Saturday, June 18, 2005
Rehnquist's time may not have come
James McClure of Legal Times reports that domain names based on the names of possible nominees to the Court are just about sold out. And for once, liberals seem to be a little ahead of the curve.
Last week, conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt offered his thoughts on potential Supreme Court nominees in his online blog. "This is the summer for the knockdown, and that means Judges [J. Michael] Luttig or [Michael] McConnell," Hewitt wrote, in anticipation of a possible high court vacancy.
If it's McConnell, a Utah federal appeals judge, Hewitt is prepared. On May 12, he registered confirmmcconnell.com. Hewitt says the domain "would make a great blog site to drive traffic to hughhewitt.com."
But Hewitt couldn't nab every name on his wish list. "I tried to get confirmroberts.com [referring to Judge John Roberts Jr.] and confirmluttig.com," he says, "but they were already taken."
Those addresses, it turns out, had been scooped up six months earlier by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the liberal advocacy group that played a starring role in derailing Robert Bork's 1987 bid for a Supreme Court seat.
Within two weeks of President George W. Bush's electoral victory last fall, Brian Komar, then director of strategic affairs with the Leadership Conference, registered more than 20 Web addresses that included the surnames of potential high court nominees. Among those on Komar's list: Judges Luttig and J. Harvie Wilkinson of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; Judge Roberts of the D.C. Circuit; Judge Edith Jones of the 5th Circuit; Miguel Estrada, a D.C. partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher; and Judge Ricardo Hinojosa of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.
And the Leadership Conference covered its bets. Not only did it register hostile domains like stoproberts.com and opposeluttig.com, but also it beat conservative groups to the punch by registering affirmative addresses like supportluttig.com and confirmhinojosa.com.
Komar, who's since left the Leadership Conference to join former Bill Clinton aide John Podesta's Center for American Progress, says buying addresses supportive of conservative judges is "a strategic decision about messaging and political communication."
The strategy: "Getting your own message out," Komar says. "[And] preventing your opponent from getting his message out."
Of course they weren't able to lock up all the possible domain names. Republicans have acquired some too. But they're afflicted by a tendency to whore, so they may be induced to give them up by the lure of profit.
Not to be outdone, Republicans have also gone online to brace for battle and, in at least one instance, possibly to search for profits.
Last month, Brian Burch, a former communications director of the conservative Thomas More Law Center, registered at least five Internet domain names such as confirmmcconnell.org, confirmmcconnell.net, and the misspelled confirmolsen.com.
The 29-year-old Michigan resident, who now runs his own organization, called the Fidelis Center for Law and Justice, is counting on Rehnquist or another justice to soon step down from the Supreme Court, and that the White House will then nominate either Olson or Judge McConnell.
The domain names, Burch hopes, will prove valuable in the coming months. Despite his history with Thomas More, a group that touts itself online as "the Christian answer to the A.C.L.U.," Burch won't rule out selling the names to those opposed to Olson or McConnell.
The group StartChange.org, an organization that grew out of the StopSinclair campaign, is promoting Fifth Circuit Appellate Court Judge Ed Prado for the nomination. They are hoping to find a "consensus" candidate for the Court.
A reader alerted me to this movement, and since then the emails have begun. As I said to the reader who sent the link, the idea of running a campaign for a Supreme Court nominee before a position has even opened seems like a novel idea and just may put some pressure on the administration if the campaign gets any notice.
On the other hand, the Prado campaign—along with the purchases of the domain name squatters—may be premature.
Personally I've been a bit skeptical of Rehnquist's intention to resign. But the voices in the media have been so assertive that Rehnquist will leave when the Court term ends that I thought maybe somebody knew something I didn't. Finally, there is a countervailing opinion.
Gina Holland of the AP raises the question, which in this instance was occasioned by Rehnquist's 19th anniversary as a Justice.
William H. Rehnquist was tapped to be chief justice 19 years ago today, and while conventional wisdom says his combination of age and cancer won't allow him to stay around for a 20th, some court watchers are not so sure.
They point out that he looks better than he had been, is keeping a regular schedule and, maybe most important of all, still loves his work. All that adds up to the possibility -- still slim -- that he'll confound everyone and stay put, perhaps for another full term.
The Supreme Court has about two weeks left before it adjourns for the summer....
On Capitol Hill, there are whispers in the hallways that Rehnquist might not be ready to step down. White House officials have heard the talk, but are said to be proceeding under the assumption there will be a vacancy.
The big question mark is the seriousness of Rehnquist's illness. Based on the treatment plan of chemotherapy and radiation, it was thought Rehnquist had anaplastic thyroid cancer, a fast-growing form that can kill within months.
Dr. Kenneth Burman, a thyroid specialist at Washington Hospital Center, now questions whether Rehnquist has that type of cancer.
I wish Justice Rehnquist a long and happy life. His conservatism is not to my tastes, but the rabid candidates waiting in the wings may be even less so. But the good news for Progressives is that no matter which way this goes, the balance of power on the Court will not be significantly altered.
What I do dread, though, is the inevitable shift of the media's focus. At a moment when a few of the many debacles of the Bush administration and the Republican Congress are at last getting some attention, we do not need the interruption of what will be an unheard-of, full-fledged campaign for a Supreme Court nominee.