Constitutional Literacy

, Cliff Kincaid, Leave a comment

The media have faithfully echoed the
views of liberal special interest groups that want Supreme Court nominee John
Roberts subjected to intense grilling over social issues such as abortion. They
want Roberts to find a right to abortion in the constitution when, in fact, none
exists. But at least they claim to want him to follow the constitution. A major
problem with the current Court is what Dr. German Muñoz has referred to as
the “unhealthy tendency of allowing foreign laws, bureaucrats, and institutions
to affect American political life…”


         
Muñoz, a
professor at Miami Dade College, has noted that in the capital punishment case
of Roper v. Simmons, Justices Ruth
Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Anthony Kennedy, David H. Souter and John
Paul Stevens “overturned a capital case decision of the State of Mississippi,
and Justice Kennedy rationalized it by citing the legal practices in Congo,
Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi-Arabia and Yemen, all of them dictatorships!
Meanwhile, they overturned more than 200 years of U.S.
constitutional history and practices in nineteen American
states.”


         
The ruling in the case mentioned those countries, as well as
China and Yemen,
as countries that have “either abolished capital punishment for juveniles or
made public disavowal of the practice.” These countries were presented as a
model for the U.S. The Court went on to say that
the U.S. stood “alone in a world that has
turned its face against the juvenile death penalty.” The ruling also cited the
U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, which prohibits capital punishment
for juveniles under 18, even though the U.S. has not ratified it. The Court
said it was proper to recognize the weight of “international opinion” against
the juvenile death penalty.


         
The case involved Christopher Simmons, only seven months shy of his
18th birthday, who murdered Shirley Crook. He broke into her house,
bound her with duct tape and wire, and threw her off a bridge alive. He had
bragged to his friends that he would get away with it because he was a minor.


         
In a dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia found it bizarre that the majority
would cite a treaty that the U.S. has not ratified to justify eliminating
capital punishment for juvenile killers in the U.S. He also
found it strange that the Court would cite practices in countries ruled by
tyrannical regimes. Scalia said the notion that American law ought to conform to
“the laws of the rest of the world” should be rejected out of hand.


Dr. Muñoz said of the majority
in this case, “Believing the meaning of the Constitution is evolving, they
practically rewrote the eighth amendment to the Constitution of the
United
States
. These justices should be making
decisions based on the Constitution and not on foreign cases or on their own
personal opinions.”


This is something that everybody
should agree on―that Roberts should follow the U.S. Constitution. He should be
vigorously questioned on this matter. Does he believe international opinion and
foreign rulings should affect U.S. law or not?

 

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