A Good Day for the Fourth Amendment

“In 2019, a California appeals court said a police officer may always enter a suspect’s home without a warrant if the officer is in “hot pursuit” and has probable cause to believe the suspect has committed a misdemeanor.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court gave that decision the benchslap it deserved. “We are not eager—more the reverse—to print a new permission slip for entering the home without a warrant,” declared Justice Elena Kagan in Lange v. California.

The case originated when a California Highway Patrol officer observed Arthur Gregory Lange repeatedly honking his horn and playing his car stereo at a loud volume, both of which are traffic infractions at worst. The officer followed Lange’s car and switched on his overhead lights just a few seconds before Lange pulled into his own driveway. Lange, who said he never saw the officer’s lights in his rearview mirror, entered his driveway and pulled into his garage. The officer parked, exited his vehicle, stuck his foot under the garage door to prevent it from closing, followed Lange in, and had him perform field sobriety tests, which ultimately led to a DUI charge.

The state has “argued that the pursuit of a suspected misdemeanant always qualifies as an exigent circumstance authorizing a warrantless home entry,” Kagan observed in her majority opinion, which was joined in full by Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett. But that position ran afoul of both SCOTUS precedent and the Fourth Amendment’s common law roots.

“On many occasions, the officer will have good reason to enter—to prevent imminent harms of violence, destruction of evidence, or escape from the home,” Kagan wrote. “But when the officer has time to get a warrant, he must do so—even though the misdemeanant fled.”

The common law origins of the Fourth Amendment commanded the same result. “‘To enter a man’s house’ without a proper warrant, Lord Chief Justice Pratt proclaimed in 1763, is to attack ‘the liberty of the subject’ and ‘destroy the liberty of the kingdom,'” Kagan wrote, quoting from a venerable British common law judgment. “That was the idea behind the Fourth Amendment.”

Writing in a concurrence that reads more like a dissent, Chief Justice John Roberts, joined by Justice Samuel Alito, denounced the majority’s reasoning as “absurd and dangerous,” “hopelessly indeterminate,” and likely to impede necessary police work.

Fortunately, Roberts managed to attract just one other vote. The Fourth Amendment had a good day in court.”

Democrats have a high-risk, high-reward plan to save Roe v. Wade

“Under the modern understanding of the Constitution, a federal law regulating abortion — like other federal regulation of health providers — is unambiguously constitutional.

Congress’s power to regulate is broad but not unlimited. The Constitution lays out a list of powers that Congress is allowed to exercise, such as the power to raise armies or the power to establish post offices.

One of these powers is the ability to enact legislation enforcing rights protected by the 14th Amendment. Both Roe and Casey rooted the right to an abortion in this amendment’s guarantee that no one may be denied “liberty” without due process of law. So, as long as Roe and Casey remain good law, Congress may enact laws protecting abortion rights.

But, of course, the whole reason Democrats want to pass the WHPA is because Roe and Casey are under threat. So Congress cannot realistically rely on its power to enforce the 14th Amendment if it wants to sustain legislation protecting abortion. The Supreme Court is likely to change its understanding of which rights are protected by the 14th Amendment very soon.

Alternatively, the WHPA could also be sustained under Congress’s broad power to regulate the national economy. This power derives from two provisions of the Constitution, which permit Congress to “regulate commerce … among the several states,” and to “make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution” this power to regulate commerce.

As the Supreme Court explained in Gonzales v. Raich (2005), Congress may use its power over national commerce to regulate any “economic ‘class of activities’ that have a substantial effect on interstate commerce.” The Court’s decisions permit federal laws regulating landlords, family farmers, and other businesses and professionals that primarily serve local consumers. They permit federal regulation of abortion.

Abortion is a medical procedure that is provided by professionals, who typically charge a fee. Some of these doctors travel across state lines to provide this service. They are trained at medical schools all over the country, perform their services in clinics funded by donors from other states, use medical equipment manufactured in other states — you get the idea.

Abortion, in other words, is an economic activity that has a substantial effect on interstate commerce. So, under Raich, Congress could pass a law protecting abortion rights.

But this modern understanding of the Constitution isn’t exactly beloved by conservatives. And if Democrats pass a law like the WHPA, a Supreme Court dominated by Republican appointees might overrule Raich — or, at least, limit it, potentially doing considerable violence to Congress’s ability to provide other legal protections in the process.”

Can Peru’s Constitution Survive a Marxist Onslaught?

“The battle in Peru is no longer about who won the election; it’s about preserving the country’s constitution. Drafted in 1993, the current constitution underpins the free market policies that helped the country reduce its poverty rate by roughly one-half, nearly triple its per capita income, and even slash inequality (as measured by a 12-percentage-point reduction in the Gini coefficient between 1998 and 2019). As Ian Vásquez and Ivan Alonso write for the Cato Institute, during the last decades, “Peruvians have experienced dramatic and widely shared improvements in well-being.”

Peru’s economic success is a rather new development. As recently as August 1990, the country experienced a 397 percent monthly inflation rate. Previously, dictator Juan Velasco Alvarado, a military officer who led a coup d’état in 1968, had nationalized key industries, creating state monopolies in oil and mining, fisheries, and food production, among other key sectors. He also expropriated large tracts of land and severely restricted imports, all according to a five-year plan of national production. Economists César Martinelli and Marco Vega argue that Velasco Alvarado’s statist program cost Peru “sizable losses” in economic growth during two decades, leading to the hyperstagflation of the late 1980s.

Once in power, Alberto Fujimori, who won the presidential election in 1990, took drastic measures to stabilize prices, mainly by restricting the money supply and government deficits. Meanwhile, he deregulated markets and shrank the state’s size by privatizing state-owned companies.”

“Today, the constitution is the only obstacle in the way of President-elect Castillo’s party platform, which praises Vladimir Lenin and Fidel Castro while promising a back-to-the-past agenda of nationalizing the mining sector and other major industries, expropriating land, and getting rid of Peru’s successful private pension system, which administers approximately USD $40.7 billion in citizens’ savings. Much like Velasco Alvarado, who nationalized news media companies, Castillo’s “Free Peru” party plans to “regulate” the press, claiming that a “muckraking” media is “fatal” to democracy.”

“Castillo’s “Free Peru” party calls for a new constitution to replace the one in place, which it rejects as “individualist, mercantilist, privatizing, and defeatist” in the face of foreign interests.”

“According to a recent poll, 77 percent of Peruvians are against doing away with the current constitution. As YouTuber Mirko Vidal remarks, this suggests that a good portion of Castillo’s vote wasn’t pro-Marxist as much as anti-Fujimori.

It remains to be seen whether Peru’s institutions can withstand Castillo’s certain onslaught once he is in power. It would be no surprise if he tried to get rid of term limits, a classic recipe of 21st century socialists such as Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez and Bolivia’s Evo Morales, caudillos who, like Alberto Fujimori, won an election and changed the rules of the game so as to hold on to power. Another similarity with Chávez and Morales is Castillo’s blend of anti-capitalist dogma with a strong sense of social conservatism; he opposes same-sex marriage, a “gender-focus” in education, and large-scale immigration. Repeatedly, he has promised to expel all illegal immigrants—meaning many of the 1 million Venezuelans who arrived in the country as they fled from Chavista socialism—just 72 hours after taking office. While these stances are electorally savvy, they make Castillo an odd bedfellow of the foreign progressives who praise him with titles such as son of the soil.”

Impeach an Ex-President? The Founders Were Clear: That’s How They Wanted It

“what did the authors of the Constitution say about the timing of impeachment? That answer should matter a lot to Republicans, who are known for placing great weight in “originalism” when they invoke the Constitution—the meaning of the document when written in 1787 and then ratified by the public.”

“Even though the Constitution’s text does not explicitly address whether the Senate can try a former president, the evidence from English practice, state constitutions, the Constitutional Convention, and the Federalist Papers—all core sources for originalist legal arguments—suggest that its authors fully expected that the Senate would use its power that way.”

“As Hamilton wrote in the Federalist Papers, a core source of original meaning, the framers “borrowed” the model from the English. And, as Raskin pointed out, every English impeachment during the lifetimes of the Founders was of a former official. During the convention debates on impeachment, George Mason mentioned the impeachment of Warren Hastings, a former British official in India, which began during the summer of 1787. No delegate raised any concern about its impropriety. No early state constitution prohibited impeaching a former official—and in fact, Delaware allowed its chief executive to be impeached only “when he is out of office.” Early state constitutions are usually core evidence for originalists. The English and early American practice suggest an emphasis more on punishment—for instance, disqualification from future office—than on removal.

In the 1787 Convention debates, as recorded by James Madison, four convention delegates explicitly discussed the potential problem of incumbent presidents abusing their power at the end of their terms in order to get reelected. Several of them specifically mentioned that election fraud and manipulation of the Electoral College could be grounds for impeachment.”

“When the Convention specifically debated the timing of impeachments, delegates William Davey, George Mason, Edmund Randolph and Gouverneur Morris (the last three considered among the most influential delegates) implicitly rejected the Trump team’s arguments. On July 20, 1787, the Convention turned to the proposed impeachment language, and two delegates, Morris and Charles Pinckney, objected. Madison recorded Pinckney’s objection: A president “ought not to be impeachable whilst in office.” Morris explained that such impeachments of sitting presidents would hand Congress too much power over the president, who might be compromised by fear of impeachment. This argument is similar to the concern about whether a sitting president can be indicted and prosecuted.
William Davie answered, “If [the president] be not impeachable whilst in office, he will spare no efforts or means whatever to get himself re-elected. [Davie] considered [impeachment of sitting presidents] as an essential security for the good behaviour of the Executive.”

Morris saw the public as the final arbiter—“In case he should be re-elected, that will be sufficient proof of his innocence,” he said—but neither Morris nor anyone else in the long ensuing debate suggested that a president who wasn’t reelected should be able to avoid impeachment for what he’d done in office. And in fact, several delegates addressed Morris by emphasizing their concerns that presidents might abuse their power at a particularly dangerous time: during bids for reelection.

On that same day, George Mason was especially concerned with election fraud and the Electoral College—with presidents corrupting electors to get elected, and then attempting to stay in power “by repeating his guilt.” It defies logic to think that a president who tried such a scheme could be impeached only if he somehow succeeded and stayed in office—especially given the British precedent of out-of-office impeachments, from which the Founders were drawing.

Then Randolph emphasized broad application: “Guilt wherever found ought to be punished”—reflecting the view that the purpose was not just removal from office, but more broadly punishment for abuses of power.

In the final speech of the debate on July 20, and perhaps the most significant, Gouverneur Morris, a supporter of a strong presidency, conceded that his colleagues had persuaded him to drop his concern about timing and to vote for the impeachment clause. After noting the infamous “Secret Treaty of Dover,” in which England’s Charles II made a corrupt deal with France’s Louis XIV that led to war, Morris concluded that “treachery” justified impeachment. But then he added other reasons, including, “Corrupting his electors, and incapacity.”

He proposed that incapacity, which implied no transgression, be punished only by “degradation from his office.” But corruption during a reelection effort deserved full impeachment, removal and disqualification from office. Impeachment proceedings for such abuses would by definition have to take place after the election. And implicitly, Morris was highlighting the urgency of disqualification for treachery and corruption of the Electoral College, regardless of removal. With Morris’ reversal, the Convention moved to vote, and impeachment prevailed 8-2.”

“The original meaning of the impeachment clauses is that they applied to former presidents, as well as presidents.”

“The point of originalism—and I say this as an originalist legal scholar—is that our Constitution is not supposed to be a wordy document narrowly fixing every point of law, but a framework that depends upon historical context to find meaning and purpose. As Senator Ben Sasse and then-nominee Amy Coney Barrett explained in a helpful exchange during her confirmation hearings, the text is not enough to understand what the Constitution calls for; that’s why, Barrett explained, the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches applies to cars, cellphones and heat detection outside houses.

Contradicting the arguments they conveniently invoke for judicial appointments, the vast majority of Republican senators this week ignored the whole principle of originalism. The historical record before the Senate is clear: The founding generation understood that former officials can be impeached and tried. In looking at the Republicans’ vote this week, it’s hard not to say that the Republicans didn’t just get their history wrong: They imposed their own preferred meaning on the Constitution, following partisanship rather than historical evidence. They embraced the very lawlessness they claim to reject. They used Trump’s four years to fill the federal bench urgently with ostensible originalists. But when the rule of law is now on the line, the Senate Republicans effectively voted to disqualify “originalism” itself.”

Trump Never Bothered To Hide His Contempt for the Constitution

“President Donald Trump has never bothered to hide his contempt for the Constitution. By my count, he has openly trashed the principles and safeguards contained in the First Amendment, Second Amendment, Fifth Amendment, and 14th Amendment, plus the doctrine of enumerated powers and the constitutional separation of powers. To that sorry list we may now add Trump’s attacks on the Electors Clause and on the peaceful transfer of constitutional power after a presidential election.”

America’s democracy is failing. Here’s why.

“The system is rigged. It was rigged from the outset, quite intentionally, to favor small states. Under current political coalitions, that’s become an enormous advantage for Republicans. The country’s framers obviously could not have known that they were creating a system that would give Donald Trump’s party an unfair advantage over Hillary Clinton’s party more than two centuries later. But they did create a system that favors small states over large states.”

“Republicans, meanwhile, take their unfair advantage and build on it by gerrymandering the states they control, using their Senate “majority” to fill the courts with Republican judges, and then using their control of the judiciary to bolster their own party’s chances in elections.”

“According to 2018 Census Bureau estimates, more than half of the US population lives in just nine states. That means that much of the nation is represented by only 18 senators. Less than half of the population controls about 82 percent of the Senate.”

“Senate malapportionment is a relic of an unstable alliance among 13 young nations. As Yale law professor Akhil Amar explains, the Articles of Confederation that preceded the Constitution were “an alliance, a multilateral treaty of sovereign nation-states.” The Constitution did not simply change the rules that governed an existing nation; it bound 13 independent and sovereign states together.

The Founding Fathers came together at Philadelphia to achieve union at nearly any cost, because they wanted to avoid the persistent warfare that plagued Europe. Without a union, Amar says, “each nation-state might well raise an army, ostensibly to protect itself against Indians or Europeans, but also perhaps to awe its neighbors.”

Nor was this merely a hypothetical concern. When large states proposed a fair legislature, where each state would be given seats proportional to its population, Delaware delegate Gunning Bedford literally threatened that his state would make war on its neighbors. “The large states dare not dissolve the Confederation,” Bedford insisted, or else “the small states will find some foreign ally of more honor and good faith.””

“The Senate does not simply give extra representation to small states, it gives the biggest advantage to states with large populations of white, non-college-educated voters — the very demographic that is trending rapidly toward the GOP.”

“Realistically, the most democratic solutions, such as abolishing the Senate or replacing it with a body that fairly represents all Americans, are off the table in a nation that cannot amend its Constitution. And so we’re likely left with our undemocratic system for a long while, pushing for reform when and where possible, but likely unable to fix the system absent a major political realignment.”