ACLU President Fears Weakening Judiciary

Nadine Strossen '72, president of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), expressed fears about the erosion of judicial independence in a speech last night at Harvard Law School.

Strossen called this the most pressing issue threatening American civil liberties today.

"The disparity we're seeing today is not between Republicans and Democrats but between unelected judges and elected politicians," she said.

Speaking before an audience composed mainly of law students and Law School faculty, Strossen cited the Communications Decency Act, a recent piece of legislation that places restrictions on Internet content.

She said many members of Congress acknowledged that they voted for the bill knowing its unconstitutionality because they were afraid of being "soft on porn," she said.


The Supreme Court, on the other hand, despite its diversity of voices, voted unanimously against the act.

"If [today's Supreme Court justices] decide to unanimously call it unconstitutional, it is really unjust," Strossen said.

Strossen said she is especially worried because Congress has initiated legislation that would enable it to overturn Supreme Court rulings.

She proposed that judges have complete independence to decide cases.

One student from the audience said he wasn't sure how feasible Strossen's suggestions were.

"I wish she would have talked about how realistic an insular judiciary is," said James R. Stovall, a first-year law student.

"She said she wants judges to decide by what they think is right, but I'm not sure how she thinks that is a better defense of civil liberties," he added.

In her speech, Strossen also addressed what she described as recent acts of racial discrimination, particularly the shooting of Amadou Diallo in New York.

"The ACLU has had many battles with Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and the New York Police Department for horrible incidents of discrimination and violence," she said.

Strossen showed the audience an ACLU advertisement in The New York Times that depicted 41 bullet holes on a blank page, representing the 41 bullets shot at Diallo, with a word from the Miranda warning above each hole.

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