Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Article in William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal: Rescuing the Fourteenth Amendment Privileges or Immunities Clause

I'm pleased to report that my article entitled "Rescuing the Fourteenth Amendment Privileges or Immunities Clause: How "Attrition of Parliamentary Processes" Begat Accidental Ambiguity; How Ambiguity Begat Slaughter-House" will be published in the upcoming volume of the William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal.

The article is available at SSRN and BePress Selected Works.

Here is the abstract:

"This Essay addresses a topic of great academic and practical interest currently facing the Supreme Court: whether the Fourteenth Amendment Privileges or Immunities Clause, which has lain dormant since the Court's erroneous 1873
SlaughterHouse Cases decision, should be resurrected in order to apply the Second Amendment to the States.

The Essay makes the unique argument that the textual basis for the
SlaughterHouse Court's holding regarding the clause - i.e., the lack of parallel textual construction in the Section One's first two sentences regarding citizenship - was in fact the wholly unintentional product of what we might call "attrition of parliamentary processes." This analysis is not new to the Supreme Court. Borrowed from an oral argument made before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1882 by Roscoe Conkling (a member in 1866 of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction), the analysis played a vital role in leading the Court ot its 1898 conclusion that the word "person" in Section One's Due Process Clause should be read to include artificial persons, including corporations - an interpretation substantially broader than that given previously by the SlaughterHouse majority.

Just as the Court in the last decades of the nineteenth century corrected the Court's too-narrow interpretation of Section One "personhood," so it should now - finally - begin to correct its earlier misreading of the distinction in Section One between U.S. and state citizenship in order to restore the privileges or immunities clause to its full intended effect of applying the Bill of Rights (and more) to the States."

(I have previously posted here on related topics.)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Time to Legalize Drugs - Sensible WaPo Article

Today's Washington Post contains a well-reasoned OpEd entitled "It's Time to Legalize Drugs" by two former Baltimore City police officers and members of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. This is something I've blogged on before here, and this OpEd makes the case yet again.

Written by Peter Moskos (a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the author of "Cop in the Hood") and Neill Franklin, (a 32-year law enforcement veteran), the OpEd explains that:

"after years of witnessing the ineffectiveness of drug policies -- and the disproportionate impact the drug war has on young black men -- we and other police officers [have] begun to question the system.

"Cities and states license beer and tobacco sellers to control where, when and to whom drugs are sold. Ending Prohibition saved lives because it took gangsters out of the game. Regulated alcohol doesn't work perfectly, but it works well enough. Prescription drugs are regulated, and while there is a huge problem with abuse, at least a system of distribution involving doctors and pharmacists works without violence and high-volume incarceration. Regulating drugs would work similarly: not a cure-all, but a vast improvement on the status quo.

"Legalization would not create a drug free-for-all. In fact, regulation reins in the mess we already have. If prohibition decreased drug use and drug arrests acted as a deterrent, America would not lead the world in illegal drug use and incarceration for drug crimes. "

Moskos and Franklin continue, "We simply urge the federal government to retreat. Let cities and states (and, while we're at it, other countries) decide their own drug policies. Many would continue prohibition, but some would try something new. California and its medical marijuana dispensaries provide a good working example, warts and all, that legalized drug distribution does not cause the sky to fall.

"Having fought the war on drugs, we know that ending the drug war is the right thing to do -- for all of us, especially taxpayers. While the financial benefits of drug legalization are not our main concern, they are substantial. In a July referendum, Oakland, Calif., voted to tax drug sales by a 4-to-1 margin. Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron estimates that ending the drug war would save $44 billion annually, with taxes bringing in an additional $33 billion.

"Without the drug war, America's most decimated neighborhoods would have a chance to recover. Working people could sit on stoops, misguided youths wouldn't look up to criminals as role models, our overflowing prisons could hold real criminals, and -- most important to us -- more police officers wouldn't have to die."

Sensible words.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Healthcare Reform - Voices of Reason from Senators Wyden & Bennett

In a column entitled "How We Can Achieve Bipartisan Health Reform" in today's Washington Post, Senators Ron Wyden and Robert Bennett describe the bipartisan approach to healthcare reform that offers the best hope for getting something done on this contentious issue.

Writing for 12 senators from both sides of the aisle (including Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Ted Kaufman (D-Del.), Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), Michael D. Crapo (R-Idaho), Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.)), they rightly state that "It's time to stop trying to figure out what pollsters say the country wants to hear from us and focus on what the country needs from us. The American people can't afford for Congress to fail again."

Here are some of the details:

"Democratic activists have long campaigned for universal coverage and quality benefits. Republican activists zero in on empowering individuals and bringing market forces to the health-care system. Our approach does both. In our discussions on the Healthy Americans Act, each side gave a bit on some of its visions of perfect health reform to achieve bipartisanship.

"The Democrats among us accepted an end to the tax-free treatment of employer-sponsored health insurance; instead, everyone -- not just those who currently get insurance through their employer -- would get a generous standard deduction that they would use to buy insurance -- and keep the excess if they buy a less expensive policy.

"The Republicans agreed to require all individuals to have coverage and to provide subsidies where necessary to ensure that everyone can afford it. Most have agreed to require employers to contribute to the system and to pay workers wages equal to the amount the employer now contributes for health care. The Congressional Budget Office has reported that this framework is the only one thus far that bends the health-care cost curve down and makes it possible for the new system to pay for itself. It does this by creating a competitive market for health insurance in which individuals are empowered to choose the best values for their money and by cutting administrative costs and spreading risk across large groups of Americans.

"First, we allow all Americans to have the same kind of choices available to us as members of Congress. Today, more than half of American workers who are lucky enough to have employer-provided insurance have no choice of coverage. Members of Congress who enroll their families in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program often have more than 10 options. This means that if members of Congress aren't happy with their family's insurance plan in 2009 or insurers raise their rates, they can pick a better plan in 2010. Our plan would give the consumer the same leverage in the health-care marketplace by creating state-run insurance exchanges through which they can select plans, including their existing employer-sponsored plan.

"Beyond giving Americans choices, our approach also ensures that all Americans will be able to keep that choice. We believe that at a time when millions of Americans are losing their jobs, members of Congress must be able to promise their constituents that "when you leave your job or your job leaves you, you can take your health care with you." Our approach ensures seamless portability."

Good stuff. Hopefully Congress can see its way clear, past all of the millions of dollars of "donations" from the healthcare industry (more like bribes - the old saying applies here, that if in a baseball game the players gave the umpires money we'd call it a bribe; but if the same happens in politics we call it a campaign donation), to do what a strong majority of the American people want and which is morally right - provide the opportunity for good healthcare insurance to all Americans at a reasonable price.

Wyden and Bennett conclude:

"Our point is not that our framework is the only way to reform the system or to reach consensus. But our effort has shown that it is possible to put politics aside and reach agreement on reforms that would improve the lives of all Americans. Insisting on any particular fix is the enemy of good legislating. A package that will entirely please neither side, but on which both can agree, stands not only the strongest chance of passage but also the best chance of gaining acceptance from the American people.

"We didn't undertake this effort because we thought it would be easy; in fact, we started working together because we knew it would be hard. Passing health reform is going to require that we take a stand against the status quo and be willing to challenge every interest group that is jealously guarding the advantages it has under the current system, because health reform isn't about protecting the current system or preserving the advantages of a few. We can't forget that we are working on life-and-death issues facing our constituents, our families, our friends and our neighbors."

Voices of reason from the U.S. Senate - how refreshing.