You’ve seen the video — I won’t even link to it. I’m a lawyer, and I can think of lots of Supreme Court opinions I disagree with. Dred Scott is a big one; more recently, I still get worked up over the Valley Forge Christian College case, in which the Court, 5-4, held that taxpayers lacked standing to challenge the transfer of real property by the federal government to a religious institution on First Amendment grounds. And regular readers (both of you) know that I think that the Ledbetter case was outrageous.
But Jeff, I hear you saying, Sarah Palin’s not a lawyer — she’s a mavericky pit bull reformer Joe Six-Pack type. Not for her this elitist “knowledge” of actual Supreme Court opinions, let alone a “reasoned” opinion about them. Except, of course, there was an opinion issued by the Court at the end of June, Exxon v. Baker, that she did know about, and she did disagree with it. You might remember it, too — it’s the case in which the Supremes cut the punitive damages in the Exxon Valdez spill from $2.5 billion to $508 million. This was a very unpopular opinion in Alaska, and as the governor of Alaska she had this to say:
“I am extremely disappointed with today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court,” Palin said. “While the decision brings some degree of closure to Alaskans suffering from 19 years of litigation and delay, the court gutted the jury’s decision on punitive damages.”
Palin added, “It is tragic that so many Alaska fishermen and their families have had their lives put on hold waiting for this decision. My heart goes out to those affected, especially the families of the thousands of Alaskans who passed away while waiting for justice.”
Palin said the decision today undercut one of the principal legs of deterrence for those engaged in maritime shipping in Alaska waters. She called on state and federal agencies to be vigilant and firm in regulating such activities.
Business-oriented Republicans, however, liked the opinion very much. Reducing or eliminating punitive damages has been one of their hot issues.
So did Gov. Palin just forget about the Exxon case? Did she freeze up under the pressure applied by tough old Katie Couric? Or did she know that the conservative base is counting on her and John McCain to appoint federal judges who will continue to use federal law to limit punitive damages under both federal and state law, and that it would be politically incorrect to say that she disagreed with the Court’s opinion that saved ExxonMobil $2 billion?
Editor’s note: I’ll link it.