Kopel's Corner weblog, January-February 2012

Remote gun detectors

February 29, 2012 2:33 pm

A few weeks ago, the New York Times reported that the NY Police Department was working with the Department of Defense on a remote firearms detector. According to the article, the detectors are presently effective at a 3 to 5 meter range at finding guns that are being carried concealed. The objective is to improve the detectors so that they work from a distance of 25 meters.

Commentators, what do you think of this? Does is raise Fourth Amendment concerns? Second Amendment issues? Any other constitutional or policy questions?

Categories: Fourth Amendment, Guns, Right to carry0 Comments

Obamacare in Wonderland

February 9, 2012 1:46 pm

That's the title of a new article by Gary Lawson and me, forthcoming in a symposium issue of Boston University's American Journal of Law & Medicine. The Journal has a large readership among medical professionals who are interested in legal issues relating to medicine. Accordingly, if you have been following the VC's debate on the ACA over the past couple years, most of what is in the article will already be familiar to you. Here is the abstract:

The question whether the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ("PPACA") is "unconstitutional" is thorny, not simply because it presents intriguing issues of interpretation but also because it starkly illustrates the ambiguity that often accompanies the word "unconstitutional." The term can be, and often is, used to mean a wide range of things, from inconsistency with the Constitution's text to inconsistency with a set of policy preferences. In this article, we briefly explore the range of meanings that attach to the term "unconstitutional," as well as the problem of determining the "constitutionality" of a lengthy statute when only some portions of the statute are challenged. We then, using "unconstitutional" to mean" inconsistent with an original social understanding of the Constitution's text (with a bit of a nod to judicial precedents)," show that the individual mandate in the PPACA is not authorized by the federal taxing power, the federal commerce power, or the Necessary and Proper Clause and is therefore unconstitutional.

Categories: Commerce Clause, Constitutional Theory, Health Care, Individual Mandate, Necessary and Proper, Taxing and Spending Clause0 Comments

Recommendations for First Amendment textbook

February 5, 2012 1:34 pm

Next spring semester, I will be teaching a First Amendment class. So I request advice from commenters about what textbooks they liked, or did not like, and why.

For the recommendations, please ignore entirely the textbook's treatment of the religion clauses. Denver University has a separate class on them, so my class will be entirely on Speech, Press, Petition, Assembly, and Association.

Personally, I prefer textbooks which put their subject in historical context and order, which is one of the reasons I use Randy Barnett's textbook for Con Law I and Con Law II. Like Barnett, I also prefer textbooks which pay attention to "the Constitution outside the courts," and not just to Supreme Court cases.

Finally, I like to show students how to use one part of the Constitution to help understand another part. So I would be particularly interested in textbooks that highlight the First Amendment's interplay with the Copyright clause, the Fourteenth Amendment, and so on. I will of course give careful study to Eugene Volokh, The First Amendment and Related Statutes, Problems, Cases and Policy Arguments (4th ed.).

Categories: First Amendment, Law schools0 Comments

Independence Institute brief on Medicaid mandate

January 19, 2012 2:30 pm

On behalf of the Independence Institute, Rob Natelson and I wrote an amicus brief on the Medicaid mandate currently before the Supreme Court. (The ACA requirement that states must drastically expand Medicaid eligibility, or lose all their federal matching funds for Medicaid.) Here's the Summary of Argument:

By imposing the Medicaid mandates in the Affordable Care Act ("ACA"), Congress exceeded the scope of its enumerated powers. If allowed to stand, those mandates could be the death-knell for the Constitution's finely calibrated system of federalism. The states truly would be little more than agencies for Congress to "commandeer" at will.

The Founders created and the People ratified a Constitution protecting the States' role as limited "sovereigns." As this Court has ruled repeatedly, the states' sovereign "independence" entitles them to make decisions within their sphere based on their own policy judgments, free of federal coercion. As explained below, this rule and the closely-related principle of federal non-coercion is of particular constitutional importance in financing health and social services.

In sustaining the Medicaid mandates, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit overlooked both Founding-Era constitutional principle and modern Supreme Court doctrine. It also overlooked aspects of the Medicaid mandates that particularly aggravate their coercive qualities. Insofar as the ACA authorizes withdrawal of all Medicaid funds from States that choose not to submit to the Medicaid mandates, that statute slashes at the heart of American federalism. It is unconstitutional and void.

Intelligent comments are welcome, although experience suggests that there will also be plenty of comments from twits who have not read the brief, yet proclaim their absolute certainty about supposedly fatal errors in its legal reasoning. Rob's summary of brief is available on his blog.

Categories: Constitutional History, Constitutional Law, Constitutional Theory, Health Care, Spending Clause, Tenth Amendment0 Comments

Mercedes-Benz: The car for people who admire mass-murdering racist totalitarian thugs

January 11, 2012 4:08 pm

Mercedes-Benz's latest marketing ploy is to associate itself with Che Guevera. Over at the Huffington Post, Michael Gonzalez (Heritage Foundation) supplies the details.

It's not surprising that a corporation which is currently pro-Che was pro-Hitler, far more so than many other German businesses during the Third Reich. As recounted in Cecil Adams' "The Straight Dope":

Daimler-Benz . . . avidly supported Nazism and in return received arms contracts and tax breaks that enabled it to become one of the world's leading industrial concerns. (Between 1932 and 1940 production grew by 830 percent.) During the war the company used thousands of slaves and forced laborers including Jews, foreigners, and POWs. According to historian Bernard Bellon (Mercedes in Peace and War, 1990), at least eight Jews were murdered by DB managers or SS men at a plant in occupied Poland.

UPDATE: Regarding Eugene's post, immediately above. My own view would be that a corporation is a collection of individuals (and, I agree with him, therefore entitled to free speech and other constitutional rights); in the same sense, a human body is a collection of cells. Over time, all of the individuals in a corporation may change; likewise, the collection of cells that constitute "David Kopel" is today very different from the collection that constituted "David Kopel" 45 years ago. Yet the corporate body, like the human body, has a continuing existence as the same entity. (That's one of the benefits of incorporation.) Corporations sometimes have cultures or other enduring traits that distinguish them even while their individual members may be replaced. It would be accurate to say that Yale Law School is a corporation that places far higher value of scholarly prestige than on teaching ability, and this was true not only today, but also 40 years ago, even though the Yale faculty is now entirely different. (Yes, to be precise, Yale Law School is just a unit within the larger corporation of Yale University.) None of the original personnel at National Review magazine are still there, but one can find many similarities between the corporate culture and mission of NR in 1955 and 2011. That the various corporations of the Ivy League schools discriminated against Jews in the 1920s is, in my view, of some relevance in understanding their current discrimination against Asians. That Mercedes-Benz was, compared to other German corporations, unusually supportive to Hitler then, and is similarly unusual (compared to other German corporations) in its attitude towards Che today, suggests that the corporation may lack an internal self-regulator which recognizes the wrongfulness of extolling totalitarian thugs.

Categories: Popular Culture, Racism, Thuggery, Uncategorized0 Comments

Bleg on 3-strikes laws

January 8, 2012 5:25 pm

What are the most draconian three-strikes laws currently on the books? Do any states still have a 25 year mandatory minimum for the third strike?

Categories: Criminal Law0 Comments
 

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