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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Neither tort reform nor the "War on Drugs" trump the Tenth Amendment

It is de rigueur for some politicians to declare themselves believers in constitutionally limited government.

It seems this belief is limited, all too often, when the principles of constitutionally limited government conflict with something they believe to be a "great idea."  Apparently "great ideas" trump the constitution. 

Many Republicans are proponents of tort reform. They believe frivolous lawsuits drive up the cost of doing business and that capping damages in civil lawsuits is a great idea.

There is such a bill pending in Congress. It would

"...put a three-year statute of limitations on medical lawsuits, cap non-economic damages at $250,000, and limit punitive damages to $250,000 or twice the economic damages, whichever is greater. It would apply to lawsuits in federal and state courts..."

Apparently this is such a great idea it trumps the Constitution. 

Nowhere among the enumerated powers of Article I, Section 8 is Congress given the authority to tell states how to run their civil justice systems. To argue that the Commerce Clause authorizes Congress to do so is a purely progressive notion. It is a repudiation of the Tenth Amendment. It is  repudiation of a constitutionally limited government. 

Yet it is Republicans, the party that proclaims itself the "limited government" party, that is behind this bill.

Those Republicans in favor of this bill believe tort reform trumps the Constitution.

They either do not understand what they are doing or they have very malleable principles.

Likewise, any congressperson proclaiming to be a believer in the Tenth Amendment should be working to defund the DEA's effort to crack down on medical marijuana providers in states that have legalized the plant for such use.  To the extent marijuana is planted, cultivated, harvested, sold and consumed entirely within a state, one cannot be consistent and support both the DEA enforcement of these federal laws and the Tenth Amendment. The federal government has zero legitimate authority to enforce federal laws against such medical marijuana. (Yes, I know the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled to the contrary. However, the Supreme Court can declare the sun is the moon, but it does not make it so.)

The current conflict between the DEA and state law presents an excellent opportunity for states to assert their sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment. Colorado, for example, should tell the federal government that enforcement of federal marijuana laws in Colorado is ultra vires and msut be stopped. If the feds persist, the federal agents acting unconstitutionally should be arrested by local or state law enforcement. 

Of course, such action in Colorado would require not only a principled belief in the Constitution, it requires balls. Sadly, both are entirely lacking among state officials.

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