Sunday, September 04, 2005

The Changing Court

The Chief is dead. My first thought is that is unfortunate Rehnquist never had a proper retirement, i.e., some time, no matter how short, to rest and reflect on a life lived without any thought of work to come. Granted, Justices have something akin to a three-month vacation between Terms, but that's not quite the same as retirement following a marked conclusion of professional life. Although I can't say for certain, the time that comes between work is probably not the same as the time that comes after work. At least it shouldn't be.

My second thought is of Rehnquist's legacy on the Court. I'd call it an unfinished legacy but for the fact that much of Rehnquist's work lies unfinished not for the want of opportunity but for the failure to grasp it. I am thinking here of Rehnquist's federalism jurisprudence and the case of Raich v. Gonzales, in which the Court held that Congress' power under the commerce clause extends to the regulation of purely interstate cultivation, sales, and use of marijuana. It's a constitutional shame that busting dopeheads turned out to be more important than re-affirming the limited nature of the power conferred by the commerce clause.

My third thought is of the replacement(s) for the position of Chief, and, more importantly, for Rehnquist's seat on the Court. Were I a betting man, my money would be on Edith Jones of the 5th Circuit for the seat and, perhaps, the Chiefship as well. We could do much worse, and we could hardly do better.

Rest in Peace, Mr. Chief Justice.

More: I completely disagree with those who believe that the Katrina situation is going to hamper the President either in terms of offering a strong nomination or getting the eventual nominee confirmed. This story is only a week old. In another two weeks so much will have happened and Mississippi and Louisiana should be well on the road to recovery. For the moment, attention is focused on the federal government. Shortly, though, attention will shift (and properly so, (cough)) to state and local leaders, particularly those in New Orleans, who failed their citizens in wholesale fashion. For Bush and his administration, my suspicion is that the flap over Katrina will quickly blow over.