Monday, March 14, 2011

TR's Relevance Today

In an Atlantic review of Colonel Roosevelt (2010) by Edmund Morris (who visits the Writers tomorrow 3/15), Andrew Cohen finds contemporary relevance "on virtually every page":

"Last week, for example, just in time for Egypt's revolution, I was reading about Roosevelt's majestic post-presidency tour through Africa and the Middle East. After a speech at Cairo University in which Roosevelt had scolded his Arab hosts, Morris writes, "hundreds of furious students marched on [Roosevelt's hotel] and shouted 'Give us a constitution' at his terrace windows. The Colonel was engaged elsewhere, but got back to the hotel room in time to see the demonstrators breaking up." Sound familiar?

This week, the Roosevelt epic turned back to domestic matters -- and to the United States Supreme Court which, in the view of the ex-president and his confederates, was excessively pro-corporate and formalistic. One of Roosevelt's muses at the time was a Harvard law professor named Arthur D. Hill, a renowned constitutional scholar. Hill, writes Morris, "compared the Court to 'an irresponsible House of Lords.' Another contemporary voice in Roosevelt's ear was that of Supreme Court Justice Henry Moody, who nonetheless thought that "courts sometimes erred in deciding against the national government."

We are a long distance removed from the Lochner era of Supreme Court jurisprudence, which largely eroded the "progressive" (there's that word again) political gains of the period. But Roosevelt's lament also fits comfortably into the modern life of the Court and his worries, in part anyway, should be our own. This week, for example, marked yet another week when the justices did not meet to hear oral argument, another sign of what courtwatchers have long described as the Court's incredible shrinking docket. If the British House of Lords meets publicly less often than the United States Supreme Court -- if-- it's a close call. More.