Deliberate Speed


THE OLD SAYING that justice delayed is justice denied may be proven in the coming weeks, as the Supreme Court deliberates the extension of the Equal Rights Amendment's ratification deadline.

At issue is the three-year extension approved by Congress after it realized that the required 38 states would not ratify the amendment by its original March 1979 deadline. Opponents challenged the extension, and last December, a federal district judge in Idaho struck it down. The Supreme Court is now slated to deliberate on an appeal of that decision; we urge the Court to hear the case as soon as possible. The longer it waits, the dimmer the possibility that the proposed amendment will have a fair chance of public approval.

Many legal scholars argue that the courts should leave political issues like the conditions of ratification entirely up to Congress, and the Court may well invoke the doctrine of "nonjus-ticiability" to restore the deadline extension. We would welcome that decision. But even the most favorable ruling will be of little use if the deadline for ratification--this June 30--passes without the support of an additional three states. The Court must act quickly to erase the pall cast over the extension by lower court judge Marion Callister--whose decision appears politically motivated.

Pro-ERA forces have recently rallied and declared a final offensive. Students are taking terms off, housewives are going on the road, and backers are raising a good deal of money to try to sway three more states. This final drive should be allowed to proceed without the pall of a possible judicial rejection.

Both sides have already filed written arguments, ending in two weeks a process that sometimes drags on for months. The Court must now decide whether it will expedite its decision; if it waits until its next term, which begins in October, its delay may kill the amendment. The Court should take its own advice of years past, and act with all deliberate speed.