The Supreme Court held an intense oral argument yesterday on Oregon's first-in-the-nation law allowing physician-assisted suicide, with the new chief justice, John G. Roberts Jr., sounding skeptical about the state's claim that it can make its own rules without federal interference.
The Bush administration argues that [John D. Ashcroft] was within his statutory authority when he declared that Oregon's law is trumped by the federal Controlled Substances Act -- and Roberts, through repeated tough questioning of Oregon's senior assistant attorney general, Robert M. Atkinson, seemed to agree.
Roberts's questioning provided the first hints, however tentative, of his views on end-of-life issues. They could also imply a difference on federalism between Roberts and the man he succeeded, William H. Rehnquist. Last term, Rehnquist was one of three justices who voted, on grounds of states' rights, to let California uphold its legalization of homegrown "medical marijuana" -- notwithstanding a federal ban. But Roberts sounded yesterday like a supporter of federal authority.
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