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Our editor on Harry Reid's "baffling" Court noise

Last Friday, I noted that Justice Sandra Day O'Connor had been a crucial vote in the Supreme Court's decision to limit runaway punitive damages in State Farm v. Campbell (see post for more links). Today, our editor has a column in The Wall Stree Journal expanding on that theme: "The Supreme Court's first female justice is best known in tort circles for her long crusade to bring punitive damage awards under constitutional due-process scrutiny, a position for which she eventually assembled a majority that includes several of her liberal colleagues (though not conservatives Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas)." Walter points out that Justice O'Connor even spoke out against the trial bar's hallowed contingency fee.

But our editor also digs deeper in examining the curious comments of the Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid:

Sen. Reid . . . suggested to reporters that the president might seek compromise by picking a GOP senator for the next vacancy, and that four such senators "would be outstanding Supreme Court members." Which four? Sen. Reid named Lindsey Graham of South Carolina (who promptly said he wasn't interested), Mike DeWine of Ohio, Mel Martinez of Florida and Mike Crapo of Idaho.

As Walter notes, Crapo and Graham have high lifetime conservative ratings by the American Conservative Union, and newly elected Mel Martinez is a "combative social conservative" with close "ties to antiabortion and Christian Right groups."

What gives? Our editor explains:

It's all quite a baffling mystery if you accept the oft-noised view that today's Democratic leadership is in thrall to social liberalism and views the defense of Roe v. Wade as its No. 1 priority. One possible clue is that while none of Sen. Reid's four faves are identified with the GOP's socially liberal Chafee-Snowe wing, all four (unlike, say, Sen. Cornyn) have repeatedly broken partisan ranks to side with the Democrats and the organized bar against liability reforms. In fact, Sens. Graham, Martinez and Crapo all practiced as plaintiff's lawyers before coming to the Senate. Could it be that Sen. Reid is ready to sell out the interests of his party's social-liberal faction in order to protect the interests of its organized-lawyer faction?

I encourage all our readers to read the entire column.



Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.