Monday, November 16, 2009
Petitioners in McDonald v. City of Chicago, the Second Amendment case now before the Supreme Court, filed their merits brief today and argued full force that the individual right to bear arms is protected against state interference by the Fourteenth Amendment Privileges or Immunities Clause.
The petitioners' aggressive argument on the Privileges or Immunities Clause--and the after-thought treatment of the Due Process Clause--opens the door for a reevaluation of how the Court treats claims that fundamental rights, including those in the Bill of Rights, apply against the states.
Petitioners' Privileges or Immunities claim was rejected by the Seventh Circuit. That court ruled that The Slaughter-House Cases (holding that the P or I Clause does not incorporate the Bill of Rights, en bloc, to the states), and U.S. v. Cruikshank, Presser v. Illinois, and Miller v. Texas (all rejecting arguments that the P or I Clause incorporates the Second Amendment to the states) were still good law, even if they are universally criticized and even defunct. The Seventh Circuit also rejected the petitioners' Due Process argument. (The Second Circuit, in a panel including then-Judge Sotomayor, similarly rejected a claim that the Second Amendment applied against the states, but the Ninth Circuit ruled that it did. The full Ninth Circuit voted to rehear the case en banc.)
Petitioners argue, as they must, that The Slaughter-House Cases, U.S. v. Cruikshank, and Presser v. Illinois should be overruled.
Here's a taste:
And yet this Court's various approaches to [applying fundamental rights, including those in the Bill of Rights, to the states under] the Fourteenth Amendment fall short of upholding this provision's essential promise. State violations of rights understood and intended by the ratifying public to receive significant Fourteenth Amendment protection are not meaningfully secured by the federal courts. Moreover, the failure to honor the Fourteenth Amendment's original public meaning foments confusion and controversy as courts pursue other approaches to protecting core individual rights.
This case presents a rare opportunity to correct a serious error, honor the Fourteenth Amendment's true meaning, and bring a needed measure of clarity to this Court's civil-rights jurisprudence.
The Fourteenth Amendment's Privileges or Immunities Clause forbids the States from abridging civil rights, including those codified in the Bill of Rights. . . .
SlaughterHouse's illegitimacy has long been all-but-universally understood. It deserves to be acknowledged by this Court. Because SlaughterHouse rests on language not actually in the Constitution, contradicts the Fourteenth Amendment's original textual meaning, defies the Framers' intent, and supplies a nonsensical definition for Section One's key protection of civil rights, overruling this error and its progeny remains imperative.