Balkinization  

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Is the First Amendment Being Misused as a Deregulatory Tool?-- The Abrams Institute First Amendment Salon

JB

Here is the video from the Abrams Institute's First Amendment Salon held on March 30, 2015.  Martin Redish and I discuss "Is the First Amendment Being Misused as a Deregulatory Tool?"  Floyd Abrams is the moderator.



Monday, April 20, 2015

The sex discrimination argument for same-sex marriage, in USA Today

Andrew Koppelman

I have argued for many years that denying same-sex couples the right to marry is sex discrimination

This time, though, I've got a bigger audience:  a column, coauthored with George Mason law professor Ilya Somin​, in today's issue of USA Today.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The canard of "lawful presence" status in the Texas challenge to the DAPA policy

Marty Lederman

You can listen here to yesterday's Fifth Circuit oral argument (before Judges Smith, Elrod and Higginson) in Texas's challenge to DHS's “Deferred Action for Parents of Americans" (DAPA) immigration policy.  The argument ranged widely over virtually all of the issues in the case.  Here, a short word on only one of them, involving the question that engendered the greatest confusion and misunderstanding in the argument:

The judges repeatedly questioned counsel about whether deferred action status is merely a decision not to remove an alien, or whether it additionally confers a new legal "status" upon the alien, one that would transform unlawful conduct of the alien into lawful conduct (or, at a minimum, that would confer an "immunity" from government prosecution or removal authority).

At one point, for instance, Judge Higginson asked Texas Solicitor General Keller why DHS's DAPA  "enforcement priority" policy--that is, a decision generally not to "enforce" removal against a class of aliens--should be subject to APA notice and comment procedures, when so many other, apparently analogous, governmental nonenforcement policies are not.  For example, the judge pointed to the "Petite policy" in the U.S. Attorney's Manual, which "precludes the initiation or continuation of a federal prosecution, following a prior state or federal prosecution based on substantially the same act(s) or transaction(s)," except where, inter alia, the state prosecution has left a substantial federal interest "demonstrably unvindicated."  There is nearly 100% adherence to this policy, by all 200,000 or so Assistant U.S. Attorneys, noted Judge Higginson:  They never prosecute in such cases except in the rare circumstances described in the policy.  Accordingly, on Texas's theory, why wasn't it necessary for DOJ to subject the "Petite policy" to notice and comment review?

SG Keller's response was that under the Petite policy, when the government declines a prosecution "it’s not saying that your unlawful conduct is now lawful,” whereas--allegedly by contrast--DAPA does confer some sort of "lawful presence" status upon the covered aliens, making lawful some conduct that previously was unlawful.  (The relevant colloquy is at approximately 1:34:00-1:40:20 of the audio file.)

As I have previously explained in much greater detail, this is simply wrong.  Deferred action status does not make any unlawful conduct lawful, or confer any immunity from the force of federal law.  The aliens in question presumably have violated the law, by entering the United States without authorization or overstaying a visa.  Accordingly, they can be prosecuted for such a violation; and because they lack authorization to be present in the country, they also can be removed from the United States.  Deferred action status does not change any of that.  It does not immunize the aliens from being prosecuted for past unlawful entry (or any other violation of federal law); nor does it even guarantee that they will not be removed based upon their lack of authorization.  As the government put the point in its most recent brief (p.46):  "What the district court described as 'lawful presence' is nothing more than the inevitable consequence of any exercise of prosecutorial discretion: remaining free of the government’s coercive power for so long as the government continues to forebear from exercising that power."  DAPA does not, however, immunize the covered aliens from the exercise of that coercive power.

Friday, April 17, 2015

New Annual Book Review Issue of Tulsa Law Review Now Available

Linda McClain


My co-editor Ken Kersch and I are pleased to announce that the fifth annual book review issue of the Tulsa Law Review (our second as co-editors) is now available online and in print.  This issue (Volume 50, Issue 2, 2014) includes twenty-seven reviews of sixty-six books.  In keeping with the vision of founding editors Sandy Levinson and Mark Graber,  our roster of reviewers reflects several disciplines:  predominantly law and political science, but also history, sociology, and women’s and gender studies.  The authors of the books reviewed are similarly diverse in their disciplinary fields and their approaches. The books themselves cover a wide range of topics, including substantive areas of law, legal history, and political institutions and actors.  It is fitting as we have recently reached the 50th anniversary of landmark civil rights legislation that several reviews address books on civil rights, dissent, and social movements. Along those lines, one notable feature of this issue is that it includes not just one, but two review essays on Bruce Ackerman’s important new book We the People, Volume III:  The Civil Rights Revolution, the latest installment in Ackerman’s  We the People project.   These reviews start from two quite different perspectives, with the first by political scientist --and leading social movement scholar -- Sidney Tarrow (Cornell University), and the second by  law professor – and leading constitutional theorist – James E. Fleming (Boston University School of Law).  We hope readers will enjoy this issue.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Constitutional Interpretation and Change in the United States: The Official and the Unofficial

JB


I have just posted a draft of my latest essay, Constitutional Interpretation and Change in the United States: The Official and the Unofficial, on SSRN. Here is the abstract:


This lecture, given at the Institut Villey in Paris, describes the processes of constitutional change in the American political and legal system.

The first part of the lecture briefly summarizes the theory of framework originalism featured in Living Originalism.

The second part of the lecture explains how the American constitutional system actually changes in practice, emphasizing two kinds of contributions to constitutional development. The first are the official contributions of laws and judicial doctrines. The second are the unofficial contributions of political parties and civil society, expressed through political mobilization, social influence, and cultural change.

American constitutional development features a dialectic of legitimation. Efforts by the political branches to build out state functions, and efforts by civil society groups to make constitutional claims spur constitutional controversies. These controversies, in turn, may generate judicial doctrine that legitimates or holds illegitimate what political actors have done. Even when courts strike down particular laws or practices, their decisions may lead to other pathways for achieving political goals that will later be declared legitimate.

The dialectic of legitimation explains the point of judicial review in the American constitutional system. Judicial review does not simply constrain or limit state power; rather judicial review legitimates, shapes and redirects political power. Indeed, modern democracies with judicial review are able to project power in ways that earlier states could never have imagined.

The third part of the lecture explains why American constitutional theory appears to feature an opposition between living constitutionalism and originalism, an opposition which is actually illusory. Both calls for a return to original meaning and assertions that Americans have a living constitution are responses to the same phenomenon—the recognition that the world that produced the ancient constitution has dissolved. This is the experience of constitutional modernity.

Constitutional modernity generates equal and opposite responses, which have been offered by both liberals and conservatives in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries-- the need to cleave to the past and its symbols and concrete manifestations, and the need to transcend the past through pragmatic adaptation to a changed world.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Originalism in the Marriage Equality Cases

David Gans



Jack recently highlighted a pair of dueling amicus briefs in the upcoming marriage equality cases, one filed by the CATO Institute and one by a number of “Scholars of Originalism,” that raise important questions about originalism as a form of constitutional interpretation.   These briefs debate whether original meaning or original understanding has pride of place in constitutional interpretation, what Jack calls “yet another example of the continuing debates within originalism over who has the best version.”  Jack argues that the back and forth in these briefs, and particularly the agreement that Romer v. Evans correctly interpreted the Equal Protection Clause, shows that “we are all living originalists now.”  In a thoughtful, nuanced reply, Steve Smith, one of the professors who joined the “Scholars of Originalism” brief, agrees with Jack that “original meaning cannot simply be equated with ‘original expected applications,’” but otherwise resists the pull of Jack’s view of “living originalism.” 
   
Other amicus briefs filed in the marriage equality cases do a deeper dive into the text and history of the Fourteenth Amendment, debating what the history shows.  The brief filed by my organization, the Constitutional Accountability Center, lays out the original meaning of the Amendment, illustrating that the text, drafting history, and debates over the Fourteenth Amendment all demonstrate that the constitutional guarantee of equal protection establishes a broad guarantee of equality designed to protect all persons from state-sponsored discrimination.  (The CATO brief covers some of this ground as well, though its brief focuses more on the development of equality principles in antebellum America).  Under the text and original meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Amendment’s guarantee of equality applies to all gay men and lesbians who wish to exercise their right to marry the person of their choice.   
  
Three key pieces of evidence show how powerful this view is.   First, in drafting the Amendment, the Framers specifically rejected narrower equality guarantees that would have proscribed only racial discrimination in favor of a broad equality guarantee that would protect all persons.   The decision to embrace equality for all was a conscious choice – made by the Joint Committee on Reconstruction on April 28, 1866 – bringing the Constitution back in line with basic principles of equality set forth in the Declaration of Independence.  It is fitting that the Justices will hear the marriage equality cases 149 years to the day after the Framers made the momentous choice to guarantee equal protection for all.  

Second, debates in Congress, speeches on the campaign trail, and editorials published in the press all made clear that the Amendment would establish equality for all.   As our brief demonstrates, the Framers time and again explained that the equal protection guarantee “establishes equality under the law,” “abolishes all class legislation in the States[,] and does away with the injustice of subjecting one caste of persons to a code not applicable to another,” putting in the Constitution “the declaration that all citizens were entitled to equal rights in the Republic,” and placing all “throughout the land upon the same footing of equality before the law, in order to prevent unequal legislation.” 
 
Third, racial discrimination against African Americans was not the only immediate issue of the day.  White Unionists in the South faced pervasive discrimination because they had fought and helped win the Civil War.  Immigrants, mainly of Chinese descent, were subject to a barrage of discriminatory laws in California and elsewhere.  The Framers gave the Equal Protection Clause a broad sweep to prevent these kinds of state-sponsored discrimination and others that might arise in the future.       

In the marriage equality cases, South Carolina, in its amicus brief  supporting the states, takes a radically different view.  It argues that the Fourteenth Amendment's original meaning was to prevent “racial discrimination and nothing else” and that “displacement of state marriage laws was the last thing the framers intended.”  To support this view, South Carolina points to congressional debates in 1866 (some concerning an earlier version of the Fourteenth Amendment that failed in Congress, some concerning the Civil Rights Act of 1866), in which a number of members of Congress recognized the authority of states to deny married women the same rights that their husbands enjoyed.   South Carolina claims that since the Framers of the Fourteenth Amendment permitted these forms of sex discrimination, they clearly would have also permitted laws that banned same-sex marriage.  

This is bad originalism at its worst – the debates cited by the state do not concern the equal protection guarantee directly – and it flies in face of the text of the Fourteenth Amendment ratified by the American people, which guarantees the equal protection of the laws to all persons, not only to men.  South Carolina finds its friends in the crowd, while ignoring the mass of evidence, clearly reflected in the text of the equal protection guarantee, that the Fourteenth Amendment was designed to secure equality under the law for all persons.   

Perhaps that’s why, when Chief Justice Roberts discussed whether the equal protection guarantee applies to laws that discriminate against women during his confirmation hearing, he insisted that the proper approach was to apply the text’s broad grant of equality under the law as written by the Framers.   “[T]hey didn’t write the Equal Protection Clause in such narrow terms. . . . [T]hey chose to use broader terms, and we should take them at their word.”  As Roberts emphasized, the Equal Protection Clause is written as a guarantee of equality for all, not simply as a prohibition on racial discrimination.  

When the Justices hear oral argument in the marriage equality cases later this month, they should remember Roberts’s advice to “take them at their word.”  The Framers made a conscious decision to write the Fourteenth Amendment as a broad guarantee of equality for all, preventing majorities in the states from discriminating against any person or group of persons.  It is the Supreme Court’s job to enforce the Constitution’s guarantee of equality for all.

David Gans is the Director of the Human Rights, Civil Rights and Citizenship Program at the Constitutional Accountability Center and a co-author of CAC's brief in Obergefell v. Hodges This post is cross-posted at Text and History.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Are we really all living originalists now?

Guest Blogger

Steven Smith

Resistance is futile.  “We are all living originalists now.”

That is the central message of a typically provocative and thoughtful post by Jack Balkin, criticizing an amicus brief (the Originalist Scholars’ Brief) in the same-sex marriage cases.  The Scholars’ Brief itself criticizes another amicus brief (the Cato Brief) written by Bill Eskridge and Steve Calabresi (and endorsed by Jack), which argues that the original meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment supports a right to same-sex marriage.

Jack might be right– maybe living originalism is irresistible-- although as one of the signatories of the Scholars’ Brief, I’m not yet convinced.  I do agree with Jack that original meaning cannot simply be equated with “original expected applications.”  That kind of narrow and untenable approach would not only make the Fourth Amendment inapplicable to electronic searches unknown to the founding generation (to invoke a familiar example); it would make constitutional references to “persons” inapplicable to you and me, insofar as the enactors never foresaw yours or my existence.  Another way to put the point is that the enactors themselves will have perfectly well understood that facts they did not anticipate (electronic searches, you and me) will fit into the legal categories (“searches,” “persons”) they created.

The Scholars’ Brief explicitly acknowledges all of this.  In this vein, the brief agrees that if the Fourteenth Amendment is interpreted as prohibiting “class legislation,” then not only the Black Codes that were an immediate concern of the amendment’s enactors but other instances of “class legislation” would fall within that prohibition– including, conceivably, a law that defined a class based on sexual orientation and subjected that class to legal disabilities.

In this respect, Jack says-- and finds it significant, and odd-- that the Scholars’ Brief concedes that Romer v. Evans was correctly decided.  Here he is not quite accurate.  The brief says, more than once, that Colorado’s Amendment 2 “as interpreted and invalidated by this Court in Romer” would be class legislation.  And the brief quotes that interpretation, in which the Supreme Court said that under the Colorado law                               

[h]omosexuals, by state decree, are put in a solitary class with respect to transactions and relations in both the private and governmental spheres.  The amendment withdraws from homosexuals, but no others, specific legal protections from the injuries caused by discrimination, and it forbids reinstatement of those laws and policies.

This was and is a contestable interpretation, to be sure; some of the signatories to the Scholars’ Brief may believe it was a serious misconstruction.  (I can attest that at least one of the signatories believes this.)  Even so,“as interpreted” in this way, the Colorado law is– or, if you prefer, would be-- “class legislation.”

Read more »

Good news for Americal political thought buffs

Sandy Levinson

I was delighted to receive the information below in a mailing from the Liberty Fund.  Barry Shain's book is simply terrific, an almost literally incredible scholarly feat of bringing together almost every conceivable document relating to the American colonists' critique of British rule and the relationship of this critique to the arguments set out in the Declaration of Independence.  His introduction is a fascinating and valuable work in itself, for he argues that prior to the Declaration, the emphasis was almost exclusively on the "constitutional" illegitimacy of Parliamentary rule over the colonies (and not, for example, on the predations of King George, who was viewed as the potential savior from Parliamentary overreaching).  Eric Nelson offers a similar argument in his very important new book, The Royalist Revolution: Monarchy and the American Founding (Harvard/Belknap, 2014).  This is a golden age for reconceptualizations of the American Revolution (and, along the way, the Declaration of Independence, which will be the topic of a conference to be held next week at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia at which Jack and I will be presenting a paper arguing that we tend to ignore the emphasis of the Declaration on popular sovereignty and collective self-determination in favor of its throw-away line about inalienable rights.)  

Shain's book was published last year by the Yale University Press, which charged $125, an almost reasonable price in context.  (It's a beautifully produced book, in addition to being very long.) .  But the glory of the Liberty Fund is its republication of many classics are readily affordable prices (with no stinting on production value).  I realize this reads a lot like a commercial, but so be it.  I really do think it's a terrific collection that should be on the shelves of anyone who professes to be interested in American political thought and that the Liberty Fund deserves kudos for making this readily available to anyone for a quite minimal cost (and a 20% discount is available until mid-May. 

Read more »

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Living Originalism and Same-Sex Marriage

JB

Two interesting amicus briefs in Obergefell v. Hodges, the same-sex marriage case currently before the Supreme Court, go to the heart of the issues discussed in Living Originalism.  And they exemplify the ongoing debates over the future of originalism as an approach to constitutional interpretation.

The Cato Institute brief, authored by William Eskridge (Yale), Stephen Calabresi (Brown/Northwestern), and Ilya Shapiro (Cato Institute), argues that a constitutional guarantee of same-sex marriage is consistent with the original meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Fourteenth Amendment was designed to enforce equality before the law and ban class legislation.  The brief draws the crucial distinction between the original meaning of equal protection of the laws and the original understanding of equal protection of the laws, arguing that only original meanings, and not original understandings, control.

This brief is closest to my own position in Living Originalism.  The way I would put it is that although we are not bound by the original expectations of the framers, we should look to the principles they espoused, and draw analogies to the historical problems that they faced and sought to remedy, when we fashion constructions of the Fourteenth Amendment to resolve contemporary questions of constitutional law.  Or put in the words of Robert Bork, our "responsibility is to discern how the framers’ values, defined in the context of the world they knew, apply in the world we know."

It follows, then, that we should ask what the principles of class legislation, caste legislation, and equality before the law mean in practice in today's world in the context of gays and lesbians who seek the right to marry.

The second brief of Scholars of Originalism, joined by Larry Alexander (San Diego), Bruce Frohnen (Ohio Northern), William Kelley (Notre Dame), Nelson Lund (George Mason), Bob Pushaw (Pepperdine), Maimon Schwarzchild (San Diego), Steve Smith (San Diego), Lee Strang (Toledo), and William C. Duncan (Marriage Law Foundation), seems to have been filed largely to oppose the presentation of originalism in the Cato Institute Brief.

I say this because it is not clear which, if any, Justice is supposed to be swayed by the argument in the Originalist Scholars brief.  The only two originalists on the Court (Scalia and Thomas) are unlikely to recognize same-sex marriage in any case, and none of the other Justices are actually committed to originalism, especially the stringent form the Originalist Scholars advocate in their brief.  As far as I can determine, the Originalist Scholars Brief is designed to deny that that Cato Institute Brief is really originalist. Thus, it seems to reflect a sort of intramural scrum between different conceptions of originalism, rejecting the Cato version in favor of something believed to be more pure, authentic, or echt.  It is yet another example of the continuing debates within originalism over who has the best version.

Read more »

Religion doesn't exist, so we must protect it

Andrew Koppelman

American law has long accorded religion special treatment. Quaker and Mennonite objections to military service have been accommodated since colonial times. Sacramental wine was permitted during Prohibition. Today the Catholic Church is allowed to deny ordination to women despite antidiscrimination laws. Jewish and Muslim prisoners are entitled to Kosher or halal food. 

This tradition has become intensely controversial of late, reflecting a growing scholarly consensus that special treatment of religion cannot be justified. While some scholars would rule out all legal accommodation, the more common view would allow it in certain cases, but under another description. It is morally arbitrary to single out “religion,” the argument goes, and so a different legal category, such as “conscience,” should be used. A second and related objection is that the bounds of “religion” are so indeterminate that the term is meaningless—a term that European colonizers, for instance, used willy-nilly to describe whatever local practices somehow reminded them of Christianity.

The singling out of religion for special legal treatment is nonetheless appropriate, and precisely because religion doesn’t correspond to any narrow category of morally salient thought or conduct; as such it is a concept flexible enough to be accommodated legally while keeping the state neutral about theological questions. Other, more specific categories are either too sectarian to be politically usable, too underinclusive, or too vague to be administrable.

I develop these claims in the new issue of Commonweal magazine, here.

Monday, April 06, 2015

“You didn’t see him lying so grotesque and pasty beside the gravel road in France”

Mary L. Dudziak

The line in my title appeared in a note found in the pocket of journalist Ernie Pyle when he was killed by a sniper in Okinawa on April 18, 1945.  There was more that Americans would not see, including Pyle’s own body, neatly arranged and straightened, with folded hands. A photo quickly taken of Pyle was censored out of concern that it would hamper morale, since Pyle’s work was so closely followed and he was so popular.

A post about Pyle, with the arresting quote, by Mark Stout was on War on the Rocks this morning, as I was on my way to Rutgers to discuss, in part, the censorship of war photographs this Tuesday. Censorship of even this peaceful image of a dead journalist is one part of the broader story about the distance of most Americans from the cost and consequences of war, even when it comes to still images, and even in the context of the massive mobilization of World War II.

Americans did not see the crumpled body in France, and did not see Pyle’s own body, because of a government policy to, in essence, curate the photographic record of the war to calibrate the emotional response of Americans to war. Initially bad news was suppressed, but by 1943, out of concern that Americans needed to rededicate themselves to the war effort, photo censorship was eased so that images of dead American soldiers could now be shown. But they were bloodless bodies, like this famous photograph, the first photo of dead WWII U.S. soldiers to appear in Life magazine. It was not until May 1945 that, as George Roeder put it, blood was spilled on the pages of Life for the first time, in this image.

I’ve argued in the past that the most important presidential war power is the power to narrate a context as a war, thereby enabling the popular mobilization for war that supports presidential war power. Censorship, or the curating of a pictoral record of war, increasing or decreasing the violence in the images, was used to maintain that mobilization. Censorship is a feature of all wars. In a distant war, without access to the site of battle or the dead themselves, the very sights (and sounds) of World War II were produced by the government for the homefront through both propaganda and censorship. In this way, power over culture helped maintain support for presidential power, not only for overseas deployments, but for the ongoing management of most Americans’ isolation from what war could really look like.

More of Ernie Pyle’s note is in Stout's post, here.

More Questions for Ross Douthat

Nelson Tebbe

In an elegant piece published yesterday, Ross Douthat asks himself some questions about the current conflict between religious freedom and equality for LGBT citizens. He wryly identifies himself as a “semi-reasonable Christian” and then gives clear answers concerning issues like whether wedding vendors should have to serve everyone and whether there are differences between declining to serve same-sex weddings and interracial weddings. Below the fold, I pose several additional questions for Douthat. Like him, I’m genuinely interested in the answers.
Read more »

The "runaway convention" red herring

Sandy Levinson

An interesting article from the Washington Post notes that 27 states have petitioned Congress to call an Article V constitutional convention in order to propose a balanced budget amendment, and similar proposals are apparently pending in nine additional states totally controlled by Republicans.  Fred Wertheimer is quoted as saying that we are at the brink of a genuine "constitutional crisis" should the magic number of 34 be achieved and Congress does its duty, indicated by use of the word "shall" rather than "may" in Article V, to call a new convention.

As is common in such discussions, the article quotes someone who is terrified by such a convention because of the prospect that it could (like the Philadelphia Convention) be a "runaway" and propose the world's worst amendments.  (Readers can fill in their own candidates.)  So, understandably, some people believe that states could limit the agenda of an Article V convention.  Michael Stokes Paulsen (who sometimes contributes to Balkinization) is cited as arguing, I believe correctly, that any Convention would have plenary authority to propose whatever it wished, including the parade of horribles.  Indeed, he seems to agree with Charles Black, who notably argued that "limited convention petitions" should be rejected by Congress as invalid, since the only genuine Article V petitions would be those calling for an (unlimited) convention. 

But, surely, it is paranoid to believe not only that a convention would "runaway" (which is thinkable, albeit unlikely), but also, an more importantly, that the proposals of such a "runaway" convention would get the approval of the legislatures of 3/4 of the states.  There are all sorts of political checks on what the convention can do, which are ignored by those who prattle about runaways.  Yes, the Philadelphia Convention ran away successfully because, among other things, it was presided over by George Washington and defended by a wide array of elite leaders (who, even then, had real trouble, managing to win by only a 30-27 vote in New York).  And this was in the context of reasonably widespread agreement, at least among political elites, that the political system established by the Articles of Confederation was "an inbecility," to quote both Virginia Gov. Edmund Randolph and Federalist 15.  As many people have commented, there is no George Washington on the scene, and, much to my dismay, political elites fall over themselves praising our dysfunctional Constitution and the political system that it established and maintains.  Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton apparently wrote his honors thesis at Harvard on the wonders and glories of the US Constitution, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (also educated at our finest elite schools) memorized the Constitution and won't a word of criticism of it (though I suspect he does not in fact support slavery, as the 1787 Constitution did without using the magic word). 

What is a significant problem is that Article V provides not an iota of a clue about how an Article V convention would be organized.  Who would choose the delegates, and what would the voting rules be (for starters)?  My own proposal is lottery selection of roughly 750 American citizens good and true, because I believe that both elections and appointments have their own problems.  Elections, especially in the age of Citizens United, would invite single-issue campaigns like no other, financed by billionaires; appointment, on the other hand, would assure that the delegates would be unimaginative lackeys of those appointing them, who would fear any show of genuine independence, let alone "running away."  But the point is that serious people should recognize that the fear of "runaway convention" is not remotely a good reason for opposing a new convention. 

Holding a new constitutional convention might well highlight a sense of "constitutional crisis," but, for some of us, on both the right and the left, the "crisis" has long since arrived, as is illustrated by some blend of a) the patent incapacity of Congress to respond effectively to any of the major challenges facing the country today and/or b) the equally patent extension of Executive Branch authority/power to move into the breach and make "necessary and proper" decisions required to meet these challenges and/or c) the willingness of a Supreme Court that currently has no members committed to a serious theory of "judicial restraint" to step in and offer its own adjustments to public policy.  I strongly believe that the most important single sentence in our history if John Marshall's reminder in McCulloch that the Constitution is designed "to endure" and, therefore, must "be adapted to the various crises of human affairs."  The central question is who will do the adaptation and what will remain of a defensible and desirable "republican form of government" after the adaptations take place. 

I would hope that those who exercise their freedom to offer comments will confine themselves to addressing the central question of whether it really makes sense to fear a "runaway convention."  There are all sorts of reasons to be hesitant to support a new convention (as my friends and family constantly tell me).  But is that fear one of them? 

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Conscience Wars

Guest Blogger

Doug NeJaime and Reva Siegel


Many are observing how conflicts over state RFRAs – most notably in Indiana and Arkansas – are now bound up in broader culture war conflicts over same-sex marriage and LGBT equality.  Arguments for religious exemption being asserted in support of state RFRAs, as well as claims to exemption from the ACA's contraceptive coverage requirements, have emerged as part of a cross-denominational movement that has made religious liberty a new rallying cry.  The New York Times yesterday connected the current round of claims to the 2009 Manhattan Declaration, the product of a political coalition between Catholic and evangelical Protestant leaders.  Our article, Conscience Wars: Complicity-Based Conscience Claims in Religion and Politics, coming out soon in the Yale Law Journal and available here, extensively situates today's religious exemption claims in this cross-denominational mobilization.  Finding even earlier origins, we trace today’s complicity-based conscience claims to the proliferation of healthcare refusals legislation in the 1990s and 2000s—legislation supported by Catholics and evangelical Protestants opposed to abortion, and increasingly contraception.  With this longer view, we can see how religious liberty arguments allow social conservative advocates and religious leaders to shift from speaking as a majority seeking to enforce traditional morality through generally applicable laws to speaking as a minority seeking exemptions from laws that contravene traditional morality.  When unable to entrench traditional morality through outright bans on abortion and same-sex marriage, advocates turn to arguments for religious liberty—and particularly claims based on complicity—to create a web of exemptions from laws that depart from traditional morality.


Constitutional design and contemporary dysfunction (and timidity): The APSA Presidential Address

Sandy Levinson

For obvious reasons, I was extremely interested in the title of the Presidential Address delivered by John H. Aldrich at the 2014 meetings of the American Political Science Association:  “Did Hamilton, Jefferson, and Madison ‘Cause’ the  U.S. Government Shutdown?  The Institutional Path from an Eighteenth Century Republic to a Twenty-first Century Democracy,” just published in the March 2015 issue of Perspectives on Politics, one of the two major journals published by the APSA.  Aldrich offers an overview of American political history designed to explain the consequences for governance of the particular form of party polarization that we have today.  Part of his analysis emphasizes the demise of strong parties in favor of candidate-centered elections; this is helped along, of course, by the rise in the early 20th century of party primaries and the secret ballot.  Like Rick Pildes (himself borrowing from earlier political scientists), Aldrich also emphasizes the collapse of the schizoid Democratic Party following the Voting Rights Act of 1965, when the “big tent” of Northern liberals and Southern white racists disappeared, with many of the latter, of course, migrating to the Republican Party in the aftermath of Barry Goldwater’s vote against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and, more importantly, Richard Nixon’s  “Southern Strategy” in 1968.  
Aldrich also pays attention to the importance of veto points created by the political system set down in 1787, with its emphasis on separate and autonomous "branches" that can "check and balance" one another and thus, among other things, prevent any legislation from passing.   He begins his “conclusions” as follows:

My central argument is that what many are calling the ‘dysfunctional’ government of today is the consequence, in part, of a stream of institutional design decisions made throughout  American political history.  In many respects, the Constitution was designed for a different place and time, designed to solve a different set of problems than our own. …

Aldrich concludes his “conclusions” by suggesting some “strateg[ies] for reform,” which depend, of course, on the diagnosis of the problem.  If, for example, we view representatives as motivated primarily by a desire to be re-elected (as David Mayhew famously suggested, then “we must find a way to reshape districts such that they are more likely to be mixtures of partisanship and ideology” rather than self-consciously designed to be controlled by the median voter within a given political party instead of the electorate in general.  But if we are persuaded by some interesting evidence that “Congress is filled with those committed personally to the expression of ideology” (and who are selected because they are viewed as reliable adherents to the ideology), “then we must find a way to recruit and elect sufficient moderates.” He also suggests that perhaps the Supreme Court needs to rethink its views about money being “speech” and try to move closer to a “one voice, one vote” standard in place of the electorate’s de facto choice of choosing among candidates who have been able to survive the money primary and onslaught of “independent ads” purchased by ideological groups. 

All of these, of course, are worth discussing.  But, as one can imagine, I strongly regret that Prof. Aldrich (whom I do not know), given the title of his presidential address and the beginning of his “conclusions,” didn’t even address the possibility that perhaps we should think about reforming the Constitution itself.  I will confess to some narcissistic disappointment that he did not cite either of my two books on the subject, which I suppose simply underscores the view that I’m not thought to be a “real political scientist” by denizens of the discipline.  But I take this also as evidence of the fact that even someone as astute as Prof. Aldrich clearly is—not to mention someone who seems to express some worry about the contemporary “dysfunctionality” of our political system—seems incapable of moving beyond basically anodyne suggestions into more radical suggestions that perhaps a Constitution that was designed (and perhaps designed well) to confront a “somewhat different set of problems from our own” needs to be rethought every now and then.  

Robert Dahl, perhaps the greatest political scientist of my lifetime, moved over the course of his career from a quite complacent defender of what was called “interest group pluralism” (especially as found in New Haven, Connecticut) to a vigorous critic of our political system for its patently undemocratic aspects.  Interestingly enough, Aldrich doesn’t cite any of Dahl’s work, including his 2002  book How Democratic Is the United States Constitution?, though he does cite (and discuss) Thomas Mann’s and Norman Ornstein’s It’s even worse than it looks:  How the American constitutional system collided with the new politics of extremism.”   But one vital difference between Dahl (and myself), on the one hand, and Mann and Ornstein, on the other, is that for all of the bite of their critique, they carefully avoid any suggestion that we need to think of constitutional reform. That simply isn't thinkable within the Beltway.

It is easy enough to say that Prof. Aldrich is simply being prudent.  The worst feature of the  Constitution is Article V itself, which not only makes significant amendment near impossible, but, perhaps as importantly, infantilizes our discourse by making any suggestion of constitutional reform sound utopian and quixotic, not the kind of thing that persons who want to be thought “reasonable” would ever suggest.  I wish that Prof. Aldrich, who I am sure is a fine representative of contemporary American political science, were less “reasonable.”


Friday, April 03, 2015

Opening DOJ appellate brief on "deferred action" immigration policy in the Fifth Circuit, confirming that DAPA will not establish "new benefits" not separately authorized by statute and reg

Marty Lederman

Back in February, I explained here that Judge Hanen's analysis of DHS's new “Deferred Action for Parents of Americans" (DAPA) program depends crucially on the notion that the program entails not only DHS's exercise of prosecutorial discretion to remove certain aliens, but not others, from the United States (a "nonenforcement" discretion that the immigration statutes confer upon the Secretary), but also the agency's bestowal of several alleged affirmative “benefits” on those aliens.  That assumption of the way in which the new program will operate was the basis not only of the judge's skepticism of the substantive merits of the DAPA program, but also of his holding at the preliminary injunction stage that the program cannot be implemented except pursuant to notice and comment rulemaking.  It was also at the heart of a prominent defense of Judge Hanen written by Professor Michael McConnell in the Wall Street Journal.  As I further explained, however, Judge Hanen and Professor McConnell were simply mistaken in their assumption that DHS would bestow upon DAPA-eligible aliens certain “benefits” that are not authorized by statute and by pre-existing regulations that have themselves been promulgated pursuant to the notice-and-comment rulemaking process.

The Department of Justice has now filed its initial brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, seeking a reversal of the preliminary injunction.  Part II-B of the government's Argument (pp. 36-50) addresses the "merits," in the context of arguing that the APA does not require notice and comment rulemaking here.  That argument tracks, and elaborates upon, the analysis I offered in my February post.  In particular, it explains why the new DHS policy will not confer any new "benefits" upon DAPA-eligible aliens, apart from those--in particular, work authorization--that the statute and longstanding regulations authorize the Department to confer.

More on Indiana (and Arkansas and ...)

Nelson Tebbe

with Micah Schwartzman


Mark Tushnet is right — there is an emerging, rich literature on the legal aspects of the conflict between religion and equality law since Hobby Lobby. In addition to the sources he cites, essential reading includes the two other law review issues connected to the Harvard conference last year in the Harvard Law & Policy Review and the Southern California Law Review (still forthcoming but including already-available pieces by Rick Garnett and Andy Koppelman), as well as Liz Sepper’s review of Horwitz and her forthcoming piece on Free Exercise Lochnerism, plus Bill Marshall’s piece on Hobby Lobby for Supreme Court Review.

Older Posts

Home