Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Bad Reporting on the Roberts Case

One really has to wonder why an organization as large as the Associated Press can’t at least get someone with a legal background to write their reports on the confirmation hearings. It would help them avoid simple mistakes like this:

Early in his testimony on Wednesday, Roberts’ second day of answering senators’ questions, the nominee told Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., that Congress has the right to counter Supreme Court rulings including a divisive decision giving cities broad power to seize and raze people’s homes for private development.

The difference may be subtle, but it’s important. He said that Congress had the authority to limit such seizures despite the ruling in Kelo, but that does not mean that Congress has a general authority to “counter Supreme Court rulings.” The Kelo ruling only answered the question of whether such property seizures were forbidden by the Constitution (specifically the takings clause of the 5th amendment). Congress cannot reverse that decision, but they can pass a Federal law offering more protection for property rights than the Court ruled was required by the Constitution.

The wording is misleading, and it may well make some people think that Roberts believes that Congress can reverse decisions of the Supreme Court, which they cannot do unless it is done through a constitutional amendment (that’s why the stupid flag burning amendment comes up for a vote every single year in Congress, still trying to get the Johnson decision reversed.

Update: In a later AP article by a different writer, it was even worse. Here is what this one said:

In response to a question from Sen. Sam Brownback (news, bio, voting record), R-Kan., he said Congress has the right to overturn a recent Supreme Court ruling that allows cities broad power to seize and raze people’s homes for private development.

No, no, a thousand times no. Congress cannot overturn the Kelo ruling, which dealt solely with the question of whether the fifth amendment prohibits such seizures. They can pass legislation that offers more protection than the court said the Constitution requires, but that does not overturn the ruling. Is it really that difficult to find someone with a modest amount of legal knowledge to write about legal matters?

Comments

  1. #1 Kirk
    September 14, 2005

    Thank you! These may be subtle distinctions but they are crucial and need to be understood!