Thursday, April 12, 2007

Maybe They Should, but It Was Not the Court's Place to Require It

One of the problems with the politicization of the courts is that the public does not understand their function. Too many people, including those in positions of leadership, treat the courts as quasi-legislatures.

Thus, an editorial in this morning's The Tennessean notes that Senator Lamar Alexander agreed with the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Massachussetts et al vs. EPA. However, they don't really say what Alexander agreed with and imply by what follows that he agrees because he thinks that greenhouse gasses should be regulated. However, that is not what the court decided.

The court ruled that the plaintiffs in the case had standing to bring a cause of action in court, that the EPA had acted insufficiently on a request for rulemaking related to greenhouse gasses, and that the EPA does have standing to regulate on such issues. The two dissents in the case do not address whether the federal government should regulate greenhouse gasses. The dissent written by Chief Justice Roberts argues compellingly that the plaintiffs did not have standing to bring the suit. That offered by Justice Scalia contends that even if they had standing, that the case was decided wrongly, as the statute does not compel the agency to take the steps that the plaintiffs desired.

But, for those who skipped those civics classes from high school dealing with the proper function of the courts, I would offer this line from the Chief Justice's dissent:

Petitioners’ difficulty in demonstrating causation and redressability is not surprising given the evident mismatch between the source of their alleged injury—catastrophic global warming—and the narrow subject matter of the Clean Air Act provision at issue in this suit.The mismatch suggests that petitioners’ true goal for this litigation may be more symbolic than anything else. The constitutional role of the courts, however, is to decide concrete cases—not to serve as a convenient forum for policy debates.

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