New bill challenges state rights

By Margaret King

Conservative lawmakers introduced the 2005 Constitution Restoration Act in March, reviving the age-old battle between states’ rights and federal government.

After a year ripe with controversy over states’ rights, such as the sodomy case in Texas and the Ten Commandments in an Alabama courtroom case, conservative lawmakers have introduced the bill.

This bill radically redefines the separation of powers of the legislative and judicial branches of the government and has little hope of becoming law, experts said.

Introducing obviously unconstitutional legislation is merely interest group lobbying, political theory instructor Lauren Hall said.

“It allows lawmakers to appeal to their more radical constituents without reaping … any consequences,” she said.

Experts said the CRA is unconstitutional because it gives Congress the power to decide how the courts may make their decisions.

Article 3, Section 2 of the current Constitution gives Congress limited appellate jurisdiction. According to NIU law professor Mark Cordes, Congress rarely invokes this privilege, and a bill such as the CRA could result in a vicious turf war.

The bill is comprised of three sections. Section 101 limits the jurisdiction of the U.S. Supreme Court and refers to the sovereign power of God. This section responds to the controversy over the Ten Commandments memorial in front of an Alabama court house, law professor Jeffery Parness said. The CRA relegates similar religious cases to state courts.

Section 201 ties the Constitution to its original roots. It states that the Supreme Court may not rely upon any law made after the adoption of the U.S. Constitution. This stipulation does not consider the cultural and scientific evolution of a nation, Parness said. Concepts such as artificial insemination and stem cell research were unimaginable to the constitutional framers of the 1790s.

The legislation also deals with international law as precedent in Supreme Court decisions.

Section 201 also denies the Supreme Court from consulting foreign constitutions in their legal decisions, said constitutional law expert Lawrence Schlam.

In Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court ruled that laws against sodomy were unconstitutional because of their discriminatory nature, Schlam said. In this case, the Supreme Court cited British and European Union laws in their final decision, he said.

The third part of the bill provides for impeachment of judges who go outside of their jurisdiction to decide a case, such as citing international law as precedent in a case. The section also declares decisions made through extra jurisdictional means are not binding in state courts.