Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Federal Judges Say The Darndest Things

In 2006, a Federal District Judge in Michigan issued rulings on George W. Bush's warrantless wiretapping program, which, in my view, was plainly unconstitutional. The judge agreed with me. The Bush Administration, naturally, disagreed. The practical impact of these rulings was ... almost zero. It's entirely possible that we're facing the mirror image of this situation Roger Vinson's "head-scratching analysis" of the new health care law. The range of opinions among Federal District Judges is very wide, they can say pretty much whatever they want and if they don't care about getting a promotion to Circuit Judge there's not much anyone can do about it.

Wonkier political reporters are quite savvy when it comes to which bits of political "news" will affect legislation. If Dennis Kucinich introduces a bill, it's unlikely to have much impact on whatever compromise finally becomes law. Michelle Bachmann draws headlines, but she doesn't have much impact on policy. The wonkier among them are also starting to learn that horserace gossip doesn't have as much of an impact on elections as economic and demographic circumstances. But they haven't seemed to have figure out that some judge somewhere issuing a favorable ruling in a trial court has little to no bearing on what will happen at the appellate level. It might behoove them to keep a constitutional law professor or two in their rolodex.

Update: See also Scott Lemieux, who is in fact plugged in to legal happenings.

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