Rob Natelson explains in this essay, which points of some of Seidman’s major historical errors about the Founding Era and constitutional history.
Judge Posner’s opinion for a 2-1 panel of the 7th Circuit. Illinois is the only state which forbids gun carrying in public as a matter of law. There is no provision for the issuance of licenses for concealed carry, or for open carry. Both are banned. There are some exceptions for particular activities (e.g., while hunting), and for persons with a special occupational status (e.g., licensed security guard, some government officials).
According to the Supreme Court, 1791 (year of ratification) is the crucial year for the Second Amendment’s original meaning. The usual suspects (Saul Cornell, etc.) claim that there was no generally recognized right to carry in 1791. But the “Supreme Court rejected the argument. The appellees ask us to repudiate the Court’s historical analysis. That we can’t do. Nor can we ignore the implication of the analysis that the constitutional right of armed self defense is broader than the right to have a gun in one’s home. . . .A right to bear arms thus implies a right to carry a loaded gun outside the home.”
“And one doesn’t have to be a historian to realize that a right to keep and bear arms for personal self-defense in the eighteenth century could not rationally have been limited to the home.” Besides English precedents about restrictions on carrying in certain places or in certain ways were not general prohibitions. Discussion of frontier conditions, and observation that today,
Twenty-first century Illinois has no hostile Indians. But a Chicagoan is a good deal more likely to be attacked on a sidewalk in a rough neighborhood than in his apartment on the 35th floor of the Park Tower. A woman who is being stalked or has obtained a protective order against a violent ex-husband is more vulnerable to being attacked while walking to or from her home than when inside. She has a stronger self-defense claim to be allowed to carry a gun in public than the resident of a fancy apartment building (complete with doorman) has a claim to sleep with a loaded gun under her mattress.
Judge Posner then surveys the social science evidence about gun carrying, and concludes that it is, on net, indeterminate, and besides that, irrelevant:
In sum, the empirical literature on the effects of allowing the carriage of guns in public fails to establish a pragmatic defense of the Illinois law. . . . Anyway the Supreme Court made clear in Heller that it wasn’t going to make the right to bear arms depend on casualty counts. 554 U.S. at 636. If the mere possibility that allowing guns to be carried in public would increase the crime or death rates sufficed to justify a ban, Heller would have been decided the other way, for that possibility was as great in the District of Columbia as it is in Illinois.
The State cannot win the case by showing a mere rational basis for the law. Another 7th Circuit case, Skoien, upheld the federal gun ban for convicted domestic violence misdemeanants, and in doing so used intermediate scrutiny, and required the government to produce lots of empirical evidence. In the instant case, the government “would have to make a stronger showing” than in Skoien, since the Illinois carry ban applies to everyone, whereas Skoien involved “a class of persons who present a higher than average risk of misusing a gun.”
“Remarkably, Illinois is the only state that maintains a flat ban on carrying ready-to-use guns outside the home, though many states used to ban carrying concealed guns outside the home, [James] Bishop [Note, “Hidden or on the Hip: The Right(s) to Carry After Heller,” 97 Cornell L. Rev. 907 (2012)], supra, at 910; David B. Kopel, “The Second Amendment in the Nineteenth Century,” 1998 BYU L. Rev. 1359, 1432–33 (1998)—a more limited prohibition than Illinois’s, however.” Illinois offers no evidence why it has some unique need to ban gun carrying; if Illinois’s carry ban were such a great idea, then at least one or two states would have emulated it.
Reiterates Heller’s exceptions: “children, felons, illegal aliens, lunatics, and in sensitive places such as public schools.” Notes with approval that some states sensibly require that an applicant for a handgun permit establish his competence in handling firearms.
In Kachalsky v. Westchester County, the 2d Circuit recently upheld NY State licensing law that requires a carry permit applicant to prove that he suffers from some unique or unusual threat. Posner chides the 2d Circuit for re-opening historical issues that were settled by Heller. But “Our principal reservation about the Second Circuit ’s analysis.” Posner writes, “is its suggestion that the Second Amendment should have much greater scope inside the home than outside simply because other provisions of the Constitution have been held to make that distinction.” In support, the 2d Circuit cited Lawrence v. Texas. Posner replies: “Well of course—the interest in having sex inside one’s home is much greater than the interest in having sex on the sidewalk in front of one’s home. But the interest in self-protection is as great outside as inside the home.”
Moreover, Posner writes, the main purpose of Kachalsky’s inside/outside distinction was to justify intermediate scrutiny for restrictions on guns outside the home. In Madigan, “our analysis is not based on degrees of scrutiny, but on Illinois’s failure to justify the most restrictive gun law of any of the 50 states.” [Study tip for law students: 3-tier scrutiny doesn't explain everything. If a government prohibited everyone from speaking out loud in public places, a court does not need to use strict or intermediate scrutiny to decide if the ban is constitutional. Blanket bans on speaking in public places are per se void, and so are blanket bans on bearing arms in public places.]
Judge Posner addresses the concern of 4th Circuit Judge Harvie Wilkinson [US v. Masciandaro, 638 F.3d 458, 475 (4th Cir. 2011)] that delineating the constitutional boundaries of the right to bear arms takes judges into “a vast terra incognita.” Posner agrees, but points out that the new world “has been opened to judicial exploration by Heller and McDonald. There is no turning back by the lower federal courts.”
The Illinois carry ban is illegal. The Court’s mandate will be stayed for 180 days, “to allow the Illinois legislature to craft a new gun law that will impose reasonable limitations, consistent with the public safety and the Second Amendment as interpreted in this opinion, on the carrying of guns in public.”
Ernst Freund was one of the Founding Fathers of progressive constitutionalism. His 1904 book The Police Power: Public Policy and Constitutional Rights argued for a vastly expanded understanding of the police power. (The police power, broadly defined, is a government’s power to regulate health, safety, welfare and morals. It is distinct from other government powers, such as the tax power, or the military power. In the U.S. system, the federal government does not have a police power, except as to federal territories, but the States do have a police power.)
Freund’s expansive view of the police power aimed to overthrow the then-prevailing (at least in theory) view, articulated by Christopher Tiedeman in his 1886 A Treatise on the Limitations of the Police Power in the United States, that the police power could only be used to prevent people from harming others or violating their rights. In the long run, Freund’s view became the mainstream.
So what would Freund, that great advocate for loosening the restraints on big government, have to say about laws which prohibit the medical use of marijuana? Here’s what he wrote about liquor prohibition:
All prohibitory laws make an exception in favor of sales for medical purposes. This is not a legislative indulgence but a constitutional necessity, since the state could not validly prohibit the use of valuable curative agencies on account of remote possibility of abuse. “[T]he power of the legislature to prohibit the prescription and sale of liquor to be used as medicine does not exist, and its exercise would be as purely arbitrary as the prohibition of its sale for religious purposes....” The right to an adequate supply of medicines cannot be cut off by the legislature, and when legal provisions would have such effect they must that extent be inoperative.
Freund, at 210-11, quoting Sarrls v. Commonwealth, 83 Ky. 327, 332-33 (1885) (interpreting physician exception in statutory ban on liquor transfers).
In The Evolving Police Power: Some Observations for a New Century (27 Hastings Const’l L.Q. 511 (Spring 2000)), Glenn Reynolds and examined the trend in some courts towards judicial recognition of an issue on which Freund and Tiedman agreed: however one defines the boundaries of the police power, it is not infinite, and there are some personal zones into which it cannot reach.
Earlier this week, the Senate rejected the proposed U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Among the reasons for the rejection was fear that, even if the Convention’s language itself was acceptable, the future interpretation of the Convention would be in the hands of a U.N. bureaucracy, which might invent novel or excessive interpretations. Therefore, I respectfully request commenters to describe previous situations in which a UN body has, in the commenter’s view, made an inappropriate interpretation or application of a Convention of Treaty.
And since the CRPD was modeled, in part on the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act, commenters are also welcome to point out some of what they consider to be the most extreme, inappropriate, or unexpected applications and interpretations of the ADA itself.
As reported by the Second Amendment Foundation, this morning the Obama administration joined a U.N. majority which called for convening a new conference to create a global Arms Trade Treaty.
Only reporting results which represent a change.
U.S. Senate. Gains: Indiana (Donnelly replaces Lugar). NM (Heinrich replaces Bingaman). ND (Heitkamp replaces Conrad).
Senate losses: Mass., Warren defeats Brown (-.5 with NRA C-rated Senator replaced by an F). Virginia, Kaine replaces Webb.
Senate net: +1.5. Ted Cruz’s win in Texas won’t change Senate voting patterns, but the former Texas Solicitor General will be an outstanding and very well-informed leader on Second Amendment issues.
House losses: AZ 9. CA 7 (C-rated Lungren ousted), 26, 36 (Mary Bono Mack), 41, 52. FL 18 (Alan West), 22 (Bloomberg-funded extremist wins), 26. Il 8, 18. MD 6. MN 8. NH 1 & 2. NY 18, 24.
House gains: AZ 2. IA 3 (incumbent vs. incumbent). NC 13 (F-rated incumbent retired). OH 16 (incumbent vs. incumbent).
House net: -12.5.
Governor Loss: Montana (although not officially called yet; winner Steve Bullock has a B- rating). Waiting for results in WA, a possible gain.
Ballot issues. Strengthen Louisiana state right to keep and bear arms, to require strict scrutiny. Win, very important reform, that will be a model in other states. Constitutional right to hunt and fish passes overwhelmingly in Kentucky, Nebraska, and Idaho.
In short, as Barack Hussein Obama, the Juan Domingo Peron of the 21st century, leads America to fiscal collapse, you can at least keep your guns.
As the results come in tonight, I will blog here about the results as they affect the Second Amendment. In an article last week for National Review Online, I previewed all the Senate and Governor races, and all the competitive House races. Election night starts with a net +3 for the Second Amendment in the Senate, regardless of which party wins the Senate races in New Mexico, North Dakota, and Indiana. In all these states, both major party candidates are strong on Second Amendment issues, so the winner will replace retiring anti-gun Senators (Bingaman in N.M., Conrad in N.D.) or an anti-gun Senator who lost in the primary (Lugar in Ind.). To summarize the rest:
The three gubernatorial races that are close and that feature major differences between the candidates on Second Amendment issues are Washington, Montana, and New Hampshire.
. . . In four states — Arizona, Massachusetts, Nevada, and Virginia — there are serious risks that Senate seats could be taken by new senators hostile to gun rights. Plausible opportunities to gain seats for the Second Amendment exist in Maine, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin. In these eight swing Senate states considered together, the possibility of a net loss probably exceeds the possibility of a net gain.
As for the U.S. House, a rough estimate would be that if the net gain for Democrats is x, then the net loss for gun owners will be about one-half or two-thirds of x. In swing districts, most candidates are unwilling to forgo the 5 percent of the vote that can be lost by opposing Second Amendment rights. So, in these districts, candidates of both parties tend to support the Second Amendment. Thus, the net change in House composition on the gun issue tends to be smaller than the net party change in any given year.
In addition, Louisiana has a ballot referendum to strengthen the state constitution’s right to arms. Idaho, Kentucky, and Nebraska will vote on adding the right to hunt and fish to the state constitution.
That was the provocative title of a seminar earlier this month organized by the Istituto Bruno Leoni, Italy’s free market think tank. The event was the IBL’s 9th annual Mises Seminar. As is common at multinational seminars in Europe, the event and the papers were in English, which is today’s lingua franca among well-educated Europeans.
My favorite paper was presented by Kaetana Leontjeva, who is a Senior Policy Analyst at the Lithuanian Free Market Institute. Her paper, Old-age state social insurance: may its failure be averted?, examines the history of old-age pension systems throughout Europe, with a special focus on the USSR, Lithuania and Georgia. She shows how these programs, initially of modest size, grew to an unustainable level that is financed by borrowing. She argues that there are only two realistic alternatives:
1. Continuing the present systems, with only “technical” reforms. This will eventually lead to complete failure of the old-age pension system, as occurred in the USSR. “ This would lead to a sudden and dramatic change in conditions of the elderly, bringing about poverty and chronic insecurity.” OR
2. “managed failure.” This means starting to shrinking the existing pension systems, by requiring that they operate on a balanced budget. Young people should not be told to depend on the current system, but should be encouraged to start making plans for their own retirement, by setting aside some of their current income to provide for their retirement. “For the ‘managed failure’ approach to work, one generation has to concede and make a sacrifice by paying for the pensions of the current retirees and for their own. In the absence of such a consent and solidarity, the generation to make the sacrifice would emerge spontaneously, and the process of an unexpected old-age social insurance failure would be much more painful.”
Another interesting paper came from Peter J. Boettke (Mercatus Center, George Mason University) and Daniel J. Smith (Manual H. Johnson Center for Political Economy, Troy University). “Monetary Policy and the Quest for Robust Political Economy” examines the failures of economists in thinking about the Federal Reserve. It is possible to imagine a Federal Reserve which conducts its affairs in an economically sound and apolitical fashion. But in practice, the Fed has often been a pump-priming engine of inflation, for political reasons. In other words, “Technical optima are nonoperational in a contemporary democratic setting.” In the wake of the Great Recession, the economics profession has been busy dissecting recent technical mistakes by Fed. Boettke and Smith argue that economists instead ought to be analyzing the only solutions which can put an end to a century of Federal Reserve failures: the adoption of a monetary policy (e.g., based on an external standard, such as a commodities bundle) which removes Fed discretion to promote inflation. While such a policy might not be politically feasible in the short run, it is the only constructive alternative, and would become more politically feasible if economists did not self-censor their recommendations based on short-term political viability.
In “Bankruptcy: Why are Banks Treated Differently Anyway?,” Mathieu Bédard (Ph.D. candidate in economics, Aix-Marseille Université, and a Fellow at the Institute for Humane Studies) classifies and analyzes the 29 different forms of government intervention into bank failures. He argues that ordinary bankruptcy is often superior to liquidations managed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
Even if you don’t agree with the policy recommendations in these papers, they are worth reading for their thoughtful analysis.
“Syria is Iran’s only ally in the Arab world. It’s their route to the sea.” So said Mitt Romney at the Monday debate. The Associated Press, The Guardian, The Telegraph, New York, U.S. News, Brad DeLong, Rachel Maddow’s Maddowblog, Comedy Central, and The Daily Kos promptly seized the opportunity to show off their superior geographical knowledge, pointing out that Iran has a coastline. The explicit or implicit explanation was that Romney does not even know basic geography. “Romney Flubs Geography” announced the A.P. headline on the Washington Post website. Readers in search of more sophisticated coverage might have turned to Yahoo! Answers:
Q. Why did Romney say that Syria is Iran’s “route to the sea”? ...when 1) Iraq stands between Syria and Iran, and 2) Iran already has the Persian Gulf, not to mention the Indian Sea?
A. Romney was speaking in the context of the debate topic on foreign policy and the sanctions restricting the finances and trade of Iran. Although Iran is indeed located on the seacoast of the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf, the international trade sanctions have restricted and impeded its ability to transport armaments and other goods through its own seaports. To defeat these trade sanctions, Iran has resorted to using its air transportation to transport goods through an air corridor in Iraqi airspace into Syria and its seaports, such as Latakia.
Fact-checkers who actually investigate the facts might have started with expert websites such as StrategyPage. A 2006 article titled Syrian Delivery System for Iranian Nukes details the extensive seaborne smuggling operations carried out by Syrian companies operating out of Syrian ports. The article concludes:
Iran was generous with its “foreign aid” because Syria provided support for terrorists Iran backed. Now Iran is keen on getting nuclear weapons. The first ones Iran will get will be large and delicate. The only feasible intercontinental delivery system will be a ship. A ship that is accustomed to moving illicit goods.
Stratfor, which is an outstanding site for the collection and analysis open source intelligence, has the following reports involving Syria/Iran sea-related collaboration: An Iranian ship at the Syrian port of Tartus (also spelled “Tartous”) picked up Syrian oil for delivery to China, to evade the economic sanctions on Syria (Mar. 30, 2012). Iran warships docked at the port of Latakia in early 2012 (Feb. 18, 2012), and in early 2011 (Feb. 22, 2011; Feb. 24, 2011). During the 2011 visit, the Iranian navy’s commander, Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, announced that Iran was ready to help Syria improve its port facilities, and to collaborate on technical projects with Syria. (Feb. 26, 2011). (All the Stratfor articles are behind a paywall.)
So in short, Syria is Iran’s route for the projection into the Mediterranean Sea (and from there, the Atlantic Ocean) of conventional naval power, and, perhaps soon, of nuclear weaponry.
Post-debate, the Washington Post‘s Glenn Kessler at least made a start towards a serious factcheck of the Romney quote. He published an updated and condensed version of a longer piece he had written last April about Romney’s repeated use of the phrase.
In the April piece, Kessler wondered what difference Syria made, since Iranian ships can enter the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal. True, but anyone with even a mild knowledge of naval affairs could explain the utility of a Mediterranean port, as a opposed to a Persian Gulf port, for ships operating in the Mediterranean. In April and in October, Kessler wrote:
We also checked with other experts, many of whom confessed to being puzzled by Romney’s comments. [DK: Kessler should have named all the "other" experts, and should also have included the explanation of at least one of the experts who was not among the "many" were were confused.] Tehran certainly uses Syria to supply the militant groups Hezbollah and Hamas, but that has little to do with the water. The relationship with Syria could also effectively allow Iran to project its power to the Mediterranean and the border with Israel. But does that really mean, “a route to the sea”?
The last two sentences are really the buried lede of the story: Romney is raising a very important issue (Syria as the base for the projection of Iranian naval power), but Romney is not explaining himself in a manner which the less well-informed members of the public (e.g., the sources linked in the 1st paragraph of this post) can understand. If Romney were a better communicator, he would have laid out the facts in greater detail, as Ronald Reagan and Winston Churchill did in their own time, when warning their countrymen about the military dangers of aggressive totalitarian regimes. As Kessler wrote in April, “If Romney is elected president, he will quickly learn that words have consequences. Precision in language is especially important in diplomacy, and here Romney used a phrase that left people befuddled as to his intent and meaning, especially since he did not even make a distinction between the Mediterranean and Arabian seas.”
If you’re a journalist or a commentator, there’s no reason be ashamed just because a Washington Post writer reported a story much better than you did. But when you find yourself being outclassed by Yahoo! Answers, perhaps it’s time to rethink your assumptions that you’re much smarter and better informed than Mitt Romney.
In state elections, the most important vote this November will be in Louisiana. A referendum there would significantly strengthen protection of the right to keep and bear arms in the state, and would set a very significant national precedent.
Before the Civil War, the Louisiana Constitution did not mention a right to arms. The Louisiana Supreme Courts, however, viewed the federal Second Amendment as directly applicable to state government. So in State v. Chandler (1850), the court held that the Second Amendment protected a general right to carry arms, but that a legislature could ban concealed carry.
A new state constitution, adopted in 1879, provided: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be abridged. This shall not prevent the passage of laws to punish those who carry weapons concealed.” La. Const., art. 3. The first sentence is, of course, nearly verbatim from the Second Amendment.
A century later, firearms prohibitionists had convinced some courts to reinterpret the Second Amendment so as to make it practical nullity. Supposedly, the Second Amendment right was not an individual right, but instead a “state’s right” or “collective right”–which meant that individual gun ownership could be entirely outlawed. Because the Louisiana Constitution’s language so closely paralleled the Second Amendment, there was a danger that a Louisiana court could interpret the state constitutional language to protect nothing at all. Indeed, some courts in other states had already done so, regarding state law language that copied the Second Amendment.
So in 1974, the Louisiana constitutional right was strengthened, with new language: “The right of each citizen to keep and bear arms shall not be abridged, but this provision shall not prevent the passage of laws to prohibit the carrying of concealed weapons.” La. Const., art. I, sect. 11. The new language made it indisputable that the state constitution’s right to arms was an individual right, belonging to each citizen.
Unfortunately, Louisiana’s Supreme Court, like some other courts of the late 1970s, was hostile to the right to arms. According to a 1977 Louisiana Supreme Court decision, “The right to keep and bear arms, like other rights guaranteed by our state constitution, is not absolute. We have recognized that such rights may be regulated in order to protect the public health, safety, morals or general welfare so long as that regulation is a reasonable one.” State v. Amos 343 So.2d 166, 168 (La. 1977).
It was unexceptional for the court to observe that the right to arms is no more “absolute” than any other right. But the court went much further, and essentially stripped the Louisiana arms right of any meaningful judicial protection. According to the Amos court, any form of gun control was constitutional, as long as it was “reasonable.”
In 2001, the Louisiana Supreme Court affirmed a lower court ruling that held: “The right to bear arms is established by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, § 11 of the Louisiana Constitution. The State of Louisiana is entitled to restrict that right for legitimate state purposes, such as public health and safety.” State v. Blanchard, 776 So.2d 1165 (La. 2001). The Blanchard court cited Louisiana state and federal cases from 1986 through 1999 for this proposition.
So Blanchard adopted an even weaker standard of right to arms protection than had Amos. Under Blanchard, any restriction is alright so long as the government has a “legitimate” purpose. Blanchard‘s legitimate purpose test copies one prong of the weakest standard of judicial review, the “rational basis” test, which was originally created for Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection cases. Under this test, every law is constitutional so long as the government has a “legitimate” purpose, and the law has a “rational” connection to that purpose.
Fortunately, gun control has not been politically popular in Louisiana in recent decades. So even though the state’s courts have essentially nullified the constitutional right to arms, Louisiana’s firearms statutes are not, in general, oppressive.
In the November 2012 referendum, Louisiana citizens will be given the opportunity to remedy the wrong decisions in Blanchard and Amos. Voters can adopt new constitutional language: “The right of each citizen to keep and bear arms is fundamental and shall not be infringed. Any restriction on this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny.”
If adopted, the referendum would make two direct changes:
1. For the first time in Louisiana, concealed carry would be constitutionally protected. This makes sense, because in the 21st century (unlike in the 19th), concealed carry is most common way that Louisiana citizens exercise their right to carry handguns for lawful protection. Like most other states, Louisiana has a statutory system by which concealed carry permits are issued under fair and objective standards.
2. The judicially-imposed “legitimate purposes” test (the weakest test) of judicial review would be replaced by the strongest test: strict scrutiny. Under “strict scrutiny,” the burden of proof is reversed; the government bears the burden of proving that a gun control law is constitutional. To pass strict scrutiny, a law must be proven to serve a “compelling state interest” (not merely a “legitimate purpose”). Even if the law does advance a compelling state interest, the law is constitutional only if the government additionally proves that the law is “narrowly tailored” and is the “least restrictive means” to advance the compelling state interest.
Louisiana would be the first state to write the “strict scrutiny” standard into its constitution. This would become the model in other states for significantly strengthening protection of their own constitutional right to arms. So it is unsurprising that the proposed amendment is strongly supported by the National Rifle Association, the Louisiana Shooting Association, and Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is the most pro-right to arms Governor in Louisiana history, and a national leader on the issue.
Surprisingly, some people in Louisiana are opposing the Amendment on the grounds that it supposedly promotes anti-gun laws. For example, at this website, the author remains invincibly ignorant, even when the facts are patiently explained an attorney from the Louisiana Shooting Association. The website author wants to live in a world of absolute rights. Be that as it may, Louisiana today is not a state of absolute rights; it is a state where the right to arms essentially does not exist, as a matter of state constitutional law, as mis-interpreted by state courts. The amendment would remedy the misinterpretation, and make it drastically harder for future courts to uphold anti-gun laws.
A victory for the Louisiana referendum will profoundly strengthen the right to arms in Louisiana, and have significant positive effects nationally. A defeat would validate the actions of previously Louisiana judges in recent decades who deigned that the right to arms was unworthy of judicial protection.
Last week, I filed an amicus brief on behalf of petitions for certiorari in Chafee v. United States and Pleau v. United States. These related cases could be among the most important federalism cases before the Court this term. The amici are the Cato Institute and the Independence Institute.
The State of Rhode Island and the federal government are fighting for custody of Jason Pleau, who is accused of perpetrating a murder during the course of a bank robbery. Rhode Island got him first, by revoking his parole for previous crimes. Pleau has offered to plead guilty in Rhode Island state court, and receive a sentence of life without parole for the murder/robbery. Although Pleau’s robbery of the bank’s night depository involves no particularly strong federal interest (such as the murder of a federal officer), the U.S. Attorney for Rhode Island wants to prosecute Pleau in federal court, and has stated that capital punishment may be sought.
Over four decades ago, the States entered into an interstate compact, the Interstate Agreement on Detainers Act (IADA). The Act provides the procedures for the temporary transfer of a prisoner from one state to another state, for criminal prosecution in the second state. Congress liked IADA so much that it not only gave permission for the compact, it also enacted IADA as a federal statute, and made the U.S. a party to the compact. So under IADA, the U.S. functions just like any other “sending” or “receiving” state.
The U.S. Attorney filed a detainer under IADA, to obtain temporary custody of Pleau. IADA explicitly provides that the Governor of the sending state has an unlimited right to refuse to transfer a prisoner. Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee exercised this right. Because Rhode Island does not have the death penalty, Chafee believes that it would be contrary to Rhode Island public policy for Pleau to be subject to capital punishment for a crime perpetrated in Rhode Island, by a Rhode Island citizen, against another Rhode Island citizen.
Having been rejected under IADA, the U.S. Attorney then sought to obtain Pleau by asking a federal district court to issue a writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum. This common law writ is used by a court to obtain a prisoner for prosecution, and it is implicitly recognized in the 1948 federal habeas corpus statute.
Lower courts split on whether the ad prosequendum writ could be used to evade IADA. Rhode Island lost in federal district court, won 2-1 before a First Circuit panel, and then lost 3-2 before the First Circuit en banc. What made the case of particular interest to Cato and the Independence Institute was the en banc majority’s casual use of the Supremacy Clause as a trump card automatically resulting in a win for the federal government.
The National Governors Association filed an amicus brief on behalf of Governor Chafee before the en banc panel; the NGA argued vigorously against the U.S. Attorney’s theory that the Supremacy Clause can override a valid compact between the States and the federal government. The NGA argued that this interpretation makes all federal/state compacts into worthless scraps of paper, as far as federal adherence to the compact is concerned.
Although the Solicitor General initially declined to respond to the cert. petitions by Chafee and Pleau, the Supreme Court has requested a response from the SG, which should be filed later this month.
The Cato Institute’s write-up of the case is here. Scotusblog’s collection of the various briefs is here, including the cert. petition amicus briefs of the National Governor’s Association and the Rhode Island ACLU. (Note that this is for docket number 12-223, the Chafee case. The related case of Pleau is 12-230, which is linked from the Scotusblog page for Chafee.) Below is the summary of argument from my amicus brief:
The First Circuit’s decision violates Supreme Court teachings about the relationship between habeas corpus writs and state sovereignty, as explicated by Chief Justice Marshall in Ex Parte Bollman, 8 U.S. (4 Cranch) 75 (1807), and by Chief Justice Taft in Ponzi v. Fessenden, 258 U.S. 254 (1922). More fundamentally, the First Circuit misuses the Supremacy Clause to make it an absolute trump card to defeat any state claim. This is not, and never has been, the meaning of the Supremacy Clause.
The decision below mangles the Supreme Court’s major case about the Interstate Agreement on Detainers Act, United States v. Mauro, 436 U.S. 340 (1977). Westlaw characterizes the First Circuit’s decision as the “most negative” of the more than 600 lower court cases applying Mauro. The decision below does not merely misread Mauro, but instead chops quotes and inverts language so as to turn Mauro into the opposite of what Mauro actually said.
There is no evidence, let alone an “unmistakably clear statement,” that any act of Congress, including the 1789 and 1948 habeas corpus statutes, was intended to abrogate state sovereignty, including the sovereign right of Governors to refuse a writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum.
The First Circuit grants unauthorized additional power (indeed, statutorily forbidden power) to the federal government, which makes it imperative that this Court grant certiorari to protect our constitutional system of dual sovereignty.
Thanks to my fine summer interns, Christopher Ferraro and Rachel Maxam, of Denver University Sturm College of Law, for their work on this brief.
I thought it would useful to compile a list of some of the most offensive words, images, etc. which have been held to be protected by the First Amendment. I’m especially interested in Supreme Court cases, but other cases are fine too. So commenters, please submit your nominations. Thanks!
Details here, from Americans for Forfeiture Reform. In short, BATFE becomes another federal agency which gets to seize large sums of cash, based on presumption that a large sum of cash must be related to an illegal transaction in controlled substances. And notwithstanding the fact that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is a Bureau whose job involves federal laws about alcohol, tobacco, firearms and explosives, not controlled substances.
The Prologue to my book No More Wacos: What’s Wrong with Federal Law Enforcement and How to Fix it, includes a section on the Ruby Ridge case. Much more on Waco and Ruby Ridge is available on the Waco page on my website.
During Constitutional Law I at Denver University last Spring, I diagrammed for the students one of the most important study tips for law students: “Beer + Pizza = Success”.
No matter how relentlessly a student raises his hand during class, the maximum amount of speaking practice that can come from classroom participation is a few hours over the course of the entire school year. If you go out for beer and pizza with your fellow students, you can have vastly more hours of sharpening your argumentation skills, practicing how to speak persuasively and concisely, finding the strengths and weaknesses in different arguments, and so on. Your beer and pizza time doesn’t have to be devoted to rehashing the cases you’re studying. Whether you and your friends are talking about politics, sports, or whatever else interests you, you will probably learn a lot from your fellow students, and you will definitely strengthen some of the essential skills for becoming a successful attorney.
At the University of Michigan during the 1980s, pizza and Stroh’s beer at The Brown Jug were our key tools for self-directed learning. I have heard that these days some students instead use wine and salad. That may work fine for some people, although I have never seen this tested in the law school context; Michigan in the early 1980s, with Professors such as Francis Allen, Whitmore Gray, Bev Pooley, and Theodore St. Antoine, favored the traditional and rigorous version of the 1L curriculum.