Sunday, March 20, 2005

The Terri Schiavo bill: No legal precedent.

I apologize for going off on this recent Terri Schiavo rant, but you have just got to see the bill that the Senate passed regarding the Terri Schiavo case. Note well the wording of the following sections (emphasis added):


Nothing in this Act shall be construed to create substantive rights not otherwise secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States or of the several States.


Nothing is this Act shall be construed to confer additional jurisdiction on any court
to consider any claim related--

  1. to assisting suicide, or
  2. a State law regarding assisting suicide.


Nothing is this Act shall constitute a precedent with respect to future legislation.


Nothing in this Act shall affect the rights of any person under the Patient Self-Determination Act of 1990.

Did you catch the significance of the above? Effectively, this is a one-time-only piece of legislation, not meant to change the fundamental legal basis for arguing cases like Schiavo's, but designed solely and exclusively to allow Congress to meddle in just this one case.

This bill clearly states that it can't be used as a legal precedent which means that, if there were another case somewhere in the U.S. that exactly resembled the Schiavo situation, this legislation would be utterly worthless there, and everywhere else.

This is what you call sleazy political opportunism. There's no other way to describe it.

FURTHER EXPLANATION: Based on a private e-mail received here at Cynic HQ, it's probably worth expanding on why it's so bizarre and revealing that the Senate bill was clearly drafted to refer to this, and only this, case and was defined as not setting any kind of legal or legislative precedent. The best way to explain this, I think, is by way of analogy and I'm sure some of you already know where I'm going.

It was back in late 2000 when the Supreme Court of the United States (or "SCROTUS" as we call it here at Cynic HQ) injected itself ludicrously into the Bush/Gore legal action and essentially, in a bizarre display of unconstitutional thievery, handed the election to Bush. Why do I describe it like this? Because SCROTUS, similar to this latest Senate bill, made it clear that their decision was to set no legal precedent whatsoever. In short, SCROTUS handed down a decision that they knew was indefensible, so they made sure they'd never have to defend it as a precedent in other cases.

Don't believe me? Then let's hear from author Vincent Bugliosi, who talks about Bush/Gore and explains how, in defining its decision as having no legal precedent, the court effectively confessed to their "crime". Explains Bugliosi [emphasis added]:

Now how did they confess to the crime? Give me 30, 45 seconds. I’ve said this many times before and you’ve probably seen it on the websites, but I’ll say it again. Here’s how they confessed to their crime. They confessed by saying that their ruling that different standards to count votes violates the Equal Protection Clause, only applied to Bush v. Gore, not to other cases. But if their ruling set forth a valid legal principle, Carolyn, good enough for Bush v. Gore, why wasn’t it good enough for other cases?

According to Constitutional scholars, this is the first time in the 210-year history of the Court, that the Court limited its ruling to the case before it. Courts don’t do that. Not just the Supreme Court, but appellate courts, they enunciate legal principles to establish what they call “legal precedent”. Here, the Court said, “This ruling only applies to this case.” And that fact alone, if nothing else, shows that these justices were up to no good, that they themselves knew that their ruling was bogus and fraudulent, and only a means to hand the election to George Bush. Because if they felt that their ruling was based on the law, there’s no conceivable reason why they would have said that the ruling only applies, in this case, to Bush v. Gore.

And here's where it gets funny, as Bugliosi uses Supreme Court Justice Antonin "Fat Tony" Scalia's own words to hang that little fucker:

I want to read to you Scalia himself, and this is something that all lawyers and all judges and all law professors know, that appellate court cases enunciate legal principles. But just for someone in your audience who might be wondering whether this is true, I just want to read to you from a decision, it’s United States vs. Virginia, 518 U.S. 515 at page 596. This is Scalia. He said “The Supreme Court of the United States does not sit to announce ‘unique dispositions’. It’s principal function is to establish precedent; that is, to set forth principles of law that every court in American must follow.” That’s in 1996.

But apparently not in Bush v. Gore, the only exception in the 210-year history of the court.

So it's sleazy when it's done by SCROTUS, and it's just as sleazy when it's incorporated into a Senate bill whose only purpose is rank political opportunism.

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