Federal Laws: To Infinity and Beyond!

How many federal laws are on the books?  500?  1,000?  5,000?  Go ahead, take a guess.

Give up?

Yeah, well, so does the Library of Congress.  In an attempt to answer the frequent question of how many federal laws there are, Senior Legal Research Specialist Shameema Rahman recently reported that “trying to tally this number is nearly impossible.”  Well, that’s great.  Congress has officially passed so many laws that their own repository of documentation can’t even keep track of them all.

As it turns out, the federal government hasn’t been able to keep track of their own laws for quite some time.  Rahman reports that, “in an example of a failed attempt to tally up the number of laws on a specific subject area, in 1982 the Justice Department tried to determine the total number of criminal laws. In a project that lasted two years, the Department compiled a list of approximately 3,000 criminal offenses.”

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Majority Wrong, Justice Thomas Right, in Arizona Immigration Case

NOTE: This is the first of several short commentaries on recent Supreme Court decisions.

The Supreme Court recently ruled that portions of Arizona’s immigration law violate federal statutes. In his dissent, Justice Thomas relied heavily on my own research.

The Independence Institute did not participate in that case. So how did it happen that I was cited? In 2010 the University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law published my article on the original meaning of a constitutional provision relevant to the decision. The provision is Article I, Section 4—which the Court called the “Elections Clause,” but is more accurately entitled the “Times, Places and Manner Clause.” The Clause provides that the states may regulate the “Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives,” but that Congress may override most of these regulations.

In the article, I discuss exactly what the Founders meant by the phrase “Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections,” and how Congress’s power over its own elections should be interpreted.

The recent case involved whether Arizona’s requirement that voters show proof of citizenship when registering to vote violated federal law. The Court had to decide how widely to read a federal statute and how widely to read Congress’s authority under the Times, Places and Manner Clause.

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Answering to a Higher Law

We spend a great deal of time defending the principle of state nullification of unconstitutional acts here at the Tenth Amendment Center. The philosophical basis for state nullification rests on delegation of powers and the structure of the system created by the Constitution. But other forms of nullification exist, finding their legitimacy in even higher authorities.

At the insistence of southern delegations, especially South Carolina’s, the final version of the U.S. Constitution included a fugitive slave clause in Article IV Sec. 2

No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, But shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due.

Granville Sharp was not pleased.

Sharp represented James Somersett in a famous English case that led to the conclusion that slavery was unsupported by existing law in England. In his ruling, Lord Mansfield essentially argued slavery was incompatible with common law.

The state of slavery is of such a nature that it is incapable of being introduced on any reasons, moral or political, but only by positive law, which preserves its force long after the reasons, occasions, and time itself from whence it was created, is erased from memory. It is so odious, that nothing can be suffered to support it, but positive law. Whatever inconveniences, therefore, may follow from the decision, I cannot say this case is allowed or approved by the law of England; and therefore the black must be discharged.

When Sharp learned of the fugitive slave clause in the Constitution, he fired off a letter to Benjamin Franklin saying he was “sincerely grieved.” He went on to declare the constitutional clause was “null and void…It would be even a crime to regard [it] as Law.”

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Surprise: Law Professor Misinterprets Supremacy Clause

Have you ever read an article that you were not sure what stance the author takes on the subject but presents both sides of the argument at once? I had the distinguished experience recently when I was reading the article titled “Sheriffs, State Lawmakers Push Back on Gun Control” on the Newsmax website (see: http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/Gun-Control-Pushback/2013/01/17/id/471825). It was a little confusing until I got about half way through it and read a quote by Sam Kamin.

Sam is a constitutional law professor at the University of Denver. One would think that if someone was a law professor that they would actually know and understand the law. Or in this case, a constitutional law professor – who should then know and understand the constitution. It is highly unfortunate when people like Sam misspeak about a subject. Their title gives them some credibility so people think what they say is true because they are supposedly an “expert”. But, when they make a mistake it is still a mistake.

The Supremacy Clause of Article VI, Clause 2 reads:

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.

Sam makes the comment that state legislatures can pass any laws they want but that the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution makes such actions unconstitutional. He further states that when there is a conflict between state and federal law, the federal government is supreme. Nothing could be farther from the truth. His blanket statement implies that the state laws are not necessary and state governments are not necessary because the federal government and its laws are supreme.

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Pennsylvania Town Working To Nullify Federal Gun Control

With the Obama administration winning a second term and gun control publicly on the national agenda, more and more people are standing up at the state and local levels to protect Constitutional freedoms. This is exactly what is occurring in the small town of Gilberton, Pennsylvania.

Chief of Police Mark Kessler will propose a ’2nd Amendment Preservation’ Ordinance during the January 24, 2013 meeting of city council. According to the text of the ordinance, it will be ‘nullifying all federal, state or local acts in violation of the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution of the United States along with section 21 Right to Bear Arms of the Pennsylvania constitution.’

The ordinance continues on with some strong words for the authoritarians in Washington D.C. who wish to trample upon the Constitutional rights of Americans saying, “It shall be the duty of the Governing body of Gilberton Borough and within all of its boundaries within the State of Pennsylvania to adopt and enact any and all measures as may be necessary to prevent the enforcement of any federal, state or local acts, laws, orders, rules, or regulations in violation of the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution of the United States along with section 21 of the Pennsylvania Constitution or any violation of this ordinance.” You can read the rest of the bill by clicking HERE.

Police Chief Kessler says that he intends for this bill to send a message to the Federal Government that the spirit of resistance is alive and well within the American people

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Federalism and the 10th: The State Reclamation Begins

The state governments are now beginning in earnest to do something about the encroaching federal government. Way back in 1994 when the “Republican Revolution” was taking place in Congress the Republican Governors Association (RGA) “adopted” a sort of “declaration of independence” for themselves.  From Congress we got the “Contract with America” and from the RGA…

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Federalism and the 10th: The States’ Great Awakening

In Part 1 of this series, I explained how our federalism works and how the powers were divided between the states and our national government. The details showed that the states were superior to the federal government on the hierarchy scale and that the 10th amendment protected that position whenever the federal government stepped outside…

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Federalism and the 10th: How It Works

What we are witnessing all around the country is a political revolution. As time goes by, the revolution will grow huge, into a massive historical event.

The people are beginning to understand what is going on, and are starting to take the necessary steps to reestablish their correct place and boundaries in our federalist system. After so many years of seeing the power usurped, it does my heart good to see steps finally being taken to correct that wrong.

Many times we hear people say that this country is a democracy. That is not true, we are a republic, and we use democracy as a means to pick our representatives in a federalist form of government. Somehow, people seem to conveniently forget that fact. So, what is federalism?

When our founders created the Constitution and established our federal government they did it on two planes, vertically and horizontally. Everyone gets taught the horizontal plane in school where we have the separation of powers between the various branches of government. Unfortunately, they are never taught the vertical plane which is where the whole federalist structure is set in place with a division of power between the national and state governments.

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Nullifying ObamaCare: An Alternative To The Supreme Court Ruling

Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that Obamacare was constitutional.

The Administration takes this as a green light to implement ObamaCare to its fullest extent possible. Because the election went in President Obama’s favor, the Senate and House have lost any desire to overturn the law. Without the overturn, it looks like the law making Obamacare a reality is going to stand forever.

Or is it?

In order to make Obamacare work properly, as it currently stands, there are two mainstays of Obamacare that must be carried out on the state level. Each state must implement an insurance exchange and they must drastically expand Medicare according to the law. These two items of ObamaCare will cost the states untold millions of dollars to implement.

When federal law goes bad, it is up to the states to protect their citizens. The legal theory is called nullification. Nullification is the idea that any given state has the right to invalidate federal laws that they consider unconstitutional. Somewhere along the line the Supreme Court got it wrong in their reasoning. Accordingly, it is like saying that since the government has a stake in GM it can create a law that says we can only buy GM cars. If we buy any other type of car we have to pay an extra tax on it.

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“Constitutional Rights”? Not Really

I frequently hear people talk about how many “constitutional rights” we have lost under (fill in whichever President’s name). This brings up a very interesting misunderstanding about the origin of our rights… For one thing, our rights don’t come from the Constitution; the Constitution merely recognizes that our rights preexist it.

For instance, in the 2nd Amendment it goes like this:

“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

It says “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” ..not “the people shall have the right to keep and bear arms” – this is a very important difference in syntax! This is true throughout the document, and the document even recognizes in the 9th Amendment that we have all the rights not specifically mentioned.

“The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

If the Constitution gave rights, then the syntax of the 9th would say something like “that the people shall enjoy” or “that the people shall have” instead of retained by the people.”

The meaning of the subtle difference here is profound, and has vast implications!

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