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by Diane Rufino, March 26, 2018
We are all used to the accusations that a certain Executive Action is unconstitutional or a federal law is unconstitutional, and we are used to challenges to them in federal court. We remember how the progressive federal appellate courts of the 11th and 9th circuits struck down President Trump’s proposed travel ban as an unconstitutional exercise of discretion. And we here in North Carolina are still stunned and outraged at the 4th Circuit for usurping our state’s right to a democratic form of government (Article IV, Section 4 of the US Constitution) and our reserved powers under the 10th amendment when it struck down our duly-enacted Voter ID Law.
We all understand that unconstitutional actions by those branches must be recognized and addressed; they must be struck down and thus not enforceable.
What we don’t hear are accusations that certain Supreme Court, and other federal court decisions, are unconstitutional. The truth is that they, just like the actions of the other branches, are capable of exceeding proper authority and presenting an abuse of power that amounts to federal tyranny.
Why do we just accept their decisions? Why is it that we simply tell ourselves and others: “Well, the Court has decided. It has handed down its opinion.” And then we surrender our protests to that decision, even though we KNOW it is an unconstitutional exercise of judicial power.
Thomas Jefferson recognized the potential of the federal judiciary for profound abuses of power even as early as 1801. In a letter he wrote to his friend, Adamantios Coray, on October 31, 1823, he warned: “At the establishment of our constitutions, the judiciary bodies were supposed to be the most helpless and harmless members of the government. Experience, however, soon showed in what way they were to become the most dangerous; that the insufficiency of the means provided for their removal gave them a freehold and irresponsibility in office; that their decisions, seeming to concern individual suitors only, pass silent and unheeded by the public at large; that these decisions, nevertheless, become law by precedent, sapping, by little and little, the foundations of the constitution, and working its change by construction, before any one has perceived that that invisible and helpless worm has been busily employed in consuming its substance. In truth, man is not made to be trusted for life if secured against all liability to account.”
How do we know for sure that certain federal court opinions are unconstitutional? Sometimes the justices are truthful and tell us so in their dissenting opinions. And sometimes they explain in detail why it is so.
I wrote an article a few days ago about just such a case, the Obergefell v. Hodges case (2015) – the gay marriage decision. Four justices out of the nine wrote dissenting opinions explaining exactly why the majority opinion (5-4) was unconstitutional. So, instead of focusing on the majority opinion in a court decision, as I almost always do, in this article, I focus on the dissenting opinions.
I think it’s important for people to know – to understand – that federal court opinions are often incorrectly decided and moreover, are often decided by exercising power and discretion that they DO NOT HAVE.
The article, “OBERGEFELL v. HODGES: The Scathing Dissent by Chief Justice John Roberts Explains Why the Majority Opinion Was an Abuse of Judicial Power Under the US Constitution,” is posted on my blogsite: