Cross-posted from Mike Malloy
Justice John Paul Stevens
(image by Wikipedia)
Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens is now 94 and has recently published a book suggesting six amendments to the US Constitution. The book, Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution, details what Stephens considers the most egregious legal/political issues that have been ignored, or wrongly-decided in his opinion.
"Among the amendments Stevens suggests:
"... Changing the Second Amendment to make clear that only a state's militia, not its citizens, has a constitutional right to bear arms.
"... Changing the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against 'cruel and unusual punishments' by specifically including the death penalty.
"... Removing from First Amendment protection any 'reasonable limits' on campaign spending enacted by Congress or the states.
"... Requiring that congressional and state legislative districts be 'compact and composed of contiguous territory' to stop both parties from carving out safe seats.
"... Eliminating states' sovereign immunity from liability for violating the Constitution or an act of Congress, which he calls a 'manifest injustice.'
"... Allowing Congress to require states to perform federal duties in emergencies, in order to reduce 'the risk of a national catastrophe.'"
Can you imagine an America under Stephens' amendments? Gun ownership limited to state militias, just like the Founding Fathers intended? An end to gerrymandered districts, making it impossible to institute "designer districts" that exclude (or include) racial groups or other demographics? And the US would finally get off the short list of western nations that still executes its citizens. The mind boggles.
One of the amendments Stevens proposes clearly shows his displeasure with the court's decisions on campaign finance cases, as The New York Times reports:
"Last month's decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission struck down aggregate contribution limits, allowing rich people to make donations to an unlimited number of federal candidates. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. started his controlling opinion with a characteristically crisp and stirring opening sentence: 'There is no right more basic in our democracy than the right to participate in electing our political leaders.'
"But that was misleading, Justice Stevens said. 'The first sentence here,' he said, 'is not really about what the case is about....The voter is less important than the man who provides money to the candidate,' he said. 'It's really wrong.'
"Mr. McCutcheon was not trying to participate in electing his own leaders, Justice Stevens said. 'The opinion is all about a case where the issue was electing somebody else's representatives,' he said. 'The opinion has the merit of being faithful to the notion that money is speech and that out-of-district money has the same First Amendment protection as in-district money,' he said. 'I think that's an incorrect view of the law myself, but I do think there's a consistency between that opinion and what went before.'
"He was referring to the court's earlier campaign finance decisions and, notably, to Citizens United."
President Gerald Ford nominated Stevens in 1975; it may have been one of the last intelligent actions taken by a Republican President. His blistering dissent in the case of Bush v. Gore is still remembered. Stevens wrote that the Court's majority decision demonstrated...
"...an unstated lack of confidence in the impartiality and capacity of the state judges who would make the critical decisions if the vote count were to proceed...The endorsement of that position by the majority of this Court can only lend credence to the most cynical appraisal of the work of judges throughout the land. It is confidence in the men and women who administer the judicial system that is the true backbone of the rule of law. Time will one day heal the wound to that confidence that will be inflicted by today's decision. One thing, however, is certain. Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year's Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation's confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law."
They sure don't make 'em like they used to.
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