Thursday, June 28, 2007

Welcome to the Darkness

Garrett Epps

Considering that one of the three cases dismissed the right of high school students to ridicule the solemnities of their elders, the cases might be scored as Ferris Bueller 0, Ben Stein 3. The cases also provide an example of how the new justices, John Roberts and Samuel Alito, operate. Both proclaimed themselves respectful of precedent; and unlike Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, they did not go in for the wholesale overruling of precedents they dislike. Instead, in all three cases, they have chosen to narrowly interpret previous cases, until in the end there is almost nothing left of them. Think of it as a soothing way of diminishing liberal precedent, slice by tiny slice. But the direction is clear, and we should not be confused about where this court is taking us. "Reason by degrees submits to absurdity," Samuel Johnson once wrote, "as the eye is in time accommodated to darkness."

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