I don’t want to get all Glenn Beck-y so early on a Sunday, but I wonder if there’s some larger point that could be extracted from these very interesting stories in the Sunday Times:
1. Tort reform is having a direct impact in Texas:
The tort reform that state lawmakers passed in 2003 made it more difficult for patients to win damages in any health care setting, but especially emergency rooms. It capped medical liability for noneconomic damages at $250,000 per health care provider, with a maximum award of $750,000. Less well known was new language to safeguard under-the-gun emergency room doctors from civil damages unless it could be proved that they acted with “willful and wanton” negligence — that they not only put the patient in extreme risk but knew they were doing it.
Malpractice lawyers say this is a near-impossible threshold to meet. “You’d have to be a Nazi death camp guard to meet this standard,” said Jon Powell, a malpractice and personal injury lawyer based in San Antonio.
Hey, don’t go there!
2. The Roberts Court is increasingly pro-business:
The chamber now files briefs in most major business cases. The side it supported in the last term won 13 of 16 cases. Six of those were decided with a majority vote of five justices, and five of those decisions favored the chamber’s side. One of the them was Citizens United, in which the chamber successfully urged the court to guarantee what it called “free corporate speech” by lifting restrictions on campaign spending.
The chamber’s success rate is but one indication of the Roberts court’s leanings on business issues. A new study, prepared for The New York Times by scholars at Northwestern University and the University of Chicago, analyzed some 1,450 decisions since 1953. It showed that the percentage of business cases on the Supreme Court docket has grown in the Roberts years, as has the percentage of cases won by business interests.
3. And then there’s this:
When the Tea Party holds its first Conservative Constitutional Seminar next month, Justice Antonin Scalia is set to be the speaker. It was a bad idea for him to accept this invitation. He should send his regrets. The Tea Party epitomizes the kind of organization no justice should speak to — left, right or center — in the kind of seminar that has been described in the press. It has a well-known and extreme point of view about the Constitution and about cases and issues that will be decided by the Supreme Court.
By meeting behind closed doors, as is planned, and by presiding over a seminar, implying give and take, the justice would give the impression that he was joining the throng — confirming his new moniker as the “Justice from the Tea Party.” The ideological nature of the group and the seminar would eclipse the justice’s independence and leave him looking rash and biased.
Perhaps it would leave Scalia more than just looking rash and biased?
In breaking news from 1905, I don’t have much to add to the Wikileaks controversy, other than I’m generally a fan of transparency in government — Gulf of Tonkin, Pentagon Papers, Watergate and all that.
Still, I was reminded of the possible value of the project while reading James Bradley’s eye-opening The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War.
Bradley, author of two fabulous WW II accounts, Flags of Our Fathers and Flyboys: A True Story of Courage (starring the very heroic first President Bush) reaches back in his latest book to understand why his father wound up fighting in the Pacific and just how the United States got embroiled in empire-building at the turn of the century in the first place.
Near the beginning of the book, there is this:
In the summer of 1905, clandestine diplomatic messages between Tokyo and Washington, D.C., pulsed through underwater cables far below the surface of the Pacific Ocean. In a top-secret meeting with the Japanese prime minister, Taft — at Roosevelt’s direction — brokered a confidential pact allowing Japan to expand into Korea. It is unconstitutional for an American president to make a treaty with another nation without United States Senate approval. And as he was negotiating secretly with the Japanese, Roosevelt was simultaneously serving as the “honest broker” in discussions between Russia and Japan, who were fighting what was up to that time history’s largest war. The combatants would sign the Portsmouth Peace Treaty in that summer of 1905, and one year later, the president would become the first American to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel Committee was never made aware of Roosevelt’s secret negotiations, and the world would learn of these diplomatic cables only after Theodore Roosevelt’s death.
What’s past is prologue indeed.