Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Our Decrepit Constitution: Its Secret Meaning

Our Decrepit Constitution: Its Secret Meaning

The Framers of the Constitution came from the English tradition of common law. Under common law, laws are not written but deduced from similar court cases. An important concept in common law is stare decisis, which requires the court to follow tradition, so that if a court decides a case a certain way, it will be bound by its own prior decision.

A problem arises when a court, especially the Supreme Court, is not bound by its prior decisions. The Supreme Court, in Bush v. Gore (2000), rejected previously settled law by overturning the ruling of the Florida Supreme Court. The majority of the Court decided that the Florida Supreme Court did not have the right to interpret Florida election law. This contravened the judgment in Marbury v. Madison (1803), which ruled, “[i]t is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is.” The Republican majority of the court thus overruled a decision that had stood for nearly 200 years to elect the presidential candidate of their party.

The Supreme Court, in Citizens United v. FEC, overturned 100 years of precedent upholding the Tillman Act (1907) which limited corporate contributions to political campaigns. In doing so, the Court found that the campaign finance law violated the First Amendment, something which was not mentioned in the original claim. The Court thus gave itself authority to rule a law unconstitutional without having a representative case brought to its attention. The Court's failure to abide by its own earlier decisions struck a blow against the means by which the law does not change erratically but in a principled and intelligible fashion.

The result of these rulings was a critical wound to public confidence in the Supreme Court in particular and the law itself in general. State legislatures have begun passing bills that obviously contradict Supreme Court decisions and Constitutional Amendments. The Kansas legislature yesterday passed a bill that defines life as beginning at fertilization and bans abortion based on fetal gender altogether. These provisions of the new bill patently violate the Supreme Court's ruling in Roe v. Wade (1973). Several other states have passed similar laws limiting the availability of abortion. All of these laws presume that the Supreme Court will overturn a ruling it made 40 years ago. The Court will do this not because of any change in technology or public sentiment, but simply because it does not agree with the earlier decision.

Another provision of the Kansas bill prohibits Planned Parenthood from teaching sex education in the public schools. Supporters of such laws do not claim that Planned Parenthood gives false information in their classes. State Rep. Bette Grande (R-Fargo) introduced a similar bill in North Dakota. Rep. Grande said that Planned Parenthood was not part of the way business was conducted in her state.

This state of affairs has been brought about by the Supreme Court's attempt to set itself up as the supreme branch of government, which may at any time decide to strike down reasonable laws made by legislatures or decisions made by other courts for the simple reason that this court, for obvious political reasons, disagrees with them. The Courts decisions may be described as obviously political because observers can predict which way individual justices will rule based on their political affiliation alone.

The situation resembled the state of affairs in Japan before the issuance of its constitution in 1868. The Japanese lords made legal decisions without consulting precedent or legal codes because there were none. Japanese subjects had to obey the lords because there was no appeal from an arbitrary or unjust decision. The Supreme Court seeks to institute just such a government, where laws are not made by the people, but by Supreme Court Justices, who, like the prophets of the Old Testament, reveal the secret meaning of the Constitution.

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