Friday, January 05, 2007
Can Rehnquist's decisions be appealed?
A lot of us here at "360" began the day fascinated with the story about the newly-released FBI files on former Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist. For those who have not read the details: For nearly 10 years, Justice Rehnquist had been taking a prescribed medication, Placidyl, to help with insomnia caused by his chronic back pain.

Apparently, the then associate justice was taking three-times the prescribed dosage. People who heard him on the bench began wondering about Rehnquist's slurred speech, and in 1981 -- five years before he was nominated for chief justice -- he checked into George Washington University Hospital to help get off the Placidyl. Withdrawal was difficult and caused delirium, with Rehnquist in one episode trying to escape the hospital in his pajamas because he believed the CIA was after him.

There are so many medical questions: How exactly does Placidyl work? What are the long term effects of it? How does one over-medicate with it? And how in the world could that ever happen to a Supreme Court justice? (It could be as simple as, if Rehnquist was asking for the medication, what physician would say "no" to a Supreme Court justice?) Who better to answer all these questions than our "360" MD, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who will join Anderson tonight at 10 p.m. ET.

And what about the broader legal questions? What about the many, many cases he ruled on during that decade when he might have been impaired because of the medications? Our chief legal correspondent, Jeffrey Toobin, points out there is no appealing a Supreme Court decision. After all, it is the Supreme Court, and it takes a majority of justices to make a decision. But Jeff also points out Rehnquist again raises the question of life-terms versus term-limits for Supreme Court justices. He reminds us that Justice William O. Douglas suffered a serious stroke toward the end of his legal career, and yet he refused to step-down. The law dictates the only way to remove a Supreme Court justice is impeachment. So Jeff will also join Anderson tonight to chew on all of this.

We've also spent a lot of time here talking about a remarkable story Anderson shot recently. It's about an army sergeant deployed to Iraq before his son was born. To be closer to his baby, Charles Monroe King began writing letters to him -- advice and from a father to his son: "Remember who taught you to speak, to walk, to be a gentleman. These are your first teachers my little prince. Protect them, embrace them and always treat them like a queen."

During his tour First Sgt. King wrote all of these thoughts in a journal for little Jordan. When you read about this in his wife's account in the New York Times and hear Anderson's story tonight, you'll no doubt be touched, as I was, by this father's love for his son.

Finally, later today and through the weekend I encourage you to read and comment on correspondent Jeff Koinange's blog post on his visit with Oprah at her new girls academy in South Africa. It is an amazing story: A good Samaritan flying across the world to provide education, hope and a future for kids who never guessed they'd ever see anything like this.

Jeff's post, which we'll publish later today, is a great preview of the hour special we are running Monday night, 10 p.m. ET. Anderson interviewed Oprah via satellite about what she is doing, and why, and we've had Jeff and his crew shooting stories of the girls' lives and what the school means to them. You'll see from Jeff's blog that our time with Oprah in South Africa will be one of those hours you'll want to share with others.
Posted By David Doss, "360" Executive Producer: 12:56 PM ET
  28 Comments
Despite her constant critics, I am very happy Oprah did what she did! She will singlehandedly raise the education level in a country that has been poor for centuries. Our next generation will benefit most from her generousity. Bravo!
Posted By Anonymous Nicki, Calgary, Alberta : 1:19 PM ET
Oprah is great for doing this. And thank you Anderson for reporting on stories that have an impact such as this.
Posted By Anonymous Trey Copeland, Bowling Green, Ky : 1:32 PM ET
Would you mind asking Oprah how she is going to use her show to inspire the youth of America not to ask for sneakers and ipods? It would seem that as the moral beacon she is in society that she would be the first to try to change the minds of youth here first before she gave up on them and ran to South Africa. Also why is her school open only to girls, one would think that in the 21st century we would be past gender based admissions to schools.
Posted By Anonymous Brant, Madison, Wisconsin : 1:47 PM ET
All the rights we have as a people (freedom of information, etc.) were trampled by the handlers that thought we are better off not knowing what goes on behind the Supreme Courts' hallowed walls.

This is such a travesty!! All his decisions SHOULD be suspect. Why would let a supreme court justice decide under the influence? Rehnquist was in a position to harm more people than a teenager driving under the influence (which we put behind bars).
Posted By Anonymous George B. Chicago, IL : 1:48 PM ET
Justice Rehnquist was undoubtedly over-medicated making a lot of his decisions but that doesn't necessarily mean his thinking was impaired at the time. There's a big difference between being 'high' and being addicted and taking just enough medication to sustain normal function of the brain and body. For him to have such drastic withdrawl as to be delusional tells me he was probably badly addicted. However I know nothing about that specific drug placydil and I'm looking forward to Dr. Gupta filling in the blanks on AC369 tonight.
Posted By Anonymous Lisa Scarboro Ontario Canada : 2:11 PM ET
Too bad Oprah turned her back on her own roots in the U.S.A. I used to respect her. Now I think she's no different from the stars who run to Africa to have babies and adopt, mostly for media attention.
Posted By Anonymous Gypsy, an American in Mexico : 2:14 PM ET
I'd like to address two of the topics:

Why are Supreme Court Justices elected to life terms? Who else, other than third world despots have that kind of tenure in government? Its ridiculous.

As regards Oprah Winfrey, she did not elect herself the moral compass for this country. If tv watchers want to think of her as one, that's their problem. She has chosen to put her money where it will do good right now..not decades later. The capitalism and spend-happy culture in the US is off-the-charts and it will take way more than Oprah to fix that. I applaud anyone who goes ANYWHERE to do good for others in need.
Posted By Anonymous Karen Saucedo, Novato CA : 2:15 PM ET
I'm not sure I agree with how Oprah went about what she in the building of her school, but she does have the best of intentions to better the lives of African children. I just wish, since she always tells us how much money she has, that she would spend some of it on all the American children who would benefit from a school of that type.
Posted By Anonymous kelly, san francisco, ca : 2:25 PM ET
The President (Reagan) that nominated Rehnquist, and the Senators that confirmed, and the FBI that verified, etc. etc. miserably FAILED us in the perfomance of their duties.

This is a Supreme Injustice to the all the people they serve.
Posted By Anonymous Rich Baum Topeka, KS : 2:28 PM ET
Hey Kelly,
I agree with your idea, but she obviously didn't go to help the CHILDREN of Africa, only the GIRLS of Africa, and maybe her guilty conscience on the side.
Posted By Anonymous Brant, Madison, Wisconsin : 2:36 PM ET
Term limits make sense to me. C'mon, some of these guys are like 90 ! Talk about not being able to let go.

I also think it's unfair not to have these justices subjected to any type of performance review. The way I see it, if the majority of the voters don't like what a politician is doing, that politician is voted out. But these appointed justices aren't given job evaluations. So what, we're just supposed to trust that they will never have a lapse in integrity or reason?

p.s. I'm not saying it's not a good thing, but you're opening up a can of worms if they start investigating politicians being on duty while under the influence.
Posted By Anonymous xtina - chicago IL : 2:40 PM ET
What do you think Anderson, would you be shilling for the guy that started a school for White kids....or would Paula Zahn go back to Vidor TX, with her latest look of scorn and outrage.
Posted By Anonymous Bill, Wichita,KS : 2:43 PM ET
If the U.S. cannot even have a vote of confidence on a president and boot him out of office if he fails the test (like they do with the PMs in Canada), Renquist's decisions should stand. Being stuck with George W Bush's singlehandedly played schoolboy antics, costing countless lives and billions of dollars, is far worse and more sickeningly dangerous than being stuck with any decision Renquist and the rest of the Justices made. This is probably just a Bush ploy to get certain issues revisited now that the Supreme Court has shifted to the right.
Posted By Anonymous Gypsy, an American in Mexico : 2:58 PM ET
I must add, why would we expect Ms.O to teach anyone about gifting,not all, but what I see is her ability to gift mainly to those who can gift her back,and those she can gift for public opinion boost.
Now then, will these girls learn the art of a wholesome, moral, lifestyle that will aide society globally, or the immoral one she lives and wants us all to believe is so good. I wish she would realize there are children watching her do these things. She is an example, Good or Bad, we all must decide. thanks for the format to express myself. It's good for the heart. Randy
Posted By Anonymous Randy Fitzpatrick, Pecos,NM. USA : 3:15 PM ET
And... while we're talking about term limits for justices.... how 'bout senators to!! This is supposed to be freakin' public service!! Not a career!
Posted By Anonymous Rick John, Baltimore, MD : 3:21 PM ET
Ms Winfrey should be paying more attention at home where young girls also need schools... .
Posted By Anonymous irene drew, pasadena, ca : 3:28 PM ET
Oprah,you go baby girl. When you create contraversy like this, you have done something right. I thought Tiger Woods was a good person but, Oprah is a close second on my list. Sorry Britney and Paris, I had to bump you down?
Posted By Anonymous Claude, Calgary AB Canada : 3:33 PM ET
I am so proud of Oprah, I wish she would adopt a school in Jamaica WI, She works hard in this country, pay taxes, help so many people it is her right to do what she wants with her money. She has earned that right, her critics are often wealthy themselves and give nothing back. It is a pity that the kids in the US public schools do not have the fire in their belly as those in the lesser developed countries.
Oprah I love you, I bless you may God keeps giving you "overflow" as you give back to the people of the world.

Let's all stop being jealous and critical and start making a difference.

Pat G Wright
Brooklyn, NY
Posted By Anonymous Pat G Wright, Brooklyn, NY : 3:35 PM ET
I have enormous respect for AC 360 and the host (and of course, the producers and theirs team - I know enough to know there's a team putting together these stories); but I was very disappointed to see the program continuing to promote the story about Trump and Rosie long after most of us thought it was a non-story. Get it together folks, you're not the Insider and please don't try. Thank you
Posted By Anonymous Louise Homer, Stow, MA : 3:45 PM ET
People seem to think that just because a drug is prescribed it is okay to take and keep on taking. It is a doctor's responsibility to prescribe amounts as needed. Not for refill after refill. Prescription drug abuse is a huge problem where I live. It is serious business.
Posted By Anonymous Jess, Paris, KY : 3:50 PM ET
I am at odds with how in the early 1900s to mid anyone exporting large sums of American currency was accused of treason unless cleared by the Federal Governement, in order to preserve our economy. No a days... it's retermed "good will and humanitarian efforts" Society needs to get back on track with investing funds back into our own communities these celebs are banking and spending in other countries. Modern forms of Communism- "Economic Communism.

How many drops did it take to empty the bucket? one.
Posted By Anonymous Hb, Pensacola Fl. : 3:53 PM ET
Why would anyone be critical of what Oprah is doing? She HAS helped in the U.S.-does anyone remember that she helped New Orleans after Katrina? She probably does more than we will ever know about. Maybe all of you who are so critical should ask yourselves what you're doing to help anyone.
Posted By Anonymous Debbie Darby, Denham Springs, LA : 3:58 PM ET
I have to agree with Pat from Brooklyn - Oprah has earned the right do whatever she wants with her time and resources. There are 300 million people in the United States...what percentage of us are working to make a difference in the life of a disadvantaged child at home or abroad? And to the poster whining about Oprah giving to girls as opposed to boys: women have traditionally been second class citizens in South Africa and many other parts of Africa for that matter. Let the girls catch up to the educational benefits that boys have been receiving for years before we start arguing sexism and equality.
Posted By Anonymous DR, Brooklyn, NY : 4:01 PM ET
Mental health issues of elected officials have been discussed before. Strokes, Alzheimers, drug addiction including alcohol, personality disorders have been a problem over time. Term limits for Congress ARE in the hands of the voters. Justices are to be out side of political pressures which is good, but there should be a medical clause. The Pres., we need to look to Congress and the Supremes to limit those powers. It's up to voters to stay informed and vote. How did Dollar Bill get reelected?
Posted By Anonymous linda, bella vista,ar : 4:22 PM ET
Can't wait to see the story on First Sgt. King. I read the New York Times piece and it was very moving.

Now onto Oprah....um....better not...
Posted By Anonymous Rachel-Albuquerque, NM : 5:53 PM ET
I second 'Sheryn's' notion, and it sounds as if 360 is "selling" us on Oprah's school. Ok, ok, she's great, she's good. There I said it. No one has even graduated from this school yet, how do we know the luxury school formula is working? I'm just squeamish about Oprah's uber spirituality without a hint of denomination. It's rather cultish.
Posted By Anonymous xtina - chicago IL : 6:12 PM ET
Dear David,

What's wrong with this picture? President Bush is tapping our phones and reading our mail because he believes some of us may be a threat to the safety of the United States. In the meantime, our government allows incompetent, stoned-out, racist judges to continue to sit on the bench making life-altering decisions affecting the citizens of our country.

This revelation more than adequately supports the case for term-limits for Supreme Court justices! We also need to change the law that dictates that impeachment is the only way to remove a Supreme Court justice. It might also be a good idea to force them to take competency tests after a certain age.

I look forward to the story of Sgt. King and his journal to his son Jordan. Based on what I know about Anderson and his relationship with his father Wyatt, I can understand why he would be drawn to such a heartfelt and beautiful story.

Jo Ann
Posted By Anonymous Jo Ann Matese, North Royalton, Ohio : 7:00 PM ET
This is too funny. What's not funny is what business was it of the FBI's to be chasing Renquist around in his pajamas anyway? We need another New World to escape the very things the original American colonists were trying escape from, to start with.
Posted By Anonymous Don, Myrtle Beach, SC : 8:51 AM ET
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