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Monday, June 19, 2006 

Rapanos Drama

We no longer have to wait for the Rapanos opinion. Justice Scalia wrote for the plurality of himself, Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Thomas, and Justice Alito. Justice Kennedy concurred in judgment but supplied his own take on the case. Justice Stevens offered up a dissent for the liberals, and Justice Breyer added one of his own for good measure. Oh yeah and the Chief had a concurring opinion too. What a lovely legal mess.

The fractured nature of the ruling isn't much help for the lower courts. The consolidated cases here are kicked back down to the lower courts, but everyone else has to assume that Kennedy's concurrence will be "the law". The Chief's concurrence expressed his disappointment about the results of the case. He said, "lower courts and regulated entities will now have to feel their way on a case-by-case basis." This isn't really a surprising result. Cases that involve huge statutes like the CWA rarely end with a crisp, clear opinion. However, this case showed us a lot. Roberts and Alito both joined Scalia's opinion. I feel fairly confident to call this a solid conservative voting block (fairly confident... because I still have some doubts).

Where was the "drama"? Well, the drama was at the Court itself. Majority opinions are announced from the bench. Today, both Justice Kennedy and Justice Stevens decided that they would also read their opinions from the bench. In total, almost half an hour was spent by the Justices reading opinions. I guess that there were some very strong feelings about this one. No wonder it took them this long to announce this case...

EDIT: I found this video on You Tube...

This is John Rapanos' side of the story. Obviously, it is biased towards his case (as am I). If there had been a video of the government's side of the case, I would've posted it too. Unfortunately, I don't think the Army Corps of Engineers is down with You Tube yet.

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