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Michael Barone: Thomasís Principled Jurisprudence in Arms Case - Justice Thomas correctly applied...
NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE ^ | July 8, 2010 | Michael Barone

Posted on 07/08/2010 10:22:20 AM PDT by neverdem

Thomas’s Principled Jurisprudence in Arms Case

Justice Thomas correctly applied the privileges and immunities clause in the McDonald case.

 

In 1978, Justice Lewis Powell wrote an opinion in the Bakke case asserting that the need for diversity could justify racial preferences in university admissions. No other justice joined this opinion, but because the other justices were split 4-4, Powell’s opinion decided the case, and in time his argument has been embraced by a majority of the Court. A regrettable result, in my view, but a consequential one.
 
Last month, Justice Clarence Thomas delivered a similarly decisive opinion in McDonald v. Chicago, the case holding that the Second Amendment’s right to keep and bear arms, recognized by the Court in 2008 as applying to the federal government, also limits the power of the states.
 
The other eight justices argued whether that right was fundamental enough to apply to the states under the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of “due process of law.” Since the 1940s, the justices have been arguing whether various federal rights were fundamental enough to apply to the states under this clause. In McDonald, four justices argued that the Second Amendment was fundamental to the states and four disagreed.
 
Justice Thomas, writing separately, declined to apply the due-process clause. Rather he argued that the Second Amendment applied to the states because the right to keep and bear arms is included under the Fourteenth Amendment’s command that “no state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.”
 
Legal scholars have generally considered that the Supreme Court’s decision in 1873 in the Slaughterhouse cases rendered the privileges and immunities clause a nullity. Thomas, who has regularly declined to follow precedent he considers incorrect, argued persuasively that the 1873 case was incorrectly decided.
 
Certainly it is not a precedent that is an ornament of the law. As Thomas pointed out, the Fourteenth Amendment was passed in 1868 to guarantee the rights of the newly freed slaves. The Slaughterhouse cases undercut that purpose and made possible the violent subjugation of American blacks that is one of the most regrettable episodes of our history.
 
And, as Thomas argues in vivid detail, one of the key rights black Americans were deprived of was the right to keep and bear arms. The wisdom of the Founders’ inclusion of the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights is clear from the efforts black Americans made to exercise that right and from the efforts of white racists to deprive them of it.

For many years, “the educated class” has denigrated the Second Amendment and argued that it was outmoded and only concerned national guards. But legal scholars, liberal as well as conservative, demonstrated that the Framers fully intended to protect citizens’ rights to arm and protect themselves.
 
At the same time, empirical evidence has made it clear that gun-control laws infringing that right leave law-abiding citizens at the mercy of criminals. And empirical evidence in the 40 states that now allow law-abiding citizens to carry concealed weapons has demonstrated that they can be trusted to exercise that right responsibly.

The only alarming thing about the McDonald decision was that it was decided by only a 5-4 margin and could conceivably be reversed later by the Court. As a practical matter, it allows reasonable restrictions on firearms while eliminating laws that attempt, futilely, to ban them altogether.
 
Thomas’s colleagues, like many legal scholars, were evidently unwilling to join him in overturning the Slaughterhouse cases and based their decisions on the privileges and immunities clause, presumably because that might undercut other precedents.

But Thomas, in my view, has the better logical argument. “The notion,” he writes, “that a constitutional provision that guarantees only ‘process’ before a person is deprived of life, liberty or property could define the substance of those rights strains credulity for even the most casual user of words.”

As he points out, the Court has used the due-process clause to find rights — notably the right to an abortion — that are not specified in the Constitution, while at the same time four current justices have also used it to argue that a right specified in the Second Amendment does not apply to the states.
 
Thomas’s concurring opinion points the way to a more principled jurisprudence, based more clearly on the text of the Constitution, while at the same time making the strongest of possible cases that Second Amendment rights are fundamental.

— Michael Barone is senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner. © 2010 the Washington Examiner. Distributed by Creators.com.


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Crime/Corruption; Editorial; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: amendment; banglist; guns; judges; mcdonald; second
Thomas’s colleagues, like many legal scholars, were evidently unwilling to join him in overturning the Slaughterhouse cases and based their decisions on the privileges and immunities clause, presumably because that might undercut other precedents.

But Thomas, in my view, has the better logical argument. “The notion,” he writes, “that a constitutional provision that guarantees only ‘process’ before a person is deprived of life, liberty or property could define the substance of those rights strains credulity for even the most casual user of words.”

As he points out, the Court has used the due-process clause to find rights — notably the right to an abortion — that are not specified in the Constitution, while at the same time four current justices have also used it to argue that a right specified in the Second Amendment does not apply to the states.

Thomas’s concurring opinion points the way to a more principled jurisprudence, based more clearly on the text of the Constitution, while at the same time making the strongest of possible cases that Second Amendment rights are fundamental.

Barone nailed it. The Second Amendment is quite explicit, totally unlike Roe, Lawrence, Griswold, etc. made of whole cloth under the rubric of "due process."

Opinion of Thomas, J. J. means Justice. It's an excellent read.

1 posted on 07/08/2010 10:22:29 AM PDT by neverdem
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To: neverdem
I fully concur with Justice Thomas.

We are truly blessed that this man withstood the insidious assault on his character and integrity by a charlatan of the Left.

The plain wording of the second amendment, which was drafted to limit the federal government, acknowledges "the right of the people"...

and hence by itself, makes the broader claim to protections. And in view of the general principles of the Declaration and Constitution, that our rights come from God, and thence, the People are sovereign, and only delegate to government limited authority, hence any 'rights' already acknowledged, therefore...cannot be arbitrarily revoked by any government...Federal...or State.

The 2nd Amendment is, and arguably always has been, hence, a declaration of universal right. Trumping the 'limitation' to mere Federal intrusions on our rights. And historically, that appears consistent with the Founders intent.

2 posted on 07/08/2010 10:36:04 AM PDT by Paul Ross (Ronald Reagan-1987:"We are always willing to be trade partners but never trade patsies.")
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To: Paul Ross

Clarence Thomas will go down in history as one of the most under-rated, yet brilliant justices in the history of the SCOTUS.

And, despite my “ZULU” tag, I’m a white American.


3 posted on 07/08/2010 10:45:07 AM PDT by ZULU
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To: neverdem
Do you remember the Thomas hearings where he was dragged through the mud by his intellectual inferiors? Contrast that to the cake wake of the current hearings for the commie lesbian midget...not that I have anything against lesbian midgets really...or midgets...or just lesbians. Ok I'll fess us...it's the commie part of commie lesbian midget that I am strongly opposed too.
4 posted on 07/08/2010 10:46:24 AM PDT by Durus (The People have abdicated our duties and anxiously hopes for just two things, "Bread and Circuses")
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To: neverdem; Durus; Paul Ross
As I posted on the other thread on this topic:

". . . Thomas, in my view, has the better logical argument. 'The notion,' he writes, 'that a constitutional provision that guarantees only 'process' before a person is deprived of life, liberty or property could define the substance of those rights strains credulity for even the most casual user of words.'"

Thomas, here, reveals the kind of analysis and approach Jefferson recommended when he made the following statement on Constitutional interpretation:

"On every question of construction, carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invdnted against it conform to the probable one in which it was passed." - Thomas Jefferson 1823

Then, there is Justice Hugo Black's statement in 1968:

"The public welfare demands that constitutional cases must be decided according to the terms of the Constitution itself, and not according to judges' view of fairness, reasonableness, or justice. I have no fear of constitutional amendments properly adopted, but I do fear the rewriting of the Constitution by judges under the guise of interpretation."

The sad thing is that the current President is not learned enough, nor of a mind, to recognize the brilliance of Justice Thomas, nor of his fidelity to the Founders' Constitution.

5 posted on 07/08/2010 1:12:42 PM PDT by loveliberty2
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To: loveliberty2
Oh, my, let me try to keep my fingers accurate on that Jefferson quote by trying again:

". . . Thomas, in my view, has the better logical argument. 'The notion,' he writes, 'that a constitutional provision that guarantees only 'process' before a person is deprived of life, liberty or property could define the substance of those rights strains credulity for even the most casual user of words.'"

Thomas, here, reveals the kind of analysis and approach Jefferson recommended when he made the following statement on Constitutional interpretation:

"On every question of construction, carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it conform to the probable one in which it was passed." - Thomas Jefferson 1823

6 posted on 07/08/2010 1:14:50 PM PDT by loveliberty2
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To: loveliberty2

The current occupants of the White House do not want someone following the Constitution.


7 posted on 07/08/2010 2:11:21 PM PDT by hoosierham (Waddaya mean Freedom isn't free ?;will you take a credit card?)
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To: hoosierham
"The current occupants of the White House do not want someone following the Constitution."

This is what can start a civil war. Only one incident can start people choosing sides.

For example, Arizona has the right to secede from the US for 2 reasons:

1. The federal gov't. has allowed Mexico, a foreign country, to sue a State in the United States.

2. The federal gov't. is suing Arizona for passing a law almost identical to federal law.

THIS is what people in Arizona should just start talking about: SECESSION. Other states will line up with Arizona shortly. If things don't change, talk can turn to action.

8 posted on 07/08/2010 5:22:40 PM PDT by BobS
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To: ZULU

He should, but who do you think will be writing the history that becomes the accepted truth?


9 posted on 07/08/2010 6:38:37 PM PDT by Aetius
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To: Aetius

There are authors out there right now generating “politically incorrect” history books and telling the truth.

Eventually the truth will prevail.


10 posted on 07/09/2010 7:00:40 AM PDT by ZULU
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To: neverdem

Thank you for posting this.


11 posted on 07/10/2010 10:54:54 AM PDT by FreeKeys ("The mind of the liberal is inscrutable. Which I think is a polite word for stupid."-John Hinderaker)
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To: FreeKeys
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12 posted on 07/10/2010 10:56:05 AM PDT by FreeKeys (Gun control was originally to protect Klansmen from their victims. The basic reason hasn't changed.)
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