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The Jefferson-Madison Debates: The Problem with the Supreme Court Today

The Jefferson-Madison Debates: The Problem with the Supreme Court Today

November 13th, 2018 // 7:31 am @

I.

The Supreme Court is the biggest potential danger to the United States.

Too strong? Not really. Thomas Jefferson warned a long time ago that the Supreme Court would eventually be the downfall of the Constitution and even the United States.[i] His concern was simple: there are no effective checks or balances on the Court. When push comes to shove, the Court can rule whatever it wants by majority decision. And that’s that.

It is also why the demonstrations were so intense during the 2018 Kavanaugh hearings and confirmation vote, and the election a month later. It is the main reason such undue pressure—some natural, some funded by Leftist billionaires—was brought to bear against certain Senators during the hearings and in Senate and House races during the election. And why savvy observers on both Left and Right, as well as many Independents, feel uneasy even after the hearings and elections are over. An indelible image remains for anyone who closely watched the protests: Americans standing and clawing helplessly on the giant doors of the Supreme Court building, apparently wailing in forlorn agony.

Why the anguish? Why the writhing and screaming, the threats and promises of more theatrics to come? Why the secretive tactics of politicians and the widening divisions of American politics? It’s more than just anti-Trumpism, or extreme party squabbling. Something else, something deeper, is at play here. But what is it, exactly? What’s all the fuss about?

Answer: Jefferson had it right. The truth is that the Supreme Court has too much power. It can rule whatever it wants. And whatever it decrees isn’t even called a “decree”, or “edict”, but rather a “finding” or “judgment”. It all sounds objective, clinical, innocuous, but the power is real. Indeed, the modern Court “finds” what the Constitution means, and announces such “findings” to the rest of us, to the peons. This isn’t what the Framers had in mind. Make no mistake, the “peons” are everyone that’s not a majority Justice on the Court. Five people can rule us now, on pretty much anything.

This brought the Left to its extreme tactics in 2018. A fifth Right-leaning vote would lead to the biggest nightmares people on the Left can imagine: a government that outlaws abortion, rules unfavorably on homosexuality, or implements laws that raise one race or religion above others or certain races or religions below the rest. Such laws might be extreme or mild, but even the so-called “mild” ones seriously threaten the deepest values of the Left. Imagine a “mild” law that requires your [race, or religion, or whatever it is] to obey a more harsh set of laws than any other race or religion, or face annual penalties. Suddenly it’s not so mild.

For those on the Right, the danger is just as real. If the Court can do any of the things just listed above, a five-decision majority by some future Court, or the current Court with just one Justice switching sides on a specific decision, can also create the nightmares of the Right: drastically regulating religion and the way people worship, or outlawing religious practice, entirely outlawing guns except for those carried by government agents, taxing at extreme rates or government fixing of prices in the economy, ending state sovereignty and making all states the same (becoming mere enforcement hubs of the national government), or outlawing all education except mandatory public schools.

If a future Court rules 5-4 on any of these things (say massive regulation of religion and forcing people to worship a certain way outlined by Washington D.C., or outlawing all firearms except those carried by police and secret government agents), members of the Right may well find themselves clawing and wailing at the front doors of the Court. Or, not unlikely for some people, refusing to obey, and facing the violent consequences. If Hillary Clinton had been elected in 2016 and appointed a second Justice to the Court in 2018, how would the Right have responded? And if Trump gets to appoint a third Justice, or even a fourth, the backlash will likely be even more extreme.

There are at least two major issues at play in all this:

  • First, we’ve had partisan majorities on the Court before—so why is this such a big problem right now?
  • Second, what can be done about this situation? How can we fix the problem, before it becomes a violent battle within our nation, a new Civil War of some kind?

II.

The answer to the first question makes the second even more relevant, because the types of issues currently at the center of the division are matched in U.S. history only by the rift between North and South prior to the Civil War. The Court mirrored the nation in this divide, and bad Court decisions just before the War fueled the problem. However, no single Court decision caused the Civil War, largely because the national divide was sectional—meaning the large majority of people in Southern states, and the large majority in Northern states, respectively, were willing to allow the different states to do their own thing, different from any universal national decree, and the Court went along with this. Thus the battles were mostly fought outside the Court.

Today’s scenario is different. The national division is now found in every state, and while some states lean Left or Right, there is no clear Sectionalism, no geographical region in the nation where almost everyone loves the values of the Left and hates the values of the Right, or vice versa. There are, of course, Blue coastal states that typically vote Left, and a Red state interior that votes largely Right, but in each state there is also a significant rural-versus-urban division in values, as well as a large number of Independent voters who side some Left and some Right (at differing levels and without formal organization). Likewise, there are significant generational divisions in terms of Left-versus-Right values, which manifests in most organizations, and even families.

Given this new arrangement, a Civil War in today’s world would literally pit neighbor against neighbor, and in many cases sibling against sibling and lots of Boomer/Gen X parents against a number of Millennial/Gen Z offspring and youth. This divide extends across the nation, to every state and almost every neighborhood and home. This is the exact kind of potential conflict the Supreme Court was created to prevent. Unfortunately, by forcing itself into numerous unconstitutional arenas that it was supposed to leave to other branches and levels of government, the Court has sacrificed much of its original moral authority. It has far too much power in some things, and not nearly enough moral power now to address some of the main reasons for which it was established. This is both ironic and dangerous.

Some observers argue that the real danger now, as opposed to just before the Civil War, is that the Court has become hyper-partisan. This is a problem, but it isn’t the problem. More on that later.

First, it’s worth noting that hyper-partisan divides on the Court are inevitable. The Framers didn’t want political parties, but they knew there would be strong political divisions at times—and that on occasion this would extend to the Court. When such divisions are based around core values, the Framers wanted the Constitution or the voters to have the final say–not five individuals in black robes. The Court was designed to address the two sides of any specific case, as needed, but not to create a general legislative framework or law for everyone.

Moreover, the Court isn’t equipped to deal with the realities of hyper-partisanship. It is structured in a particular format that doesn’t translate to the nuanced needs of fixing the nation’s political and values divide.

Specifically, the Court hears cases and decides a winner and loser in each case. This doesn’t lend itself to long-term solutions of problems that require deftness, flexibility, and widespread individualization. That’s why the Framers put all legislative powers in the hands of Congress, state legislatures, and local representative and even fully democratic bodies (e.g. Townships and Town Meetings, at the neighborhood level of local governance). Legislation is needed to address multiple, leveled, complex negotiations and outcomes. No decision of the Court can do this, not even with well-articulated dicta (since the words of the majority opinion are open to wide interpretation, without the benefit of floor debate, hearings, rebuttals, direct amendments, etc.).

For example, consider one of the largest value divides in current American politics. The Left often hurls claims of “racism” or “sexism” when fighting battles with the Right; the Right tends more to claims of “Socialist” when battling the Left (it once appealed to “Atheist” as well, but this has lost much of its sting in recent decades). If such a battle were taken directly to the Court (it’s hard to imagine a case so perfectly aligned), the decision of the Justices, whatever the arguments of the two sides, would choose a winner and select a loser.

The winner would immediately tend to promote its entire ideology as vindicated by the Court; the loser in this case would try to narrow the scope of what the Court actually decided, but the moral loss would be real, and no doubt a lot of the nation would refuse to accept the decision. And for good reason: If the Court declared you a “racist”, a “sexist”, or a “socialist”, would you just shrug and agree? Most people wouldn’t, regardless of how much they revere the Court in other matters. Their mind and gut (or pride) would tell them that the Court got it wrong in this instance, because you know better than the Court whether or not you’re actually a racist, sexist, or socialist. If you’re not, the Court “finding” is just plain wrong, no matter how many Justices decide against you. On the issue of core values, the Court has little appeal to truth, regardless of how much authority it claims.

The reality of such a divide is much better worked out in the legislative branch. Specifically, the claims of some on the Left that many on the Right are racist and sexist turn out to be mostly false, but partially true. There are a some racists on the Right. But, to be clear and accurate, most people on the Right are not racists. Same with sexist. Also, to be clear, there are some on the Left who are racists as well, along with some sexists.

On the other side of the argument, claims from the Right that most Leftists are socialists turn out to be largely false, but partially true. There are some socialists on the American Left. In the younger generation, there are more who claim to be socialists than in older generations. And there are also a few socialists who claim to be on the Right. Moreover, there are a lot of people who define the word “racist” differently than others, and the same applies to “sexist” and “socialist”, further muddying the waters. Indeed, there are nuances to all such claims.

A Court (no matter how erudite) that is required to decide cases by majority, giving a win to one party in the case and a loss to the other, can’t effectively deal with this level of ambiguity and legislate for the whole nation. The Court is well equipped to deal with one thing: an individual case, with its own set of facts, applicable laws, details, nuances, unique circumstances, etc. This is why the Framers gave us the kind of independent, supreme, and empowered court that they did—to deal with each case as needed. Not to legislate for the entire nation, all in the name of precedent.

The problem with precedent is obvious: no two cases are the same. Trying to apply the “findings” in one case to almost any other case changes, by definition, the actual “findings” to a more general legislation, and the Court has no constitutional authority to legislate. Articles I, II, and III are clear about this. Except, of course, for the legislative authority the Court has unilaterally usurped over the years. The use of any such authority by the Court is, of course, unconstitutional, illegal, and wrong. We’re using here the definition of “unconstitutional” used by the American Founding generation, meaning in conflict with the words of the actual Constitution and Amendments. The Court has also usurped this word, defining “unconstitutional” as whatever the Court says is unconstitutional. How convenient for them. And, let’s be honest, this is itself unconstitutional according to the original meaning of this word as used and intended by the Framers.

III.

Hyper-partisanship is a problem because it catalyzes extreme views and even extreme actions. When the Court becomes part of the frenzy, it loses its power to peacefully resolve the greatest problem of all free nations—irreconcilable divisions about the use of force, law, and state-imposed violence against citizens (including large groups of citizens, be they protestors, political parties, etc.). The purpose of the Court was to reconcile just such divisions without requiring bloodshed. This is why the Framers gave the Court final judicial power in any given case arising in the nation.

The problem with such levels of power is that…well…the holders of such power might use it poorly. Corruptly. Ignorantly. Or, unwisely. To see the potential danger of this possibility, imagine the mobs and violence that would ensue in certain parts of the United States if the Court reversed Roe v. Wade and made all abortions illegal. Or, alternatively, ruled that ownership of any gun is illegal, or that people of one skin color (yours, for example) don’t have any more rights under the Bill of Rights, or that all members of one religion (yours, again) may no longer legally practice their faith. Wherever you stand politically, one or more of these probably sounds drastic to you—worth fighting against, possibly even worth dying for.

The problem is that the Court, as currently understood by most Americans (including some of the Justices), has the authority to do any of these, or all, along with a number other things equally drastic. So when the Court seems to be swinging one way or the other, a lot of people are going to feel deeply threatened. Their most cherished values seem to be in peril. In some cases, they truly are in peril.

Let’s get personal. If the Court decided some certain things, you would likely be willing to fight to the death to stop them. One of those things might be on the list above, or it may not. But something could probably cause you to stand up and fight, and whatever that thing is, the Court has the power to decide it. Its power and reach is basically unfettered, at least in theory. It likely won’t do the kinds of things that make large masses rise up in blatant or even violent refusal. But it has that power. That’s the rub. The protestors clawing at the door of the Court could have been you, given the right situation. And such a situation may still come. For many on the Left, it is a daily worry that such a thing might happen. For many on the Right, the same worry weighed them down for 8 years under Obama (after all: with a Left-leaning President in the White House, one who openly ridiculed religion and gun ownership, among other things, and a Centrist carrying the swing vote on the Court, they reasoned that almost any decision was possible—and they would be even more worried with a significant Leftist majority on the Court).

Ultimately, few Americans should feel safe in their deepest values when the Court can do as it pleases. Jefferson warned of this when he first read the Constitution. And hyper-partisan efforts typically exacerbate the problem. For example, when the Democratic majority in the Senate strategized to get rid of the power of the filibuster and push things through with just a simple majority vote, it mocked Republicans who felt a major loss of their own minority power. Some warned that the time would come when Democrats would feel the other side of this same decision. It happened less than a decade later, when voters put Republican majorities in both House and Senate. At this point, Democrats mourned the loss of filibuster power—but it was too late.

Today many Republicans feel a sense of relief that the Court leans Right, at last. But things have a way of swinging to the other side of the pendulum—at some point the Court may lean strongly Left. As long as the Court has too much power, half the nation is going to live under threat of serious peril.

Something needs to give.

IV.

What can be done to fix the problem? First, a number of proposals have already been made. Jefferson put it succinctly:

“At the establishment of our constitutions [both federal and state], the judiciary bodies were supposed to be the most helpless and harmless members of the government. Experience, however, soon showed in what way they were to become the most dangerous…that their decisions, seeming to concern individual suitors [cases] only, pass silent and unheeded by the public at large; that these decisions nevertheless became the law by precedent, sapping by little and little the foundations of the Constitution, and working its change by construction, before anyone has perceived that that indivisible and helpless worm has been busily employed in consuming its substance.”[ii]

Strong words.  The Framers wanted to reject the old-world practices of judicial precedent and political parties, and they tried to write the Constitution in a way that would elect officials without political parties and create a Supreme Court and judiciary that decided individual cases but created no precedent from any case or dicta. A clear reading of the Constitution, particularly Article III, shows this—as do the Federalist Papers and writings of the leading Framers and other Founding Fathers. Jefferson continues:

“There is no danger I apprehend so much as the consolidation of our government by the noiseless, and therefore un-alarming, instrumentality of the Supreme Court.”[iii]

No bigger danger to the United States? This is serious business. Today, as mentioned, the same threat is even bigger. Jefferson wrote that “One single object” would significantly improve the Constitution, specifically, “that of restraining judges from usurping legislation. And with no body of men is this restraint more wanting than with the judges of what is commonly called our general government [the federal government], but what I call our foreign department.”[iv]

Note that Jefferson calls the federal government “our foreign department”, since if the Constitution is followed the only powers of Congress, the Executive Branch, and the Supreme Court are to protect the nation from outside attack and keep the peace between the states. Everything else is left to the states, or the people in a more local setting. And, of all three branches of the federal government, Jefferson was most worried about the usurpation of power by the federal courts.

But what exactly were the federal courts, including the Supreme Court, doing that was so bad? Why was Jefferson so concerned? He says that the Judges and Justices “are practicing on the Constitution by inferences, analogies, and sophisms as they would ordinary law.”[v] He declared that the Justices didn’t seem to realize that the Constitution was written to them as much as to other branches of government.

To repeat: the Constitution was written to limit the Court, too, and the Framers and those who ratified the Constitution believed that the Court and Justices would be required to obey it. Justices have the authority to use inference, analogies and other arguments to apply the laws of the land, made by Congress, or by state legislatures, but they have no authority whatsoever to do this to the Constitution. The Constitution itself forbids it. The Court is supposed to apply the Constitution to any case it hears, and it can review and apply ordinary laws—those made by Congress, following the Constitution—to a case as well, but neither the Justices nor federal judges get to restructure or redefine the Constitution by informing the rest of us what the document means. The Court, according to the Framers, is just as bound by the Constitution as the President, the House, or the Senate. It can’t just announce that the Constitution means whatever a majority of the Court wants it to mean—or “finds” it to mean. At least, that’s what the document itself allows.

Jefferson warned that ignoring this part of the Constitution would lead in the wrong direction: “Our government is now taking so steady a course as to show by what road it will pass to destruction, to wit, by consolidation first, and then corruption, its necessary consequence. The engine of consolidation will be the federal judiciary; the other two branches the corrupting and corrupted instruments.”[vi]

What exactly does he mean by “consolidation”? Answer: the Court at the time was announcing that it had the Constitutional authority to determine the meaning of the Constitution—each word and phrase (the Court would later claim that their power applies even to ideas not actually mentioned in the document). Jefferson questioned where in the Constitution this authority was given? What Article, what section, what phrase. The response, from members of the Court, was that this was the natural course of the Court’s power. In other words, no such power exists in the Constitution itself, but the Court could do it anyway because that’s just what Courts do.

Jefferson disagreed. He maintained that, while the Courts in Britain had at times wielded such power, the U.S. Constitution specifically and purposely changed this type of jurisprudence. The Framers (and those who ratified the Constitution in all 13 colonies) didn’t want the judicial branch in the United States to follow the British model, to consider itself above the law, able to “find” and “decide” what the Constitution means. Again, the federal judiciary was designed by the American Framers to apply the Constitution, to hold the Executive and Legislative branches, and the states, to the bounds of the Constitution in any given case.

But neither the Framers nor the words of the Constitution give the Court any authority to define or determine its own power, and certainly not the authority to consider itself above the Constitution or re-frame the meaning of words and phrases in the Constitution by judicial review or decision. No such power exists in the Constitution, and it was written this way on purpose. Nevertheless, the early Court adopted such powers, usurping them, and the Executive and Legislative branches submitted to such power, not based on the words of the Constitution (indeed the words are the opposite) but based on the fact that so many American lawyers were steeped in the customs and habits of English law.

As mentioned above, Jefferson saw this as the biggest threat to the American system and Constitution. Following the English approach, instead of the Constitution, was a major mistake. And it was unconstitutional.

Why did anyone allow it to happen? The Court did it to expand its power. This is easy to understand—government entities almost always try to expand their power. But what about the other two branches, who were designed to check and balance each other and the Court?

Answer: By allowing the Court to do this, the Executive and Legislative branches in Washington received a huge benefit—the “consolidation” (Jefferson’s word) of power away from the states and local governments and into the House, Senate, White House, and federal bureaucracies. In essence, as Jefferson warned beforehand and later pointed out when it actually happened, the Congress and Executive Branch looked the other way and allowed the Court to unilaterally crown itself the final power in the nation—to say what the Constitution means and doesn’t mean, by a majority decision of just 5 people, with no check or balance that can contradict it. As a reward, the Congress and Executive Branch get to rule the nation in all things, as long as the Court agrees, instead of being limited by the specific words of the United States Constitution.

This is our problem today. Jefferson’s warning has come to pass, “by little and little”,[vii] just as he said it would. He even forecast how the Court would do this, by calling foul what it was already doing in his time: “…it has proved that the power of declaring what the law is ad libitum [optional, up to the decision of the judge], by sapping and mining, slyly, and without alarm, the foundations of the Constitution, can do what open force cannot dare to attempt.”[viii] According to the Constitution and its Framers, its words and meanings were not optional: the government, including the Court, had to follow it. But the Court decreed differently. Jefferson, and anyone who simply reads the Constitution for its original meaning, disagrees.

“Consolidation” also meant that once the Court centered power away from the states and locales and vested most of it in Washington D.C. (the opposite of the Framers’ intent), the Court would continue “consolidating” power from the Executive and Legislative branches to the Court. Again, Jefferson’s own words:

“We already see the power [of the Court]…advancing with a noiseless and steady pace to the great object of consolidation. The foundations are already deeply laid by their decisions for the annihilation of constitutional state rights, and the removal of every check, every counterpoise, to the engulfing power of which themselves are to make a sovereign part.”[ix]

In short, the Court decreed itself the sovereign, the final power and highest authority in the United States—above the Legislative, above the Executive, above the States, even above the Constitution itself. If the Court gets to decide what the Constitution means and doesn’t mean, and everyone else must obey the Constitution, the Court is the crown. In this case, in fact, the Court is the only power in the nation that doesn’t have to obey the Constitution, since it can simply change what the Constitution means whenever five Justices agree.

Jefferson’s response? He warned, in strong language:

“Before the canker become inveterate, before its venom has reached so much of the body politic as to get beyond control, remedy should be applied.”[x]

And what is the “canker”, the “venom”? The nation ruled by the Court.[xi]

Clearly, Jefferson had a lot to say on the topic. After all the blood and sacrifice given by his generation, he wanted the Constitution to last, and he predicted that the flawed, and unconstitutional, use of power by the Court would eventually spell our nation’s decline. If five people can rule, some group of five eventually will exercise this power in the wrong ways—either by malice or error, as Jefferson put it.[xii] It may take a long time for this to happen, but when it does, the nation’s freedoms will be forfeit. Indeed, once such power is used, it will be used again and again.

We are on the cusp of such usage. And given the growth of partisan rancor over the decades, we now seem closer than ever before. Such a watershed event may occur while five Justices lean Right, as they do now, or at a later date when 5 lean Left. But if [when] it happens, the United States will be no longer a limited federal democratic republic; or free.

The fact that the wrong side of this debate is now being taught to nearly all law students in nearly all law schools is a serious problem. Most law students, and almost everyone else close to the legal profession, now fully adopt and promulgate the British system of jurisprudence, as applied to the United States–the very thing that Jefferson was so worried about–instead of the actual meaning of the U.S. Constitution as written by the Framers and ratified by the states and the people. The result is an internal coup, subtle but real—like Squealer in Orwell’s Animal Farm, sneaking into the barn at night and changing words in the laws that all the animals agreed upon when they were first inscribed in chalk on the barn wall. No wonder Jefferson called it “sly”, “silent”, “usurping”, “sapping” of our “foundations” toward our “destruction.”

Remember his solemn warning:

“There is no danger I apprehend so much as the consolidation of our government by the noiseless, and therefore un-alarming, instrumentality of the Supreme Court.”[xiii]

V.

The remedy Jefferson recommended is simple: Follow the Constitution.

Specifically, as it relates to our time:

  • Demand that the Court (or any lower court) stop pretending it has Constitutional authority to tell everyone what the Constitution means. The United States Constitution does not grant the Court any such authority. Read it. No such grant is found. This tradition is simply a holdover from the way English lawyers were trained; and most early American lawyers were trained in the same way. But while the English Constitution allows this, the U.S. Constitution does not. (Again, we’re referring to the U.S. Constitution as written, and ratified, along with Amendments, not as defined and redefined by the Court.)
  • Citizens can read the Constitution for themselves, and see what the Constitution means. After all, the Constitution was written by the people to the government (including the judiciary), telling the government (including the Court/courts) what things it can and cannot do.
  • The Supreme Court, as outlined in the Constitution, should apply the Constitution, as applicable, to all cases. Any such application must apply to that case only—it must not create a precedent (any precedent is a legislative act, which the U.S. Constitution doesn’t allow the Court). This same Constitutional limit must be binding on all courts operating under the Constitution. Again, many early American lawyers trained in the English system got this wrong by applying their English training to the United States. But where significant parts of English law promoted stare decisis, or precedent, the U.S. Constitution patently does not.
  • A lower court may look to a higher court or even a Supreme Court decision and judicial dicta for wisdom; but any court decision—by any court, including the Supreme Court—must only apply to that one case. This makes it constitutional, by the Framers’ definition–the only definition that the people of the United States ever ratified.

The greatest obstacle to this change (ironic that the “change” is simply to follow the actual Constitution and Amendments) is the same in our day as it was in Jefferson’s time: Nearly all attorneys, judges, Supreme Court Justices, law professors, and legal scholars are trained almost solely in the other way of doing things—where the Court is allowed, even expected, to unconstitutionally defy the words of the Constitution and follow the now-accepted tradition of the Court acting above the Constitution. Most of them literally believe that, for all practical purposes, the Constitution means whatever the Court decides it means. Many, if not most, believe that it actually should be this way. They refer to this as the American style of jurisprudence.

If by “American” we mean the intent of the Framers who wrote the Constitution, and the people and state representatives who ratified it, nothing could be further from the truth. There is a way provided in the Constitution to amend it, to change it, and this has nothing to do with what Jefferson called the quiet “sapping and mining, slyly, and without alarm, the foundations of the Constitution”[xiv] by Court decisions, dicta, and precedent.

Remember how strongly Jefferson opposed this. He forcefully declared:

“At the establishment of our constitutions, the judiciary bodies were supposed to be the most helpless and harmless members of the government. Experience, however, soon showed in what way they were to become the most dangerous [members of the government]…that their decisions, seeming to concern individual suitors [cases] only, pass silent and unheeded by the public at large; that these decisions nevertheless became the law by precedent, sapping by little and little the foundations of the Constitution, and working its change by construction, before anyone has perceived that that indivisible and helpless worm has been busily employed in consuming its substance.”[xv]

He really means this. It’s a serious problem. And Jefferson noticed the danger at its infancy. Today we face it full-grown and spread across the nation, now part of nearly every civics textbook, social studies curriculum, U.S. history lesson, college university, law school, late-night talk show, movie, television legal drama, media outlet and government branch, agency, court, and institution. The idea that the Court is above the Constitution, that in fact the Constitution is whatever the Court decides, has become part of a national myth. Yet it is both unconstitutional[xvi] to the core and antithetical to the intent of the Framers. In this much worse iteration, it presents itself to the world as fact. No debate needed. No discussion. End of story.

Five rulers.

No recourse.

What a predicament. We live now, unfortunately, in interesting times, as the old Chinese proverb warned. In truth, from the vantage point of the Framers’ intent, we experience a serious Constitutional crisis in this nation every time the Court delivers a decision that in any way assumes the Court gets to decide or alter the meaning of the Constitution. If the Framers had intended this arrangement (for the Court’s authority to include changing the Constitution in any way), they would have characteristically required a 2/3 or even a 3/4 decision by the Court on any such question, and additionally required a 2/3 or 3/4 consent by at least one other branch of government. They demanded this for amendments, and for treaties, both of which they knew could change the Constitutional law of the land. But they didn’t require anything like this in Court decisions, simply because such decisions were only designed to apply to one case, never intended to legislate by precedent—itself a major unconstitutional change to the Constitution.

Had judicial defining and redefining of the Constitution, or creating legislation by precedent, been the intent of the Framers, all the founding commentary about amending the Constitution would apply. Federalist Papers 39 and 85 are among the best explanations of what is needed to amend the Constitution, and why, and what should be considered in any amendment process, or anything else that changes the Constitution—yet these documents wholly ignore Supreme Court decisions. Why? Again: Because any Court decision was, according to the Constitution, and the Framers, applicable only to a given case—creating no precedent whatsoever.

VI.

As far as I can tell, this leaves us three options. I would be very interested to consider others that readers come up with, or find, but these are the three I can currently conceive.

Option One: End the practice of judicial precedent. This immediately puts decisions about core values back in the hands of the voters. The Court will no longer legislate. The fear of 5-person rule will disappear.

The courts will become a more powerful line of defense for the accused, a place where someone who believes the laws are bad [or don’t apply] in a given case, and that true justice will take this into account in their specific case, can turn for remedy with more efficacy. The courts will also stand once again for the actual Constitution (not the ad libitum version of it they make up as they go), holding other branches and all levels of government to its standard—not whatever they can “mine” from history, individual views, or any other source.

Again, this was the original intent of the Framers. On a practical level, of course, this is a major shift. Every law school would have to be entirely revamped, and every practicing lawyer and legal thinker would need to scrap much of what they’ve learned and refocus their legal knowledge in a whole different direction. Every citizen, potential juror, would also need a new education on freedom. A good change to our society, no doubt. But far from easy.

Option Two: If we can’t—or choose not to—end the practice of legislation by judicial precedent, which (as mentioned) is really an alternative legislative power that largely skirts the voting electorate, we will need to amend the Constitution to include the kinds of checks and balances the Framers always required to change the Constitution. Specifically, on any Court decision that redefines, in any way, the meaning or scope of the Constitution and Amendments from their original meaning, the Court will need to decide by a 3/4 majority, and receive the consent of either 2/3 of Congress or 2/3 of State Legislatures, or both. The numbers could be flipped, meaning Court decision by 2/3 with the consent of 3/4 of state legislatures and/or 3/4 of Congress (or, if not these precise arrangements, something similar).

These are high marks, to be sure; but they are exactly the standard the Framers required for any actual, lasting change to the Constitution. The other kind of change to the Constitution, from treaties, demanded similar arrangements, as outlined in Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution. If the Court is going to be allowed to change the Constitution and meanings of words or phrases in the Constitution by precedent, or infer meanings as it chooses, the Framers would demand such changes/amendments to meet at least the same standard—and we as their inheritors should accept no less.

Option Three: If we don’t fix the problem, we will, as Jefferson forecast, see a major decline in freedom and eventually lose our Constitutional system. Rule by five individuals in black robes is much closer to full implementation right now than in Jefferson’s time; and under the current system, given this flaw in the way the Court is allowed to behave, it will inevitably come—unless we address this and make changes. Make no mistake, unless changed this will ruin the entire system, and our entire nation.

The sad part of this all seems to be that, given human nature, when the Left had a majority on the Court, it was content with the system that favored its views; more recently the Right has discovered the same type of comfort with a Right-leaning majority on the Court. Eventually, however, this system will not hold. Government power always tries to centralize, and then expand and dominate. It has already centralized to the Court and those it holds close as allies. No limits, checks, or balances stand in the Court’s path to the crown. Sovereignty has already consolidated from the people and states to Washington, where it has been rapidly expanding for decades.

Now, 5 Rulers need only exert their power. History proves that, unless this power is limited, or at least effectively checked and balanced, it will eventually be used in ways detrimental to all. Unless something changes in this model, the corrupt execution of this power is inevitable.

 

*To learn the 3 specific, effective things we as citizens can do about this issue, that will really make a difference, read FreedomShift by Oliver DeMille—available here >>

 

NOTES

[i] Collected Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Bergh, vol 15, p 241.

[ii] Ibid., p 486.

[iii] Ibid., p 241.

[iv] Ibid., vol 16, p 113.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Ibid., vol 15, p 31.

[vii] Ibid., vol 15, p 486.

[viii] Ibid., vol 16, p 113.

[ix] Ibid., vol. 15, p 355.

[x] Ibid.

[xi] Ibid.

[xii] See ibid., vol 1, p 120.

[xiii] Ibid., vol 15, p 241.

[xiv] Ibid., vol 16, p 113.

[xv] Ibid., vol 15, p 486, emphasis added.

[xvi] The original meaning of “unconstitutional”, not the “new” definition of “unconstitutional” self-servingly adopted by the Court.


Category : Aristocracy &Blog &Citizenship &Community &Constitution &Culture &Current Events &Education &Generations &Government &History &Independents &Leadership &Liberty &Politics

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