Friday, May 29, 2015

The Last Bastion

The last bastion against an errant government (not counting armed revolt) is jury nullification. Very early in our country's history, the role of jury nullification as a defense against oppression by the State was unquestioned. It remained so until the 1850s, a time during which many juries began not convicting in prosecutions under the Fugitive Slave Act. Judges, seeing a mighty demonstration of the power of juries, began to change the rules of the Court. The primary and most devastating change was that juries would no longer be permitted (by judges) to judge the law; they would be confined to judging only the facts of the case.

The new rules were (and still are) a blatant infringement on the rights of juries. That's not just my view...

"The jury has a right to judge both the law and the facts in controversy."
~ John Jay, First
Chief Justice, U.S. Supreme Court, 1789
"The jury has the right to determine both the law and the facts."
~ Samuel Chase, U.S. Supreme Court Justice, 1796
"The law itself is on trial quite as much as the cause which is to be decided."
~ Harlan F. Stone, 12th Chief Justice, U.S. Supreme Court, 1941

Juries routinely are told by judges that jury members cannot judge the law, only the facts of the case. Not true. Numerous case decisions have upheld the right of any juror to nullify a "bad" law and vote to acquit. Example: "The jury has an unreviewable and unreversible acquit in disregard of the instructions on the law given by the trial judge."
U.S. v. Dougherty, 473 F 2nd 1113, 1139 (1972). Example: " is presumed that juries are the best judges of facts; it is, on the other hand, presumed that courts are the best judges of law. But still both objects are within your power of decision. You have a right to take upon yourselves to judge of both, and to determine law as well as the fact in controversy." [Emphasis added.] State of Georgia v. Brailsford, 3 U.S. 1 Dall. (1794).

So, why do jurors not know these things? The reason is simple: in
Sparf v. United States (1895), the Court decided that courts need not inform jurors of their de facto right of jury nullification even though the jurors' inherent right to judge the law remains unchallenged. All judges are aware of this. Rather than inform juries of all their rights, judges tend to intimidate jurors by telling them that they cannot judge the law.

All of this is crucial to individual sovereignty and freedom because governments practice Legislative Absolutism (a term coined by Justice Harlan in 1901), passing laws without any regard for constitutions (Federal and State). Other than bringing suit in a court of law, the aggrieved citizen has no legal and peaceful recourse except to rely on jury nullification. Bringing suit usually is very expensive and time-consuming. Unfortunately, relying on jury nullification depends upon having a fully informed citizenry, and jurors with courage and integrity...therefore, spread the word! We need fully informed juries.

Not just my opinion.  Be Well

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Here's How They Do It -OR- The Biggest Flaw in the Constitution

"They" are the Neoliberals who over decades and by sheer, disorganized, dumb luck have brought about a coup in our Government.  For years I wondered how so many unconstitutional laws could come into being in this Land with barely a peep of protest from anyone.  I think perhaps finally I've figured it out.  Over the years, now and again, I heard this-or-that politician mention the "necessary and proper" clause of the Constitution; but I never paid much attention to it until recently.

"The Congress shall have Power ... To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof."
~ Article I, Section 8, Clause 18, United States Constitution

The Powers mentioned in that clause, "...the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers...", are those delegated by We the People to our Federal Government.  They are the Enumerated Powers that we have given to the Congress, the Executive Branch, and the Judicial Branch.  The Government has only those Powers.  Unfortunately, going all the way back to our Founding Fathers, some have claimed that Article I Section 8 Clause 18 gives other, implied Powers to the Government.  Hamilton and Jefferson debated that very point.

Alexander Hamilton was the Founder who proposed that our Gov't should be that of a Monarchy; he wanted a King as our leader.  Luckily, that idea quickly was scrapped.  Nonetheless, Hamilton kept fighting for a central government bordering on dictatorial.  He wanted a central bank, and he claimed that Article I Section 8 Clause 18 gave the Gov't implied Powers.  Hamilton argued that the sovereign duties of a government implied the right to use means adequate to its ends, regardless of specific Enumerated Powers.  Jefferson opposed him at every turn until Hamilton was killed by Aaron Burr in a duel, July, 1804.  Nevertheless, the seed had been planted.  Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall and others promoted the idea that the Government had implied powers.  At times, the "necessary and proper" clause was referred to as the "elastic clause".

The idea eventually lost favor in the late 1800s up until the 1930s.  With the Roosevelt Administration, the "elastic clause" was back in favor... and as the Fed Gov't expanded, the idea became more and more the flavor of the day.  As that happened, "Legislative Absolutism" took hold more and more.  In 1901, Supreme Court Justice Harlan coined that term, warning of a time when unconstitutional laws would be passed as a matter of course.

Any examination of the "necessary and proper" clause with a view toward common sense tells us that no additional Powers are implied by it.  Furthermore, it makes ZERO sense that so-called "implied" powers would be able to result in a law which would essentially nullify any specific written clause in the Supreme Law of the Land.  Finally, the use of "implied" powers apparently is virtually without limits.  It's whatever an indoctrinated, propagandized public will tolerate.

EXAMPLE---  The so-called PATRIOT Act essentially nullifies the Fourth Amendment.  Gathering of bulk data is permitted... without the people being intruded upon having to be suspects of any kind.  In addition, FBI Agents can write their own Search Warrants... the Fourth Amendment makes it clear that judges must issue those.  Finally, other portions of the Act violate the Due Process Clause of the Constitution.  [So do portions of the National Defense Authorization Act, the NDAA.]

All the "necessary and proper" clause is saying is this:  Congress can pass Laws in order to implement the specific Enumerated Powers that were delegated to them by We the People.  Nowhere does it say or imply that Laws contravening the Constitution may also be passed.  Only an attorney with no common sense would infer such a thing from that clause.  Both Hamilton and Marshall were attorneys.  [My admittedly limited experience with attorneys tells me that very few of them have any common sense whatsoever.  They appear to live in a very esoteric world; as with everything, I'm sure there are exceptions.]

My conclusion is that certain people in our political history wanted a way around the constraints of the Constitution.  It appears they desired a central government so strong that it bordered on dictatorial.  To achieve that objective, they inferred from primarily the "necessary and proper" clause, but also from the "commerce" and "general welfare" clauses, so-called implied powers.  I see that as pure BS.  I sincerely doubt that it was the intention of almost all our Founders to give the Government unknown, virtually unlimited Powers that could, in fact, contravene the listed or Enumerated Powers delegated by We the People.  That makes no sense... and more importantly, it makes the Constitution worthless.  The primary purpose of the Constitution is to restrain/constrain government; that's not possible if we accept the concept of "implied powers"... which can be almost anything.

Not just my opinion.  Be Well
p.s.  Special thanks to my good friend in Sacramento, Bob, for triggering the theme of this piece.