March 22, 2005

Dignity of a Response

Ugh, very much not interested in reading about the Schiavo case right now. It's "important", I know, and it's the big news of the moment, but… holy fuck. This crap is completely debilitating, and at least now I know that when the apocalypse comes, via GOP diktat, I'll be here, slumped helplessly on my couch, rubbing my eyes in sheer defeat, unable to think of a single goddamn thing to say. Fortunately, though, Dahlia Lithwick has a lot to say, and explains why it's not a good idea to let Congress overrule any state court decision they feel like overruling:
The reason we have courts, the reason we traditionally assign these brutal fact-finding responsibilities to those courts, is that intimate legal custody and life-or-death decisions should not be determined based on popular referenda. They need to be rooted, as much as possible, in rock-solid legal rules.

This is not a slippery-slope case, where it's a short hop from "executing" those in persistent vegetative conditions to killing anyone with a disability. This is a case in which an established right-to-refuse-treatment claim, litigated for years up and down through the appeals courts, is being thwarted by parents with no custodial claim to their child. By stepping in merely to sow doubt as to whom Terri Schiavo's proper custodian might be, rather than creating some new constitutional right to a "culture of life," Congress has simply called the existing legal regime into doubt without establishing a new one. This new law offers no clarity about what the new federal claims might be. It just forum-shops for a more tractable judge.

You can put aside the doctrine of federalism for Terri Schiavo, and the principles of separation of powers, and comity, and of deference to finality and the rule of law. But you'd want to be certain, on the day you do so, that what you're sacrificing them for some concrete legal value that matters a whole lot more. Subordinating a centuries-old culture of law to an amorphous, legally meaningless "culture of life," is not a decision to be taken over a weekend.
Word. (And Dahlia Lithwick is a rock star!) At any rate, I was going to write a whole slew of killer posts on teen sex, gay sex, maybe gay teen sex, abortion, the joys of partisanship (not what you think), and a structural analysis of liberalized autocracies in North Africa. But they'll all have to wait while I go vomit for a few hours.
-- Brad Plumer 12:27 AM || ||