March 09, 2007

Federal Court Overturns D.C. Gun Law

Big news out of the nation's capital today, where the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit struck down 2-1 the District's handgun ban as a violation of the Second Amendment. Lots of reaction from the blogosphere, which I posted below, but here's the relevant paragraph of Judge Laurence Silberman's majority opinion:

To summarize, we conclude that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms. That right existed prior to the formation of the new government under the Constitution and was premised on the private use of arms for activities such as hunting and self-defense, the latter being understood as resistance to either private lawlessness or the depredations of a tyrannical government (or a threat from abroad). In addition, the right to keep and bear arms had the important and salutary civic purpose of helping to preserve the citizen militia. The civic purpose was also a political expedient for the Federalists in the First Congress as it served, in part, to placate their Antifederalist opponents. The individual right facilitated militia service by ensuring that citizens would not be barred from keeping the arms they would need when called forth for militia duty. Despite the importance of the Second Amendment's civic purpose, however, the activities it protects are not limited to militia service, nor is an individual's enjoyment of the right contingent upon his or her continued or intermittent enrollment in the militia.

Expect this one to decided by the Supreme Court right around, oh, Summer 2008.

The legal experts at Volokh Conspiracy have the wrap-up here with some thoughts on how this might play in the presidential race.

Cato's Tim Lynch sums it up: "This is a very big deal."

Some more reaction from How Appealing. And thoughts on the decision's political ramification from Wizbang and Ace of Spades, which asks, "Is Rudy's gun-control stance rendered moot through jurisprudence?"

September 04, 2006

Will Boyle Get Through?

Speaking of possible filibusters that might provide a boost to the GOP, Barbara Barrett takes a look at the nomination of Terrence Boyle in today's Raleigh News & Observer:

The U.S. Senate returns to Capitol Hill on Tuesday after its summer recess, but for just a month. There is scant time for the whirlwind surge of business that members want to complete so they can get home and defend their seats in the midterm elections.

Senate observers say no judicial nominee has waited longer for a floor vote in the U.S. Senate, and yet Boyle's chances -- hindered until now by controversy -- could rest on the political winds whipping through Washington.

With such a tight schedule, a divisive floor battle on a Court of Appeals nominee might not make the Senate's priority list.

Or, a Boyle vote could be propelled to the top of the agenda to galvanize conservative voters in a year already proving dicey for the GOP. [snip]

If Republicans lose control of the Senate in November, confirming Boyle will be even tougher, said Norman Ornstein, a congressional scholar with the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

"This may be their last bite at the apple for nominations like Boyle's," Ornstein said. "But it sure seems to me this is not likely to go forward without a big controversy." [snip]

Dole also has talked with members of the so-called Gang of 14, a bipartisan group of moderate senators often seen as swing votes on judicial nominees, and says she is finding "growing and considerable support" among that group.

Chris Oprison, a former Boyle clerk and corporate lawyer in Washington, has spent hours meeting with staff members in key Senate offices this summer.

"I think we're on the cusp of getting him a vote," he said.

Minority Leader Harry Reid has called Boyle "unacceptable" and has hinted at a possible filibuster.

One this is for sure, September is going to be one of the most exciting, frenzied, and perhaps most consequential legislative sessions in recent memory.

July 31, 2006

Deadlock on Judges

From Roll Call (sub req'd):

Senate Republicans, facing a major political battle and a tight legislative calendar, said last week that there's little chance they can move any of the remaining controversial judicial nominations before the November elections.

Both GOP Senators and aides said the four weeks remaining on the pre-election schedule provides them with little opportunity to engage in a potentially brutal floor fight over a polarizing court nominee.

The ideal time, they said, would be to consider a nomination now, before the Senate recesses for August and before the campaign season heats up. But that window is all but shut.

"If we don't move people before August, it's going to be harder to move them at all," said a Senate Republican aide. "Democrats can dig in, and they have the backdrop of the end of the session."

Another well-placed Republican Senate staffer said the chance of the chamber taking on a controversial nomination before Election Day is "Zilch. Zero."

Robert Novak touched on this issue last week, blaming Senators Frist and Specter for not pushing the issue harder and saying that "it seems too late for a Senate battle to impact the midterm campaign." Sean Rushton, executive director of the Committee for Justice, disagreed, writing in NRO last week that it is "late, but not too late, to focus the public on what is at stake with judicial confirmations."

If Senate Republicans can't gin up a fight over judicial nomations this fall, it will give the Republican base - already suffereing from a lack of enthusiasm - one less reason to get up and go to the polls on Election Day.