Courting freedom: A good week for the rule of law
The misuse of government power was frowned upon by the scowling face of justice last week, which should make the rest of us smile.
On Thursday the New York State Court of Appeals, New York's highest court, struck down Nanny Bloomberg's ban on large sodas. It ruled 4-2 that the city's Board of Health "exceeded the scope of its regulatory authority" in banning sodas larger than 16 ounces.
Restraining government from going beyond limits set by the people was a common theme last week. In a case involving instances of police officers seizing and searching people's cellphones, the U.S. Supreme Court held - unanimously - that police may not search cellphones without a warrant. The Fourth Amendment still lives.
On Thursday the court struck down Massachusetts' buffer zone law, which banned most people from entering public space within 35 feet of an abortion clinic. (New Hampshire's 25-foot buffer zone law was copied from Massachusetts'.) The court ruled, again unanimously, that Massachusetts had overstepped its authority and violated the people's First Amendment rights.
Also on Thursday the court ruled that three of President Obama's recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board were unconstitutional because the President made them when the Senate was not actually in recess. Again, the court reaffirmed a pre-existing legal boundary. In another ruling, the court checked the EPA from exceeding its rule-making authority on emissions.
The rule of law protects citizens by preventing the government from overstepping boundaries set by the people. But it is worthless if the courts don't uphold it. Last week's pushback was needed. We wish the courts would do it more often.