Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Gonzales vs. Oregon

From an administrative law prospective, this decision (Scalia, Thomas, Roberts dissenting) is not exactly groundbreaking and probably wouldn't even be mentioned if it were not on such a hot button topic. What the decision boils down to is that the AG doesn't have the power to declare assisted suicide illegal under the CSA and that, therefore, the interpretation doing so is invalid. The case stems from the overreaching of executive power--here the AG's skipping the legislative process by attempting to implement policy for which he has no authority to make, and the opinion clearly sets forth circumstances in which the AG did so here. Also, while Kennedy's opinion tries to square itself with the Court's holding in Raich, I think this decision certainly goes a long way undermining that one and begins to show the tension arising out of some of is implications.

Thomas seems fairly incensed by what he sees as the court flip-flopping from Raich in terms of the CSA, but interestly enough, Scalia doesn't appear to even make reference to it. Rather, Scalia's dissent comes off---as does that of Thomas (albeit much less eloquent and/or reasoned) as being written by someone who is much more grounded in personal belief that legal interpretion (i.e., the authority Scalia would purport an agency to have under the "public interest" standard would essentially be limitless). In short, today's decision seems to portay Raich as an very strained take on executive power and comes back to earth in terms of what limits should be placed on an agency/executive's power to implement policy through unilateral discretion.


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