It is not often that a federal district court judge rules in an important case without holding a trial, as Judge Adrian Duplantier did in New Orleans Wednesday. He struck down the state's new anti-abortion law on the grounds that it was unconstitutional under Roe vs. Wade. He should not have done that. This extreme law, banning almost all abortions and penalizing physicians who perform them with 10-year prison terms and $100,000 fines, would have been found unconstitutional even without relying on Roe. Still, since both sides had vowed to appeal the verdict, Judge Duplantier should have developed a trial record for proper appellate review.
Louisiana Attorney General William Guste said Thursday that the state wants the case to go directly to the Supreme Court, by-passing the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Even if there were a trial record, this would be inappropriate. There is no emergency involved in Louisiana, and the Supreme Court has at least one and possibly other abortion cases coming before it next term in an orderly fashion after trial and circuit court review.
One of those cases involves whether federal law forbids anti-abortion extremists from forcibly preventing women from entering clinics where legal abortions are provided. Members of Operation Rescue have been doing this recently in Wichita, Kan., in defiance of a federal trial judge's injunction. Incredibly, the Justice Department just this week went into court on the extremists' side.