I really wanted to title this column (insert Rodney Dangerfield voiceover) "Take my property, please!" But the Honorable Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Conner resignation announcement made me think twice about it. I will say that I am not sure which of the two issues is going to be the biggest issue of the Supreme Court's year.
First of all is the decision of the court to allow communities to take property from individuals. Now I know some will take an opposite position and say that my description is faulty but let's understand what the court said. In the decision Kelo v. City of New London, CT, the court decided that a local government can seize your home and business because of "eminent domain", even against your will. Now my understanding is that the court sided with city so the city could force the owner's to sell so they can give/sell the land to a developer for business purposes. (Cue the music) "They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."
My reading of the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution is that private property cannot be taken for public use, without fair compensation. Now, some would say (at least 5 folks in black robes that I can think of) that if the homeowners in New London or anywhere else gets compensated, they really don't have a beef.
Now I am concerned about that. I don't know how many folks would be willing to sell their property today if it was determined that the government needed the location. I wouldn't sell even if it was a fair market price. I hate moving. And with prices on the rise, how could you be sure of replacing the property with something of like value or worth to you? Most folks would say that their home may not be the biggest or the fanciest but it is their castle. Watch out king and queen, the peasants elected to look out for you are coming! The saddest part of this is that governments influenced by big business can take it. It used to be that the most powerful interest in America was the voters. The most powerful public or private interest is no longer the voter but the corporations that contribute to the right campaign. I guess money does talk. Personally, this bull**** from the Supreme Court should walk.
Now regarding the Honorable Justice O'Connor. Sandra is leaving and gives W. something that every Republican president in history has had the privilege of doing. The president has a chance to fill a vacancy on the highest court in the land. The concern is that W has an IOU to pay. Some would say that with 6 of the remaining 8 justices being appointed by Republican presidents that a 7th would give the court a sharper right turn. But the court is split pretty even and Sandra is many time the deciding vote. Now how many readers really think the W can fill his IOU with a moderate? I didn't see any hands.
Now I have thought of a few candidates and one that the President likes and the right screams moderate about would be Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales. It probably would be a good political pick because of the fact that Gonzales would be the first Hispanic on the court. He has already been through the nominating process so it may be easier.
Another thought would be Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT). Hatch is a conservative that has a moderate streak in him on certain issues. Embryonic stem cell research comes to mind. He is also the senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Now, Hatch is 71 years old and that would put him in the middle of the court age wise. But he is older when it comes to appointment age than most. Now the reason why I like Hatch is that confirmation from his colleagues may be easier than anyone else.
No matter who the president selects, he better bring in both sides of the political spectrum to discuss this ahead of time. Will he do that sincerely? No. He will nominate who he wants and "damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead." He needs to realize that 51% against "the most liberal member in the US Senate" (his words, not mine) is no mandate. He has spent some valuable political capitol on the mustache for the United Nations. And he will probably have at least one more appointment when the Chief Justice retires or passes on to the higher court. He better not spend what capitol he has left now. He may need it when he tries to appoint Scalia to the Chief Justice position.