Monday, June 30, 2008

What Makes an Opinion Important?

In the comments to my brief piece about the Heller decision ("Probably the Correct Ruling on Guns"), Missouri's finest Libertarian candidate (which I mean as a sincere compliment, though I acknowledge it may be viewed as damned faint praise) agrees with the astonishing statement that "It is not hyperbole to describe today’s decision in Heller as the most significant opinion of this century, and likely, of the last two generations."

Really?! An opinion that stands for the wishy-washy common-sense virtually status-quo proposition that the feds can regulate but not ban individual ownership of guns is the most significant opinion of the last two generations?

Perhaps so. Perhaps there really was a national consensus gathering in favor of banning all handguns, and confiscating deer rifles. Alternatively, perhaps in light of the Heller opinion's recognition that I have a right to own a gun, all restrictions on arms will be legislatively repealed, and soon our neighbor's Fourth of July celebration will feature SAMs and tank rides.

While it would be fun to engage in paragraphs of mockery of the hyperbole which knows not what it is, the question then arises, what IS the most significant opinion of the last two generations? Roe v. Wade? Bush v. Gore (certainly, in terms of tragic and unforeseen though not unforeseeable results)? Lawrence v Texas?

Here's a list of important Supreme Court cases since 1989, if you care to limit yourself to one generation . . .

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Blogger DLC said...

wow, I'd encourage everyone to visit that link of decisions since 1989. Even if you are generally familiar with the rulings, it bears revisiting.

There are a lot of 5-4 votes. Scary.

That being said, it's hard to argue against Roe v. Wade as the most important going back another generation or so.

6/30/2008 11:02 AM  
Anonymous gmc70 said...

My offerings, Dan:

Kelo v. City of New London. And the court got it exactly wrong.

Kelo tells you that you own your property subject to the whims of municipal gov't (and the developers who routinely have city gov'ts in their pockets), who when they decide that they can generate more tax revenue if some one else (i.e. a developer) had it, may seize your property with impunity.

In doing so, it expands the definition of "public use" to such a degree that it has no meaning anymore. Truly tragic, and hopefully, a case without a long life. Taken to it's logical conclusion, any real property ownership is an illusion, subject to the whims of your local governance.

The possibly significant: US v. Morrison. This case, and Lopez, hopefully would mean the SCOTUS is actually going to put some meaning back into the concept of enumerated powers and federalism. They haven't followed through, however. We'll see where it goes.

Most "you've gotta be *&$%ing kidding me?!": Aside from the travesty that is Kelo, Roper v. Simmons. Setting aside the insantity that the non-standard of "evolving standards of decency" is (or more accurately, isn't) any standard at all, since when does foreign law have ANY bearing on the interpretation of the Constitution? Ginsburg is a nut.

6/30/2008 12:06 PM  
Anonymous travel said...

A really interesting post. I've read some of the recent decisions but certainly not all you posted. I wish I could pick one that is the most significant one to me, but I don't think I can right now. I'm one of those people that would have to study each case and ponder what would have happened if the court had ruled the opposite way they did. For example, what would have happened if Heller had been decided differently? Would we all be ordered to turn over our guns, guns of all kinds, to "the authorities"? I can't even imagine the furor that would have followed such a decision.

Something to really think about.

7/01/2008 6:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The real point is that our lives are ruled by just five people on the Supreme Court.

A third of human beings in this country don't even survive their murderous momas pregnancy because of these thugs.

Millions and millions of women, and the men who aided and abetted, have become murderers.

They walk among us.

7/01/2008 6:36 AM  
Blogger sophia said...

Most significant in terms of effect would certainly be Bush v. Gore. I still can't believe they granted cert on that case. It will always be a black mark on the court, in some ways more so than other outrageous decisions (like Plessy or Korematsu) precisely because SCOTUS really had no business hearing the case to begin with.

I think the cautious protection of the rule of law through the Gitmo cases is a good thing, but naively I hope they don't turn out to be significant in the long run because we'll stop holding prisoners in that fashion.

I agree that Kelo was bad. It was the opposite of Bush v. Gore, with the court punting on its duty to interepret the constitution and leaving it up to local governments. But I don't know that it'll have much effect in the long run.

I suspect that Eldred v. Ashcroft (finding the Mickey Mouse Protection Act constitutional) will have a fairly significant effect due to its feeding of the cancer that we call intellectual property law.

There's no shortage of cases to choose from to catalogue the incredible shrinking 4th amendment (Sitz is certainly notable, and Kyllo a nice respite).

7/01/2008 1:19 PM  
Anonymous Lance Weber said...

Thanks for the compliment, Dan.

The question remains: What makes an opinion important? I think it has a lot to do with the issue being addressed. This is not to say there aren't other factors, but this one factor is probably the most important. Are certain Rights more important than others? I think so. The recent cases on habeas rights are important, but they do not establish precedent and clarify the law in the same way that the Heller case does.

I disagree that the holding of the case is a "wishy-washy common-sense virtually status-quo proposition" and I think the 5-4 nature of the decision refutes the "virtually status-quo" aspect of your characterization.

The century is still quite young so it doesn't seem to be a stretch to agree that Heller is the most important decision of this century - only time will tell. Whether it is the most important decision of the past couple generations, I don't discount the possibility that I might be wrong. I just don't see it that way right now and have yet to be persuaded by anything I've read here. The Court has never treated the 2nd Amendment to such a thorough review in its history so that factors into my position. I'm not unreasonable and I am willing to consider arguments about why other cases are more important. Cheers!

7/01/2008 4:50 PM  
Blogger whistleblower said...

"Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheaply, we esteem too lightly: `Tis dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to set a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed, if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated." --Thomas Paine

Paine got it right -"`Tis dearness only that gives everything its value."

What is considered dear will always be a value reserved for the individual. Who are we to determine the most significant of those?

For the most part, every decision handed down by the Supreme Court is the most significant -to someone.

7/01/2008 5:19 PM  

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