Murkowski needs to remember lessons from law school

Ann Brown



After considering Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s recent comments about U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s replacement needing to be in the same mold as the retiring justice, I thought back to our mutual time at the at Willamette University Law School.

As I recall, Sen. Murkowski was in the class behind me, so I imagine she was taught the same lessons in constitutional law and judicial review as I was.

The first thing we learned in these classes was that American courts have the power to strike down laws, statutes, and executive actions that are contrary to  the U.S. Constitution. This principle was first established in the Court’s decision in Marbury v. Madison, issued in 1803.
In Marbury, the Court explained the boundaries among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. Review by the judiciary is one of the checks and balances in the separation of powers.The judiciary can be seen to swat down, so-to-speak, the executive and legislative branches of government when either exceeds its authority.
Since the Court has such supervisory power, it must only use that power to interpret narrowly actions by the executive and legislative branches by applying the words of the Constitution to the issue or issues before it in any given case. No case should be analyzed by the court with a predetermined outcome.
When Sen. Murkowski notes Justice Kennedy’s pivotal role on the court, because he often served as a swing vote between the court’s liberal and conservative justices, she seems to be veering close to stating that she wants a moderate outcome of cases before the Court. As we both learned at law school, the outcome of a case involving the Constitution or federal law is dictated by applying the Constitution to the facts of each case.
I remember Sen. Murkowski at law school. She had the reputation of being a serious student. Her stature as the senior senator from Alaska does not surprise me. In my view, she has been thoughtful and deliberate in her efforts to put issues, such as energy, oil and gas, land use, and natural resources, first, as these are important to all Alaskans. I have supported her because of her nimble understanding of these matters.
If I could speak to her now, I would suggest that, in her consideration of a new US Supreme Court Justice, she hearken back to our basic training in constitutional law.  She should look for a justice who will narrowly apply the provisions of the Constitution to the facts of each case, with no predetermined outcome necessary.
Ann Brown, formerly of Fairbanks, currently lives in Anchorage. She is an experienced trial lawyer and was the managing partner of her firm’s branch office, concentrating her work on labor and employment law. Notably, she has done a significant amount of work for churches and representing free speech and First Amendment cases.


  1. Do tell. What is it in the Constitution that is un-Constitutional regarding Roe v. Wade ?

    • I saw no reference to Roe V. Wade in this article. There has been much discussion of this matter. I’m sure you can Google it.

    • Please read Griswald v. Connecticut, the basis for the Roe decision. If Griswald makes perfect sense to you, no one will be able to help.

  2. Please do talk to her…Maybe you can get through to her on many of the issues Alaskans dislike her so much for! She is in the pockets of special interest and tied to Susan Collins skirt tails…Her election was a fraud and so is she!!

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