Topic: End of Life Issues
Date: SEPTEMBER 14, 2005
BROWNBACK: I want to get you, in the limited time I have left, just two quick points.
One is on the end-of-life issues. You've had a discussion with several members on end-of-life issues. And this was discussed, for instance, Washington v. Glucksberg is the lead recent case, 1997 case, upheld a state statute banning assisted suicide.
Would you agree that that case held that there is not a constitutional right to die -- a right to die does not exist in the Constitution?
ROBERTS: I think that's an accurate conclusion of the holding in that case.
Again, without expressing views on correctness or not, since that's where the line has been drawn in terms of what nominees can say, my understanding is that that court rejected the conclusion.
It went through the analysis of what liberty interests protected by the due process clause included. And it concluded that there wasn't a right under the liberty clause that trumped the regulation that was at issue in that case.
BROWNBACK: And I believe even the standard that the court held in this case was the rationally related standard, the lowest level of review, that the state can find a rational basis, they can limit these assisted-suicide bans, efforts across the country.
ROBERTS: Once the court concluded that there wasn't a fundamental right that was in conflict with the state regulation, then the court applied the rational relation test to uphold the state law.
BROWNBACK: And you have -- that would be subject to, in your opinion, the continued status of stare decisis as an opinion of the court. And the deference and the dependency that the society has had on that ruling would have the same status as any opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court on the basis of stare decisis, in your opinion.
ROBERTS: It would be subject to the same analysis as any other precedent of the court, yes.
BROWNBACK: Regardless of whether it's a recent opinion, later opinion, this has the same standing because it's an opinion of the courts?
ROBERTS: Some of the court's cases talk about how long an opinion has been standing. Some of the court's cases say that's less of a factor.
But it is a decision of the court, a precedent on that issue. Any question of revisiting it would have to be consistent with the principles of stare decisis.
And we've talked about those principles and how they apply.
BROWNBACK: Yes. I just wanted to make clear that it doesn't matter the length of time the opinion has set, the number of times it's been revisited, stare decisis is a basic principle that applies to any opinion previously held by the court.
BROWNBACK: And I would note, this is an opinion put forward, as you get from a lot of us, that these are issues that are very difficult and they're ones that are actually quite well-suited for the legislative process to discuss, because you have different views of life. Is life sacred per se, or is it subject to some sort of objective review?
It's a very difficult issue here in this body and across the country, and it's one that has a lot of emotion and is a very important issue for the society really itself to talk through, and through a lot of discussions we have.