[JURIST] The American Bar Association [profession website] Board of Governors [ABA backgrounder] voted unanimously Saturday to launch an inquiry into President Bush's frequent use of signing statements [1993 US DOJ backgrounder] to bypass new laws because of his interpretation of presidential and executive powers under the US Constitution. The President has used such statements some 750 times [Boston Globe report] since taking office in 2001. In January this year, he controversially reserved the right to bypass a ban on torture [JURIST report] when he signed the 2006 defense spending bill [JURIST report], prompting even top Republican leaders to criticize him [JURIST report].
The ABA has assembled a bipartisan task force of legal professionals and scholars, including former federal judges and Justice Department officials, to research whether Bush, who has appended more signing statements to bills than any other US president, has exceeded his constitutional authority and circumvented the system of checks and balances with the signing statements. The committee is expected to report its findings to the ABA's House of Delegates, which will decide whether to adopt the recommendations, in August. In February, the ABA adopted the findings of a similar task force [ABA Journal report] investigating the warrantless domestic surveillance program [JURIST news archive], which recommended [JURIST report] that Bush abide by the constitutional limitations placed on the president or work with Congress to enact new legislation if he believes current laws are inadequate. The Boston Globe has more.