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U.S. Supreme Court

Are New Justices Rewriting Case Law?

Posted Jul 25, 2007 4:22 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Two new members of the U.S. Supreme Court reportedly have lost no time in overturning a number of settled precedents. And among those taking note of the situation are members of Congress, who are thinking about looking into whether the justices said one thing during confirmation hearings and did something else as soon as they were on the bench of the country's highest court.

Among those expressing concern is Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, who says he plans to review the transcripts of what U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel A. Alito said during Senate testimony, to determine, as the Politico puts it, "if their reversal of several long-standing opinions conflicts with promises they made to senators to win confirmation."

Justice Stephen G. Breyer first drew attention to the issue last month, suggesting in a school desegregation dissent that he read from the bench last month that Roberts is leading the conservative majority in flouting the stare decisis doctrine that earlier decisions should remain settled law. "It is not often in the law that so few have so quickly changed so much," Breyer read. He later told Specter, the senator says, that this has happened in eight cases.

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