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Supreme Court to Post Transcripts Online

September 14, 2006

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Supreme Court will post transcripts of oral arguments on its Web site the same day they occur, beginning in October.

The change, long desired by court watchers, comes as Chief Justice John Roberts begins his second term at the head of the court.

The court occasionally has made available audio tapes on the day of argument in major cases. Usually, however, arguments have been transcribed from audio recordings and made available roughly two weeks later.

Now, a court reporter will sit in the elegant courtroom to speed the process and attempt to sort out which of the nine justices is interrupting a lawyer arguing the case.

There is no indication that justices are prepared to relent on another matter of media interest. Television cameras still are barred from the court.


Sandra Cano, one of the women behind the legalization of abortion 33 years ago, is seeking to reverse her victory.

On Oct. 6, the justices are scheduled to consider at one of their routine private conferences whether to take her case.

Cano says she never wanted an abortion and that her difficult early life resulted in her becoming the anonymous plaintiff in Doe v. Bolton, the lesser-known abortion case that the justices ruled on the same day in 1973 as the landmark Roe v. Wade.

Cano says she was a 22-year-old victim of an abusive husband and that her children were in foster care when she sought legal assistance in getting a divorce and in getting her children back.

She said an aggressive lawyer pushed her into the abortion case.

``What I received was something I never requested _ the legal right to abort my child,″ Cano said in an affidavit six years ago.

Her current lawyers’ legal brief says that despite advances in medicine, science and technology, the justices have ``frozen abortion law based on obsolete 1973 assumptions and prevented the normal regulation of the practice of medicine.″

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in January that neither it nor a U.S. District Court had the authority to reverse the Supreme Court’s decisions in Doe v. Bolton or Roe v. Wade.


Who are you calling a judicial activist? The term often is used pejoratively and has been a favorite way for conservatives to criticize liberal judges.

University of Kentucky law professor Lori Ringhand recently stirred the pot with a study of justices’ voting records. She concludes that the court’s conservatives can be just as activist as their liberal colleagues, but on different issues.

Ringhand defined activism as voting to overturn a federal law, a state law or a Supreme Court decision.

Examining votes from 1994 to 2005 _ when the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist led a stable roster of justices _ Ringhand found conservative justices were more likely to vote to overturn federal laws, while the liberals were more likely to want to strike down state laws. In the third category, conservatives were much more willing to strike down the court’s own precedents.

The New York Times’ editorial page said the study demonstrates that conservatives are wrong to pretend their judges are not activist.

Wait a minute, said Matthew Franck, writing in the conservative National Review Online. Franck acknowledged that judges of all ideological stripes can be activist. But he objects to Ringhand’s categories, particularly her count of votes to strike down court precedents.

``If yesterday’s activists (liberal or conservative) set the precedents inherited by today’s advocates of restraint, can it be considered a proper part of their devotion to a reduced role for judicial power to preserve those precedents?″

The study is to be published in the spring 2007 edition of Constitutional Commentary. The debate about activism no doubt will continue.


Associated Press writer Pete Yost contributed to this report.


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