AVAILABLE FOR COMMENT: MARK R. WEAVER, LEGAL AND POLITICAL EXPERT
Contact: Matt Dole
Mark R. Weaver is an experienced attorney, crisis communicator and political consultant who has represented thousands of clients. He has argued in front of the Ohio Supreme Court, won competitive congressional districts and counseled key public and private sector leaders through crises. Mr. Weaver taught at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law for two decades and currently teaches at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Government. His career sits squarely at the intersection of media, law and politics.
Mr. Weaver understands the complex dynamics at play in replacing Justice Kennedy on the United States Supreme Court. He has a keen understanding of the contemporary American Legal and Political Systems. He has seen a selection process first hand, having worked at the Department of Justice under Attorney General Dick Thornburgh who helped select Antonin Scalia for the United States Supreme Court. Mr. Weaver is a frequent guest contributor in news papers across the country.
Below is an op-ed authored by Mr. Weaver about the court in 2001.
U.S. CHIEF JUSTICE OFFERS VIEW FROM ON HIGH
Published March 11, 2001 in the Columbus Dispatch
By Mark Weaver
Upon his retirement, President John Adams commented that Chief Justice John Marshall had been his "gift to the American people." Marshall's subsequent tenure with the Supreme Court proved that claim right.
President Reagan could say the same thing about his nomination of William H. Rehnquist to the same position in 1986.
Armed with a keen intellect and an ever- present sense of history, Rehnquist has led the high court through numerous legal thickets. When he chooses to retire, he likely will be judged by historians as one of the court's elite justices.
Of the 16 men who have served at the helm of America's judicial branch, few have had a better look at law and justice. Rehnquist has been a top Justice Department attorney, a Supreme Court clerk, an associate justice and chief justice.
In his nearly 30 years on the court, he has served with seven presidents and ruled on cases ranging from Roe v. Wade to Watergate to the latest skirmishes over affirmative action and religion in public schools. He was one of only two chief justices to preside over a presidential impeachment and the only one to help decide a presidential election.
Rehnquist's The Supreme Court: How It Was, How It Is, was published in 1987. This month, Knopf has reissued the book with substantial updates and two new chapters. Those interested in the grand history of America's court of last resort will find this book indispensable.
Rehnquist opens, appropriately, with a clerk's-eye view of the court in 1952, when he worked for Justice Robert Jackson. A clerk's perspective is especially helpful for readers unfamiliar with the workings of the court.
Stung by fellow clerks' criticism of Jackson, Rehnquist writes, "It would be all but impossible to assemble a more hypercritical, not to say arrogant, audience than a group of law clerks criticizing an opinion circulated by one of their employers.
"Their scorn -- and in due time it became my scorn too -- was not reserved for Justice Jackson but was lavished with considerable impartiality upon the products of all nine chambers of the Court."
He also takes care to explain the backgrounds of many of the justices, often pausing to insert a choice geographic or family reference. This adds character to his sketches and demonstrates Rehnquist's attention to detail.
The rest of the book is more daunting. To fully appreciate Rehnquist's lengthy interplay between American history and the many rulings of the court, it helps to have a law degree or, at the least, a passion for the minutiae of legal history.
Only those sorts of readers will, for example, savor a 14-paragraph direct quote from one of Marshall's opinions.
Yet those who skip drier passages will enjoy much of the legal discussion. From the drama of Marbury v. Madison (the case in which the Supreme Court reserved to itself the power to rule on questions of constitutionality) through the politics surrounding Franklin D. Roosevelt's attempt to pack the court, to the expansion of individual liberties under the Warren court, Rehnquist skillfully explains how personalities, legal theory and public opinion combined to mold the outcomes of the most important cases.
His expertise goes beyond his primary subject. Before examining the Dred Scott decision, he provides a throughly readable exposition of the status of slavery in the 1850s. His short summary would do historian Bruce Catton proud.
Rehnquist does more than recount Dred Scott; he picks the legal reasoning apart with his rapierlike mind.
Yet he stops short of bowing to the view that the decision indelibly stained the legacy of the court that endorsed it.
Rather, Rehnquist calls Chief Justice Roger Taney's holding "a serious mistake for the reasons I have earlier suggested, but that opinion should not be allowed to blot out the very constructive work otherwise done in his career."
That's not to say Rehnquist is charitable to all. When the Civil War habeas corpus suspension case was argued, he points out that James Speed, who argued in favor of President Lincoln's war measure, was "surely one of the nation's least-gifted attorneys general." Ouch.
Those who look for commentary on the Supreme Court ruling to end the Florida recount -- or any other decision in the Rehnquist era -- will be disappointed. The book went to print before the issue was settled.
Still, one Rehnquist comment may offer insight:
"Opinions may differ as to whether in a particular case the Supreme Court has read the Constitution too expansively or too narrowly.
"So long as the Court is involved, as it has been throughout its more than two centuries of existence, in helping to decide what kind of laws shall govern us, it is bound to draw criticism from those who are offended by its rulings."
Mark Weaver is former Ohio deputy attorney general and currently a lawyer in private practice. He is a member of the U.S. Supreme Court bar.