Tuesday, July 1, 2014

US Constitution: A Mix of Six Fixes

After an almost 8-month hiatus from publishing any blog, I must proclaim any rumors of my demise are premature.

Now, after several months of reading and study, I especially recommend a short, clearly written book by former US Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, entitled ‘Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution’.

Of the the six proposed Amendments; 'the first four would nullify judge-made rules, the fifth would expedite the demise of the death penalty, and the sixth would confine the coverage of the Second Amendment to the area intended by its authors.

Because each suggested 'fix' is explained in terms of its judicial history - and the entire US Constitution appears as an Appendix - understanding Justice Stevens' arguments is readily facilitated.
Also, the 'fixes' suggested are relatively terse, fitting easily into existing Constitutional context. 

1. The "Anti-Commandeering" Rule
FIX: The Constitution should amended by adding four words to the Supremacy Clause in the second paragraph of Article VI, to wit:

"This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges and other public officials in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding."

2. Political Gerrymandering
FIX: The Constitution should amended by adding the following paragraph:

“Districts represented by members of Congress, or by members of any state legislative body, shall be compact and composed of contiguous territory. The state shall have the burden of justifying any departures from this requirement by reference to neutral criteria such as natural, political, or historic boundaries or demographic changes. The interest in enhancing or preserving the political party in control of the state government is not such a neutral criterion.”

3. Campaign Finance
FIX: The Constitution should amended by adding the following paragraph:
[in part prompted by concerns with the chain of US Supreme Court decisions leading up to “Citizens United’]:

“Neither the First Amendment nor any other provision of this Constitution shall be construed to prohibit the Congress or any state from imposing reasonable limits on the amount of money that candidates for public office, or their supporters, may spend in election campaigns.”

4. Sovereign Immunity
FIX: The Constitution should amended by adding the following paragraph:

“Neither the Tenth Amendment, the Eleventh Amendment, nor any provision of this Constitution, shall be construed to provide any state, state agency, or state officer with an immunity from liability for violating any act of Congress, or any provision of this Constitution.”

5. The Death Penalty
FIX: The Constitution should amended by adding five words to the text of the Eighth Amendment, to wit:

“Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments such as the death penalty inflicted.”

6. The Second Amendment (Gun Control)
FIX: The Constitution should amended by adding five words to the text of the Second Amendment, to wit:

“A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms when serving in the militia shall not be infringed.”


Now that we know what fixes are needed, all we have to do is to convince Congress to allow state ratification of these changes. Just a little detail......