Monthly Archives: December 2023

Interesting Times for SCOTUS

Formal group photograph of the Supreme Court as it was been comprised on June 30, 2022 after Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson joined the Court. The Justices are posed in front of red velvet drapes and arranged by seniority, with five seated and four standing…Seated from left are Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and Justices Samuel A. Alito and Elena Kagan. .Standing from left are Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Neil M. Gorsuch, Brett M. Kavanaugh, and Ketanji Brown Jackson…Credit: Fred Schilling, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States.

The coming months are going to be very interesting for us court watchers. SCOTUS has at least two and possibly more critical cases coming before it. Some of them are also time critical. Some will allow the court to demonstrate that they really do believe in the judicial/constitutional philosophy thus exposed in recent and controversial decisions.

On the last point, the Colorado case (Anderson v. Griswold) removing Trump from the primary ballot seems to be the most likely case in point. In several recent decisions the court has used both the “Originalist” and “Textualist” doctrines to justify their rulings. The “Textualist” doctrine gives the court the best course to rule against Trump and the “Originalist” gives them two ways to rule one for Trump and one against.

Now let me state right here I do not expect SCOTUS to use any of these paths. I fully expect the court to find some way to totally dodge the issue, most likely using some arcane procedural reasoning. This court all too often has shown itself to have the backbone of a slug. That said let’s dive into the issues as I see them.

The “Textualist” ruling deals almost exclusively with the 14th Amendment and its 3rd Section, probably one of the most overlooked clauses of the Constitution. The only real issue is whether the President is an “Officer” of the United States. Given both the customs of the time and the debate on the Amendment it is clear that the President is an “Officer” of the United States. Let us totally bypass the illogic of saying that the only two offices that “Insurrectionist” could hold are the two highest offices in the nation. We are, after all talking about the “Radical” Republicans of the post Civil War and given the detailed list of the offices it is not reasonable to hold that the offices of President and Vice President are excluded.

This now lead us into one of the more interesting arguments “Originalist” reading can give us. Does the Amendment apply to all insurrectionists, past, present, and/or future? It can be argued that the “Insurrection” being referred to by the Amendment was the Civil War and it only applies to that one “Insurrection”. If that is the case then section 3 is a dead letter as the last surviving vet of the war died over 50 years ago. Unfortunately this kind of “Originalist” reading of the Constitution leads down a very twisty road as how do we deal with the following.

Given the above interpretation of how “Originalist” doctrine is would be applied, the 1st Amendment protection of free speech can only apply to the spoken or printed word. So it would not apply to Radio/TV/Movies as these Media did not exist nor even imaged when the amendment was written. The same for the Second Amendment, it could only apply to those kind of “Arms” that existed at the time of writing. To be fair we can say it would apply to modern ships and cannons but not to aircraft or spacecraft. I can see arguments both ways for submarines.

I shall leave you with just this point, these are just two of the problems facing SCOTUS using the “Originalist” doctrine in one case currently before it. The are several more now before it and I’m sure more to come in the near future. So keep your ears open and your head down it is going to get very very interesting.

Why the Colorado 14th Amendment case should be watched by all

Constitution and the Flag of the United States
Constitution of the United States

There has been a great deal of talk about the several cases trying to remover and/or keep Donald J. Trump’s name off of the Ballot next year. Most of the talk has been about Trump being kept out of the elect, to prevent him from being elected President once again. A while this is very important it may not be the most significant issues to be decided in these cases. I would like to place just a few of the “lesser” issues that I have been shown by the “legal eagles” out there. They are not given in any particular order. Just as they come to mind as I write this. Also as the Colorado case is the first in the Que I will just be talking about it.

Above I am sharing the Section (AKA “Clause”) that is what is in question. Next please remember that what is really going to be argued about is both a question of fact and questions of definition or meaning. With just a dash of intent. This last point I’m not going to address here. What we are going to be looking at is just what this Am

To me one of the most interesting questions brought up is “Is the President an Officer of the United States”? A before you go, “Of course he/she is.” The Constitution does not explicitly say the President and/or the Vice President are “Officers of the United States”. Just take a moment to look at the arguments for why he/she may not be. There are many arguments to be made and the one being used by many is the ‘Textualism Doctrine’ view. While I have many disagreements with this Doctrine here my problem is with the idea that if something is not explicitly in the Constitution then the federal government has no authority over it. This is often know as the “Constitution Stands Silent” principle. And it is very tricky to use.

First there is the problem that in the modern world there are a great many thing that were not even dreamed of when the Constitution and/or its Amendments were first written. Just to name three we have “railroads”, “Air travel”, and “electrical communications (radio, telegraph, internet, etc”. None of these common everyday things in the modern world existed when Just take a moment to look at the arguments for why he/she may not be. Railroads were not around when the constitution and the first 10 amendments were adopted. Maned flight was around when a majority of the Amendments were adopted. An the internet was just a wild dream in some SF writers minds in 1971when the latest Amendment was adopted. Does this mean that the Federal government has no power over them? Do we leave it all up to the States? What about when they cross State borders?

An those are just the start of the questions that need to be addressed. That is why I take the position that looking at the actual text is just a starting point and why the “Stands Silent” doctrine needs careful handing. What needs to be asked is “Why does the Constitution stand silent?” Three things need to be addressed

  1. Did the Authors know or could have known about the subject at hand?
  2. If yes to one, is there any evidence that the Authors deliberately ignored the subject?
  3. Is there any reason to think that the subject had already adequately covered in the text?

These are just three of the questions that need to be addressed, I am sure you can think of more.

Finally I’d like to point out that the Authors of the Constitution and it’s Amendments were are all well educated, well read, thoughtful people. You can take it for granted that they didn’t do something just for giggles, even when we see things now that make no sense. (I’m thinking of the 3/4ths clause). With just a little digging you can usually find good reason for why it was done. (Agian the 3/4ths clause). So when you see an interpretation of the Constitution that makes no sense, that is a good indicator of bad reasoning. This is my position on saying that the President and Vice President are Officers of the United States. To say everyone in the Executive Branch, except the President and Vice President are “Officers of the United States”, on the face of it, makes little to know sense.

Next time my take on the Originalist take of the question.