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Battling to Control the Court

By Heather A. Woodruff

Voters will exercise choice next month, not only in choosing the nation's new chief executive, but also in deciding the focus of the next 20 years of the judicial branch of the United States. Over the next administration, America's president will likely have the opportunity to nominate as many as four Supreme Court justices. In this election, voters will alter the face of the American judicial system.

The options are clear: Choose Texas Gov. George W. Bush, who will appoint justices who interpret the Constitution as it was intended, or choose Vice President Al Gore '69, who will nominate justices who feel free to legislate from the bench.

The Constitution states that "The judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court." This court was intended to decide all cases "arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States, to controversies between two or more states." The court was intended to be the governing organization when states were in conflict. The court was not intended to be a second legislating body, as recent courts have often been.

Bush has the appropriate view that issues of legislation, including abortion, should be left to the state legislatures and Congress to decide. It is a violation of our founding fathers' intent to allow an appointed body to legislate. In accordance with this original ideal, Bush would appoint justices who would return power to the states, empowering the people and local governments to rule.

Bush has been the fairest of the candidates in dealing with the issue of abortion, which has been a major focus of this campaign. He has explicitly contradicted the idea that he would only appoint justices who are pro-life. He has promised that he will not use the abortion stance as a litmus test in appointing justices, while Gore has said that he will only appoint justices who support abortion. Gore voted pro-life through the 1980s, but since his vice presidential candidacy, he has refused the possibility of appointing a justice who maintains any beliefs but the most liberal. Bush has maintained that he will look for good justices who will interpret the Constitution as it was intended and not base his appointments on a single issue.

On the issue of abortion, Bush has promised that he will work to reverse the Supreme Court's decision to overturn a partial-birth abortion law passed by the Nebraska legislature. The law, which Nebraska Attorney General Don Stenberg '74 sought to defend, attempted to ban the horrific procedure in which the baby's brain is extracted from its skull after the baby's limbs are torn from its body. Bush has promised that, if elected, he will appoint justices who would uphold a state's ability to pass such a law.

A Bush court would uphold what our founding fathers wanted--a country in which the rights of the individual were upheld, and one where states and local governments had jurisdiction over their people. A Bush court would protect the rights of individuals. Bush's appointees would uphold a strict interpretation of the Constitution, not excepting certain freedoms, such as religion, while upholding others, such as privacy, as has been typical of Clinton appointees. Bush would be a president who maintains that the people know what is best for the people and that no one needs a government dictating every facet of their lives. A vote for Bush is a vote for the people.

Heather A. Woodruff '03 is an economics concentrator in Leverett House. She is co-chair of Harvard Students for Bush.

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