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    Sunday, August 06, 2006

    Newswire: ABA: Bush violating Constitution

    Bar association president says signing statements erode democracy

    WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush's penchant for writing exceptions
    to laws he has just signed violates the Constitution, an American
    Bar Association task force says in a report highly critical of the

    The ABA group, which includes a one-time FBI director and former
    federal appeals court judge, said the president has overstepped his
    authority in attaching challenges to hundreds of new laws.

    The attachments, known as bill-signing statements, say Bush reserves
    a right to revise, interpret or disregard measures on national
    security and constitutional grounds.

    "This report raises serious concerns crucial to the survival of our
    democracy," said the ABA's president, Michael Greco. "If left
    unchecked, the president's practice does grave harm to the
    separation of powers doctrine, and the system of checks and balances
    that have sustained our democracy for more than two centuries."

    Some congressional leaders had questioned the practice. The task
    force's recommendations, being released Monday in Washington, will
    be presented to the 410,000-member group next month at its annual
    meeting in Hawaii.

    ABA policymakers will decide whether to denounce the statements and
    encourage a legal fight over them.

    The task force said the statements suggest the president will
    decline to enforce some laws. Bush has had more than 800 signing
    statement challenges, compared with about 600 signing statements
    combined for all other presidents, the group said.

    Noel J. Francisco, a former Bush administration attorney who
    practices law in Washington, said the president is doing nothing
    unusual or inappropriate.

    "Presidents have always issued signing statements," he said. "This
    administration believes that it should make clear ... when the
    Congress is getting close to the lines that our Constitution draws."

    Francisco said the administration's input is part of the give and
    take between the branches of government. "I think it's good that the
    debate is taking place at a public level," he added.

    White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said last month that "it's
    important for the president at least to express reservations about
    the constitutionality of certain provisions."

    The ABA report said President Reagan was the first to use the
    statements as a strategic weapon, and that it was encouraged by then-
    administration lawyer Samuel Alito -- now the newest Supreme Court

    The task force included former prosecutor Neal Sonnett of Miami;
    former FBI Director William Sessions; Patricia Wald, former chief
    judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia
    Circuit; former Republican Rep. Mickey Edwards; and former Reagan
    administration lawyer Bruce Fein; and law school professors and
    other lawyers.

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