Archive for the 'federalism' Category

Nearing the end of the search for the non-existent limiting principles

Posted by on Mar 29 2012 | Commerce Clause, Constitutional Law, federalism, Fifth Amendment, Growth of Government, guns, Health Care, Individual Mandate, Necessary and Proper, New Class, Regulation, supreme court, Taxes, Uncategorized

With the Supreme Court probably voting on the constitutionality of Obamacare (a term the President proudly embraces) on Friday, the health control law’s academic friends are diligently attempting to do what the entire United States Department of Justice could not do after two years of litigation: articulate plausible limiting principles for the individual mandate. Over at Balkinization, Neil Siegel offers Five Limiting Principles. They are:

1. The Necessary and Proper Clause. “Unlike other purchase mandates, including every hypothetical at oral argument on Tuesday, the minimum coverage provision prevents the unraveling of a market that Congress has clear authority to regulate.” This is no limitation at all. Under modern doctrine, Congress has the authority to regulate almost every market. If Congress enacts regulations that are extremely harmful to that market, such as imposing price controls (a/k/a “community rating”) or requiring sellers to sell products at far below cost to some customers (e.g., “guaranteed issue”) then the market will probably “unravel” (that is, the companies will lose so much money that they go out of business). So to prevent the companies from being destroyed, Congress forces other consumers to buy products from those companies at vastly excessive prices (e.g., $5,000 for an individual policy for a health 35-year-old whose actuarial expenditures for health care of all sorts during a year is $845).

So Siegel’s argument is really an anti-limiting principle: if Congress imposes ruinous price controls on  a market, to help favored consumers, then Congress can try to save the market’s producers by mandating that disfavored consumers buy overpriced products from those producers.

2. The Commerce Clause. “The minimum coverage provision addresses economic problems, not merely social problems that do not involve markets.” This is true, and is, as Siegel points out, a distinction from Lopez (carrying guns) and Morrison (gender-related violence). However, it’s pretty clear under long-established doctrine that the Commerce power can be used to address “social problems that do not involve markets.” E.g.Caminetti v. United States, 242 U.S. 470 (1917) (Congress can use the interstate commerce power to criminalize interstate travel by people intending to engage in non-commercial extra-marital sex); Champion v. Ames, 188 U.S. 321 (1903) (“What clause can be cited which, in any degree, countenances the suggestion that one may, of right, carry or cause to be carried from one state to another that which will harm the public morals?”). Personally, I thought that Chief Justice Fuller’s dissent in Champion had the better argument, but Champion and its progeny are well-established precedents, so proposed limiting principle number two does not work, unless we overrule a century of precedent.

Besides that, #2 does not work for the same reason that #1 does not work. If Congress forced food producers to sell products to some consumers at far below cost, then Congress could (for economic, not social/moral motives) force other consumers to buy overpriced food, so that the producers do not go bankrupt. Imagine that instead of the Food Stamp program (general tax revenue given to 1/6 of the U.S. population to help them buy food), Congress forced grocery stores to sell food to poor people at far below cost. And instead of raising taxes in order to give money to the grocery stores to make up for their losses on the coerced sales, Congress instead forced other consumers to spend thousands of dollars on food from those same stores, which would be sold to those consumers at far above its free market price.

If there’s a limiting principle, the only one seems to be that in order to mandate the purchase of a product, Congress must also inflict some other harm on the producers of the product, which the coerced purchases will ameliorate.

3. “Collective action failures and interstate externalities impede the ability of the states to guarantee access to health insurance, prevent adverse selection, and prevent cost shifting by acting on their own. Insurers operate in multiple states and have fled from states that guarantee access to states that do not.” This is really a policy argument for Obamacare. Hypothesizing that it’s a good policy argument, it’s not a limiting principle. That the advocates of Obamacare think that the policy arguments for their mandate is better than the policy arguments for other mandates does not provide courts with a limiting principle of law.

Moreover, the policy argument is wrong. It’s true that some insurance companies stop operating in states where the law forces them to sell insurance to legislatively-favored purchasers at far below the actuarial cost of the insurance, with the  legislature failing to compensate the companies for the enormous resulting losses. If you make it difficult for companies to operate profitably in your state, then they will eventually stop operating in your state. It’s not a collective action problem; it’s just a problem of several states enacting laws that prevent companies from covering their costs. Any state with guaranteed issue and other price controls can solve the problem immediately by simply using tax revenues pay compensation for the subsidy which the state law forces the insurance companies to provide to certain consumers.

Obamacare is a particularly weak case in which to argue that the federal government is riding the rescue of the states to solve a collective action problem. For the first time in American history, a majority of the States are suing to ask that a federal law be declared unconstitutional. These states are taking collective action to stop the federal government from imposing a problem on them.

4. The Tax Power. “[T]he minimum coverage provision respects the limits on the tax power. The difference between a tax and a penalty is the difference between the minimum coverage provision and a required payment of say, $10,000 that has a scienter requirement and increases with each month that an individual remains uninsured. Unlike the minimum coverage provision, such an exaction would be so coercive that it would raise little or no revenue. It would thus be beyond the scope of the tax power.”

Let’s put aside the fact that, however ingenious the progressive professoriate’s  tax arguments have been, the chances that the individual mandate is going to be upheld under the tax power appear to be at most 1% greater than the chance the Buddy Roemer will be the next President of the United States.

Presuming that Siegel’s tax justification for the individual mandate is valid, it is an anti-limiting principle. Congress can indeed mandate eating hamburgers, smoking, not smoking, not eating hamburgers, or anything else Congress wants to mandate, as long as Congress sets the “tax” at level that will raise a moderate amount of revenue, does not include a scienter requirement, and does not make the “tax” increase each month that the individual refuses to do what Congress mandates.

5. Liberty. “The minimum coverage provision does not violate any individual rights, including bodily integrity and substantive due process more generally. These rights would be violated by a mandate to eat broccoli or exercise a certain amount.” Pointing to the existence of the Bill of Rights is not an example of a limiting principle for an enumerated federal power. The Constitution does not say that Congress may do whatever it wishes as long as the Bill of Rights protections of Liberty are not violated. Ordering New York State to take title to low-level radioactive waste generated within the state (New York v. United States) did not violate any person’s substantive due process rights, but the order was nonetheless unconstitutional because it exceeded Congress’s powers. The federal Gun-Free School Zones Act did not, as applied, violate the Second Amendment rights of Alfonso Lopez, who was carrying the gun to deliver it to a criminal gang. Yet the Act still exceeded Congress’s commerce power. A limiting principle must limit the exercise of the power itself, not merely point out that the Bill of Rights protects some islands of Liberty which the infinitely vast sea of federal power might not cover.

Finally, I certainly agree with Professor Siegel that the Fifth Amendment’s liberty guarantee (and its 14th Amendment analogue for the states) should be interpreted to say that no American government can order people to consume a certain amount of healthy food, or to exercise. But there is no major case that is on point for this. The argument for a new unenumerated right “not to eat the minimum quantity of nutritious food which government scientists have  determined is essential for good health” is something that would have to be built almost entirely by extrapolation from cases that have nothing to do with food. I hope that courts would accept the argument; but if the political culture ever moved far enough so that a nutrition mandate could pass a legislature, I’m not as certain as Prof. Siegel that courts would overturn the mandate. The odds of winning a case against a nutrition mandate will be better if the judges who decide that case have not grown up in a nation where a federal health control mandate is the law of the land.

Comments Off for now

Jared Polis Unimpressed By Colorado’s New Top Drug Cop

Posted by on Feb 29 2012 | boulder, congress, Drug Policy, federalism, PPC, War on Drugs

The Denver Post’s crime blog, cleverly called The Rap Sheet yesterday introduced readers to the new chief of the Denver office of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Colorado Congressman Jared Polis, who sits on the House Judiciary Committee is, to say the least, unimpressed with Colorado’s new head federal drug warrior. Here’s what Jared has to say on his facebook page:

There are so many things wrong with (new regional Drug Enforcement Agency Director) Agent Roach’s approach in today’s Denver Post article. I’ll call her soon to discuss my concerns. Let me know yours. In this article she manages to insult not just my hometown of Boulder but our state Capital of Denver and so many other cities in Colorado: “Right now, she is choosing a city for her husband and two children to live in where no marijuana dispensaries are allowed.”

Her choice of where to live in our state is absolutely her own decision (though I question her judgment, she is entitled to her decision) but to publicly state shortly after arriving in a state that living in our premier city and many of our great towns is outright unacceptable to you is nothing short of an affront to our entire state.

As for her judgment, why should it matter if there is a dispensary across town? I mean, by all means don’t get a place next to a dispensary if you dislike them so intensely, but who cares if there is one somewhere else in town? Personally as a father, I would much rather have a well-regulated dispensary as a neighbor than a seedy liquor store, but neither one would absolutely disqualify an otherwise perfect place to live with good schools and a safe neighborhood.

Then Agent Roach just gets, well, weird: “People are not taking into account what can happen to those who are growing it (marijuana). There are homes with mold and water damage in the hundreds of thousands.” Oh my. That’s just a very strange thing to say. No doubt that some idiots have flooded their basements growing marijuana. No doubt that some idiots have flooded their basements growing tomatoes. I stained my tiles in my living room last year growing narcissus. Ok. So for this we need a federal cop busting people?

I mean, if you are dumb enough to flood your basement or create hundreds of thousands of dollars of mold damage, that is entirely your own fault and federal law enforcement should NOT be in the business of preventing you from ruining your basement. The fact that an opponent of medical marijuana uses arguments like “it causes water damage to homes” shows how bankrupt that side is of facts.

I truly wish Agent Roach well. In her defense, she’s a cop not a public speaker or public relations person, but I hope she is more careful with her words in the future.

She concludes that her goal is to “focus on dismantling the “top echelon” of drug organizations.” And “to strive for the large drug trafficking organizations – not just domestically, but internationally.”

On this, I wish her well. Ironically, Colorado’s legalized and regulated marijuana industry has probably done more damage to large drug trafficking organizations than her work will ever accomplish, but I certainly wish her well in her efforts unless she starts raiding legal Colorado businesses who are abiding by our laws.

2 comments for now

Free People, Free Markets: Principles of Liberty is BACK!

Posted by on Dec 20 2011 | Constitutional History, Constitutional Law, Constitutional Theory, Economic LIberties, Economics, Events, federalism, History, PPC, The Founders, U.S. Constitution

You may have heard about our Free People, Free Markets class, you may have even taken the course already. If not, I want to encourage you to learn more about something that is certain to enrich your life. Over the years, Free People, Free Markets: Principles of Liberty has taught hundreds of interested liberty lovers the fundamentals of economics, philosophy, and history regarding our country’s founding and economic foundations. If ever there was a time to deepen your love affair with liberty and freedom, THIS is it.

The class meets for 5 consecutive Saturdays, from 9am to noon, starting with the last Saturday in January, the 28th at Colorado Christian University’s business school, room 103 (8787 Alameda Ave, Lakewood). For more info, please call Andy Anderson at 303-829-9435.

Need more reasons why you should enrich your love of liberty? How about this:

You have a strong love of freedom. It’s a natural part of being human. But too few of today’s adults were taught the fundamentals of a free society. We have a wonderful seminar to offer you. It pulls together the basic principles of liberty and a free market, showing you that these cohesive fundamentals allow society to work well, and to honor the individual. The course material springs from the great thinkers and achievers who shaped America. It is designed for business and community leaders and the general public as well as for college students.

The course makes the moral and philosophic case for free-market capitalism. One of the most important concepts of Western Civilization is the acquisition of property as an unalienable right. The course develops the relationship between economic liberty and political liberty. Participants learn the principles behind wealth-creation. They are introduced to the philosophy of the Austrian School of Economics and its connection to the founding ideas of the American experiment. Participants are awakened to their heritage of economic liberty. It will be more than worth your time.

Classes held on five consecutive Saturdays. The course is designed for business and community leaders, college students, and the general public. If desired, you may obtain three college credits through the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs by paying the usual college per-credit fee.

Come if you love liberty. Come if you love collectivism, but need to understand the libertarian position. Come if you want to receive an inexpensive, thorough, and energetic exposure to the founding principles of economic and political liberty.

For more information about the course itself contact Penn Pfiffner at 303-233-7731 or constecon@hotmail.com. For more information about registering and any other matters contact CRBC at 303-829-9435 or principlescourse@smallbizgop.

no comments for now

The original meaning of the 14th Amendment regarding interracial marriage

Posted by on Dec 05 2011 | Anti-Semitism, congress, Constitutional History, Constitutional Law, federalism, First Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, History, Racism, supreme court

Over at Balkinization, Andrew Koppelman (Northwestern) has an interesting and thoughtful post on the state of originalism. Synthesizing analysis by Jamal Greene and Jack Balkin, Koppelman writes, “Originalism is fundamentally about a narrative of rhetorical self-identification with the achievements of a founding historical moment. That is the real basis of its power. An originalist argument will be powerful to the extent that can persuade its audience that it can keep faith with that identification.”

Thus, “Originalist argument is an artifact designed to recall the Constitution’s origin and connect what we are doing now with that origin. Once this functional definition of originalism is understood, it follows that the range of possible original arguments is quite broad. It is not, however, infinite.” So, argues Koppelman, the fact that originalists differ among themselves in many important details about what “originalism” really is, is not a fatal flaw. Simiilarly, there are many different things called “aspirin” (e.g., Excedrin, generic products, St. Joseph’s children’s aspirin, etc.), but they all contain acetylsalicylic acid, and they all have a generally similar function. Which particular one you use at a given time will depend on the particular purposes for which it is needed.

I do want to quibble, though, with one particular legal history claim that Koppelman makes: “Thus originalists struggle with the problem whether the general purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment, to mandate the legal equality of blacks, should trump the framers’ specific intention to permit school segregation and miscegenation laws.”  Michael McConnell and Randy Barnett have written on the school segregation issue, but I’d like to add something on miscegenation. I don’t think that the historical record unambiguously supports the claim of a specific intent in the 14th Amendment to allow the continuation of laws against interracial marriage.

We do know for certain that one very specific intention of the 14th Amendment framers was to provide a solid constitutional foundation for the Civil Rights Act of 1866. According to the Act: “All persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall have the same right in every State and Territory to make and enforce contracts, . . . as is enjoyed by white citizens. . .”

Early exposition by courts is one source of original public meaning. (Although this source is not always guaranteed to be reliable. See, e.g., the Slaughter-House majority’s dicta). In 1872, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that the state’s 1866 constitutional ban on miscegenation  violated the “cardinal principle” of the Civil Rights Act and of the Equal Protection clause. Burns v. State, 48 Ala. 195 (1872). According to the unanimous Burns court, the idea that contracts could be limited to members of the same race was absurd: “Marriage is a civil contract, and in that character alone is dealt with by the municipal law. The same right to make a contract as is enjoyed by white citizens, means the right to make any contract which a white citizen may make. The law intended to destroy the distinctions of race and color in respect to the rights secured by it. It did not aim to create merely an equality of the races in reference to each other. If so, laws prohibiting the races from suing each other, giving evidence for or against, or dealing with one another, would be permissible. The very excess to which such a construction would lead is conclusive against it.”

That same year, the Texas Supreme Court unanimously ruled that  the “the law prohibiting such a [common law] marriage [between a white and a black] had been abrogated by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.” Bonds v. Foster, 36 Tex. 68 (1872) (inheritance case). As detailed in Peggy Pascoe’s book, What Comes Naturally: Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America (2010), in the years after the Civil War, eleven states repealed their bans on interracial marriage.

It was the Indiana Supreme Court  that figured out the way to evade the clear statutory language about the equal right of contract. According to the court, marriage is  ”more than a mere civil contract”; it is an institution fundamental to society. The Indiana court insisted at length that the 14th Amendment had not limited the traditional police power of the states. If Congress could ban states from imposing a racial  mandate on the right to enter a marriage contract, then Congress would (supposedly) have the power to legislate on all aspects of marriage. State v. Gibson, 36 Ind. 389 (1871).

I don’t find the Indiana court’s 1871 reasoning persuasive, and, apparently, neither did the Alabama and Texas Supreme Courts in 1872. But courts cannot stand forever against the sustained will of the electorate. After four losses, the proponents of anti-miscegenation won on their fifth try in the Alabama Supreme Court. When the courts in the various states finally acquiesced to anti-miscegenation laws, Gibson was the essential citation, because it came from a state where slavery had never legally existed. The Texas intermediate Court of Appeals provided the legal reformulation that marriage was “status” and not “contract,” and was therefore not covered by the Civil Rights Act: “Marriage is not a contract protected by the Constitution of the United States, or within the meaning of the Civil Rights Bill. Marriage is more than a contract within the meaning of the act. It is a civil status, left solely by the Federal Constitution and the laws to the discretion of the states, under their general power to regulate their domestic affairs.” Frasher v. State, 3 Tex. App. 263 (Tex. Ct. App. 1877). (The regressive Frasher decision is one more data point in support of the observation in Henry Sumner Maine’s great 1861 book Ancient Law: “we may say that the movement of the progressive societies has hitherto been a movement from Status to Contract.” Maine’s book elaborates in great detail why marriage law fits this paradigm.)

By the time that Plessy v. Ferguson was decided in 1896, the Supreme Court majority, which was willfully oblivious to contemporary social reality (e.g., if blacks consider a segregation mandate to be a “a badge of inferiority,” that is “solely because the colored race chooses to put that construction upon it”) , was also lazily ignorant of legal history: “Laws forbidding the intermarriage of the two races may be said in a technical sense to interfere with the freedom of contact, and yet have been universally recognized as within the police power of the state.” The sole citation for this allegedly “universal” recognition was State v. Gibson. The Court was right that as of 1895, miscegenation laws were constitutionally safe, but the Court seemed quite unaware that during the first years when the 14th Amendment and the Civil Rights Act were the law of the land, the issue was in dispute.

Although the late Professor Pascoe’s book is suffused with critical race/gender theory, readers who find such theories useless will still find Pascoe’s book enormously useful. It is an excellent legal history of anti-miscegenation laws and cases, and not just during Reconstruction. You will learn about the national panic to spread such laws during the early 20th century because the black boxer Jack Johnson (who defeated a string of opponents who were billed as “the Great White Hope”) notoriously consorted with white women; how courts struggled with interpreting miscegenation laws in the West (which were mainly aimed at Asians, and which raised questions such as whether a ban on white marriage to “the Mongolian or Malay races” applied to Filipinos); the NAACP’s political opposition to new miscegenation laws coupled with its great reluctance to mount legal challenges to existing ones; and the extremely risky litigation (not endorsed by NAACP) which led to the landmark 1948 California Supreme Court Perez v. Lippold decision (won mainly on void for vagueness, the fundamental unenumerated right to marry, and First Amendment  free exercise of religion, rather than a categorical attack on all racial discrimination).

Justice Carter’s concurrence in Perez is a good illustration of the main thesis of Koppelman’s post, and of the point made by the second Justice Harlan (and also by Jack Balkin) that our “tradition is a living thing,” in which our national understanding of the original meaning can be deepened by new experiences. Rebutting respondent’s collection of social scientists who contended that race-mixing was destructive to the health of the white race, Justice Carter quoted some essentially similar claims from Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Justice Carter continued: “To bring into issue the correctness of the writings of a madman, a rabble-rouser, a mass-murderer, would be to clothe his utterances with an undeserved aura of respectability and authoritativeness. Let us not forget that this was the man who plunged the world into a war in which, for the third time, Americans fought, bled, and died for the truth of the proposition that all men are created equal.” And so, “In my opinion, the statutes here involved violate the very premise on which this country and its Constitution were built, the very ideas embodied in the Declaration of Independence, the very issue over which the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and the Second World War were fought, and the spirit in which the Constitution must be interpreted in order that the interpretations will appear as ‘Reason in any part of the World besides.’”

Comments Off for now

Wonk Talk: Judicial Federalism

Posted by on Nov 29 2011 | Constitutional History, Constitutional Law, federalism, Health Care, iVoices.org, PPC, Tenth Amendment, U.S. Constitution

Ok, maybe my title is a bit of an overstatement. Granted, podcasts on issues surrounding the law are rarely outside the confines of “wonk,” somehow our resident Constitutional Law scholar Professor Rob Natelson makes constitutional law, legal matters and history consumable even at my level. His latest iVoices.org podcast is on judicial federalism. …Judicial whaaaattt?

Let me explain. Like the Founders themselves, the center-right today is a big fan of federalism – aka states’ rights. The Constitution is a document that outlines enumerated federal powers. Whatever not enumerated is left to the states and people. This way, we have 50 separate locations for testing public policies. 50 “test tubes of innovation” reveal what policies work and what policies fail miserably. (i.e. Romney-care in Massachusetts anyone?) Conservatives rightly point to federalism’s rich history and practical advantages when it comes to things like commerce and regulating economic affairs. However, federalism as it pertains to the law, civil justice, and the courts rarely, if ever, gets discussed. This is where Professor Rob Natelson comes in.

He argues in his blogpost that the Colonists were just as likely to be heard screaming, “leave our law alone” as they were “no taxation without representation!” The idea that the Crown ought not to interfere in Colonial civil justice matters was essential to the early patriots. Indeed, early pamphleteers mentioned among the many grievances against the King the injustice of British interference in strictly American judicial matters. Consequently, these early cries for judicial federalism were woven into our nation’s founding documents.

Today, “conservatives” in Congress are pushing for a federal medical malpractice reform bill – HR5. In other words, they like federalism and states rights – except when it comes to judicial matters. Then they want Washington, DC to impose its will on state law. Of course this is nonsense and Rob explains exactly why in this important paper, The Roots of American Judicial Federalism. As Rob says in the podcast, “what’s Constitutional isn’t always what I like. And what’s unconstitutional isn’t always what I don’t like.”

1 comment for now

Kopel on State Reciprocity and the Second Amendment

Posted by on Sep 21 2011 | cato institute, Constitutional Law, federalism, Fourteenth Amendment, guns, Kopelization, Originalism, PPC, Second Amendment, Tenth Amendment, U.S. Constitution

Concealed carry is a hot topic in Congress now with a bill coming out of the House called the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011 (H.R. 822). This bill would extend conceal carry rights across state lines, allowing a legal gun owner who lives in Colorado to freely move about the country with his or her legal firearm and enter, say Illinois. The bill does not change the law in regards to obtaining a permit in your home state, it only prevents the other 49 states from infringing on your Second Amendment rights upon entering their state. As with all issues Second Amendment, our Dave Kopel weighed in on the issue. On Monday he was featured in the Cato Daily Podcast to discuss H.R. 822 and its implications on gun rights and interstate travel rights.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the podcast occurs when Dave recalls a question he received from Rep. Mike Quigley while giving testimony on 822 in the House subcommittee. Rep. Quigley points out that conservatives in Congress like to talk about states’ rights, but when it comes down to it, states’ rights are merely a convenience issue for them. For example, doesn’t H.R. 822 challenge states’ rights?

You’ll have to listen to the Cato podcast to get Dave’s answer. It’s truly fascinating and extremely insightful.

UPDATE: Here is a link to Dave Kopel on the Amy Oliver radio show this morning talking about this issue. Thanks to 1310 KFKA for the audio!

no comments for now

Congressional hearing on interstate handgun carry reciprocity

Posted by on Sep 14 2011 | congress, federalism, Fourteenth Amendment, guns, McDonald v. City of Chicago, Right to carry

On Tuesday I testified before the U.S. House subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, regarding H.R. 822, which would set up a national system of interstate reciprocity for concealed handgun carry permits. My 24-page written testimony is here. The video of the subcommittee hearing is about and hour and 45 minutes. Nearly all members of the 21-member attended the hearing, and used their opportunity to ask 5 minutes worth of questions. Most of the questions posed to George Mason Law’s Prof. Joyce Malcolm, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, and me, were quite thoughtful. Some congressional hearings are just a form of kabuki theater, but in Tuesday’s hearing, Representatives of both parties, and on both sides of the gun issue, seemed to be sincerely trying to learn more. The bill currently has 243 House co-sponsors.

Comments Off for now

Who wants to provoke a constitutional crisis over abortion?

Posted by on Sep 05 2011 | abortion, federalism, History, Politics

Today South Carolina Republican Senator Jim Demint hosted a forum at which five Republican presidential candidates spoke. The transcript is here.  Each candidate appeared one at a time, and the format allowed for in-depth questions and answers. Among the questioners was Princeton University’s Robert George. Prof. George asked each candidate if he or she would support congressional legislation, under section 5 of the 14th Amendment, to ban abortion. To state the obvious, such legislation would be contrary not only to Roe v. Wade and Penn. v. Casey (abortion rights are protected by section 1 of the 14th Amendment), but also to Boerne v. Flores (Congress cannot use section 5 to protect a right in defiance of direct Supreme Court holding about the particular aspect of the right).  The question explicitly presumed that Roe v. Wade had not been overturned, and that a Human Life Amendment to the Constitution had not been adopted.

The candidates’ answers were as follows:

Bachmann: Yes.

Cain: Yes.

Gingrich: Yes. Cooper v. Aaron‘s assertion of judicial supremacy was wrong. Following the precedent of the first Jefferson administration, I would abolish some federal judgeships. But I am not as bold as Jefferson. “I would do no more than eliminate Judge Barry in San Antonio and the ninth circuit. That’s the most I would go for. (LAUGHTER) (APPLAUSE). But let me say this. That’s part of the national debate. That’s not a rhetorical comment. I believe the legislative and executive branches have an obligation to defend the constitution against judges who are tyrannical and who seek to impose un-American values on the people of the United States.”

Paul: No. Violence and murder should be dealt with by the states. The federal police are already too numerous. I support a bill to deprive lower federal courts of jurisdiction over abortion cases, so that state restrictions on abortion would be immune from judicial review.

Romney: No. I would focus on appointing judges who would return abortion regulation to the states. The George proposal “would create obviously a constitutional crisis. Could that happen in this country? Could there be circumstances where that might occur? I think it’s reasonable that something of that nature might happen someday. That’s not something I would precipitate.”

Personally, I agree with the Romney approach. Moreover, the next President is going to have to address a fiscal crisis that will devastate the United States economy soon if it is not solved. Dealing with the fiscal crisis is going to be quite difficult politically, in part because there are many millions of people who benefit from the current, and unsustainable, levels of federal spending. The tax consumers may be very highly resistant to any reduction in the amount of money that flows to them. So there will be no shortage of national division and acrimony. Thus, 2013 would be an especially bad time to precipitate a constitutional crisis over a social issue. The answers of Romney and Paul displayed prudence, which I think is a very important characteristic for a President, and the answers of Bachmann, Cain, and Gingrich did not.

As for the Ninth Circuit, Gingrich has been saying the same thing since March, according to Politico. I have not found anywhere where he has provided details on this plan, but perhaps it would involve merging the 9th circuit states into the 8th and 10th circuits, since they border the 9th. The Politico article is not entirely clear, but it appears that Gingrich has claimed that he could get rid of the 9th circuit by signing an executive order. This would be plainly unconstitutional, a usurpation of power worthy of impeachment. Article III gives Congress, not the President, the power to “ordain and establish” the inferior federal courts. During the Jefferson administration, the Judiciary Act of 1802 repealed the Judiciary Act of 1801, in which the lame duck Federalist Congress had created many new federal judgeships, to which President John Adams had appointed Federalists in the waning days of his administration. As President Jefferson recognized, the choice to eliminate federal judgeships belongs to Congress, not the President acting by himself. [Update: a commenter says the video (for which a link was not provided) shows that Gingrich was not claiming that he could abolish the 9th Cir. by executive order. I looked on the Internet, and did not find a video of the March 25 Iowa speech by Gingrich. There's a video of a speech earlier that month in Iowa, in which he criticizes the 9th cir. but does not call for its abolition.]

Comments Off for now

Independence Institute Constitutional Scholars In Colorado Springs

Posted by on Aug 12 2011 | Constitutional History, Constitutional Law, Events, federalism, PPC

The Independence Institute and the Colorado Springs Gazette are pleased to present the upcoming event in Colorado Springs: A Constitutional Guide to Fighting Federal Overreach.

Come join Independence Institute constitutional scholars David Kopel and Rob Natelson on Friday, September 30 from 2:00 to 6:00 PM at the downtown Antlers Hilton for this important program designed to arm citizens with reliable, factual information they need to help restore liberty and constitutional government in the United States. Participants will also learn how to identify constitutional myths that, intentionally or not, can undermine the cause.

The program discusses:
* Why the Constitution was adopted and what purpose it serves
* Untruths about the Founders and the Founding spread by those who seek to discredit it
* How the Constitution was to be interpreted.
* What key provisions in the Constitution really meant.
* How politicians and courts have destroyed limits on federal power and driven America toward bankruptcy
* How you can use the tools provided by the Constitution to help restore the Founders’ vision
* And much more!

David Kopel is Research Director of the Independence Institute and one of the nation’s leading experts on the Second Amendment. The author of numerous books and articles, he also teaches Advanced Constitutional Law at the University of Denver.

Rob Natelson is Senior Fellow in Constitutional Jurisprudence at the Independence Institute. He was formerly professor of constitutional law at the University of Montana, and has authored numerous books and articles, including the 2010 book, The Original Constitution: What It Actually Said and Meant.

Register online here. Or Call Mary at (303) 279-6536, Ext. 102. Cost is twenty dollars and space is limited.

no comments for now

Scotusblog essays on Obamacare’s constitutionality

Posted by on Aug 03 2011 | Constitutional Law, federalism, Health Care, Taxing and Spending Clause, Tenth Amendment

This week Scotusblog is running a series of essays, “The Constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.” Contributors so far are Dawn Johnson (Indiana U.), Bradley Joondeph (Santa Clara U., and manager of a very useful blog on the ACA litigation), Bob Levy (Cato), Charles Fried (Harvard), and me. There are many more essays still to come, that will be posted throughout the week. My essay examines some of the questions that the Court will face in granting cert., the tax issue, and the issue of the state coercion in Obamacare’s new Medicaid mandates. Conspirators Adler, Kerr, and Somin are among some other scholars who have essays that should be posted soon.

Comments Off for now

« Prev - Next »

Clicky Web Analytics