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By a strong 7-2 majority, the Supreme Court on Monday upheld the Miranda warning given by police to criminal suspects, enshrining it as part of the national culture protected by the Constitution. The majority decision, written by Chief Justice William Rehnquist, was undiluted by concurrences or caveats from other justices. Monday’s action may thus leave the Miranda rule stronger than at any time in its controversial 34-year history-shielded from further congressional attack and immune from being overturned by the Supreme Court in the foreseeable future. The ruling in Dickerson v. United States was a sharp defeat for law enforcement conservatives who hoped the Court would shove Miranda v. Arizona aside in favor of a largely ignored law passed by Congress in 1968 to blunt its effect. The law would have allowed confessions elicited without a police advisory to be used at trial so long as the “totality of circumstances” demonstrated that they were given voluntarily. The decision was a dramatic opening to the final week of the Supreme Court’s current term. The justices return to the bench Wednesday to complete its business. And still pending are cases involving partial-birth abortion, federal aid to parochial schools, gays in the Boy Scouts, and demonstrations around abortion clinics. In the equally controversial Dickerson ruling, Chief Justice Rehnquist said, “ Miranda announced a constitutional rule that Congress may not supersede legislatively. Following the rule of stare decisis, we decline to overrule Miranda ourselves.” Rehnquist’s authorship of the decision may be the most remarkable feature of Monday’s decision. Since his early days as an associate justice, Rehnquist has sought to weaken Miranda, describing it as a mere “prophylactic” rule not required by the Constitution. “Here’s the guy who’s been throwing dirt on Miranda since Michigan v. Tucker in 1974,” said Yale Kamisar, a leading Miranda expert at University of Michigan Law School. University. “He’s been encouraging challenges to Miranda, and now he writes this. Rehnquist giveth, and Rehnquist taketh away.” It was a historic moment: The 1966 Miranda decision, written by Chief Justice Earl Warren, is the totem of the Warren Court’s liberal jurisprudence — a body of law Rehnquist has done battle with his entire judicial career. With rare rhetorical flourish, Rehnquist launched the reading of his decision from the bench by reciting, without introduction, the Miranda warning: “You have the right to remain silent,” he began. The warning, Rehnquist said, “has echoed through police stations and television screens” for years. “ Miranda has become embedded in routine police practice to the point where the warnings have become part of our national culture,” Rehnquist wrote. In a glancing reference to past discontent with the Miranda rule, Rehnquist said, “Whether or not we would agree with Miranda’s reasoning and its resulting rule, were we addressing the issue in the first instance, the principles of stare decisis weigh heavily against overruling it now.” While the decision is a rare turnabout for Rehnquist, it is also consistent with the current Court’s unabashed willingness to overturn acts of Congress that it views as contrary to the proper interpretation of the Constitution. Rehnquist cited the Court’s 1997 decision in City of Boerne v. Flores, which struck down the Religious Freedom Restoration Act for trying to tell the judiciary how to interpret the religion clauses of the First Amendment. In a similar way, Rehnquist said the 1968 law passed to counter Miranda was also unconstitutional. “Congress may not legislatively supersede our decisions interpreting and applying the Constitution,” Rehnquist wrote. “The one thing that unites most all the members of the current Court is their allegiance to the judicial prerogative, especially to say that Congress cannot get into the judicial act,” said Drake University law Professor Thomas Baker on Monday. “Separation of powers is something he takes as seriously as federalism.” Joining Rehnquist were Justices John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O’Connor, Anthony Kennedy, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer. Justice Antonin Scalia, joined by Clarence Thomas, wrote a bitter dissent. Scalia called the majority opinion a “radical revision” of the rationale of Miranda. Scalia cataloged the critical comments Kennedy, O’Connor, and Rehnquist have made about Miranda’s constitutional basis. To overcome those comments and form a majority in favor of Miranda, Scalia said, the Court had to expand the meaning of the Constitution, which he described as “an immense and frightening antidemocratic power.” The Court stepped outside the bounds of its power by imposing what he described as “extraconstitutional restraints” on Congress and the states. Scalia added that until the 1968 law is repealed, he “will continue to apply it in all cases where there has been a sustainable finding that the defendant’s confession was voluntary.” The decision likely means the end of the road for a single-minded campaign against Miranda by University of Utah College of Law Professor Paul Cassell. Claiming that the Miranda rule has spoiled thousands of prosecutions because of trivial flaws in how the warning was given, Cassell seized on the 1968 law as a method of attacking Miranda’s foundations. Working with the Washington Legal Foundation, Cassell, a former law clerk for the late Chief Justice Warren Burger, invoked the law in several criminal cases. He intervened in the 1997 case of Charles Thomas Dickerson, a Virginia bank robber who claimed he had not received a Miranda warning before being interrogated. The conservative 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Cassell last year, ruling that the 1968 law took precedence over Miranda and that statements made by Dickerson could be used at trial. The Clinton administration declined to defend the law before the Supreme Court, however, leading the justices to appoint Cassell to argue in favor of it. “It is a sad day for the victims of crime,” Cassell said Monday. “Thousands of dangerous, confessed criminals will go free.” Before the decision, Cassell has suggested that if he lost, he might return to Congress to seek passage of another law that would limit Miranda but pass constitutional muster — by requiring, for example, a videotaped record of confessions. On Monday, Cassell seemed pessimistic about the prospect. “The Court did not offer any help to lawmakers,” Cassell said, They missed a golden opportunity to make the search for truth the centerpiece of the justice system.” Also on Monday, the Court took the following actions: � By a 7-2 vote, the justices struck down California’s “blanket primary” system, which allowed primary voters from any party to vote for candidates from all parties. Justice Antonin Scalia said the system — also in use in Alaska and Washington state — violated the First Amendment right of association for political parties. Ruling in California Democratic Party v. Jones, the Court said the California system enacted by voters in 1996 in Proposition 198 “forces political parties to associate with … those who, at best, have refused to affiliate with the party, and, at worst, have expressly affiliated with a rival.” Scalia cautioned that the decision does not affect “open primary” laws in 20 states, which allow voters to pick a party on primary day, but then limit their voting choices only to candidates from that party. � The Court, ruling 5-4 in a hate crimes case, said that juries, not judges, must decide on facts that could result in defendants being sentenced to terms beyond the statutory maximum. In Apprendi v. New Jersey, the Court struck down a 12-year prison sentence for a white man found guilty of shooting into the home of an African-American family. The possible prison term of five to 10 years was subject to doubling under the state’s hate crimes law if it could be proved that he committed the crime because of race. After Charles Apprendi Jr. was found guilty on the weapons charges, the judge found racial motivation and his sentence was increased. Dissenting justices said the ruling could jeopardize other laws nationwide that increase sentences because of aggravating factors. It appears that the decision will not reach broadly beyond the New Jersey law. In most states with hate crimes laws, statutes already require juries to make a factual finding to underpin the sentence enhancement. � In Mobil Oil Exploration & Producing Southeast Inc. v. United States, the Court ordered the federal government to return $158 million to two oil companies that had paid money for leases granting them rights to explore for oil off the North Carolina coast. Writing for an 8-1 majority, Justice Stephen Breyer ruled that when Congress passed a 1990 law making it harder for the companies to gain regulatory approval to start exploration, the government in effect repudiated the contract and was obligated to give the companies their money back. Justice John Paul Stevens agreed the government had broken the contract, but dissented because he believed the oil companies were entitled only to damages resulting from any delay caused by the government’s failure to approve the oil companies’ exploration plans. � The justices declined to consider the appeal of Matthew Hale, an Illinois man denied a license to practice law because of his racist views. Hale claimed his First Amendment rights were violated, but Illinois courts found that the permit denial was based not on his views but on illegal activities in his past and his lack of candor.

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