Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Turley: propose independent bad law review

This could be an excellent idea, but who would make the appointments? Turley's proposal doesn't cover how the members of the independent commission he suggests would be chosen. Would the appointments be made by the same state legislatures and governors who now propose not only bad laws and sign bad laws into the legal domain, but also propose and enact unconstitutional laws, such as what we have here in Pensylvania in the form of tax-exemptions called Keystone Opportuntiy Zones.

I'd be all for an independent commission made up of citizens - regular citizens - but therein is another problem. Would the citizens be aware of the current PA Constitution and its contents, and would they be able to review laws and make judgements about what are unconstitutional enactments?

I'm not so sure they would as there has been little, miniscule outcry in PA regarding the Keystone Opportunity Zones. You'd think Pennsylvanians who had to foot the bill for those who have tax exemptions on local property taxes (and other taxes including local and state) in addition to their own taxes would have already stormed Harrisburg. They haven't. You'd think they'd start the tarring and feathering the first time a homeowner comes upon hard times and loses his home to the county tax sales while at the same time the individual across the county is living tax-free for ten years in a house worth a couple hundred-thousand dollars.

The KOZs were implemented by former Governor Tom Ridge and his Republican majority state legislature back in 1998, and continue to this day all around the state and supported by now Governor Edward Rendell and a slight majority Democrat state legislature.

So in Pennsylvania, an independent commission would likely not even take a look at the KOZ legislation as it would be way too political to eliminate it wholly as unconstitutional since the legislation spans both Republican and Democratic majorities.

What we need are citizens who band together and start a legal challenge to a long-list of laws such as the Keystone Opportunity Zones.

What we need are individuals who are aware of their rights for jury nullification, for instance. When they are called in to jury duty to decide the facts of the case, they can determine the law the case rests on is contrary to the PA Constitution, and natural or common law.

We don't need an independent commission that will be politicized. We need active citizens aware of the foundation of our country and our independent states.

Ask the man on the street what the Ninth Amendement to the Constitution is about and he'd give you a blank stare.

Ask the man on the street in Pennsylvania what is the uniformity clause contained in the PA Constitution about and he'd give you a blank stare.

We need people who are willing to hold these elected officials accountable each and every time they continue their own abrogation of either the U.S. Constititution or the constitution of their own state.

But what happens? The same Democrat and Republican party is sent back into office. Names and faces may change from time to time, but the basic tenets these two political parties hold remains the same, and so the unconstitutional acts keep on coming under new administrations.

Jonathan Turley opinion:

Justice? What a joke.
Low-rider jeans that are too low? Call 911. Failing to shovel that snow-covered sidewalk? Book 'em. In America today, lawmakers are criminalizing innocent behavior at an alarming rate and undermining our criminal justice system.
By Jonathan Turley
Texas Rep. Wayne Smith is tired of hearing about parents missing meetings with their children's teachers. His proposed solution is simple: Prosecute such parents as criminals. In Louisiana, state Sen. Derrick Shepherd is tired of seeing teenagers wearing popular low-rider pants that show their undergarments — so he would like to criminally charge future teenagers who are caught "riding low."

Across the USA, legislators are criminalizing everything from spitting on a school bus to speaking on a cellphone while driving. Criminalizing bad behavior has become the rage among politicians, who view such action as a type of legislative exclamation point demonstrating the seriousness of their cause. As a result, new crimes are proliferating at an alarming rate, and we risk becoming a nation of criminals where carelessness or even rudeness is enough to secure a criminal record...

...The criminalization of America might come as a boon for politicians, but it comes at considerable cost for citizens and society. For citizens, a criminal record can affect everything from employment to voting to child custody — not to mention ruinous legal costs.

Yet, it now takes only a fleeting mistake to cross the line into criminal conduct. In Virginia, when a child accused Dawn McCann of swearing at a bus stop, she was charged criminally — as have been other people accused of the crime of public profanity.

Our insatiable desire to turn everything into a crime is creating a Gulag America with 714 incarcerated persons per 100,000 — the highest rate in the world. Millions of people are charged each year with new criminal acts that can stretch from first-degree murder to failing to shovel their sidewalks.

We can find better ways to deal with runaway bushes, castaway pets, or even potty-mouth problems. Congress and the states should create independent commissions to review their laws in order to decriminalize negligent conduct, limiting criminal charges to true crimes and true criminals. In the end, a crime means nothing if anyone can be a criminal.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University and a member of USA TODAY's board of contributors.


No comments: