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This page is an archive of articles presented on the Current News page of the USConstitution.net site. On this page are articles that were posted in 2005.
12/20/05 Pennsylvania court rebukes Intelligent Design instruction
In a strongly-worded judgement against supporters of Intelligent Design, a Pennsylvania federal court judge today struck down a provision in the curriculum of the Dover Area schools. The provision required 9th grade biology teachers to read a short caveat prior to instruction on evolution. The caveat mentioned Intelligent Design (ID), a theory that postulates that the universe was created and set in motion by a Designer. Detractors say that ID is simply a new name for Creationism, which has uses the creation story of the Bible, and the Designer is another name for God. The policy which has been in place for just over a year, was the brainchild of a group of ID supporters on the Dover school board. In the last round of elections, the ID supporters were ousted in favor of people who had vowed to do away with the provision. Judge John Jones, a Bush appointee, wrote "We find that the secular purposes claimed by the Board amount to a pretext for the Board's real purpose, which was to promote religion in the public school classroom."
12/19/05 Bush admits to authorizing domestic spying
The President and members of his Cabinet admitted over the weekend that reports that he had authorized secret spying on U.S. citizens were true. The reports were partially to blame for Friday's failure of key provisions of the Patriot Act to be reauthorized by the Congress. Bush said that he authorized the NSA to secretly wiretap U.S. citizens by Executive Order, and has reauthorized the order over 30 times since the original. Democrats were "stunned" by the revelation. Bush said that he was surprised the secret Executive Order was revealed by the press, calling it "a shameful act."
12/15/05 Bush agrees to ban on torture
After months of opposition to a legal ban on torture of prisoners by U.S. personnel held overseas, President Bush today agreed to the ban. The ban has been championed by former POW John McCain (R-NV), who said "We've sent a message to the world that the United States is not like the terrorists." Some Republicans in the House, however, announced that they planned to oppose the McCain amendment, which was to be attached to a spending bill in a House/Senate conference committee: Duncan Hunter (R-CA) said that he did not agree with the compromise the President reached, and may try to block the amendment in the conference.
11/28/05 Supreme Court loses marble moulding
A piece of marble moulding fell from the Supreme Court building today, landing on the Court's steps near a group of tourists. The basketball-sized chunk of Vermont marble fell from the top of the frieze that adorns the building. The Supreme Court building was opened in 1935.
11/28/05 Representative resigns after admitting taking bribes
Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA) resigned his position in the House of Representatives today, after admitting in court that he took bribes in exchange for steering defense contracts to several companies. Payments to Cunningham included checks, cash, and vacations. The transaction that caught investigators' eyes was the sale of Cunningham's home to a defense contractor for an inflated price - the home was later sold for a $700,000 loss. Cunningham was taken into custody in California, was finger printed, and released on his own recognizance.
11/09/05 Off-year election results
Democrats in Virginia and New Jersey claimed victory in gubernatorial races in both states, and California's governor suffered defeat in popular referenda votes yesterday. Tim Kaine replaces Democrat Mark Warner, unable to run because of term limits, in Virginia. Kaine defeated Republican Jerry Kilgore, despite a personal plea and campaign help from President George Bush. In New Jersey, Democratic Senator Jon Corzine defeated Republican Douglas Forrester in a race that had been termed "nasty" by its conclusion. In California, Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger suffered the loss of four ballot initiatives he supported. In Texas, a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in the state was passed overwhelmingly.
11/03/05 Alito hearings scheduled for 2006
Senate Judiciary Chair Arlen Specter (R-PA) announced today that he has scheduled hearings for Samuel Alito for early January, 2006. President Bush had called for a confirmation vote by the end of 2005, but Specter noted that because of Alito's long judicial career, there were thousands of opinions to research, and the extra time was necessary to be thorough. Hearings would begin on January 9, with the floor vote tentatively scheduled for the 20th.
10/31/05 Bush nominates Samuel Alito to replace O'Connor
President George Bush today announced his nomination of Judge Samuel Alito to replace Sandra O'Connor on the Supreme Court. Alito is a judge in the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia and, unlike previous nominee Harriet Miers, has an extensive record of rulings to examine. Some Democrats immediately called Alito too conservative and criticized the President for not consulting with Senate Democrats before making a choice. Some have said that Alito may trigger a filibuster attempt by Democrats, who were hoping for someone more moderate.
10/27/05 Miers withdraws nomination
In a letter to President George Bush, Supreme Court Justice-nominee Harriet Miers withdrew her nomination today. Citing the fact that Senators had informed her that she should be expected to reveal details of her time in service as White House counsel either through documents or oral testimony, Miers wrote that she did not feel she would be able to maintain confidentiality and answer the Senators' questions.
10/18/05 White House: Miers has no opinion on Griswold
Harriet Miers, making the rounds in the Senate, spoke with Arlen Specter (PA-R), a meeting Specter later reported on. Specter said that Miers had told him that she supported the Supreme Court's 1965 Griswold v Connecticut decision. That decision, which allowed married couples to buy contraceptives, is seen as a landmark case in the establishment of a right to privacy, and a progenitor of the abortion case Roe v Wade. The White House later issued a statement saying that Specter had misunderstood Miers, and that Miers has not established an opinion of Griswold nor of any right to privacy. Any support of a right to privacy is seen as a blow to Miers's nomination as the religious right opposes the concept of the right to privacy, especially as applied to the abortion issue. This is the latest in a string of controversies surrounding Miers, who has received opposition from several political camps.
10/17/05 Supreme Court allows imprisoned woman to have abortion
The Supreme Court today ordered the state of Missouri to pay for a female inmate's transportation to an abortion clinic. Missouri law forbids the spending of public funds to facilitate any abortion. A federal court had said that the state does not have to pay for the abortion, but it must pay transportation costs, amounting to $350. Justice Clarence Thomas issued an emergency stay of the federal court order on Friday, but the Court unanimously upheld the order today. The order came without any opinion or dissent, so Court-watchers are not yet placing any significance on the order. They are instead waiting for arguments and opinions on an upcoming parental notification case.
10/03/05 Bush nominates Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court
President George Bush nominated his White House counsel, Harriet Miers, to replace Sandra O'Connor on the Supreme Court. Bush had previously nominated John Roberts to the seat, but elevated Roberts to the Chief Justice seat when William Rehnquist died. 60-year-old Miers has not served as a judge before, which means the Senate may have a harder time trying to divine her stand on some issues. Miers was named to head the scandal-ridden Texas Lottery Commission by Bush in 1995, and she is credited with returning public confidence to the commission. She also served as president of the Texas Bar Association. She has been White House counsel since 2004.
09/29/05 Roberts confirmed to be 17th Chief Justice
In a 77-22 vote, the Senate today confirmed Judge John Roberts to the position of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Roberts replaces William Rehnquist on the bench; Rehnquist died almost a month ago. Roberts had originally been picked to replace retiring Justice Sandra O'Connor. President George Bush switched the seat he nominated Roberts to after Rehnquist's death. Roberts will be the youngest Chief Justice in over 200 years. Roberts will be sworn in at a White House ceremony later today. The Supreme Court is set to open its October session on Monday.
09/28/05 DeLay indicted by Texas Grand Jury, steps aside
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) was indicted today on one count of criminal conspiracy by a grand jury in Travis County, Texas. The case involves contributions to DeLay's political action committee, TRMPAC. The contributions were allegedly made with the express purpose of being redirected to candidates by the Republican Party, donations that would not have been allowed if made directly. The donation from the PAC to the Party was accompanied by a list of names to receive portions of the donation. In light of the indictment, DeLay announced that he was temporarily stepping down as majority leader, in accordance with House rules. DeLay's spokesperson dismissed the indictment as politically motivated.
09/22/05 Roberts clears first hurdle towards Chief Justice
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 13-5 today to send John Roberts's nomination to the Chief Justice seat on the Supreme Court to the full Senate for a floor vote. The five dissenters were all Democrats, but Roberts got the nod from the senior Democrat on the committee, Patrick Leahy (D-VT). Leahy said that he took Roberts at his word that he would work on the court to keep presidential power in check. Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI) also voted for Roberts, saying "I will vote my hopes today and not my fears." The floor vote before the full Senate will take place next week. Roberts, if confirmed, will become the 17th chief justice.
09/05/05 Bush renominates Roberts to take Chief Justice seat
Bypassing current Supreme Court justices, and thus avoiding an extra set of confirmation hearings, President Bush today nominated John Roberts, already scheduled for confirmation hearings for an associate justiceship, to replace William Rehnquist as Chief Justice. By tradition, though not by the Constitution, the Chief Justice has been separately nominated by the President. To have elevated a current justice, like Clarence Thomas or Antonin Scalia, to Chief would have required two sets of hearings - one for the promotion and one to replace the promoted justice - in addition to those already scheduled for Roberts. Roberts had clerked for Rehnquist earlier in his career. Officially, Roberts will now be taking Rehnquist's seat and not retiring justice Sandra O'Connor. O'Connor has vowed to stay with the Court until her seat is filled.
09/03/05 William Rehnquist dies at age 80
Chief Justice William Rehnquist, appointed to the Supreme Court in 1971 by Richard Nixon, died today in his home in Virginia. Rehnquist was 80 years old and suffering from recurring bouts of throat cancer. Rehnquist was known as a strong conservative voice on the Court. Rumors that Rehnquist would resign from the Court because of his health echoed for over a year in Washington, but were continually stifled by Rehnquist himself as he returned to work again and again, ever after having a tracheotomy tube inserted in his throat. Rehnquist had a summer home in Greensboro, Vermont and was frequently seen giving civics talks in local Vermont towns.
08/24/05 War protest leader returns to Crawford
Cindy Sheehan, leader of a protest against the war in Iraq that has its headquarters near the entrance to President Bush's Crawford, Texas ranch, has returned to the site. Sheehan left a week ago to tend to her ailing mother. Sheehan is asking for an audience with the President so that he can explain to her directly why her son was in Iraq. Her son, Casey Sheehan, was a soldier in Iraq, and was killed there last year. Bush has repeatedly refused to meet with Sheehan, saying that the U.S. must "stay the course" in Iraq.
08/17/05 Roberts given Bar Association's top rating
Supreme Court justice nominee John Roberts was given the American Bar Association's top rating today, three weeks before Roberts's confirmation hearings are scheduled to begin the Senate. Roberts was screened by a special committee of the ABA that reviews all nominees to the federal bench. The committee gave Roberts a "well-qualified" rating, the highest available. The ABA does the rating to provide an unbiased look at each nominee for use by the public and the Senate, and has been providing the ratings for the last 50 years.
08/11/05 Bush responds to calls to pull out of Iraq
Addressing the concerns of protesters camped out near his Crawford, Texas ranch, where the President is vacationing, George Bush said today that pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq now would be a "terrible signal" to the enemy. Saying that while he sympathizes with Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq and leader of the group outside the ranch, he said that to pull out now would be premature: "it would be a mistake for the security of this country and the ability to lay the foundations for peace in the long run if we were to do so."
08/11/05 Bush signs highway bill
President Bush today signed the Highway Bill passed overwhelmingly by Congress two weeks ago. The bill, criticized by some because of charges that it is loaded with political pork, authorizes $286 billion in spending over the next six years. Bush praised the bill because of the jobs he says it will create. The bill includes provisions designed to improve seat belt usage rates and to create automobile stability standards to help prevent rollovers. The bill also includes $941 million for road and bridge projects in Alaska, the fourth most money for the third least populated state.
08/01/05 Bolton appointed Ambassador to United Nations
Avoiding a stalled Senate confirmation process, President Bush today appointed John Bolton to fill the vacant Ambassador to the United Nations position. Bolton's nomination had been held up in committee by Democratic opposition, which had been joined by some Republican critics. Bush used his power to appoint Bolton to the position during a Senate recess. The recess appointment power is reserved to the President by the Constitution. Bolton's appointment is temporary, however - it will only last until the beginning of the next congressional session, sheduled to meet in January 2007. Bolton can be re-nominated at that time, and subjected again to the Senate's process.
07/19/05 New Supreme Court justice nominated
President George Bush today nominated District of Columbia Court of Appeals Judge John G. Roberts to the seat on the Supreme Court being vacated by Sandra O'Connor. Bush expressed his hope that Roberts's confirmation would be complete before the beginning of the Court's next session in October. It is thought that confirmation hearings will begin in September. Bush noted that he had looked at several candidates and had received advice from leaders of both parties before making his choice. He also noted that Roberts had been confirmed to his current position by unanimous consent two years ago.
07/01/05 Justice O'Connor announces her retirement
Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor announced her plans to retire from the bench once a successor has been confirmed by the Senate. O'Connor was the first woman to serve on the Court. She was appointed to the Court in 1981 by President Ronald Reagan. She is considered a moderate conservative and has been the swing vote in many cases.
06/27/05 Supreme Court allows Ten Commandment displays on government land
The Supreme Court today allowed displays of monuments to the Ten Commandments on government land to remain in place. The case involved a monument that is among 16 others on the grounds of the Texas Legislature. Writing for the 5-4 majority, Chief Justice William Rehnquist noted that the Ten Commandments have obvious religious significance, but "simply having religious content or promoting a message consistent with a religious doctrine does not run afoul of the Establishment clause." Rehnquist did not apply the Lemon Test to the Texas case because it is a passive display that does not fit into the criteria for looking to Lemon. The case is Van Orden v Perry.
06/27/05 Ten Commandment displays in courthouses usually not permissible
The Supreme Court, in a close 5-4 decision, ruled today that most courthouse displays of the Ten Commandments are not permissible under the 1st Amendment's Establishment Clause. The Court did leave the door open to some displays, however, like its own display of the Commandments in a frieze that displays the stone tablets among several other historical scenes that set the historical trail that leads to today's law. The case revolved around framed displays of the Ten Commandments in two Kentucky courthouses. In his dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that while the original display, put up in 1999, was probably unconstitutional, the dilution of the significance of the display, by the addition of other historical legal documents, has lead to the very exception the majority had noted. The other documents traced "America's Christian Heritage," and included the national motto, "In God We Trust," and a copy of a bill that declared 1983 the "Year of the Bible." The case is McCreary County v ACLU of Kentucky.
06/23/05 Court rules on eminent domain case
The Supreme Court upheld the ability of cities to take the property of individuals by eminent domain even when the purpose is not to use the land for public purposes, but instead to help increase the tax base for a community. In the case, New London, Connecticut homeowners sued the city when the city told them their homes were to be torn down to make room for an office building. The Court found that though the land would not be put to public use, the fact that the new building would be taxed for the public good was a sufficient to fall under the Takings Clause. The liberal wing of the Court joined with Justice Kennedy to uphold the city's actions, with the conservative wing writing a stinging rebuke of the majority: "Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner, so long as it might be upgraded - i.e., given to an owner who will use it in a way that the legislature deems more beneficial to the public - in the process."
06/13/05 Court overturns death sentence citing racial bias
The Supreme Court today, in a 6-3 vote, reversed the death sentence of Thomas Miller-El, convicted for the 1985 murder of a hotel clerk. Miller-El had been convicted in Texas, the state responsible for the most executions in the nation. Miller-El alleged that the state stacked the jury with white jurors, denying him a fair trial. The Court agreed and overturned the sentence. The state had used 10 of 11 peremptory strikes against black prospective jurors. The case is Miller-El v Dretke. The Court decided another similar case, Johnson v California, on an 8-1 vote. In this case, peremptory strikes eliminated all black jurors from the jury pool - though the trial judge indicated that it was possible the strikes were purely race-based, California law required him to rule that the strikes were not race-based. The Court said that California's standard is insufficient.
06/06/05 Foreign-flag cruise ships must adhere to US disability laws
Norwegian Cruise Line, which sails cruise ships such as the Norwegian Sea and the Norwegian Star, must have its ships comply with the United States American with Disabilities Act (ADA). Lower courts had found that since Congress has not explicitly included foreign-flag ships in the ADA, it did not apply. The Supreme Court disagreed, ruling that the Act is applicable when a foreign-flag ship is operating in US waters. Justice Kennedy wrote that though cruise ships were not specifically mentioned, they easily fell under the categories of public accommodation and specified public transportation. The case, Spector v Norwegian Cruise Lines, was decided in a complicated tangle of opinions, parts of which were decided 5-4 and others 6-3.
06/06/05 States cannot overrule federal drug policy concerning marijuana
The Supreme Court today ruled that a California law that permits the cultivation of small amounts of marijuana for prescribed medical use does not trump federal law prohibiting any such cultivation. The Supreme Court said that Congress's power to regulate drug manufacture and use is without bound, and because marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 drug, one with no approved medical use and a high risk of abuse, the California law allowing its cultivation and use is contrary to the law. The Court decided the case, Gonzales v Raich, on a 6-3 vote.
06/06/05 Supreme Court rules on land dispute between US and Alaska
Both the United States and Alaska lay claim to the submerged lands in two areas in the Alaska area: in the Alexander Archipelago in Southern Alaska and in Glacier Bay. The presumption in the law is that Alaska retains claim on these lands, and to claim them, the United States had to rebut that presumption. The Special Master appointed by the Court recommended the Court find for the United States. The Court agreed with the Special Master's recommendations and ruled for the United States. In the case of the archipelago, it was determined that historic use by international shipping precluded the state's claim. In the case of the bay, it was found that since the United States had made the area a federal land prior to statehood, the United States retained control over the entire area. The case was Alaska v US, original jurisdiction case 128, and was decided unanimously.
05/31/05 Prison law not a violation of 1st Amendment
In a unanimous ruling, the Supreme Court today affirmed that a federal law guaranteeing equal worship rights to all prisoners in any facility using federal funds does not violate the 1st Amendment's Establishment Clause. States have balked at the law, reasoning that it could make managing some inmates more difficult - the Court acknowledged this concern. The law, called the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, does not trump a facility's need for security and order, but it does require reasonable accommodation whenever possible. The suit was brought against the state of Ohio by a Satanist, a Wiccan, and a racial separatist. The Court's ruling was on a very narrow issue, and the possibility exists that it could be challenged for other reasons. The case is Cutter v Wilkinson.
05/24/05 Senate avoids "nuclear option," compromises on filibusters
A bipartisan group of 14 Senators, seven Democrats and seven Republicans, agreed to a plan that they hoped would prevent the Majority Leader, Bill Frist, from invoking what has been termed the "nuclear option" in dealing with filibusters of judicial nominees. Under the nuclear option, the Senate would have voted to change the Senate's rules to allow filibusters to be broken by a majority vote, rather than the 60 percent vote currently required. The agreement called for Democrats to allow three of five judicial nominees to proceed to a vote on the Senate floor while two others could still be subject to filibuster. The group also said they would oppose future filibusters unless extraordinary circumstances required it. The circumstances that would be considered extraordinary were not specified. Frist acceded to the plan, though he opposes it.
05/23/05 Court supports "Beef - it's what's for dinner" campaign
A group of cattlemen whose beef sales are subject to a "checkoff" fee, which is used to fund advertising supporting the beef industry, objected to the use of the checkoff funds for various advertising campaigns. The campaigns, funded by the Beef Promotion and Research Board, include the often-heard "Beef - it's what's for dinner" slogan. The Beef Board is a government entity. The cattlemen who objected to the campaign cited their own 1st Amendment rights, as a compulsion to support speech to which they object. The Supreme Court disagreed, noting that because the Beef Board is a government body, it is not susceptible to 1st Amendment challenges. The decision differed from other recent decisions, in particular a checkoff-like fee paid by mushroom producers, because the Court said that in this case, unlike in the mushroom case, the advertising was produced by a government body. The Court noted that other challenges to the campaigns can continue - this decision was for the 1st Amendment-based challenge only. The Court decided the case, Johanns v Livestock Marketing Association, on a 6-3 vote.
05/16/05 Wine can be brought across state lines, Supreme Court rules
The Supreme Court today ruled that laws in states that do not permit consumers to buy wine directly from wineries are unconstitutional. The ruling exposes a market that wineries have long-sought to open up. Both Michigan and New York have a series of rules and licenses that allowed only in-state wineries to make direct sales to consumers. Michigan residents sued their state over the rules, and Michigan defended the rules under state powers granted under the 21st Amendment. The Supreme Court found that the rules discriminated against out-of-state wineries in a way not authorized by the 21st Amendment. The Court found that the discrimination was obvious and would have been invalid on its face based on prior rulings, were it not for the 21st Amendment claim. The 21st does give states broad powers over transportation, importation, and use, but it does not authorize "nonuniform laws." The case was decided in a 5-4 vote, with the majority being an unusual mix of the Court's liberal and conservative wings. The case is Granholm v Heald.
03/24/05 Supreme Court rejects Schiavo appeal
The Supreme Court rejected an appeal by the parents of Terri Schiavo, which may signal an end to the contentious case. The appeal was last in a series of moves by Schiavo's parents to restore a feeding tube, which was removed by her husband last Friday, a move Michael Schiavo says his wife would have wanted. The Schiavo case is extraordinary for its longevity and its public profile. Most cases like this pass with little or no public fanfare, but the dispute between Schiavo's husband and parents became messy and public. The Congress passed a bill, which was quickly signed by President Bush, forcing the federal courts to hear the case. The bill passed and was signed on Monday; on Tuesday, a federal judge heard the case and ruled against restoring the feeding tube; on Wednesday, an appeals court sided with the federal judge; and today the Supreme Court refused to hear the case. Florida governor Jeb Bush and Schiavo's parents continued legal wrangling in Florida on the issue.
03/22/05 Rehnquist returns to the bench
Obviously still recovering, but well on his way to recovery, Chief Justice William Rehnquist returned to the active bench of the Supreme Court today. After a five-month absence to be treated for thyroid cancer, Rehnquist wasted no time returning to his old form, cutting off lawyers who reached their time limit and retreating behind the curtains for a few moments between arguments to stretch. Rehnquist is 80 years old, and has served as Chief for 19 years.
03/01/05 Court rules that juvenile death penalty is
A divided Supreme Court today ruled that the death penalty cannot be imposed on juvenile offenders. Only 19 states allow the execution of juvenile offenders, those under the age of 18 at the time of the offense, but the a sentence were invalidated by the Supreme Court ruling. About 70 such offenders are currently on various death rows across the country. The Court had previously ruled that the death penalty for offenders under the age of 15 was unconstitutional, and this ruling further narrows the window. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said, "The age of 18 is the point where society draws the line for many purposes between childhood and adulthood. It is, we conclude, the age at which the line for death eligibility ought to rest." The case was decided on a 5-4 vote.
02/16/05 Last member of cabinet confirmed
Federal judge Michael Chertoff, was unanimously confirmed by the Senate today, closing the book on President Bush's newly staffed cabinet. Chertoff, who faced pointed questioning from Democrats during confirmation hearings because of his role as head of the Justice Department's criminal division, was most recently a federal judge.
02/03/05 Tough battle over for Attorney General
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales took his oath of office today after a tough fight in the Senate. He was finally confirmed in a 60-36 vote. All of the "no" votes came from Democratic and Independent Senators.
01/31/05 Secretary of Energy confirmed
Samuel Bodman was confirmed as the new Secretary of Energy by the Senate today. The confirmation was by unanimous voice vote. Only Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff remain unconfirmed.
01/26/05 More cabinet approvals
Secretary of Veterans Affairs nominee Jim Nicholson and Secretary of Health and Human Services nominee Michael Leavitt were approved by voice vote in the Senate today.
01/26/05 Rice approved as Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice won approval of the Senate today, garnering a 85-13 vote for her new position as Secretary of State. Also today, the nomination of Alberto Gonzales for Attorney General left the Senate Judiciary Committee with its approval.
01/24/05 Supreme Court issues ruling on dog searches
The Supreme Court ruled today, in a 6-2 decision, that animal searches of a car stopped for a traffic violation are within Fourth Amendment bounds. In the case of Illinois v Caballes, Roy Caballes was pulled over for speeding by an Illinois State Trooper. When the trooper reported that Caballes appeared to be overly nervous during the stop, another trooper with a drug-sniffing dog came to the scene. The dog alerted on the man's trunk, which was later searched and found to contain marijuana, for which Caballes was arrested. The question was not if the dog alert was probably cause for the search, but if there was any probable cause to do the dog search at all. The Court first noted that if Caballes had been detained or had been held for an unreasonable amount of time, the search may have been illegal, but the response of the second trooper was within a reasonable time. The Court ruled that since the drug sniff is not invasive and is designed solely to detect contraband which is, by definition, illegal to possess, no privacy interest was violated. The drug sniff, and the subsequent search, were legal. Chef Justice Rehnquist did not participate in the ruling.
01/24/05 Gutierrez approved by Senate
Secretary of Secretary of Commerce nominee Carlos Gutierrez was approved by voice vote in the Senate today.
01/20/05 Approvals for Bush's new cabinet
On a voice vote, two of President Bush's new cabinet nominees were approved by the Senate today. Margaret Spellings, a long-time Bush advisor, was approved as Secretary of Education, and Nebraska governor Mike Johanns was approved as Secretary of Agriculture. Bush's other two major appointments, Condoleezza Rice to Secretary of State and Alberto Gonzales to Attorney General, would have to wait a bit longer for confirmation. Rice was approved by the Foreign Relations Committee, but a vote in the full Senate has been put off until next week. The Senate Judiciary Committee vote on Gonzales was delayed until answers to all submitted written questions were submitted and reviewed.
01/20/05 Bush takes oath for second term
President George W. Bush took the oath of office today, as read by Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Bush begins his second term with the oath, the seventeenth president to be elected to a second full term.
01/12/05 Supreme Court rules on immigration detention
The Supreme Court today ruled that immigrants found to be inadmissible to the country must be removed from the country within a proscribed 90-day period. Any time the aliens are held past the 90 day period must be only to successfully remove them from the country. In the case of Clark v Martinez, Sergio Martinez, who arrived in the United States in 1980 as a part of the Mariel boatlift, sued the government for release from detention. After his arrival in the US, but before his application for asylum application, Martinez had been arrested and convicted of several crimes within the US. These convictions made him ineligible for asylum. He was taken into INS custody in 2000 and removal proceedings were started; an immigration judge found him ineligible for admission to the US and order him returned to Cuba. Because removal to Cuba was not forthcoming, and would not come in the foreseeable future, Martinez was held in detention. The Supreme Court, in a 7-2 decision, the Court agreed with a lower court, which said that the 90-day limit must be in place with reasonable extensions available only when those extensions are needed to effect removal. The Court noted that if Congress wishes to provide for longer detention periods when removal cannot be effected, then it must do so explicitly.
01/12/05 Court rules on judicial modification of sentences
The Supreme Court today ruled that its prior decisions regarding the addition of time to the sentences of convicted criminals can only be done by juries and not by judges also apply to federal sentencing guidelines. The decision strongly split the court, with a 5-4 vote against the guidelines. The majority was an unusual combination of the Court's left and right wings: Justices Scalia, Thomas, Stevens, Souter, and Ginsberg. The ruling means that sentencing, which had been left to judges after consideration of the facts of the case, must now more heavily involve the jury, which had only been responsible for the determination of guilt. The decision opens the doors to possibly thousands of requests for sentencing review. The cases are US v Booker and US v Fanfan.
01/11/05 Second time's the charm for Security Secretary?
After the embarrassing loss of Bernard Kerik due to a Nannygate-style issue, President Bush has nominated a new face to be Secretary of Homeland Security. Michael Chertoff is currently a federal appellate court judge, also appointed to that position by Bush. He also served as an assistant attorney general under John Ashcroft.
01/06/05 After a rare challenge, electoral votes are counted
Democratic Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones and Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer challenged the electoral votes submitted by Ohio today, delaying what is normally a perfunctory task of opening and counting certifications. If any one Representative and any one Senator challenge the votes, however, rules state that the respective houses must convene and debate the challenge. Boxer and Tubbs Jones said that they wanted to bring electoral deficiencies in Ohio to light by issuing the challenge. The House defeated the challenge 267-31 and the Senate by 74-1. After the separate debates were over, the full Congress met again and counted the votes. George W. Bush defeated John Kerry 286 to 251, with John Edwards garnering one vote. In the Vice Presidential race, Dick Cheney defeated John Edwards 286 to 252.
01/04/05 109th Congress opens
At 2:16 PM, the Dean of the House of Representatives administered the Oath of Office to the just-reelected Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert. At 2:17 PM, Hastert administered the Oath of Office to the assembled members of the House, kicking off the 109th Congress.
01/02/05 California Representative Matsui dies
Just days before taking the oath of office, California Democrat Robert Matsui died today of complications of a rare disease. Matsui, 63, had just been reelected to his 14th term as a representative.