Posted by: bridget | 31 January 2007

Federalist Society, Meese Justice Dep’t, Part I

There will be a multi-installment wrap-of of Saturday’s Federalist Society love-fest for the former Attorney General Edwin Meese.

Starting with the most relevant item for modern news, the Honourable Edwin Meese discussed, inter alia, the Independent Counsel Act. Originally designed as a means of revenge against Nixon, the law theoretically allows for prosecutorial independence. Ted Olsen challenged the constitutionality of the law. The Supreme Court upheld the law in 1987, deeming that it did not violate the separation of powers: the independent counsel has the same power as the Attorney General, but is inferiour to him. The effects of this, according to Mr. Meese, were 1) to make federal officers accountable to elected officials, and 2) to change criminal law jurisprudence. Formerly, a prosecutor would look for a crime and then find the perpetrator; however, the Independent Counsel Act encourages the special counsel to find a victim, and then do its best to invent an associated crime.

Mr. Meese used the Scooter Libby trial as a classic example of the latter problem. There is no underlying crime, as Ms. Plame’s status was not classified; the leak came from Richard Armitage (who has not been charged); and any half-competent person should have determined both of these things within a matter of hours. Yet, Mr. Libby stands trial.

Mr. Meese continued his discussion about the Justice Department in the 1980s and the return to orginalism and the strengthening of the Executive branch. During the 70s, as Congress expanded its powers, it considered trifurcating the Executive branch; Reagan’s strong leadership changed that. As part of the move by that administration to return to an originalist interpretation of the Constitution (one that certainly did not make either Mr. Reagan or Mr. Meese very popular), the Federalist Society began vetting candidates for judgeships. The effort was focused on finding candidates with a track record of supporting originalist interpretations instead of candidates who would swing left when put on the Court (historically, a problem for Republicans).

This effort brought about the nomination of Robert Bork, which, in turn, caused the Left to go into a political attack mode. They organised grassroots campaigns, political ads, and slandered him to ensure that his nomination would not be successful. Republicans quickly learned that Democrats were willing to turn judicial nominations into a political turf war. Twenty years later, they were prepared for such battles and had launched their own counter-attacks for the nominations of Justices Roberts and Alito.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: