U.S. courts’ neutrality shines in Ecuadoran case

By David B. Rivkin Jr. and Andrew M. Grossman

For all the complaints about the American justice system — litigation is too expensive, too slow, too uncertain — it leads the world in the metric that matters most: uncovering the truth. That has been on particular display in a Manhattan courtroom.

On trial are crusading attorney Steven Donziger and his allies in a decades-long legal battle against the energy giant Chevron. Representing indigenous people in Ecuador’s Lago Agrio region, Donziger obtained an $18.2 billion judgment against Chevron in an Ecuadoran court for pollution that he attributed to drilling operations by Texaco, which Chevron acquired in 2001.

Read more »

Is Obama trying to pack the DC appeals court?

By David B. Rivkin and Andrew M. Grossman
 

The D.C. Circuit is the nation’s top regulatory court, responsible for scrutinizing many of the federal government’s most expensive and far-reaching actions. No wonder, then, that President Barack Obama is now trying to push three new judges onto the court and tilt it decisively in his favor. A great deal is at stake here for the U.S. economy, and it is high time for the Senate to have its say.

For a president with an aggressive second-term regulatory agenda, the D.C. Circuit may be a greater impediment than the Supreme Court. By statute, the court hears all challenges to nationwide rules under the Clean Air Act, as well as many major challenges to regulations affecting water, labor relations, securities law, and other fields. It vets agencies’ compliance with constitutional requirements. More than a third of cases in the D.C. Circuit are administrative appeals, compared to 16 percent in other appeals courts. And because the Supreme Court takes so few cases each year, the D.C. Circuit’s word is typically the last when it comes to regulatory challenges.

Read more »

‘Stand your ground’ should be left to states: Column

President’s call to end such laws is federal government’s attempt to impose its will.
 
By David Rivkin Jr. and Andrew Grossman

After George Zimmerman’s acquittal for shooting Trayvon Martin, President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder urged the state of Florida to abandon its “stand your ground” law. If this were just taking advantage of a high-profile case to advance a political agenda, that would be bad enough. But the president’s and attorney general’s demands are inappropriate for a more fundamental reason: the federal government trying to impose its will on states.

The debate over where to draw the line between federal and state authority has been hard-fought from the early days of the republic. But the one area where state authority has gone unchallenged is in the power to define criminal laws. The states are better placed than the federal government to respond to local conditions and their citizens’ immediate concerns regarding public safety.

Read more »

Gun control and the Constitution

The courts would no more allow government to undermine the Second Amendment than the First.

By David B. Rivkin Jr. and Andrew M. Grossman

Could there be a better illustration of the cultural divide over firearms than the White House photograph of our skeet-shooting president? Clay pigeons are launched into the air, but the president’s smoking shotgun is level with the ground. This is not a man who is comfortable around guns. And that goes a long way toward explaining his gun-control agenda.

Lack of informed presidential leadership aside, there is a gulf between those Americans who view guns as invaluable tools for self-defense, both against private wrongdoers and a potentially tyrannical government, and those who regard that concept as hopelessly archaic and even subversive. For them, hunting is the only possible legitimate use of firearms, and gun ownership should be restricted to weapons suited to that purpose.

Read more »

The Supreme Court must protect the First Amendment from Unions

(Published in The National Review Online, February 29, 2012)

By David B. Rivkin, Jr. and Andrew Grossman

Theresa Riffey provides help around the home for her brother, a quadriplegic, and receives a small stipend from Illinois’s Medicaid program for her efforts, saving the state the cost of providing full-time care. Illinois law requires her to pay a portion of her check every month to an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). The Supreme Court will soon decide whether to hear her case that asks on what basis, besides raw political power, a state may compel independent home-care workers and other similarly situated self-employed persons to support and associate with a labor union against their will. For the sake of workers’ First Amendment rights, it should take the case.

“Organized labor” brings to mind railroads, factories, and government offices, but the labor movement’s biggest recent gains have been in the home. Led by SEIU, unions and their political allies have pushed through executive orders and legislation in a dozen states to “organize” home-care workers, such as personal assistants and sitters, by deeming them state employees for collective-bargaining purposes alone.

Read more »