IN THE EYE OF THE STORM

When Texas Republicans began hunting for a state Supreme Court candidate in 1994, they approached a bright young oil-and-gas lawyer named Priscilla Owen. She'd been the top scorer on the Texas bar exam and, at 30, made partner at a prestigious Houston law firm, but she was hardly a political animal.

THE WAR ON JUDGES

It was meant as an olive branch in a time of escalating hostilities. For months, members of Congress had been railing against federal judges, lambasting their decisions and vying to limit their power.

A Matter of Restraint

When Jessica Gonzales was ending a difficult marriage in 1999, she turned to the legal system for help. Her estranged husband, Simon, had attempted to hang himself in the garage, called the house at all hours, and had terrified Gonzales and their three young daughters by hiding in dark corners and leaping out, she says. "He used to toy with us," she says. "We didn't know what he was going to do." He had threatened to buy a gun and to abduct the girls from school, Gonzales recalls.

ANXIETY OVER ABORTION

The week after Thanksgiving, dozens of Democratic Party loyalists gathered at AFL-CIO headquarters for a closed-door confab on the election. John Kerry dropped by to thank members of the liberal 527 coalition America Votes.

DRUG WARS AHEAD

The political campaign may be over, but the battles over prescription drugs are heating up. Last month the Food and Drug Administration drew new scrutiny after an FDA regulator told Congress that the agency was "virtually incapable of protecting America" from unsafe drugs like the arthritis medication Vioxx.

Farewell to the Cabinet

Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson became the eighth member of George W. Bush's cabinet to resign on Friday afternoon. As governor of Wisconsin for 14 years, Thompson gained a reputation as a no-nonsense welfare reformer.

OF PRAYER AND PAYBACK

All year long, the Rev. Pat Robertson kept his distance from the Bush-Cheney campaign. In 1992 he'd used a prime-time speaking slot at the Republican convention in Houston to rail against abortion, homosexuality and a decadent American culture.

FIRMLY IN CONTROL

He may have won re-election and a majority in both houses of Congress, but George W. Bush shouldn't expect a free ride on Capitol Hill. Republicans maintained their control of the House and expanded their lead in the Senate, with at least 54 seats in their column (the results of the Alaska race were not clear at press time).

WINNING THE 'VALUES' VOTE

For weeks, gay-rights activists had been bracing for the worst. Pre-election polls told them that contentious anti-gay-marriage initiatives, on the ballot in 11 states, would likely pass in all but Oregon.

A LONG SHADOW

At a reunion with his former law clerks in May, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens was in a reflective mood. As more than a hundred clerks and other guests dined in an elegant room at the court, the oldest justice rose to make a speech.

MEDICARE: FADING SENIOR SUPPORT?

After AARP chief Bill Novelli decided to back George W. Bush's Medicare prescription-drug bill, some 70,000 members quit in protest. Observers called the deal a political win for Bush; ecstatic Republicans touted the new alliance with the seniors' lobby.

KENTUCKY'S PAIN

THREE YEARS INTO THE WAR ON OXYCONTIN ABUSE, THE CASUALTIES CONTINUE. BUT THERE'S HOPE WHERE IT ALL BEGAN.

DEATH PENALTY:CAMERAS REPORT, THE JURY DECIDES

On the first vote, half the jurors were ready to send Mark Ducic to his death. After several days of tense deliberations in an Ohio courthouse, they had already convicted Ducic of mass murder--killing two people with lethal cocktails of prescription drugs.

THE GAY WAR ROLLS ON

On Main Avenue in Brookings, S.D., a smartly dressed woman spotted John Thune, the Republican running to unseat Sen. Tom Daschle, and charged across the street, her smile beaming and her hand outstretched. "I'm with you," 62-year-old Connie Burdick told Thune. "Something's got to be done," she said, to stop the downfall of traditional values.

JUDGING THE PERCENTAGES

The Supreme Court ended its term last week with a flurry of important decisions--and no resignations. It's been 10 years since the last vacancy on the high court, the longest dry spell since the early 1800s.

POLITICS: A GAY-MARRIAGE WEDGE

He hadn't used the phrase "sanctity of marriage" since March, but at the Southern Baptist conference last week, President Bush reiterated his call for a no-gay-marriage amendment.

Calling it Quits

For the past several years, Supreme Court buffs have speculated on which of the court's nine long-serving justices might retire. But this week it was the government's chief advocate, U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson, who said he was calling it quits.

The 'Will &Amp; Grace' Effect

For Richard and Jeanine Benanti, opposing same-sex marriage was an easy call. "It's against nature, it's against society and it's against the Bible," says 49-year-old Richard, who works for the Boys and Girls Club in Springfield, Ill.

'It's Hard To Get It Right'

Dick Cheney isn't Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's only friend in Washington. For years the justice has socialized with Sen. Patrick Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the powerful Judiciary Committee.

GENERATION AMBIVALENT

One night last week in downtown Washington, D.C., the NARAL Pro-Choice America "march action center" hummed like a campaign headquarters on election night.

'All is at Risk'

Kate Michelman began her career working with special-needs children. But she's best known as a champion of abortion rights-a cause she adopted after her own humiliating experience with a pre Roe v.

A FAMILY AND A FLAG

If you had happened to spot Dr. Michael Newdow returning his legal books to the public library in suburban Sacramento, Calif., earlier this month, you might not have suspected that the barefoot man clad in rumpled jeans and a puffy green ski jacket was a respected emergency-room physician.

Protest and Prayer

What is a prayer? That's just one of the questions at the heart of the case heard today by the U.S. Supreme Court. At issue is whether the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance is an unconstitutional "establishment" of religion.

A FALLING OUT AMONG FRIENDS

David Catania has been one of George W. Bush's most loyal supporters. The Washington, D.C., city councilman has raised nearly $80,000 for the president's re-election.

SOMETHING ABOUT MARY

In a campaign consumed with Vietnam War records and elusive weapons of mass destruction, the candidates have so far tiptoed around the season's touchiest wedge issue: gay marriage.

GUN CONTROL: 'GORED'? NOT IN '04

In 2000, Al Gore proposed issuing federal licenses to gun owners. The idea didn't sit well in conservative Red States and, some say, it may have cost him the election.

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