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October 07, 1997 - Image 7

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1997-10-07

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The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, October 7, 1997 - 7

U.S. Supreme Court set to
decide state-rights cases

Los Angeles Times
The U.S. Supreme Court returned yes-
terday and its highest profile matter was
the Piscataway, N.J., school board's deci-
sion to retain a black high school teacher
over an equally qualified white instructor
in order to promote academic diversity.
Although seen primarily as a civil-rights
case, it also involves state and local rights,
which, in recent years, have become one
of the court's primary concerns.
States-rights promoters have always
portrayed themselves as defenders of
freedom against a power-hungry
national government. When the
Southern states seceded, they claimed it
was in the name of freedom.
States righters' real interests, however,
were usually more mundane: money,
power and privilege. These more earthy
concerns underlie their recent assaults on
the national government in both Congress
and the courts, and are part of a long-
standing conservative campaign to curtail
the regulatory system established by the
New Deal under President Franklin
Roosevelt and later administrations.
The judicial role in this campaign
began 20 years ago, when a 5-4 majori-
ty, led by then-Justice William
Rehnquist, overturned a law bringing
state and local employees under the
Federal Fair Labor Standards Act. The
conservative drive stumbled, however,
when the court's ruling proved unwork-

able, and, in 1985, it was overturned.
In 1992, the conservative justices, by
that time a majority, resumed their cru-
sade. A 1992 decision allowed New York
state to refuse to implement a federal
statute regulating radioactive waste. A
1995 ruling overturned a federal law
banning guns near schools, the first nar-
rowing of the "commerce clause" in 60
years. A 1996 decision read the 11th
Amendment to prevent federal courts
from hearing suits against states that vio-
lated federal laws. Last June, the court
overturned the Religious Freedom
Restoration Act, or RFRA, thereby
relieving state and local officials from
having to justify a refusal to provide a
religious exemption from generally
applicable laws or regulations.
These rulings affect much of
American life. Lower courts have used
the 1992 radioactive-waste decision to
strike down laws against lead contami-
nation and excessive timber exports: the
"Motor Voter" law, the Clean Air Act and
the Child Support Recovery Act also
have been challenged and are being liti-
gated. In June, the Supreme Court used
the decision to nullify the Brady bill pro-
visions requiring local officials to do
background checks on gun buyers. An
increase in deaths and injuries is not
unlikely - in 1996, the checks produced
some 70,000 denials, about 47,000 for
felony convictions or indictments.

The 1996 11th Amendment decision
also had a heavy impact, forcing feder-
al judges to dismiss suits for state vio-
lations of fair labor standards, environs
mental, trademark, bankruptcy and
other laws, seriously weakening those
laws where the state is the wrongdoer.
Even if the state allows itself to be sued
in its own courts, which it may not,
complainants face strong bias in favor
of local officials in those courts.
The effects of the court's RFRA deci-
sion will be even more widespread, for it
gives state and local governments virtual
carte blanche in many matters affecting
religious practices. It has been used to
deny religious counseling to a Nebraska
prison inmate, which the prison had
agreed to allow when RFRA was in
effect. Experience indicates that more
state interference with religion is
inevitable. Before the act, prisons
refused to allow prisoners to wear small
crucifixes and restricted religious litera-
ture. A Catholic hospital was forced to
teach how to perform abortions. Zoning
and other land-use regulations were used
to harass religious groups helping the
poor, particularly non-mainstream sects.
Nor is religious freedom the only
right affected. The court's restrictions
on congressional power to protect indi-
vidual rights against state infringement
apply to other rights as well, such as
freedom of speech and the press.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), left, and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) speak to reporters about campaign finance reform on
Capitol Hill yesterday In Washington, D.C.
hite ouse contnues searCh
r f
o] unrsnvietp '

WASHINGTON (AP) -Acting on
a tip, Senate investigators prodded the
Clinton administration in early August
to look for in-house videotapes that
may have shown President Clinton
and Vice President Al Gore at
mocratic Party events inside the
site House.
The timing is significant because
administration officials said it was just
Wednesday night that they discovered
that 44 White House coffees, featuring
the president, had been videotaped.
Clinton said yesterday it "was just
an accident" that the videotapes were
not found sooner. "All I can tell you is,
as soon as I found out about it, late last
ek,I said, 'Get this out and let's go
" he said.
The White House confirmed yester-
day that an intense search is under way
for an unspecified number of addi-
tional recordings of White House
political events. The opening minutes
of the coffees were recorded by White
House crews between Aug. 3, 1995,
and Aug. 23, 1996.
Donald Bucklin, an attorney for the
,nate Governmental Affairs
mmittee, said he received informa-

tion in late July or early August that
the little-known White House
Communications Agency may have
taped political events.
Bucklin said that on Aug. 7 he
passed the information on to Michael
Imbroscio, a White House counsel, and
followed up with a letter Aug. 19 to
another administration lawyer, Lanny
Despite the heads-up, Bucklin said
that Breuer told Senate lawyers in a
meeting in September that there were
no such recordings.
The Senate Governmental Affairs
and the House Government Reform
committees both had issued subpoenas
months ago for any videotapes of White
House events connected to Democratic
National Committee fund raising.
The chief White House counsel,
Charles Ruff, wrote Senate committee
Chairman Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.)
and ranking Democrat John Glenn
(D-Ohio) yesterday to provide his ver-
sion of the tape discovery.
According to Ruff, the Senate com-
mittee asked on Aug. 7 "whether there
was a practice of clandestinely record-
ing Oval Office meetings or conversa-

tions." Bucklin's Aug. 19 letter
inquired "more broadly into any
recordings made by the White House
Communications Agency (WHCA),"
Ruff wrote.
At the Sept. 7 meeting with con-
gressional investigators, Ruff wrote,
the administration "informed them
(committee staff) that no clandestine
taping had occurred but that W HCA
had taped a number of DNC
(Democratic National Committee)
fund-raising dinners and similar
"We believed at that time, and so
stated, that WHCA had not taped the
coffees but said that we would inquire
further." Ruff said the additional
inquiry discovered the tapes last
Wednesday evening.
The tapes of the 1996 coffees,
released Sunday by the White
House, show Clinton thanking his
visitors without asking for money.
In footage from one reception,
then-Democratic National Chair
Don Fowler refused five checks
offered by a guest, apologized and
said the donations could be dis-
cussed later.

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