked with started. Testimony from others continues tomorrow.

01/04/06 Alito rated “well-qualified” by Bar Association

Samuel Alito, President Bush’s most recent nominee for Sandra O’Connor’s seat
on the Supreme Court, got a unanimous “well-qualified” vote from a committee of
the American Bar Association. The rating is the ABA’s highest. The ABA
routinely reviews the credentials of presidential nominees to the federal
courts, though Supreme Court nominees get the highest level of scrutiny.
Though the ABA has no official standing in the process, the ABA’s ratings are
well-regarded by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

01/03/06 Lobbyist admits to bribing members of Congress

High-powered and connected lobbyist Jack Abramoff admitted to conspiracy,
fraud, and tax evasion charges in open court today. Abramoff admitted to
defrauding some of his clients, including some Indian tribes who paid him to
help prevent other Indian tribes from opening casinos. He also admitted to
wooing members of Congress with sports tickets, vacation trips, upscale meals,
and campaign contributions. One Representative was widely reported to be
Abramoff’s “Representative Number 1” — Bob Ney (R-OH). Ney admits to
knowing and working with Abramoff, but denies he knowingly did anything

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