Archive for the 'Constitutional Law' Category

Obamacare decision throws constitutional shadow on federal tort reform

Posted by on Oct 18 2013 | Constitutional History, Constitutional Law, Constitutional Theory, Corporate Welfare, defunding Obamacare, federalism, House Republicans, Natelson Rob', obamacare, Originalism, Rob Natelson, U.S. Constitution

Just to show you that hypocrisy is alive and well in Washington, D.C. (as if you didn’t know), Title V of the Republican bill to “repeal and replace Obamacare” contains some of the same constitutional problems that led 27 states to challenge Obamacare. Under Title V, Congress would partially assume command of state court procedures—including how they conduct jury trials and what evidence is introduced.

Not surprisingly, the bill’s purported “justification” is the much-abused Commerce Power. However, it likely runs afoul of those parts of Chief Justice Roberts’ decision in which he held that (1) Congress could not invade certain core state powers and (2) although the individual insurance mandate was valid as a tax, it exceeded the Commerce Power.

This week I wrote an essay on the bill’s constitutional problems, which I’ve reproduced below, and in PDF form here.

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Not raising the debt limit = balancing the budget

Posted by on Oct 16 2013 | congress, Constitutional Law, debt, federal shutdown, Government Largess, Government Largess, Growth of Government, Spending Clause

Not raising the debt limit is simply running a balanced budget.

Yes, that’s right: The President and Congress may have to balance the federal budget in the next few days! Horrors!

Let’s get some clarity here. When the federal government hits the debt limit it does NOT mean that it can’t borrow or that it can’t pay existing debts. It just means it cannot continue to run a deficit. Spending becomes limited by revenue, and existing debt may be replaced by new debt. The government just can’t add MORE debt.

That means the government has to prioritize. The obvious priorities are:

* First, pay principal and interest on existing debts to avoid default. (There is plenty of tax revenue for this.)

* Pay the military and spend what is necessary for defense. (There is plenty of tax revenue for this, also.)

* Pay for other programs authorized by the Constitution. (Ditto)

* If money is left over, pay debts previously incurred for programs not authorized by the Constitution. (There will not be enough for this, so they will have to be closed down and paid off over time.)

This is the basic situation that Washington, D.C., its hangers-on, and the mainstream media think is so terrible.

Granted, suddenly balancing the budget may not be pretty. The states will have to take up some of the services the feds have been running on borrowed money. But they can do it better and more efficiently, anyway. (Colorado already is responding by keeping Rocky Mountain National Park open during the partial federal shutdown.)

Even if it’s not pretty, the history of other indebted nations during the last few decades—including our neighbor Canada—shows that shock treatment may be the best way for a country to get its fiscal health in order.

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VIDEO: Poetry and Constitutionalism

Posted by on Aug 06 2013 | Constitutional Amendments, Constitutional History, Constitutional Law, Constitutional Theory, Idiot Box (TV Show), U.S. Constitution

To showcase just how diverse my TV show Devils Advocate is, this past Friday I had resident constitutional scholar Rob Natelson on and acclaimed performance poet Shawn Welcome on for 15 minutes each. Below you’ll find the shows:

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Congratulations Rob Natelson!

Posted by on Jul 09 2013 | Constitutional History, Constitutional Law, Constitutional Theory, The Founders, U.S. Constitution

Rob Natelson, our Senior Fellow in Constitutional Jurisprudence, was just cited in the U.S. Supreme Court. In June, Justice Thomas cited Rob’s work by name 12 times in two separate cases — an exceedingly rare honor for a legal scholar. This month, the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy published Rob’s short article on the constitutional amendment process. As its name suggests, the Harvard Journal is one of the nation’s most prestigious law reviews. The same journal has agreed to publish Rob’s ground-breaking article on the original meaning of the Recess Appointments Clause — a section of the Constitution now front and center in the debate over President Obama’s practice of appointing officials without the Senate approval.

Rob also is in increasing demand as a speaker. On June 14, he keynoted a national program in Colorado Springs for the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. In July, he’s presenting several programs in Montana. And in August, he’ll give addresses on the Constitution to two national organizations of state lawmakers—the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council and the more liberally-leaning National Conference of State Legislatures. Rob also regularly gives talks for Colorado citizens’ groups and is a regular on two Colorado radio shows and one in Montana.

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The Truth About Gun Control

Posted by on Apr 26 2013 | Constitutional History, Constitutional Law, guns, Kopelization, Second Amendment, The Founders, U.S. Constitution

Wouldn’t it be great if someone wrote a short essay about the right to keep and bear arms and its opposition in America? Perhaps something of similar length and persuasion as Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” or the Federalist Papers?

Well, our resident Second Amendment scholar, historian, and law professor Dave Kopel did just that for Encounter Books. In his latest book appropriately titled, “The Truth About Gun Control,” Dave gives the reader a foundation for why the right to keep and bear arms is important, who fought this inherent right and why, and what’s at stake today from the likes of Mayor Bloomberg and President Obama. As Dave says, the book is meant to be read in one sitting. Or as I like to say, the book can be read to me in one sitting.

If you’d like to hear more about the book, check out this iVoices.org podcast. He and Justin go into more detail about the book and why it’s an important piece in today’s fight against the gun control machine.

If reading the book and listening to the podcast don’t entirely whet your appetite, I may have just the thing for you. On Tuesday, May 14th, we are holding a book signing and presentation with Dave here at the Freedom Embassy. Admission is FREE, but you must RSVP online or by phone at 303-279-6536. For more information, visit our Facebook page here.

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Another Second Amendment Success

Posted by on Apr 19 2013 | Constitutional Law, Gun shows, guns, Kopelization, Politics, PPC, Second Amendment, U.S. Constitution

The media correctly portrayed Wednesday’s Senate vote against broad background checks as an enormous defeat for the anti-gun movement, and for President Obama, as he put so much of his political capital into it. His decisive defeat significantly weakens him on every other issue.

What might not be as well known is that the Independence Institute was a key player in this success.

We were the only organization to put out a detailed explanation of how Senator Schumer’s background check bill would’ve turned almost every American gun owner into a felon, because it applies not only to gun sales, but also temporary transfers, like lending your shotgun to a friend or family member.

When the gun control lobby realized they couldn’t pass Schumer’s background check, they then proposed the Manchin-Toomey substitute. It was drafted secretly and hastily, and the plan was to rush it through the Senate. Our Second Amendment scholar, David Kopel, spent long & late nights writing articles on Volokh.com and National Review Online explaining how poorly written it was, making it full of unintended consequences. For example, it supposedly outlawed federal gun registration, but when you look carefully at the statutory language, it actually legalized one form of federal gun registration which is currently illegal.

Kopel’s work helped the Senate see that these bills, which were supposedly just about background checks on sales, were actually laden with many other anti gun provisions.

We were there from the very beginning of this fight. According to Senate aides, Kopel’s testimony before the Judicial Committee on January 30 was crucial in stopping a federal ban on so-called “assault weapons.” And from the very moment President Obama began using the horrible murders in Newtown as pretext to crack down on law abiding gun owners, Kopel was in the national media providing the facts and promoting genuine reforms which would actually help public safety.

Joe Biden lobbied hard here in Colorado to pass a litany of anti gun bills on the state level, which were intended to set the stage for a national ban. Kopel’s expert testimony in the state legislature, along with our broad outreach in social media and on YouTube, helped lead to the defeat of two of the worst bills: the ban on licensed carry on college campuses and the bill allowing lawsuits against gun manufacturers. Our work also helped make the bills that did pass significantly less bad than they were to start with.

For the anti-gun movement, Colorado was supposed to be an easy victory leading them to victories elsewhere. Instead they paid a HUGE price for their limited victories in Colorado, and that price will escalate significantly as we provide pro bono representation to Colorado Sheriffs as we lead the legal fight to declare these bills unconstitutional.

Join us for a book signing with our Second Amendment scholar Dave Kopel on Tuesday, May 14th. He will be giving a presentation on his new book, “The Truth About Gun Control,” and signing copies following the Q and A. For more details and to RSVP, please go here.

We fight for Freedom with a long-term battle plan that works. These victories are even more proof. Thank you for being a part of it.

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VIDEO: Rob Natelson on Guns Rights in Colorado

Posted by on Mar 28 2013 | Constitutional History, Constitutional Law, Growth of Government, guns, PPC, U.S. Constitution, Video

Independence Institute friend and long-time contributor Ari Armstrong shot this video of Constitution scholar Rob Natelson speaking in Grand Junction on gun rights, the Second Amendment, and Colorado’s new gun controls. We can’t thank Ari enough for shooting, editing, and posting the video.

Below you’ll find the whole speech, but before you watch the whole thing, check out this 4 minute segment where Rob makes a great analogy between gun controls and sex controls. It’s pure genius.

And here is the whole 34 minute speech.

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All Kopel, All the Time

Posted by on Feb 13 2013 | Constitutional History, Constitutional Law, Kopelization, Law schools, Second Amendment, U.S. Constitution

I’m sure like me, you feel like there is just not enough Dave Kopel in the world to satiate your unquenchable thirst for the Second Amendment, law, history, and everything else Dave knows everything about. We’ll never get enough Kopel, but we can get close. I’ve been visiting Dave’s YouTube channel over the past few weeks and it’s a great way to keep up with everything he’s doing on air. It’s updated regularly so make sure you subscribe to it.

Below you’ll find the latest Dave video – a debate on international gun control held yesterday at DU. It’s basically an hour of Dave dropping knowledge on the panel and the room. Truly remarkable.

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Speaker Ferrandino And Constitutional Wonkery On Devil’s Advocate Tonight

Posted by on Jan 04 2013 | Constitutional History, Constitutional Law, Idiot Box (TV Show), Politics, PPC, U.S. Constitution

Friday night means public affairs tv excellence with the Independence Institute on Colorado Public Television 12.

First, catch Independence Institute research director David Kopel on on the roundtable show, Colorado Inside Out at 8:00 PM. Then stay tuned for Devil’s Advocate at 8:30. First, incoming Speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives Mark Ferrandino sits down with Independence Institute president Jon Caldara about what to expect in the upcoming legislative session. Then Independence Institute constitutional scholar Rob Natelson comes by to explain how Congress ignored the constitutional requirement that spending bills originate in the House in the recent “fiscal cliff” deal, and why it matters.
That’s tonight starting at 8:00 on Colorado Public Television 12.

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Does any government have the legitimate power to ban medical marijuana?

Posted by on Dec 10 2012 | Constitutional History, Constitutional Law, Constitutional Theory, Criminal Law, Growth of Government, Paternalism

Ernst Freund was one of the Founding Fathers of progressive constitutionalism. His 1904 book The Police Power: Public Policy and Constitutional Rights argued for a vastly expanded understanding of the police power. (The police power, broadly defined, is a government’s power to regulate health, safety, welfare and morals. It is distinct from other government powers, such as the tax power, or the military power. In the U.S. system, the federal government does not have a police power, except as to federal territories, but the States do have a police power.)

Freund’s expansive view of the police power aimed to overthrow the then-prevailing (at least in theory) view, articulated by Christopher Tiedeman in his 1886  A Treatise on the Limitations of the Police Power in the United States, that the police power could only be used to prevent people from harming others or violating their rights. In the long run, Freund’s view became the mainstream.

So what would Freund, that great advocate for loosening the restraints on big government, have to say about laws which prohibit the medical use of marijuana? Here’s what he wrote about liquor prohibition:

All prohibitory laws make an exception in favor of sales for medical purposes. This is not a legislative indulgence but a constitutional necessity, since the state could not validly prohibit the use of valuable curative agencies on account of remote possibility of abuse. “[T]he power of the legislature to prohibit the prescription and sale of liquor to be used as medicine does not exist, and its exercise would be as purely arbitrary as the prohibition of its sale for religious purposes….” The right to an adequate supply of medicines cannot be cut off by the legislature, and when legal provisions would have such effect they must that extent be inoperative.

Freund, at 210-11, quoting Sarrls v. Commonwealth, 83 Ky. 327, 332-33 (1885) (interpreting physician exception in statutory ban on liquor transfers).

In The Evolving Police Power: Some Observations for a New Century (27 Hastings Const’l L.Q. 511 (Spring 2000)), Glenn Reynolds and examined the trend in some courts towards judicial recognition of an issue on which Freund and Tiedman agreed: however one defines the boundaries of the police power, it is not infinite, and there are some personal zones into which it cannot reach.

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