Thinking Citizen Blog — Amending the Constitution (Part II): Fixing the 13th Amendment, Expanding the Supreme Court, Making International Law Part of US Law
Thinking Citizen Blog — Sunday is Political Process, Campaign Strategy, and Candidate Selection Day
Today’s Topic: Amending the Constitution (Part II): Fixing the 13th Amendment, Expanding the Supreme Court, Making International Law Part of US Law
Last week, three of the amendments proposed by scholars in a New York Times Sunday Supplement — a right to unionize, a right of the unborn to personhood, and a right to movement across state lines. Today, three more. Which, if any, would you support? Which would you vigorously oppose? Why? Do you have an idea for an amendment not mentioned today or last week? Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
FIXING THE 13 AMENDMENT — GET RID OF THE EXCEPTION! (Deborah Archer, Professor, NYU Law School and President of the ACLU)
1. The current amendment: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment whereof the party shall have been duly convicted shall exist within the United States or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
2. “Today, mass incarceration compels inmates to fight deadly fires. It requires them to produce hand sanitizer for the public while they face unsafe and unsanitary conditions.”
3. “Some argue that these people benefit from gaining work experience. But those benefits do not require subminimum-wage forced labor. By striking the clause, the compensation earned and skills learned can begin to restore the dignity and status of those serving their sentences.”
EXPAND THE SUPREME COURT AND LIMIT ITS POWER (Barry P. Macdonald, professor, Pepperdine School of Law)
1. “The Supreme Court will consist of 16 justices, with a seat added to the court every two years until that number is reached.”
2. “Seats on the court shall be allocated in a geographically uniform manner across the United States, with such manner to be reasonably determined by Congress.”
3. “No justice appointed after the adoption of this amendment shall serve more than 15 years. Upon such adoption, sitting justices will serve for no more than 35 years from the date of their appointment to the court.”
NB: “No law shall be declared unconstitutional by the court except by a vote of at least two-thirds of justices participating in a case.”
MAKING INTERNATIONAL LAW PART OF US LAW (Samuel Moyn, Professor of Law and History, Yale University)
1. “West Germany’s 1949 Constitution dedicated the country to peace and made international law an “integral part” of domestic law. This was, in part, a penance for just a few years earlier being a dangerous and deadly rogue state.”
2. “While the United States today is a far cry from Nazi Germany, it has nonetheless proved itself to be a threat to world peace, blatantly and regularly violating international rules or letting its lawyers twist limits on war into licenses to strike.”
3. “An amendment to our Constitution modeled on Germany’s could be a start for America’s atonement, by counseling prudence and placing constraints so the country cannot launch disastrous wars of choice as easily or send drones or special forces practically anywhere for deadly missions.”
NB: “It could also offer protections to Americans as well: While the parents of young Black men killed by police have traveled to speak before the United Nations in Geneva to decry violations of international standards on the streets of our cities, no legal appeal to those standards is possible in our courts.”
FOOTNOTE — A little reminder about my constitutional amendment picks
1. The Eight Point Program of the Education First Party began with the “Zip Code Safety Gap Amendment” — see second link below.
2. Next came the “Equal Schools Amendment.” — see third link below.
3. The third plank was the “Family Structure Inequality Act.” See fourth link below.
NB: My next best amendment idea would be one that enshrines the principle of proportional representation. I believe there is no true democracy without it.
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