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About Ellen F. Rosenblum
Attorney General Hardy Myers today filed Oregon's responding brief in State of Oregon v. John Ashcroft, the state's defense of the voter-approved Death with Dignity Act. The brief, which was filed in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, defends the U.S. District Court's decision upholding the state's law allowing physician assisted suicide.
In April, U.S. District Court Judge Robert E. Jones ruled that in issuing the so-called "Ashcroft Directive," which would have effectively halted Oregon's law, the U.S. Department of Justice overstepped its legal authority. Judge Jones noted in his opinion that, "To allow an attorney general-an appointed executive whose tenure depends entirely on whatever administration occupies the White House-to determine the legitimacy of a particular medical practice without a specific congressional grant of such authority would be unprecedented and extraordinary."
Oregon's brief asserts that Congress did not give Attorney General Ashcroft authority to determine what is a "legitimate medical purpose." Rather, that responsibility is historically delegated to the individual states. Oregon has, through initiative and referendum, twice determined that physician assisted suicide serves a "legitimate medical purpose."
The State also argues that Ashcroft's position, if authorized by Congress, would exceed Congress's power under the United States Constitution.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has not yet set a date for oral argument. By court rule the U.S. Department of Justice has fourteen days to file a reply brief.
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