Kopel's Corner weblog May-June 2011 archive


Suggestions for your periodical reading list

David Kopel • June 29, 2011 3:40 am

Although on-line reading continues to grow, many people still enjoy old-fashioned printed periodicals. In the spirit of gratuitous advice, here are some suggestions for print subscriptions.

First of all, if you're conscientious about registering for the frequent flyer program every time you step on an airplane, you may accumulate a few thousand points on various airlines which you fly only occasionally. You'll never get to the level of a free ticket, but the points expire if you don't use them. So use them for magazine subscriptions. I've been enjoying the daily Wall Street Journal that way for several years, and have used low-level points for dozens of other year-long or half-year subscriptions over the past decades.

Second, there's a lot to be said for trying many different periodicals with one-time subscriptions. You may find a magazine that becomes indispensable for you (as The New Republic was for me, for about 15 years), but just reading something for a year or a half-year can broaden your knowledge, and then you can move on to something else.

Some category recommendations:

Newsweeklies: Back in the olden days of the 1970s, these were truly great. Then, the daily New York Times wasn't available outside of the New York area, and the Wall Street Journal was sparse on non-business news. Time and Newsweek, and to a lesser extent U.S. News & World Report, provided in-depth, thoroughly-reported stories of the major issue of the week, the deep inside of presidential campaigns, and so on. These days, it's hard to make a case for reading the remnants of those once-important magazines.

The Economist is still probably the most influential periodical in the world. If you read its U.S. coverage, you'll quickly discover that the analysis is not nearly so sharp and insightful as the omniscient tone would imply, and that the coverage has numerous blind spots and biases. Knowing how flawed the U.S. coverage is makes me question The Economist's accuracy on topics for which I don't know enough to judge the coverage. So in a sense, the less you know about something, the more useful The Economist is. For example, the latest issue had an article explaining that Poland is going full speed ahead with natural gas development via fracking. Because I previously had never thought about Polish natural gas, I learned a lot by reading the article. Overall, The Economist is still a strong source for weekly world news, as long as you don't take its editorial judgements too seriously.

If you read French, Courrier International is definitely worth a trial subscription. This Paris-based weekly takes stories from newspapers all over the world, and translates them into French. You'll get acquainted with many fine newspapers. I ultimately gave up on Courrier because their story and source selection leaned so heavily to the official left. If the choice is between a particular nation's version of The Guardian vs. The Telegraph, Courrier almost always goes with the former. Their special issues were particularly tendentious and one-sided. But since tastes vary, I'd recommend that people who read French give it a try.

Le Figaro, one of the leading French daily newspapers, publishes a weekly edition for a U.S. audience. It's well-written, and has good coverage of all the Francophone world, including African analysis that is hard to find in U.S. papers. As with The Economist and Courrier International, there's also plenty of European news that you won't find in the U.S. dailies. Le Figaro is right-wing by French standards, which places its approximately in the same zone as the New York Times. Le Monde, which is left-wing by French standards, also has a weekly; I've read occasional issues, but never subscribed, and, ideology aside, Le Figaro has bigger print and better layout.

Business and Finance: If you're a law student, or in the same general age group, the time to start learning about business and investing is now. Don't wait until you've saved $50,000 in a 401(k) and have to figure out where to put it. The sooner you start reading and thinking about investing and business, the more you'll see fads and bubbles come and go, and the less likely you'll be to invest foolishly 25 years from now, or to allow yourself to be led around by a self-dealing financial advisor. Besides, whatever kind of lawyer you become (or whatever other career), you'll almost certainly be more useful to clients and yourself if you have some background knowledge of business–whether you're serving as a volunteer on the Board of a small non-profit, or urging your friend not to spend his life savings on program trading.

Forbes, Fortune, and Business Week remain the big three of the business magazines. Give each of them a try, and pick your favorite. I life Forbes, for excellent writing, and its pro-capitalist orientation. Barron's is worth a trial subscription. It's purely about investing, not about business in general. For a person just starting to think about the stock markets and other financial investments, Barron's is a good choice. You may not want the avalance of daily information that comes in the Wall Street Journal or Investor's Business Daily. Rather, in the learning stage, you may be better off with the weekly perspective. Especially useful are the big articles which provide the viewpoints of numerous experts on a major topic (e.g., how will the economy perform in the next 12 months?). As you'll find, experts, even well-qualified and sincere ones, are often wrong about economic predictions. One of the reasons to start reading the business/finance press early in life is to develop a healthy skepticism about following any single expert's advice.

Money is OK if you know absolutely nothing about money, and have to start at the very beginning.

New York City: If you've ever lived there, it's fun to stay in touch. Of course the New York Times takes care of this for plenty of readers who used to live in The City, but there are other options. New York magazine is lively and interesting, and captures the NY feel in a way that the Times doesn't. It also sometimes has strong reporting on national politics. Also worth trying is the weekly New York Observer newspaper, which has great coverage of state and city politics. As with New York, the political slant is firmly to the left, but the factual reporting can sometimes be very good. The New Yorker remains, for eight decades running, the best cartoon magazine in the world. It has, unfortunately, also become a favorite vehicle for character assassination–sort of a highbrow version of ProgressNow. I'd trust its non-fiction articles only on topics which don't involve U.S. politics.

Legal newspapers: Especially if you can get a law student discount subscription, the National Law Journal (general national news), Legal Times (D.C. focus), and American Lawyer (corporate lawyers) are all worth trying. The same goes for any local/regional law paper in your area, such as New York Law Journal. Because of the Internet, none of these are probably as influential as they were 20 years ago, but they're still a good way to diversify your diet of legal news.

Daily newspaper: Coverage of legal issues in the mainstream daily press is typically horrible, with stories tending to concentrate only on who won or lost, while leaving the reader in the dark about the precise legal issue in dispute. But for general coverage of the state where you live, there is still nothing that comes remotely close to the daily newspaper. So if you live in the Denver area, you ought to be a daily reader the Denver Post; in Dallas, the Dallas Morning News, and so on. Yes, those papers can be biased and selective, but they're still far superior to any other single source for state and local coverage.

On top of that, I'd recommend a high-quality national newspaper. In other words, the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times. The Times has a much larger "news hole," except for business news. But the Journal's new stories are much less likely to be DNC opinion essays misplaced in the news section. While both papers are well-written, the Journal is better-written. And the Journal's Friday/Saturday culture and leisure coverage has gotten quite good. For the Times, I'd recommend a partial weekly subscription (e.g., Monday to Friday), rather than the Sunday paper. You'll get a better variety of stories in the weekday editions, and the weekly special section on Science and Technology is sometimes excellent. The Sunday Times does have the Book Review, which is now more important than ever, given the harsh cutbacks in book reviews at almost every other newspaper. But you can always subscribe to the Book Review separately, if it's important to you.

For a change of pace, London's Financial Times can sometimes be obtained with airline points. Like the Wall Street Journal, it's a business newspaper which covers lots of regular news, and some culture. And of course plenty of U.K. news. The editorial viewpoint might, roughly speaking, be considered somewhat similar to The Economist: supportive of free markets and globalization in general, but not at all afraid of big government activism.

Gun Week: Despite the title, published tri-monthly by the Second Amendment Foundation. Pre-Internet, the indispensible source of news on the firearms industry and the gun control issue. Even today, the best single source for people who follow the topic closely.

Bonus on-line reading: One of the big differences between the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times is reporting on the United Nations. The Journal has done excellent investigative reporting on the U.N. The Times has also done some good work, as in coverage of the "peacekeeping" fiasco in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But Times coverage of U.N. HQ often consists of running p.r. interference on behalf of the U.N. For daily coverage of the U.N., by far the best source in the world is the indefatigable Matthew Lee, of the on-line Inner City Press. Lee's personal viewpoint is definitely from the Left, but he is relentless at digging into the corruption, lies, and human rights abuses perpetrated by an organization which too often escapes serious journalistic scrutiny, all the more so because of budget cuts in international coverage in most of the rest of the media. To his credit, the United Nations Development Programme temporarily convinced Google News to disappear Inner City Press.

p.s.: In response to some of the comments: Legal Times and National Law Journal merged last year; all the more reason for law students to give NLJ a chance, I guess. The above periodicals are only a small fraction of the periodicals to which I subscribe, and those to which I've subscribed in the past. Not included are categories including public affairs (e.g., Mother Jones, Natonal Review, Reason), Congress (National Journal etc.), hobby/lifestyle (Sky & Telescope), sports (Field & Stream), or scholarly journals. I'll write about some of those when mood strikes.

Categories: Media, Press, Self-indulgent Academic Rumination 63 Comments


Natelson's reply to Time magazine's essay on the Constitution

David Kopel • June 28, 2011 8:42 pm

Time magazine managing editor Richard Stengel has penned a cover essay about the Constitution, One Document, Under Siege. My Independence Institute colleague Rob Natelson wrote a response addressing some of the many illogical or inaccurate claims therein.

For example:

Stengel: "The framers . . . gave us the idea that a black person was three-fifths of a human being, that women were not allowed to vote and that South Dakota should have the same number of Senators as California, which is kind of crazy."

Answer: The three-fifths compromise was a way of resolving a particularly thorny political difficulty; it was not an anthropological statement. In fact, the framers did recognize--repeatedly--the personhood of African-Americans. Nor did they "give us the idea" that women couldn't vote; this was left up to the states, and in 1787 women DID vote, formally or informally, in some states. That may be one reason the Founders deliberately left the Constitution gender-neutral. (See p. 63 in my book, The Original Constitution.)

Whether equality of states in the Senate is a good idea is a matter of opinion, but enough very sane people think so to disqualify the idea from being "kind of crazy."

For Natelson's point about personhood, see Federalist 54, explaining that the Constitution recognizes that slaves are "moral persons," not mere property. That's why Madison was careful to refer to them as "persons." In New Jersey, women had the formal right to vote until the legislature changed the law in 1807.

Stengel: "Your doctor's stethoscope was made in one state and was shipped to and sold in another."

Answer: Yes, and Congress may regulate the stethoscope sale. But the Constitution, properly understood, generally does not permit Congress to regulate what the physician does with the stethoscope, and certainly not how he is paid for his services.

My favorite:

Stengel: "There is an old Latin phrase, inter arma enim silent leges, which roughly translates as "in time of war, the Constitution is silent."

Answer: I included this because ignorance of Latin and of the Founders' latinate English has led to many constitutional misinterpretations, and because the mangled, ungrammatical version Stengel uses suggests that he got it from Star Trek (Deep Space Nine) rather than from Cicero.

The phrase is actually "Silent enim leges inter arma." One reason the Founders were better qualified to address constitutional issues than Mr. Stengel is that they HAD read Cicero, and in Latin.

Incidentally, the correct translation is "For laws are silent amid arms."

Categories: Constitutional History, Constitutional Law, Originalism 84 Comments


Brown v. EMA casts doubt on the "weapons effect" justification for gun control

David Kopel • June 27, 2011 9:38 pm

The State's evidence is not compelling. California relies primarily on the research of Dr. Craig Anderson and a few other research psychologists whose studies purport toshow a connection between exposure to violent video games and harmful effects on children. These studies have been rejected by every court to consider them,6 and with good reason: They do not prove that violent video 6See Video Software Dealers Assn. v. Schwarzenegger, 556 F. 3d 950, 963–964 (CA9 2009); Interactive Digital Software Assn. v. St. Louis County, 329 F. 3d 954 (CA8 2003); American Amusement Machine Assn. v. Kendrick, 244 F. 3d 572, 578–579 (CA7 2001); Entertainment Soft-ware Assn. v. Foti, 451 F. Supp. 2d 823, 832–833 (MD La. 2006); Enter-tainment Software Assn. v. Hatch, 443 F. Supp. 2d 1065, 1070 (Minn. 2006), aff 'd, 519 F. 3d 768 (CA8 2008); Entertainment Software Assn. v. Granholm, 426 F. Supp. 2d 646, 653 (ED Mich. 2006); Entertainment Software Assn. v. Blagojevich, 404 F. Supp. 2d 1051, 1063 (ND Ill. 2005), aff 'd, 469 F. 3d 641 (CA7 2006). games cause minors to act aggressively (which would at least be a beginning). Instead, "[n]early all of the researchis based on correlation, not evidence of causation, and most of the studies suffer from significant, admitted flaws in methodology." Video Software Dealers Assn. 556 F. 3d, at 964. They show at best some correlation between expo-sure to violent entertainment and minuscule real-world effects, such as children's feeling more aggressive or mak-ing louder noises in the few minutes after playing a vio-lent game than after playing a nonviolent game.7
------------ 7One study, for example, found that children who had just finishedplaying violent video games were more likely to fill in the blank letter in "explo_e" with a "d" (so that it reads "explode") than with an "r" ("explore"). App. 496, 506 (internal quotation marks omitted). The prevention of this phenomenon, which might have been anticipated with common sense, is not a compelling state interest. 8JUSTICE ALITO is mistaken in thinking that we fail to
thatviolent video games produce some effect on children's feelings of aggression, those effects are both small and indistinguishable from effects produced by other media.In his testimony in a similar lawsuit, Dr. Anderson admit-ted that the "effect sizes" of children's exposure to violent video games are "about the same" as that produced bytheir exposure to violence on television. App. 1263. And he admits that the same effects have been found when children watch cartoons starring Bugs Bunny or the Road Runner, id., at 1304, or when they play video games like Sonic the Hedgehog that are rated "E" (appropriate for all ages), id., at 1270, or even when they "vie[w] a picture of a gun," id., at 1315–1316.8

Today's Supreme Court decision in Brown v. EMA casts doubt on one of the shibboleths of gun prohibition.

Since the 1960s, some social scientists have been attempting to prove that guns cause violence. They do not make this claim in the straightforward sense that guns, as tools, can be used for malign purposes–for example, that a criminal with a gun might attempt a robbery which would he would consider too risky if he did not have a gun. Rather, the claim is that the presence of makes ordinary people more aggressive, anti-social and violent. Thus, as one study put it, "the trigger pulls the finger." The hypothesis is known as "the weapons effect."

Over the subsequent decades, researchers tried, with little success, to replicate experiments proving a weapons effect. To the limited extent that any effects could be found, they tended to be confined to subjects with no prior experience with firearms, and they never succeeded in finding any actual resulting violence. Instead, they found, at most, trivial results, such as how some subjects reacted to various words after being prompted with gun imagery.

Among modern scholars, one of the best-known advocates for the weapons effect is Dr. Craig A. Anderson, Distinguished Professor & Director, Center for the Study of Violence, at Iowa State University. See C.A. Anderson, A.J. Benjamin, & B.D. Bartholow, Does the gun pull the trigger? Automatic priming effects of weapon pictures and weapon names, 9 Psychological Science 308 (1998) (summarizing prior literature, arguing for a weapons effect, and reporting a new study involving word responses).

My Independence Institute colleagues Paul Gallant and Joanne Eisen, in an article scrutinizing the weapons effect literature, addressed the Anderson study:

Stimuli were presented to the subject on a computer screen in the form of "prime" words, and "target" words which were categorized as either "aggressive" or "non-aggressive." Two categories of prime words were used: weapon words (shotgun, machete, fist, bullet, dagger, and grenade), and animal words (rabbit, bug, dog, bird, butterfly, and fish).

For the experimental procedure, a prime word was presented to each subject for 1.25 seconds, followed by a blank screen of 0.5 seconds duration. Then, a target word was presented. The subject's task was to recite the target word as quickly as possible. The computer was equipped with a microphone to measure the time between the presentation of the target word and the first sound made by the subject.

In this part of the study, the researchers found that, on animal-primed trials, subjects were 0.005 seconds slower at naming aggressive target words than at naming non-aggressive words. For weapon-primed trials, however, subjects named aggressive target words 0.009 seconds faster than they named non-aggressive words. The authors claimed that these results provided "clear support for the priming interpretation of the weapons effect," i.e. that "the mere cognitive identification of a weapon increases the accessibility of aggression-related concepts in semantic memory."

In the second experiment. . . the prime stimuli consisted of black-and-white line drawings of weapons (guns, swords, and clubs--3 different pictures for each category, for a total of 9 weapons) and of plants (fruits, trees, and flowers, also 3 different pictures for each category). The prime stimulus was presented as in the previous experiment, and the subject was instructed to call out the category as quickly as possible. Again, a blank screen appeared for 0.5 seconds. Then the target word was presented and remained visible on the screen until the subject called it out.

The researchers found that after exposure to plant pictures subjects were 0.005 seconds faster at naming aggressive target words compared to non-aggressive words. However, after exposure to weapon pictures, subject reaction time decreased, and subjects were 0.011 seconds faster at naming aggressive target words compared to non-aggressive words. . . .

The authors concluded: "These two experiments demonstrate that simply identifying weapons increases the accessibility of aggressive thoughts . . . that thinking about weapons increases accessibility of aggressive concepts in general....Does the gun pull the trigger? Extant research suggests that it does. Our research demonstrates one way that exposure to weapons might increase aggressive behavior--by increasing the accessibility of aggressive thoughts."

But did the authors really demonstrate what they claimed?

Insomuch as "gun" might well be associated with "shoot" or "murder," when it comes to the non-weapon primes they selected, there is no such logical link. For example, while butterfly was used as a prime word, the words "flutter," "fly," and "cocoon" were nowhere to be found. If the idea was to explore whether a certain word would trigger a class of words, such as "gun" triggering the entire class of aggressive words, why did not the authors compare this effect with similar effects for animal primes? The word "rabbit" is likely to trigger "carrot," "ears," "chew," and "hop," but that was not tested. In addition, potentially threatening primes like "lion," "shark," or "rattlesnake" should have been used to determine whether these would have elicited the same aggressive tendencies.

Paul Gallant & Joanne D. Eisen, Trigger-Happy: Re-thinking the "Weapons Effect", 14 Journal on Firearms & Public Policy 89 (2002).

As it turns out, very similar research by Dr. Anderson played a major role in today's Brown v. EMA decision, and the majority sharply rejected the utility of Dr. Anderson's experiments. According to the majority opinion:

The State's evidence is not compelling. California relies primarily on the research of Dr. Craig Anderson and a few other research psychologists whose studies purport toshow a connection between exposure to violent video games and harmful effects on children. These studies have been rejected by every court to consider them,6 [FN 6 lists 3 Circuit and 4 District Court decisions] and with good reason: They do not prove that violent video games cause minors to act aggressively (which would at least be a beginning). Instead, "[n]early all of the research is based on correlation, not evidence of causation, and most of the studies suffer from significant, admitted flaws in methodology." Video Software Dealers Assn. 556 F. 3d, at 964. They show at best some correlation between exposure to violent entertainment and minuscule real-world effects, such as children's feeling more aggressive or making louder noises in the few minutes after playing a violent game than after playing a nonviolent game.7

[Note 7.] One study, for example, found that children who had just finished playing violent video games were more likely to fill in the blank letter in "explo_e" with a "d" (so that it reads "explode") than with an "r" ("explore"). App. 496, 506 (internal quotation marks omitted). The prevention of this phenomenon, which might have been anticipated with common sense, is not a compelling state interest.

. . . those effects are both small and indistinguishable from effects produced by other media.In his testimony in a similar lawsuit, Dr. Anderson admitted that the "effect sizes" of children's exposure to violent video games are "about the same" as that produced by their exposure to violence on television. App. 1263. And he admits that the same effects have been found when children watch cartoons starring Bugs Bunny or the Road Runner, id., at 1304, or when they play video games like Sonic the Hedgehog that are rated "E" (appropriate for all ages), id., at 1270, or even when they "vie[w] a picture of a gun," id., at 1315–1316.

Thus, EMA v. Brown rejects the "violent video game effect" studies for failing to demonstrate a compelling state interest. Indeed, EMA suggests that the studies do not even rise to the level of a trivial state interest. Quite significantly, for Second Amendment purposes, the very similar "weapons effect" hypothesis likewise is presented as something which is equally non-compelling, and no more than trivial.

The studies on video games have led, at worst, to some minors being unconstitutionally deprived of video games. In contrast, the "weapons effect" has become an article of faith among many anti-gun advocates, who are convinced that guns turn peaceable people into dangerous aggressors. Many anti-gun laws have been enacted in part because of this wrongful idea, and some of those laws have deprived the victims of violent crimes from having the means of effective self-defense. Indeed, continuing belief in the non-existent weapons effect is a major reason why nine states still deny law-abiding trained adults the constitutional right to carry licensed firearms for lawful protection in public places.

In examining the legislative history of anti-gun laws, courts will not have to look far to find the "weapons effect" as a crucial motive for many of the laws which aim to reduce gun ownership or accessibility by ordinary citizens (rather than merely keeping guns away from actually dangerous people). Legislative animus against the exercise of constitutional rights can be, in itself, an important reason to find a law unconstitutional. When that animus is based on the same type of social science which the Supreme Court has recently dismissed an unrelated to any serious state interest, then courts have especially good reason to recognize the unconstitutionality of the legislation.

Categories: Child Protection, Constitutional Law, Expert Evidence, First Amendment, Freedom of Speech, Guns, Supreme Court


The Incidental Unconstitutionality of the Individual Mandate

David Kopel • June 24, 2011 7:44 pm

A recent Yale Law Journal Online article by Northwestern law professor Andrew Koppelman argues that the Obamacare individual mandate is obviously constitutional, especially in light of how McCulloch v. Maryland construed the Necessary and Proper clause. Bad News for Mail Robbers: The Obvious Constitutionality of Health Care Reform (April 2011).

Gary Lawson (Boston Univ.) and I partially agree:

Professor Koppelman evidently believes that the constitutionality of the individual mandate begins and ends with McCulloch v. Maryland. He is absolutely right about that. He simply has the wrong beginning and ending.

Professor Koppelman gets the beginning wrong because he starts his analysis in the middle of the McCulloch opinion instead of where John Marshall began. Chief Justice Marshall‘s famous discussion in McCulloch of the causal connection required by the word "necessary" was preceded by a seven-page analysis of the constitutionality of a federal corporation under the Necessary and Proper Clause. Those seven pages dealt with an issue that Marshall recognized had to be addressed before he decided whether a corporation was a causally "necessary" (or otherwise "proper") means for implementing federal powers. The threshold question was whether the power to incorporate was incidental or principal.

Our article, Bad News for Professor Koppelman: The Incidental Unconstitutionality of the Individual Mandate, elucidates the original meaning of the Necessary and Proper clause, which Chief Justice Marshall considered so important, but which professor Koppelman overlooked:

The Necessary and Proper Clause incorporates basic norms drawn from eighteenth-century agency law, administrative law, and corporate law. From agency law, the clause embodies the venerable doctrine of principals and incidents: a law enacted under the clause must exercise a subsidiary rather than an independent power, must be important or customary to achievement of a principal end, and must conform to standard fiduciary obligations.

From administrative law, the Necessary and Proper Clause embodies the closely-related principle of reasonableness in the exercise of delegated power, which independently requires conformance with a similar set of fiduciary norms, including the norms of acting only within delegated jurisdiction and of treating all persons subject to a public agent‘s power impartially.

Evidence from eighteenth-century corporate law – and the Constitution was widely recognized in the founding era as a type of corporate charter – confirms these conclusions about the meaning of the phrase "necessary and proper for carrying into Execution . . . ."

The power to order someone to purchase a product is not a power subordinate or inferior to other powers, such as the power to regulate voluntary commerce. The power to compel commerce is at least as significant – or, in eighteenth-century language, as "worthy" or of the same "dignity" – as the power to regulate insurance pricing and rating practices. It is therefore not incidental to other powers exercised by Congress in the PPACA and must be separately enumerated if it is to exist.

Second, the doctrine of principals and incidents and the principle of reasonableness both embody the fiduciary norm that agents exercising delegated power must treat multiple principals subject to those agents' power impartially. Interpreting the Necessary and Proper Clause to allow Congress to force private dealings with preferred sellers of products fails that basic fiduciary norm, as illustrated by founding-era concerns about Congress invalidly using the Necessary and Proper Clause power to create monopolies.

Categories: Constitutional History, Constitutional Law, Health Care, Individual Mandate, Necessary and Proper, Originalism 81 Comments


Delta Airlines complicit in Saudi discrimination?

David Kopel • June 23, 2011 4:07 pm

In January, Delta Airlines announced that Saudi Arabian Airlines is joining Delta's SkyTeam network of international airline partners. Yesterday, WorldNet Daily reported that Delta employees would be enforcing a no-Jews policy when checking in passengers on SAA flights from the United States to Saudi Arabia.

I looked around the web for verification, and found the following: In 2004, a Saudi government website, promoting visits to Saudi Arabia, did state a "no Jews" policy. Apparently in response to extensive U.S. criticism, that statement was removed. The visa required for entry to Saudi Arabia mandates that the applicant disclose his or her religion. The typical advice for American visitors is to write "non-Muslim" or "Christian." However, a 2007 article in Commentary magazine by scholar Joshua Muravchik reports on his recent visit to Saudi Arabia; he wrote "Jewish" on his visa application, and was nevertheless granted a Saudi visa.

It does seem to be widely reported, without contradiction, that Saudi authorities will deny visas to anyone who has an Israel entrance or exit stamp on his passport. This category would include not only Jews who have visited Israel, but also the many Christians who visit the Holy Land, as well as business travelers to Israel. Several other African and Asian governments apparently have similar policies.

At airport check-in in the United States, a responsibility of the U.S. airline which is checking in travelers for an international partner airline is to verify that the travelers have the appropriate documentation required by U.S. law (e.g., a passport) and by the foreign airline (e.g., an entry visa from the Saudi government).

The WND article reprints two letters from Delta Airlines to a person who raised questions about the above. Essentially, Delta's position is that they just enforce whatever the destination government requires, and if you don't like the destination government ‘s discrimination, go complain to the U.S. State Department.

I would have preferred an answer to the effect of "We have confirmed that Saudi Arabia does not discriminate against Jewish visitors, or people who have visited Israel, and we would never partner with an airline which would require us to enforce such reprehensible policies."

Saudi Arabian Airlines is government-owned (with some ancillary services, such as catering, being privatized). Delta Airlines is exercising a choice to make its employees complicit in the enforcement of the Saudi government's policies of hatred and discrimination against anyone who visits Israel. If Delta's business alliance with the Saudi government is conditional on that government not reinstating a formal ban on all Jewish visitors, Delta has not taken the opportunity to say so. When I travel, I will exercise my own choice not to fly Delta.

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Categories: Anti-Semitism 71 Comments

Republican presidential candidates pledge to appoint judges to overturn the unconstitutional anti-abortion law they will sign

David Kopel • June 18, 2011 4:42 pm

At CNN, Politico, National Review Online's "The Corner" blog, and at the Susan B. Anthony List website, you can read the developing controversy over some Republican presidential candidates' refusal to sign the SBA Lists' "2012 Pro-Life Citizen's Pledge."

Signers thus far are Bachmann, Gingrich, Pawlenty, Paul, and Santorum. The items on the pledge are:

FIRST, to nominate to the U.S. federal bench judges who are committed to restraint and applying the original meaning of the Constitution, not legislating from the bench;

SECOND, to select only pro-life appointees for relevant Cabinet and Executive Branch positions, in particular the head of National Institutes of Health, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Health & Human Services;

THIRD, to advance pro-life legislation to permanently end all taxpayer funding of abortion in all domestic and international spending programs, and defund Planned Parenthood and all other contractors and recipients of federal funds with affiliates that perform or fund abortions;

FOURTH, advance and sign into law a Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act to protect unborn children who are capable of feeling pain from abortion.

Of the candidates who have refused to sign, Mitt Romney objects because the wording of the demand to cut on federal abortion funding could be construed to stop federal aid to many hospitals; further, he refuses to make pro-life a litmus test for his executive branch appointments, as long as the appointees are willing to abide by (President) Romney's own pro-life views. Herman Cain says he would "sign" the pain bill, but will not take the pledge to "advance" the bill, because "Congress must advance the legislation," and he must have "respect for the balance of power and the role of the presidency."

Thus, of the announced candidates, we have only Gov. Gary Johnson who might have constitutional scruples about the federal pain bill.

The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which has been enacted in several states, requires that physicians provide a woman who is at least 20 weeks pregnant, and who is seeking an abortion, with information to obtain informed consent about the pain that the fetus will feel during the abortion.

The PCUCPA is probably constitutional under Planned Parenthood v. Casey, since it does not ban pre-viability abortions, and the lower courts have not generally found other informed consent laws for abortion to be an "undue burden," as Casey defines that term.

However, a federal PCUCPA is plainly unconstitutional under the "original meaning" of the Constitution, which judges appointed by SBA Pledge signers would presumably uphold. The federal version of PCUCPA is S. 314, introduced by Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.). After the definitions section of the proposed statute, the bill states: "Any abortion provider in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, who knowingly performs any abortion of a pain-capable unborn child, shall comply with the requirements of this title."

Federal abortion control under the purported authority of congressional power "To regulate Commerce...among the several States" is plainly unconstitutional under the original meaning of the interstate commerce.

Even under the lax (but non-infinite) version of the interstate commerce power which the Court articulated in Lopez, a federal ban on partial-birth abortion is dubious, as Glenn Reynolds and I argued in a Connecticut Law Review article. Indeed, in the 5–4 Supreme Court decision upholding the federal ban, Gonzales v. Carhart, Justices Thomas and Scalia, who voted in the majority to uphold the ban as not violating the Casey abortion right, concurred to point out "that whether the Act constitutes a permissible exercise of Congress' power under the Commerce Clause is not before the Court. The parties did not raise or brief that issue; it is outside the question presented; and the lower courts did not address it."

In other words, if the attorneys who challenged the federal ban on partial-birth abortions had been willing to raise all plausibile constitutional claims, instead of losing the case 4–5 they probably could have won 6–3, by assembling a coalition of 4 strongly pro-abortion-rights Justices, plus Scalia and Thomas on the commerce issue.

When we get beyond Lopez, and truly look at original meaning, then the unconstitutionality of the federal PCUCPA is obvious. In Gibbons v. Ogden, Chief Justice Marshall explained that "health laws of every description" are outside the scope of the federal commerce power. The statement has been cited with approval by other Supreme Court justices at least 20 times. As Wickard v. Filburn observed, the Marshall opinion in Gibbons "described the Federal commerce power with a breadth never yet exceeded." Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111, 120 (1942). (For more on Marshall's views about federal health control, see this article by Rob Natelson and me.)

Marshall's opinion in Gibbon may be considered the outer boundary of any originalist interpretation of the interstate commerce power. What doctors tell patients before providing abortions is obviously not interstate commerce, all the more so since the vast majority of patients do not cross state lines to obtain abortions.

Yale's Jack Balkin makes the argument that in the original meaning, "commerce" means "intercourse," and thus the original meaning allows a vast amount of federal regulation of intra-state, non-economic activity. Rob Natelson and I explained the errors in this theory in an on-line article for the Michigan Law Review.

Presumably the Republican signers of the SBA pledge would not assert that the appointment of judges who accept Balkin's "commerce = intercourse" theory of original meaning would comport with President's pledge to appoint judges who would follow original meaning. All of the Republican presidential candidates have said that the Obamacare individual mandate to purchase expensive congressionally-designed health insurance from the congressionally-favored insurance oligopoly is unconstitutional. Balkin's intercourse theory, however, would support the constitutionality of the mandate.

The signing of the SBA pledge by Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) is particularly disappointing, since Paul has usually made a point of being scrupulous about federal powers. Indeed, Paul was the sole "pro-gun" Representative who voted against the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, a federal statute which outlawed lawsuits, in federal and state courts, against the manufacturers, wholesalers, and lawful retailers of firearms for guns which were lawfully sold and properly functioning. Paul's argument was that the law exceeded the federal power to regulate interstate commerce; I disagree, since the undisputed original purpose of the interstate commerce power was to empoower Congress to act against state barriers to interstate commerce. The anti-gun lawsuits were plainly an effort to use fanciful tort theories to damage the entire national market in firearms, by imposing on that market many restrictions which had been considered and rejected by Congress and the state legislatures.

Thus, in regard to the anti-gun lawsuits, Paul's scruples were mistaken, in my view, but he deserves credit for being sincerely scrupulous. I wish that he, and the rest of the Reublican presidential field, kept their constitutional scruples intact regarding federal anti-abortion legislation.

While the federal PCUCPA does not invoke section 5 of the 14th Amendment as a basis for the legislation, it is possible to construct an argument that some federal anti-abortion laws could be based on that power. However, it's hard to base such an argument on the original meaning of the 14th Amendment, since there is not a shred of evidence in the 1865–68 history of the creation and ratification of the 14th Amendment (nor in the immediate post-ratification period, nor for nearly a century after ratification) that anyone imagined that the 14th Amendment empowered Congress to enact abortion-control laws, or guaranteed abortion rights.

So if a Republican who signs the SBA pledge is elected President, and he or she adheres to item 1 in the SBA pledge, appointing judges who adhere to the Constitution's original meaning, then those judges will uphold state versions of the PCUCPA while declaring unconstitutional a federal PCUCPA.

Categories: Constitutional History, Constitutional Law, Federalism, Fourteenth Amendment, Health Care, Individual Mandate, Judicial Nominations, Originalism, Supreme Court, abortion 164 Comments


Debate on Libya and the War Powers Act

David Kopel • June 9, 2011 12:56 am

Featuring British NGO representative Leslie Vinjamuri (pro-intervention, sees no legal problem), American peace activist Robert Naiman (anti-intervention, considers the intervention unconstitutional), and me (pro-intervention, but opposed to Obama doing it in violation of the Constitution and the War Powers Act). On the RT (formerly, "Russia Today") television program "Crosstalk." 27 minutes.

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Categories: Constitutional Law, Global Governance/World Government, International Human Rights Law, International Law, Russia 4 Comments

Is carrying an unloaded handgun an effective means of self-defense?

David Kopel • June 2, 2011 3:22 pm

Currently before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is Peruta v. San Diego, in which plaintiffs challenge the San Diego Sheriff's refusal to issue concealed handgun carry permits to ordinary persons who wish to carry handguns for lawful self-defense. The district court held that the Sheriff's actions were not Second Amendment violations because, inter alia, California law allows the unlicensed, open carry of an unloaded handgun. The handgun may not be loaded unless there is an "imminent" threat which would justify calling 911.

Earlier this week, I filed an amicus brief on behalf of the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association. The brief addresses the practical issue of loading and using a handgun while under imminent threat, and argues that unloaded carry is not an adequate means of self-defense. The brief includes links to videos which illustrate various points in the brief.

Categories: Guns 243 Comments

Second Circuit reverses Judge Weinstein's order against firearms stores. Concurrence harshly rebukes him.

David Kopel • May 18, 2011 12:31 am

City of New York v. Mickalis Pawn Shop was recently decided by a unanimous 3-judge panel of 2d Circuit Judges Sack and Wesley, plus Judge Eaton (Court of International Trade) sitting by designation. The case began several years ago when New York City Michael Bloomberg brought a public nuisance lawsuit against several firearms stores located in the southeastern United States. Bloomberg alleged that the stores had violated federal gun laws by selling firearms to straw purchasers (lawful buyers who are acting as a front for a person who is prohibited from possessing firearms), and that as a result, some of the defendants' guns had been used in crimes in New York City. The defendants argued that Judge Weinstein, of the federal Eastern District of New York, had no jurisdiction. At various stages of the litigation, defendants dropped out, and a default judgment was entered against them. They appealed to the Second Circuit. The key issues decided by the panel were as follows:

1. The federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) prohibits most civil lawsuits against firearms stores. The 2d Circuit ruled that the PLCAA is not jurisdictional, because courts should not construe a statute as depriving a court of jurisdiction unless the legislature has expressed a clear intent to do so. According to the 2d Circuit, the PLCAA might well bar a plaintiff's cause of action, but that is not the same as prohibiting subject-matter jurisdiction itself.

2. The next question was whether entry of a default judgment (Fed. Rules Civ. Pro. 55(a)) is proper against defendants who have participated in some stages of the litigation, but then withdrawn. There is a circuit split on this, and the Second Circuit candidly acknowledged that the leading treatises (Moore; Wright/Miller/Kane) oppose a default judgment in circumstances such as Mickalis, and that some 2d Circuit dicta seems to agree. However, the Mickalis panel held that 2d Circuit precedent supported a default judgment.

3. By defaulting, the defendants forfeited their claim that the PLCAA bars the Bloomberg lawsuits.

4. Defendants likewise forfeited their claim that Judge Weinstein lacked personal jurisdiction over them.

5. Default does not deprive the Second Circuit of the ability to review whether the District Court's injunction complied with FRCP 65(d)(1): "Every order granting an injunction . . . must: (A) state the reasons why it issued; (B) state its terms specifically; and (C) describe in reasonable detail -- and not by referring to the complaint or other document -- the act or acts restrained or required."

6. The Weinstein injunction violated Rule 65 in four ways:

"First, the injunctions impose on defendants an obligation to act ‘in full conformity with applicable laws pertaining to firearms,' and to ‘adopt[] appropriate prophylactic measures to prevent violation' of those laws, without specifying which laws are ‘applicable' or identifying the ways in which the defendants must alter their behavior to comply with those laws.... A directive to undertake ‘appropriate' measures does not ‘describe in reasonable detail . . . the act or acts restrained or required,' Fed. R. Civ. P. 65(d)(1), nor does it provide ‘explicit notice of precisely what conduct is outlawed,' Schmidt, 414 U.S. at 476." So "an injunction must be more specific than a simple command that the defendant obey the law.."

Second, the injunction applies to much more than straw purchases, which were "the sole kind of illegal practice identified in the City's amended complaint...An injunction is overbroad when it seeks to restrain the defendants from engaging in legal conduct, or from engaging in illegal conduct that was not fairly the subject of litigation."

Third, the injunctions put the stores under the essentially limitless supervision of a Special Master, and any violation of the Special Master's directives would itself be considered a violation of the injunction. Thus, the terms of the injunction were not clear from the injunction itself, but would be based on what amounted to a nearly unchecked grant of discretion to the Special Master. "Serious constitutional questions arise when a master is delegated broad power to determine the content of an injunction as well as effectively wield the court's powers of contempt."

Finally, part of the injunction "prohibits certain conduct by reference to the amended complaint. This drafting technique, however efficient, is expressly prohibited by Rule 65(d)."

Thus, the injunction was voided, and the case remanded to District Judge Weinstein to enter a new injunction.

Judge Wesley joined the opinion in full, but also wrote a concurring opinion. He agreed that the defendants had forfeited their argument about personal jurisdiction. However, he wrote separately in order to point out that "the district court's jurisdictional analysis has no basis in New York law." According to Judge Wesley, the district court had flagrantly ignored the well-established standards of New York State's long-arm statute, and had contradicted his own prior decisions by inventing "out of whole cloth" a 7-factor test to be applied against gun stores. [The test is quoted on page 10, note 6, of the concurring opinion.] The assertion of personal jurisdiction over the defendant stores does not "‘comport[] with the requirements of due process.'" The defendants had never done business in New York. A "‘defendant's awareness that the stream of commerce may or will sweep the product into the forum State does not convert the mere act of placing the product into the stream into an act purposefully directed toward the forum State.' Asahi Metal Indus. v. California, 480 U.S. 102, 112 (1987)." There was no precedent for Judge Weinstein's assertion that a different rule should apply for what he termed "inherently dangerous products."

Judge Weinstein's theory that "cumulative parallel conduct" of several defendants could create personal jurisdiction over them, even though there might not be jurisdiction over an individual defendant considered on its own, was an indisputable violation of New York Court of Appeals precedent. [When federal courts hear claims based on state law issues, their jurisdiction over defendants generally cannot extend further than what would be allowed in the state courts of the relevant state.]

"In sum, the district court's analysis with respect to defendants' affirmative defense based on lack of personal jurisdiction was a substantial and unjustified deviation from well-known and easily understood principles of New York law. The jurisdictional analysis performed by the court below appears to be based on one federal judge's view of how the law of New York ought to be constructed, rather than on how it is clearly delineated by statute and in the decisions of the state and federal courts."

Categories: Civil Procedure, Guns, Torts

The individual mandate is neither "necessary" nor "proper"

David Kopel• May 11, 2011 4:51 pm

That's the argument of an Independence Institute amicus brief submitted to the 11th Circuit in Florida v. Department of Health and Human Services. Here's the summary of argument:

The Necessary and Proper Clause was one of a large family of similar clauses commonly appearing in eighteenth-century legal instruments delegating authority from one party to another. Those clauses followed several possible formulae. The Necessary and Proper Clause is a specimen of the most restrictive of those formulae: It does not actually grant additional authority beyond that conveyed by other enumerated powers. Rather, it is a recital, designed to inform the reader of two legal default rules: 

First, that express grants of enumerated powers, stated elsewhere, carry with them subsidiary incidental powers ("necessary"). 

Second, that congressional enactments must comply with standards of fiduciary obligation and administrative reasonableness ("proper").

This understanding of the Clause appears in the legal practices and leading cases at the time the Constitution was adopted, and also in the history of the Clause itself--the records of its drafting, in the ratification debates, in the Supreme Court's great case on the subject, M'Culloch v. Maryland, 17 U.S. 316 (1819), and in Chief Justice John Marshall's public explanations of M'Culloch.

Once the meaning of the Clause is understood, the implications for the individual mandate are clear:

The mandate is not "necessary" because power to impose it is not a subsidiary "incident" to Congress's Commerce Power. The power to compel the purchase of a product is as great or greater than the power to regulate voluntary commerce; therefore the mandate cannot be an incidental power regardless of how helpful it might be. For Congress to possess authority of that kind, it would have to be separately enumerated in the Constitution.

The mandate is not "proper" because it violates the fiduciary obligations of impartiality embedded in the word "proper." During the debates over ratification, participants recognized that a law chartering a commercial monopoly would be "improper." A fortiori, compelled purchase from favored oligopolists is improper.

Thus, to the extent that the constitutionality of the individual mandate depends upon the Necessary and Proper Clause, the mandate is unconstitutional.

Besides the Independence Institute, the amici on the brief are Prof. Gary Lawson (BU), Prof. Robert G. Natelson (retired from U. Montana Law; currently a Senior Fellow at the Independence Institute); and Prof. Guy I. Seidman (Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, Israel). The three professors are among the co-authors of The Origins of the Necessary and Proper Clause (Cambridge, 2010).

Categories: Commerce Clause, Constitutional History, Constitutional Law, Individual Mandate, Necessary and Proper 55 Comments

Campus Carry passes Texas Senate

David Kopel• May 9, 2011 7:13 pm

As an amendment to a broader bill on education. Details here, from the Austin American-Statesman. Campus carry already passed the House as a stand-alone bill, so it seems likely that the House will concur with the Senate amendment. Texas Governor Rick Perry has repeatedly indicated his support for the measure. The floor discussion of the amendment should be available here, in RealPlayer format (although the Senate site warns that the stream has compatability problems with RealPlayer 14).

If enacted, the bill would only authorize carry by persons who have already been licensed by the State of Texas to carry throughout the state. Permit applications require fingerprinting for the background check, and passing a safety training class. Permits are only issued to persons aged 21 or older. Of course a licensee may not carry a firearm while intoxicated. Texas Penal Code 40.035(d). For a guide to the Texas concealed handgun laws, which in many respects are more restrictive than the handgun carry licensing laws of many other states, see this document from the Texas Department of Public Safety. 

For discussion of the policy issues involving campus carry, see my article Pretend ‘Gun-Free' School Zones: A Deadly Legal Fiction, from the Connecticut Law Review. As the article observes, campus carry has been the rule for years at public colleges and universities in Utah, and at Colorado State University, among others. There have been no reports of problems.

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Categories: Education, Guns 64 Comments
 

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