Gen. William K. Suter: Obama Administration “Antagonistic to Fundamental Rights “

April 23rd, 2014

General Suter, the longtime clerk of the Supreme Court, has opened up–with both barrels against the Obama Administration. He wrote a piece for Hoover titled “Executive Power on Steroids.” He is not happy with the Administration’s positions before the Court.

Much has been made recently about the Obama administration’s aggressive and excessive use of executive power. Examples include making recess appointments when the Senate was not in recess and repeatedly changing significant parts of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) without express legislative authority. Similar excessive executive authority has been used in executing laws pertaining to entitlements and immigration.

The administration also exerts its strong-arm on a more local level, as evidenced by several recent U. S. Supreme Court cases. In those cases, which have received very little attention, the Obama administration took a crabbed view of an individual’s fundamental rights. It is one thing to be a liberal or a progressive administration; it is quite another to be hostile to fundamental individual rights. The cases described in this essay reflect an administration that is antagonistic to fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution. 

Suter proceeds to discuss the Administration’s positions in Hosanna-Tabor, United States v. Jones, Sackett v. EPA, Arkansas Game & Fish Commission. He closes with this:

What do these cases have in common? First, the government lost all four in unanimous decisions. Second, each case dealt with a government infringement on a fundamental right—freedom of religion, the right to be free from unreasonable searches, the right to enjoy private property and due process, and the right to compensation when the government takes your property.

It is rare for the executive branch to lose four cases dealing with fundamental rights in unanimous decisions in one term. Those who believe in the Constitution and the rule of law should feel uneasy about the administration’s positions in these cases. The positions taken by the government suggest bullying and strong-arm tactics. 

Wow! Very strong words.

I’m glad that General Suter, unlike Justice Stevens, actually retired from federal service before making comments about the Court. As a private citizen, I welcome his insights about the Court, the Constitution, and the rule of law.

I had the privilege of spending some time with General Suter, when he gave the commencement address at South Texas last year. I gave him an autographed copy of Unprecedented, where he is prominently featured:

Inside the Court, it was back to business as usual.

The chief justice gave his customary end-of-term thanks to the staff, including the Court’s venerable retired Major General William K. Suter, who had just completed fifty years of government service. Roberts hoped that Suter would return the next term. He would, though he eventually retired from the Court in August 2013.

And with that, the chief justice declared that the Court would be in recess until the first Monday in October 2012.

This term, at long last, was over. With it, the constitutional chal- lenge to the ACA finally drew to a close. But the political clash over this law was far from finished.

H/T Adam White