When liberals are conservative

Posted in , Liberty at 17:20 by RjZ

I am confused. Three conservative Supreme Court justices (Scalia, Thomas, and Roberts) dissented on a decision that protected state’s rights in the 6-3 case Gonzales v. Oregon. In this case, the Court decided to uphold Oregon’s doctor assisted suicide law which had been passed twice by voters.

It’s probably a moot point as only Oregon has passed such a law. These laws are meant to give dignity to death but in the last five years doctors have finally worked on what they can do to make the last months of a person’s life better, thus providing the dignity that barbiturates had provided.

I am glad that the Court is showing some sense. Regardless of your feelings on doctor assisted suicide, it’s clear that having someone in Washington regulate which medical practices can be performed or not by a doctor on the ground in Oregon or elsewhere is not necessarily a good idea. This is clearly a state’s rights issue and it’s surprising that the same Court recently upheld the federal medical marijuana prohibition Gonzales v. Raich. It makes little sense to me.

So it confuses me. The Court doesn’t seem to be sure which cases represent examples of federalism and which don’t and more confusing is that it is the Court’s strongest conservatives that feel that this is a centralized government issue. The Wall Street Journal seems to think this is just the liberals supporting a conclusion that they wanted i.e. more activist judges, but if that’s true can’t we levy the same accusation on the conservatives for other cases? In any event in this case the Court has finally (re)awoken to the concepts of federalism. Perhaps it’s a sign of change for the better. Given their recent track record (most notably the property rights case Kelo v. New London) I won’t hold my breath.


  1. Tim Rohrer said,

    January 22, 2006 at 7:36


    I think you clearly haven’t read the decision in this case. It was not decided on federalist grounds, or anything to do with states’ rights, but rather narrowly on the wording of the law governing controlled substance regulations. All the court said was that the Federal Controlled Substance Act did not give the attorney general the right to regulate doctor patient drug relationships. It left open the possibility that the act could be rewritten, and didn’t really touch the states’ rights issue or other constitutional issues at all. Interestingly, being able to dodge such issues is probably what let Justice Stevens (in all likelihood) craft a coalition that allowed the liberals and moderates on the court to coalesce in their decision.

    Several other states are now considering Oregon-like laws: California, Michigan, Washington and Vermont are among those most often named. This issue will return to the court at some point. But for the moment, the decision seems safe. Congress won’t touch it–the memory of getting their hand slapped after meddling in the Terri Schiavo case is too fresh. That could change after the 2006 election if the Republicans return a strong majority in both houses of congress, however.

    In other supreme court news, read about eminent domain activists trying to use the eminent domain for economic gain decision to take Justice Souter’s property…funny!



  2. RjZ said,

    January 26, 2006 at 15:44

    Reason Foundation makes a better case than I. Despite what Tim said about what the decision was about, I am obviously not the only one who noticed the conservatives, of all people, were the ones over stepping their bounds.

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