Wednesday, April 22, 2009
David Gans, the Director of the Human & Civil Rights Program at the Constitutional Accountability Center, argued earlier this week that Monday's Ninth Circuit Second Amendment case gets us closer to working out a coherent basis for incorporation of the Bill of Rights via the Fourteenth Amendment Privileges or Immunities Clause (and not the Due Process Clause). Gans:
The Nordyke opinion moves our country a big step closer to a historic opportunity for the Supreme Court to finally recognize that Slaughter-House was wrong when written, and restore the Privileges or Immunities Clause to its rightful place.
Gans and CAC founder and President Douglas Kendall published an important report late last year tracing the history of the P or I Clause and arguing that it, not the Due Process Clause, was originally (and still is) the proper basis for incorporation. They also filed an amicus brief making this argument in the Seventh Circuit Second Amendment case.
Gans's post is an excellent analysis of this component--incorporation via P or I--of the Ninth Circuit decision. But I'll add to Gans's post this: The Ninth Circuit's narrow, almost too clever rejection of P or I as a basis of incorporation is itself a clear illustration of the disarray in incorporation jurisprudence and a strong argument for clarifying incorporation doctrine by using the much simpler, more obvious, and historically correct vehicle of the P or I Clause.
This is what I mean. The Ninth Circuit rejected the P or I Clause as the basis for incorporation by turning to its own prior ruling on the issue in Fresno Rifle. The Ninth Circuit in that case rejected Second Amendment incorporation, but it didn't specify the clause--P or I, or Due Process--upon which it rejected incorporation. So the Nordyke panel looked more closely at Fresno Rifle and discovered that Fresno Rifle relied upon Cruikshank and Presser--two cases that "involved direct application and incorporation through the Privileges and Immunities Clause, but not incorporation through the Due Process Clause." Thus, the Nordyke panel said, Fresno Rifle was really a rejection of incorporation via P or I. The Nordyke panel made Fresno Rifle into the Ninth Circuit's Slaughterhouse, or at least its Cruikshank and Presser.
This is exactly the kind of analytical gymnastic--building bad case cleverly upon bad cases--that, at the Supreme Court, led to the "current disarray" of Fourteenth Amendment jurisprudence. Saenz v. Roe (Thomas, J., dissenting).
This is more than just critique of the Ninth Circuit's approach. It's also a prudential argument--to complement Gans and Kendall's originalism and textual arguments--to work out a coherent basis for incorporation now.
If the Ninth Circuit needs to make this kind of clever maneuver to incorporate via Due Process--and to avoid incorporation via P or I--isn't it time for the Court to overturn Slaughterhouse and incorporate via the much cleaner P or I?