Assisted Suicide and Executive Power

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Orin Kerr noticed this paragraph in Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion in Gonzales v. Oregon, the Oregon assisted-suicide case decided yesterday, which ruled against Ashcroft and Gonzales’ attempts to restrict Oregon’s assisted-suicide laws by prosecuting doctors involved:

[T]he Attorney General claims extraordinary authority. If the Attorney General’s argument were correct, his power . . . would be unrestrained. It would be anomalous for Congress to have so painstakingly described the Attorney General’s limited authority . . . but to have given him, just by implication, authority [over] an entire class of activity . . . .

Kennedy’s not a big fan of executive overreach, it would seem. He also adds: “The statutory terms. . . do not call on the Attorney General, or any other Executive official, to make an independent assessment of the meaning of federal law.” But that’s just the power the Bush administration has been claiming for itself over the past four years, especially with the president’s long series of “signing statements,” tacked on to bills as “independent assessment[s] of the meaning of federal law.” Right now, it seems, only Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Roberts are sympathetic to this argument—and one presumes we can add Samuel Alito if and when Congress confirms him.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate