The SCoTUS executed their traditional end-of-session “brain dump” today, splitting on two public displays of the Ten Commandments (TX state capitol: yes, KY courthouses: no), handing the keys to the candy store to the cable industry, and slamming Grokster for pushing their product as a way for circumventing copyright restrictions. (Thankfully, your humble host relies entirely upon BitTorrent at this point, which has significant and highly-beneficial non-infringing uses.)
I haven’t read the opinions yet, so I’m going by the highly dubious AP/CNN feeds, but I have to give the “Quote of the Day” to John Podhoretz:
Why didn’t the Supremes just say you could display the 10 Cs on Monday, Wed, and alternate Fridays, but not on Tuesdays and Thursdays? Or that they could be viewed inside government buildings, but only on the walls of bathrooms and in janitors’ closets? Has anybody ever advanced this radical opinion — that the five justices in question may be intelligent and thoughtful people individually, but that together they form one blithering idiot?
I’m beginning to suspect as such. Scalia addresses this notion in his Kentucky dissent:
What distinguishes the rule of law from the dictatorship of a shifting Supreme Court majority is the absolutely indispensable requirement that judicial opinions be grounded in consistently applied principle. That is what prevents judges from ruling now this way, now that thumbs up or thumbs down as their personal preferences dictate. Today’s opinion forthrightly (or actually, somewhat less than forthrightly) admits that it does not rest upon consistently applied principle. In a revealing footnote, ante, at 11, n. 10, the Court acknowledges that the Establishment Clause doctrine it purports to be applying lacks the comfort of categorical absolutes. What the Court means by this lovely euphemism is that sometimes the Court chooses to decide cases on the principle that government cannot favor religion, and sometimes it does not. The footnote goes on to say that [i]n special instances we have found good reason to dispense with the principle, but [n]o such reasons present themselves here. Ibid. It does not identify all of those special instances, much less identify the good reason for their existence.
Ouch. That man has the patience of a saint, to sit day after day with “legal” “minds” such as those on the Left-ish side of the SCoTUS bench.
In a similar vein, The Colossus presents the Top Ten Signs That The Supreme Court Ruled The Wrong Way on the Ten Commandments Cases:
10. Justice Breyer’s first-born son suddenly feeling “under the weather”.
9. God now saying that justices are allowed “on” heaven, but not “in” heaven.
8. When the bailiff cried “God Save this Honorable Court!” at the beginning of the session, he suddenly turned into a pillar of salt.
7. Every evening, it seems like it now takes Justice Souter 40 years to find his car in the Supreme Court parking lot.
6. Justice Scalia’s Sunday golf game interrupted by plague of locusts.
5. Testimony from false witnesses now completely admissible.
4. Justice O’Connor suddenly the recipient of unwanted “coveting.”
3. The Potomac turned blood red. Wait! — that’s just pollution.
2. Manna supply has suddenly run out.
1. The golden calf the justices had installed inside the court suddenly burst in twain.
While all of the decisions are obnoxious in my humble opinion, it’s the “cable company” and the Grokster decisions that really chap my hide.
In MGM vs. Grokster the SCoTUS has basically held that a provider of software can be held liable for the illegal uses of its products by a third party even though the software provider in no way contributed to the actual illegal activities simply because, in some fashion, they have “promoted” the use of their software for illegal ends. This is an explicit repudiation of the “significant non-infringing uses” clause laid out in the 1984 Sony decision. Once again, a large corporation, in this case MGM, has convinced the federal gov’t. to carry its water for it. Instead of adapting to changing market conditions, the recording and movie industries are thrashing about, demanding that the US government enforce their business model, not the law. Where the law doesn’t fit their business model, they simply buy enough politicians to change the law (see: Disney, Bono, et. al.).
All told, this session of the Supreme Court has been one of the most disheartening in memory. The SC has repeatedly sided with big business and big government against the rights and interests of the individual residents of the US. Get out the ice climbing gear, folks, because it seems like the entire world has just become one giant slippery slope.
UPDATE: SCOTUSblog has a roundup of today’s cases as well as a helpful visual representation of the ways in which the justices voted.