Quote of the day—Justice Robert Jackson

The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials, and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. . . . [F]undamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.

Justice Robert Jackson
West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943).
Via George Will’s Constitution.
[It didn’t quite work out that way. Can we get a do-over? I think we need to have a mechanism whereby there are serious repercussions to the people who vote for a law that is found to be unconstitutional.—Joe]


8 thoughts on “Quote of the day—Justice Robert Jackson

  1. Are there any consequences at all for violating the constitution?

    At this point I’d be surprised if they were made to say, “I’m sorry,” in an unconvincing manner.

  2. Another serious problem is all these voter initiative petitions and referendums that allow a majority to vote away a civil right. (Hello there Joe in Washington State).

    The Constitution provides that the Federal government and the states will have a ‘republican’ form of government. That means a representation, not something where 50%+1 can decide to vote away a right they don’t agree with.

    The process has been allowed to be corrupted.

    • Republican – where decisions are made by joint representation and input from the aristocracy (Senate) plebeians (House) elder wise men (courts). Or something like that.
      Repeal the 17 Amendment, term-limit the house, and make any jurist that enforces a law found to be unconstitutional walk the plank on pay-per-view in the Strait of Malacca (lawts of sharks, pun intentional). Not enough, but it’s a start.

  3. “a mechanism whereby there are serious repercussions to the people who vote for a law that is found to be unconstitutional”

    18 USC 242 Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law

    There’s a mechanism. A mechanism needs an operator, though. Someone to dust it off, clean it up, restore it, plug it in, turn it on, and crank up the power.

    This is the point where the legal scholars chime in and tell us that things don’t mean what they mean and “precedent” and so, nothing.

    • My thought, not adequately expressed, was that an unconstitutional finding meant the repercussions were a certainty. In other words, if the law was put on trial and found “guilty” the “conviction” applied to those who voted for it as well.

    • An even older mechanism is the law on perjury, since the people doing the violating are required to swear an oath to obey the Constitution. Also, both perjury and the deprivation Lyle mentions are felonies, which means they clearly justify impeachment.
      Come to think of it, treason is defined as “levying war against [the United States] or adhering to their enemies”. Since the Constitution is the basis of the United States, it seems perfectly plain that doing violence to the Constitution is “levying war” or at the very least “adhering to … enemies” and deserves the traditional punishment given to traitors.
      But unfortunately in all these cases the people who would have to turn the crank are part of the same organization that did the violating in the first place, and are in fact the cheerleaders.

      • We prefer the beautiful, exciting lie to the stark, boring and disappointing truth. Hence the problem– We’ll go for the sociopath every time, and so it is that we have three branches of government populated by sociopaths.

        Another way of saying the same things is; evil pretends to be good. Good has no use for pretending. Since good doesn’t pretend to be good, and evil does, we’ll choose evil consistently.

        • Your first sentence is the story of the world! From interpersonal relationships to the actions of kings and nations, we seek the exciting over the dull but reliable. Uman nature, perverse and immutable.

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