Recently in Preemption Category

There's a good discussion in conservative circles about defining a new "conservative vision" in time for the 2016 Presidential election (while there is almost no fresh intellectual output among progressives right now, especially about health care). Too many conservatives are still pining for the Reagan Days, which were fabulous (I came to Washington as a political appointee during the Reagan Administration), but it's time to move on and redefine conservatism for today's America. But one right explicitly protected in the Bill of Rights, and described by the Founders as "sacred," seems to be missing from the discussion.

For instance, Yuval Levin, editor of the quarterly National Affairs, wrote, "A Conservative Governing Vision," for National Review on May 28. He noted that what matters most to conservatives is the relationship of the individual and the state, and the "mediating institutions" between us and the state, such as families, churches, the local community, and the economy. In contrast, Levin says that progressives "have always viewed those mediating institutions that stand between the individual and the government with suspicion, seeing them as instruments of division, prejudice, and selfishness or as power centers lacking in democratic legitimacy." Progressives, in his mind, tend towards increasing the power of Washington to clear away those institutions and order our lives through compliance with public policy goals and directives. Levin sees conservatives as "empowering and incentivizing people nearest to the problems to find and apply solutions that work for them. This still involves a crucial and active role for government, but it is a much less intrusive and managerial role."

While I agree with most of Yuval Levin's piece, there's one major flaw in his Left v. Right analysis: the Left embraces the more democratic, more local means of settling civil disputes through a jury of peers - the "mediating institution" designed by the Founders based on centuries of Judeo-Christian and British-American tradition. It's the Left that protects and promotes the right to a civil jury trial that is protected by the Seventh Amendment to the Constitution. Meanwhile, the Right has increasingly accepted and proposed limits on that right through various types of "tort reform," such as centrally imposed caps on damages or a "Loser Pays" system that the Founders rejected (a.k.a. "fee-shifting").

It's the Left that is fighting mandatory clauses in consumer contracts that force us into a secret and unfair arbitration process with the rules dictated by the business. It's the Right, pushed by its corporate partners, that pushed for and won recent Supreme Court decisions that transformed one law, the Federal Arbitration Act of 1925, into the most powerful law governing our rights in everyday commerce.

It's the Left that's citing states' rights to protect the right of state legislatures, state Attorney Generals, and individual Americans to bring civil suits in state courts against businesses for defective products, from pacemakers that can electrocute you to foreign-made drywall that can poison you. It's the Right that has pushed the pre-emption of states' and individual rights through the protection of defective products through federal approval by the bureaucracies of the FDA and the CPSC.

Certainly the Left isn't pure in its proclamations on constitutional rights - too many progressives are stuck in their own time warp and hypocrisies, using the power of the EPA to overrun local land use authority and pushing the new Consumer Financial Protection Board to interfere in our financial affairs and our privacy. And many of them are still hopelessly against the Second Amendment. But when it comes to protecting the Seventh Amendment right to a civil jury trial, the Left is way ahead of the Right.

Sad to say, none of the superstars in conservative politics, media, or think tanks write or say anything about the nature, history or importance of the Seventh Amendment. Sen. Rand Paul has periodically spoken eloquently about the importance of jury trials in general, but no 2016 Republican Presidential contender has joined him (while Sen. Paul's father, former Rep. Ron Paul, actively opposed federal tort reform). No conservative politician in America has written of the Seventh Amendment right to a civil jury trial as clearly as liberal Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse did last year at a seminar. The only place in conservative America where you'll see any promotion of the right to civil jury trials is on websites and opinion pieces connected to the Tea Party. Judson Phillips of Tea Party Nation, whom I've quoted often, is clearly the conservative commentator who best understands and defends the Seventh Amendment.

Yet the right to a civil jury trial is centuries old, established in British law by the Magna Carta, sealed 799 years ago on the plains of Runnymede in England, when peasants and farmers forced King John to recognize their basic human rights. And the right to restitution for civil damages and to be judged by peers is as old as Moses - literally - codified in the Book of Exodus. Early state constitutions written by the Founders described the right to a civil jury trial as "sacred," and James Madison described it "as essential to secure the liberty of the people as any one of the pre-existent rights of nature." It was the Seventh Amendment, not the First or Second, that was unanimously adopted by all of the states in the new United States. John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison - three of our first four Presidents - were crystal clear in their respect for civil jury trials, long before the drafting of the Constitution.

Why do modern conservatives who draft "vision statements" ignore a concept that was so obvious to the Founding Fathers? It not only isn't rocket science, it isn't even political philosophy.

So in order to claim a consistent high ground, any "conservative governing vision" should stand on the shoulders of the Founders and proclaim, fearlessly and loudly, that the locally based mediating institution of the jury of our peers is the principle upon which civil disputes will be resolved. All artificial barriers to the free exercise of that right in the form of damage caps, pre-dispute mandatory arbitration clauses, and fee-shifting mandates should be opposed. That right should extend to all courts and cases, state and federal, through the incorporation of the Seventh Amendment to the states. The Founding Fathers designed a civil justice system for suits over all cases and causes, from trespass to defective products. As veteran Republican Rep. John Duncan said on radio two years ago, "I have faith in the people - I have faith in the jury system... In fact, I can tell you, you have better regulation by juries than you have by federal government regulators - it's more effective."

There are hints and whispers of an awakening to the necessity for consistent fidelity to each of the ten amendments in the Bill of Rights in the writings of constitutional experts such as Randy Barnett, Rob Natelson, Ilya Somin and others, and in comments by some Republican Attorneys General. Yuval Levin joined Republican healthcare expert James Capretta in proposing an Obamacare alternative without caps on damages, one of a number of GOP-side plans without tort reform. But those are still timid first steps toward the defense of the Seventh Amendment that you can already find in the writings of the civil justice movement of the Left.

It's time for the Right to step out and take the high ground of the Bill of Rights.

Any conference that puts conservatives such as James Glassman, Fred Smith of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Pete Sepp of the National Taxpayers Union, and Judson Phillips of Tea Party Nation with Jim Hightower, Medea Benjamin of CODE PINK, and Lori Wallach of Global Trade Watch is worth paying attention to, if for no reason other than to see if a fight breaks out. But Ralph Nader is doing that for the serious purpose of forging an "unstoppable" coalition to end Crony Capitalism, the special favors dished out by the federal government to cooperative businesses, usually of the large and politically powerful variety. It's the subject of his latest book and a recent article in, of all places, The American Conservative.

The "Unstoppable Right/Left Convergence Event" will be held on Tuesday, May 27, at the Carnegie Institute in Washington. The speakers will address issues such as corporate welfare, international trade, the defense budget and civil liberties.

Some of these participants are already working together on issues of common concern. For instance, Lori Wallach and Judson Phillips have already collaborated in fighting the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade treaty that I refer to as "Obamatrade" because, like Obamacare, it would be a largely secret and huge law that would enable bureaucrats to crush states' and individual rights. Lori Wallach criticizes the TPP's impact on collective bargaining, while Judson Phillips hammers it for overriding constitutional government and our rights.

I was honored to be invited by Mr. Nader to participate, but have a conflict. I hope the May 27 conference will be the first in a series and I look forward to participating in the future. And I hope constitutional conservatives will commend Ralph Nader for engineering this conference and trying to forge a new coalition.

It would be hard to find the political positions on which conservatives such as former Congressman and retired Army Col. Allen West and Tea Party leader Judson Phillips agree with progressives such as Lori Wallach, director of the Global Trade Watch program at Public Citizen. So it's noteworthy that they agree that Pres. Obama's proposal for Congress to grant him fast-track authority to enact the Trans-Pacific Partnership mega-trade treaty could severely compromise our Constitutional rights to civil justice. Here are some quotes:

TPP would subject the U.S. to the jurisdiction of foreign tribunals under the authority of the World Bank and United Nations. These unelected, unaccountable panels would constitute a judicial authority higher than the U.S. Supreme Court. They would have the power to overrule federal court rulings and order payment of U.S. tax dollars to enforce the special privileges granted to foreign firms that would be exempt from EPA and other regulations that strangle American firms.

Former Congressman and LTC. Allen West (USA, Ret.), writing on the Breitbart website.

TPP sells out American sovereignty, making American laws inferior to rulings by the World Bank and other international bodies, such as the United Nations. Americans who do business with foreign corporations will find their 7th Amendment rights to a civil jury trial are abrogated; American law will not apply.

Tea Party leader Judson Phillips in his piece, Trans Pacific Partnership - Obamatrade - worse for US than Obamacare, in the Washington Times.

And, yes, once again Fast Track is the key: as the governments of the other TPP countries have come to realize that U.S. negotiators are at odds with Congress on many aspects of the deal, they are loath of make concessions that will expose them to political wrath at home. The only thing worse than trading away your population's access to affordable medicines, or submitting your nation to the authority of foreign tribunals that can demand unlimited payments from your national treasury, in exchange for the right to sell more dairy or sugar here is doing so and not getting your thirty pieces of silver.

Lori Wallach in Get Ready for the 2014 Trade Tsunami, on the Common Dreams website.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement that Pres. Obama is pushing would override our constitutional rights to seek justice in our federal and state courts. This is international preemption of our laws - a real loss of sovereignty. It's the equivalent of a giant international forced arbitration process, with individual Americans' consumer rights crushed by a foreign tribunal. Constitutional conservatives and lawyers of all stripes should oppose this and tell Congress to resist it.

Col. West, Judson Phillips and Lori Wallach warn conservatives and progressives against first enacting fast-track trade authority, which would enable Pres. Obama to submit the TPP agreement to Congress for approval by a simple majority without amendment. All three understand the incredible impact that the TPP would have on American law and everyday life. Here's Col. West:

President Obama wants fast track power so he can conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an expansive system of global governance that would deal a mortal blow to American sovereignty and our Constitution.

Fast track overrides the Constitution once -- the Trans-Pacific Partnership overrides it forever.

TPP is billed a free trade agreement, but it is actually protectionism for Wall Street bailout banks, insurance and drug companies profiting off Obamacare, and the corporatists pushing open borders and amnesty under the rubric of "immigration reform." The cronies with "access" in Washington are writing the deal while the rest of us are shut out.

Judson Phillips has another name for the entire process: Obamatrade. Fast-track and TPP are the Obamacare of trade treaties. Like Obamacare, the TPP has been drafted in secret with no Congressional debate, Congress would have to enact it for us to know everything it does, and it would override our constitutional rights.

But there's one big difference between Obamatrade and Obamacare: the Democratic Party is split over Obamatrade. Labor unions, environmental groups, and civil justice advocates on the left know their interests would be crushed by the TPP. They've pushed numerous Democratic Members of Congress into opposing, or at least not supporting, fast-track authority and the TPP.

As they say, politics makes strange bedfellows. It's time for conservatives to join with liberals to tell Obama to amend the TPP and submit it with full and open debate. Conservatives and progressives who cherish our independence and the Bill of Rights, including the 7th Amendment right to a civil jury trial, should heed warnings of these three experts and activists, contact Congress, and tell them to just say "NO!" to Obamatrade.

Lots of Congressional Republicans profess allegiance to federalism and the protection of states' rights enunciated under the Tenth Amendment, as well as to protecting First and Second Amendment rights. But when industry associations look for special deals so they don't have to be held accountable, too many Republicans catch "immunity disease," support bills that violate states' rights, immunize whole industries from civil litigation, crush our Seventh Amendment rights and expand the federal government's power over our lives. These Republicans morph before your eyes from Federalists into Crony Capitalists. Two examples tell the story.

1. S. 1009, the "Chemical Safety Improvement Act"

S. 1009, the "Chemical Safety Improvement Act," is a proposal to supposedly "modernize" and "update" the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the federal law governing the regulation of toxic substances such as formaldehyde, asbestos and lead. But this 127-page bill gives new and frightful powers to the EPA and the chemical industry to strangle the constitutional rights of average Americans. It's actually the result of a combo of Crony Capitalism and Enviro-Wackoism, mixed in with Democrats' sympathy for a dead colleague. It's the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg's last bill, and some Democrats signed onto it just out of respect, without actually reading it - I know this for a fact. But some pro-industry Republicans are lining up for it without concern for states' or individual rights.

The bill gives broad new powers to the EPA Administrator to "promote innovation and sustain a globally competitive chemical industry in the United States." Have Republicans forgotten EPA's "Cross-State Air Pollution Rule" that threatened power plants, or EPA's attempts to shut down boilers and cement plants? Why would Republicans now think that the Obama EPA will "promote competition?"

Under Section 4, the EPA will force industry to provide business-sensitive data and information through the use of what the bill calls "voluntary agreements." Does Uncle Sam ever make us do anything "voluntarily?!" If a company doesn't "volunteer," will they get raided like Gibson Guitar, or see the Obama IRS knocking at their doorstep? Haven't we had enough snooping?

The EPA would have the sole authority to define what constitutes the "best evidence" and a "safety standard" that would then be forced upon any dissenting state, company or individual in a local agency or court case. Right now, state legislatures and courts can use studies from different sources to regulate the toxic substances covered by this bill. That will end under S. 1009; the states would be forced into accepting the EPA's decisions. So much for the Tenth Amendment.

That led the nonpartisan National Conference of State Legislators to object to the chairman and top Republican of the Senate committee with jurisdiction over the bill. "However, NCSL cannot support any reform of TSCA that preempts state regulations in this area. Section 15 of the bill entitled "Preemption" is a broad state preemption provision that adversely impacts states' abilities to protect their citizens."

Finally, if the EPA takes any action on any chemical under this bill, American consumers injured or killed by a toxic chemical would be effectively banned from suing the company based on state tort law. Section 15 of the bill states that no state may create a new, or continue to enforce an existing, restriction on the manufacture, processing, distribution, or use of a chemical after EPA completes a safety determination for that chemical. When the EPA completes a safety determination for a high-priority substance under Section 6, that safety determination becomes: 1) admissible in state and federal courts, and 2) "determinative of whether the substance meets the safety standard under the conditions of use addressed in the safety determination." Not only does this provision strip away the power of state judges to determine relevant evidence in their own courtrooms, it would grant total immunity from state tort law claims for any chemical that the EPA has determined to be "safe." Even when the EPA doesn't act on a specific chemical, the presumption will be that the chemical is safe.

Instead of overriding state law, Congress should retain state-law based causes of action and ensure that injured parties can be compensated by negligent chemical manufacturers for their injuries. Moreover, if state tort law is preempted, chemical companies will not have the same incentives to ensure their products are safe.

Too many Republican Senators who claim to be "Constitutional conservatives" are co-sponsors of S. 1009. Even Sen. Mike Crapo, who normally acts to protect Seventh and Tenth Amendment Rights, signed up for this bill. Fortunately, it appears that the House GOP is in no mood right now to expand the power of the EPA, override states and endanger our rights in this area.

That doesn't mean the House GOP has rid itself of the "immunity disease."

2. H.R. 2300, the "Empowering Patients First Act of 2013"

Republican Rep. Tom Price, M.D. has proposed H.R. 2300, the "Empowering Patients First Act of 2013," as an alternative to Obamacare. In previous Obamacare alternatives, Dr. Price has proposed unconstitutional federal limits on damages in medical malpractice lawsuits, but those are not in this bill. While it's encouraging to see that he doesn't propose federal caps on medical malpractice damages in the bill, there are still Seventh and Tenth Amendment issues in at least two sections in the bill.

Section 502 would authorize the HHS Secretary to award grants to States "for the development, implementation, and evaluation of administrative health care tribunals," a new set of courts devoted solely to resolving health care disputes. And the section stipulates the qualifications of the members of the tribunals and interferes with the decisions of state judges now operating under state law. Is Dr. Price seeking to immunize medical professionals from negligence by substituting "expert opinion" for the decision of a jury of the plaintiff's peers, the system the Founding Fathers protected? What section in the Constitution gives Congress the authority to create these courts and dictate their makeup? Why should Republicans encourage the creation of another court system in each state and then tell the states who can serve on the court? Why would we Republicans use federal law to take the authority to decide these cases out of the hands of local juries? Since when do Republicans turn disappointment over "unjust" jury verdicts into federal law overriding state law and courts? And why do health care professionals deserve their own set of courts when they're sued? Why not teachers or first responders or some other special profession?

Section 503 states orders that certain payments in excess of $50,000 "in any health care lawsuit" should be made in accordance with the Uniform Periodic Payment of Judgments Act promulgated by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. Again, which section of the Constitution authorizes Congress to so order payments in a state court case to be made that way? And why would Republicans ignore each state's established procedure for payments and a jury's damages determination in court decisions? And again, why do "health care lawsuits" deserve special treatment over lawsuits over other decisions?

Again, some Republicans who pride themselves on protecting states' rights, such as Rep. Rob Bishop, have mysteriously co-sponsored this bill, perhaps thinking that a bill without federal caps honors federalism and individual rights.

These and other bills expand federal authority in ways the Founding Fathers never envisioned. And for some reason, some Republicans (not all) still don't realize that by overriding state law and courts, they invite Democrats to do the same for their agenda - Republicans play right into Democrats' hands. Republican arguments for preemption of state law, based on Commerce Clause rulings by the Supreme Court starting with Wickard v. Filburn, led eventually to the enactment and defense of Obamacare.

Republicans have to reject the "immunity disease" that leads to Crony Capitalism and a bigger federal government.

Haven't we had enough snooping into our private records by the government and its agents in the private sector? If you live in Florida, there could be more on the way.

A new Florida law invites snooping into private medical records. The law, enacted as S.B. 1792 and designated as Chapter 2013-108 of the Laws of Florida, went into effect yesterday, July 1. It enables defendants in medical malpractice cases in Florida to contact the health care providers of the victims and demand the unlimited release of personal health information, and all without the victims' consent. So if you want to file a malpractice lawsuit in Florida and you have any embarrassing information in your medical past, you better be prepared to see it released to the public in an open courtroom.

The geniuses in the Florida legislature and Governor's Mansion who thought this up apparently want to protect bad doctors, hospitals, clinics, and nurses from the consequences of their negligence.

One little problem for them: their special protection scheme might violate federal law.

Do the initials "HIPAA" mean anything to you? Unless you haven't been in a doctor's office or hospital anytime in the past decade, you've heard of it. It stands for the "Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act," and that law requires medical providers to protect patient information and use that information only for treatment, payment, and healthcare tasks. Under HIPAA, your medical providers cannot disclose your private medical records unless they're subpoenaed, demanded through a discovery request in a civil suit, or through some other judicial order. HIPAA expressly overrides state law, unless the state law grants even more privacy protection than HIPAA.

The Florida law doesn't provide for any judicial order and doesn't mandate a subpoena - it just allows the lawyer for the medical provider to harass the victim's medical provider into turning over the victim's private records.

Five lawsuits have been filed in state and federal courts in Florida to declare that law invalid. Here's one of the lawsuits, filed in federal court in West Palm Beach.

And remember that the Founding Fathers designed the civil justice system, in part, to protect us from a government that oversteps its boundaries, violates our rights, and gives special favors to a few at the expense of the rest of us. There's no reason for Florida to give the defendants in medical malpractice cases a key to open the door to some of our most sensitive personal information.

If you live in Florida, call your state representative and senator and demand that they repeal S.B. 1792 NOW.

Here we go again. Today the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence voted to recommend H.R. 624, the "Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act of 2013," or CISPA, to the entire House for approval. The bill supposedly enables only a "sharing" of "anonymous cyber threat information between the government and the private sector so they can protect their networks and their customers' private information." But it's basically the same bill as last year's, when groups from all points of view, from Tea Party groups to the ACLU, objected to the lack of protection for personally identifiable information and other violations of our internet privacy.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation recently released a laundry list of problems with the bill. Here are the highlights:

(1) The bill supposedly limits exposure to only "cyber threat information." But the definition of that term doesn't exclude personally identifiable information. Social Security numbers are "cyber threat information" in the wrong hands. Private emails are too - is that what you want your cable company to turn over to the Feds? If you tell your relatives that Obama is a socialist, will Comcast or Verizon turn it over to the FBI? You up for that?

(2) The bill doesn't define "cybersecurity systems" either. Companies can use a "cybersecurity system" to "identify or obtain" information about a potential threat, but the term isn't limited to security software or intrusion systems; the term "system" is never defined. No privacy protection there.

(3) CISPA encourages companies to conduct their own surveillance on their networks and turn over whatever they deem "cyber threat information" to the government, with a promise of total immunity from civil or criminal lawsuits. So it strips the utilities, internet and telecom companies of any accountability and allows them to create a private spying program. CISPA strips us of our constitutional right to hold those companies accountable for turning over our personal information, whether by design or error.

House GOP leaders went through this exercise last year, only to find The People standing in the way. But they haven't learned. They're about to let the same wild-and-crazy gun-control liberals, like Obama, Pelosi and Dianne Feinstein, effective control over our private data and emails. DiFi has her own CISPA ready to go. WHAT ARE BOEHNER AND CANTOR THINKING?

Tell your Congressman and Senator NO, TODAY, and that YOU will personally hold THEM accountable for messing with our internet and our privacy. Tell them to give up on this year's version of CISPA.

In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Pliva v. Mensing that a generic drug maker has no responsibility to update its warning label with new or undisclosed risks, because under federal law the drug must follow the brand label. The Court reasoned that under FDA regulations only brand drug manufacturers can automatically update their labels, and generic manufacturers must accept that label. As such, state claims against a generic manufacturer based on the content of inadequate warning labels must be preempted.

As a result, courts have dismissed hundreds of cases of patients that have been injured by dangerous generic drugs, including cases involving generic Darvocet, Reglan, Phenergan, and Ambien, citing Mensing. Pharmaceutical companies, including those making generic drugs, get a free ride because they're not required to update the warning labels and/or disclose new findings of potential harm to the public.

The Court recognized that its ruling "makes little sense" in the context of its other preemption decisions; for instance, in a previous decision involving federal preemption of state suits over defective drugs, the Court stated:

State tort suits uncover unknown drug hazards and provide incentives for drug manufacturers to disclose safety risks promptly. They also serve a distinct compensatory function that may motivate injured persons to come forward with information. Failure-to-warn actions, in particular, lend force to the FDCA's premise that manufacturers, not the FDA, bear primary responsibility for their drug labeling at all times. Thus, the FDA long maintained that state law offers an additional, and important, layer of consumer protection that complements FDA regulation.

Wyeth v Levine, 555 U.S. 555 (2009), pp. 579-80

The Mensing ruling was another blow to the states' right to administer civil justice in an area where state authority had been upheld for decades. But it wasn't the first such decision by the Court. In Riegel v. Medtronic, Inc. (2008), the Court found that in certain circumstances, a person's ability to bring a medical-device claim under state law is preempted by federal law. The Court ruled that for only "Class III" medical devices approved by the FDA under the pre-market approval process, no state law cause of action would be allowed to go forward. That case resulted in the dismissal of hundreds of cases involving defective heart pacemakers and artificial joints. The Court recently heard case involving defective generic drugs, Mutual Pharmaceutical v. Bartlett, that will decide whether generic makers face any responsibility for the overall design of the drugs they produce.

Whether the Court continues to preempt state civil suits or not, we know that the FDA cannot guarantee the safety of generic drugs. Attorney Keith Jensen recently discussed the FDA's failure to protect our health, in an interview on the "What's Up" radio program in Houston, hosted by Terry Lowry. As Mr. Jensen explained, pharmaceutical companies send trucks filled with boxes of data to the FDA with a simple letter stating that their new drug is safe and should be approved for sale. The FDA, without its own labs, reviews the company's mountain of data but cannot conduct an independent verification. Without evidence to the contrary, the FDA rubber stamps the pharmaceutical's request for sale. You can download Segment One of the interview here, then Segment Two, and then Segment Three.

We need to protect the Founding Father's vision of a vibrant civil justice system, based in the 7th Amendment right to a jury trial for civil suits, to serve as a truly effective accountability mechanism.

This is an issue in which Congress should enact a law to restore our lost rights. Please tell your Congressman and Senator to level the playing field and restore states' rights and accountability for defective generics.

Here's why real conservatives should oppose the Ryan budget:

1. It maintains the federal leviathan working to control our lives. FACTS: The Ryan budget won't result in the single closure of any sizable federal agency and explicitly avoids layoffs of federal workers. As Roll Call newspaper put it, "Ryan's budget eliminates the deficit in 2023 not because of large new spending cuts relative to his past budgets, but because he's keeping hundreds of billions of dollars a year of President Barack Obama's own budget policies in place." There's nothing "conservative" about using Obama's phony budgeting.

2. The Ryan budget also maintains the Obamacare and fiscal cliff taxes needed to fund Big Uncle Sam. Again, quoting Roll Call, "Ryan's budget also would not balance without the $600 billion-plus increase in taxes extracted by the president in the fiscal cliff deal." What's "conservative" about backing Obama's tax increase?

3. The result of the Ryan spending and tax decisions is that he sacrifices the conservative principle of reducing the role of the federal government for a goal of a balanced budget, which is a numbers exercise (albeit an important one). And that is exactly what happened in the Reagan budgets (I was there) and during the Gingrich era in the 1990s, when we achieved a budget surplus but didn't get Big Uncle Sam out of our lives. Is that what conservatives want?

4. The Ryan budget violates the 10th Amendment and restricts the 7th Amendment right to civil jury trials. It unconstitutionally crushes each state's right to maintain its own civil justice system, by mandating federal limits on damages available in healthcare-related lawsuits. The plan ignores the opinions of the most respected Republican-side and libertarian legal experts and officials who have repeatedly written that Congress has no authority to enact federal caps on medical malpractice lawsuits, especially under the majority opinion in the Supreme Court's Obamacare opinion. These experts include Prof. Randy Barnett; Virginia AG Ken Cuccinelli; legal experts Rob Natelson, John Baker and Carrie Severino; and Reps. Ted Poe, Louie Gohmert and Lee Terry, and Senators Tom Coburn and Mike Lee. The National Conference of State Legislators has always protested federal caps as a violation of the states' right to operate their civil justice systems without federal interference. Tea party leaders such as Judson Phillips and the Tea Party Patriots criticized the passage of caps by the Republican House in the last session of Congress.

5. The same caps do nothing to raise the quality of health care in the U.S., which is why Republican-side healthcare experts don't support federal caps on such lawsuits (e.g., Avik Roy, Jim Capretta and Tom Miller). A recent study by respected academics punctures five myths of medical malpractice, but these realities are ignored by Rep. Ryan and House leadership.

6. The combination of the continued federal presence in the regulatory agencies and the proposed civil immunity for the entire medical community, from doctors to insurance companies to nursing homes, make the Ryan budget a perfect vehicle for Crony Capitalism. Federal bureaucrats will feel free to preempt state laws and restrict individual freedom in all types of settings. There's no effective "STOP" sign on Uncle Sam in the Ryan budget.

Conservatives and Tea Partiers should oppose the Ryan budget. It doesn't promote the conservative vision of a reduced role for the federal government in our lives. It continues to "feed the beast." It infringes on states' and individual rights. It's not a conservative or Tea Party manifesto and should not excite or inspire any conservative, Tea Partier or libertarian. It doesn't project the Founding Fathers' vision for the nation or for a limited government. There's no reason to spill any political blood over it.

Crony Capitalists (CCs) never quit trying to entice federal officials into giving them special access or favors and shutting millions of the rest of us out of court, so they have no accountability to a local jury for negligence or shoddy service. They've enlisted scores of Members of Congress, many of them self-proclaimed backers of states' rights, in an effort to to override the Founding Fathers' clear guidance that Congress doesn't have authority over state tort law, specifically with respect to lawsuits over healthcare negligence. True Federalists have had some recent success in persuading conservatives to not accede to the CCs' demands, but the CCs never quit. And while we fight that one big battle, CCs have opened up another front, with enormous success thanks to another arm of an all-powerful Uncle Sam.

Under the nose of the vast majority of Americans, Crony Capitalists have been moving to shut out millions of us from exercising our 7th Amendment rights over bad products or services, based on one rarely read paragraph in consumer contracts. That paragraph, in everything from cell phone and car contracts to employment agreements, requires us to submit to binding arbitration, and to not file a lawsuit, as a condition of even buying the product or service. Forced arbitration clauses eliminate the ability to hold wrongdoers accountable, even in the most egregious cases involving the abuse of children and the elderly, intentional wrongdoing, and gross violations of law.

These clauses force us to give up our God-given, constitutionally protected right to go to court in favor of being relegated into a system of secret arbitration, where the arbitrators and the rules are chosen by the very company against whom the individual has a grievance. There are no due process standards, no guarantees that the applicable laws will be upheld, and no public records of the proceedings.

Let me stress that there's nothing wrong with voluntary arbitration in which both sides have an equal chance before an impartial arbitrator in an open process. That's not what happens in the current arbitration environment. The little guy has almost no shot whatsoever. And the mainstream press never touches the subject.

It's been trending this way for years, but Crony Capitalists have received a huge boost from the supposedly-conservative Supreme Court in the quest to shut courthouse doors over forced arbitration clauses. The Court's recent decisions have turned an almost-80-year-old law, the Federal Arbitration Act, into a giant club with which to crush states' and individual rights. Two Texas state judges summarized the state of forced arbitration and recently wrote the following:

Our Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial is vanishing before our very eyes thanks in large part to an increased reliance upon alternate dispute resolution and mandatory arbitration. While a sound argument can be made for the utility of arbitration in arms-length commercial transactions, the consequences are particularly dire in situations involving consumers and employment consequences... AT&T and Rent-A-Center pushed the FAA's scope to new limits. Courts are now unlikely to find contracts with arbitration provisions unconscionable no matter what state law provides. It is obvious that the application of the FAA has expanded beyond its drafters' intent and in the face of apparent deficiencies.

Last week, a federal securities regulator gave preliminary approval to a plan by the discount brokerage firm Charles Schwab to require all 8+ million accountholders to agree to forced arbitration, even if Schwab violates securities law. POOF! There goes the constitutional rights for over 8 million people. Betcha every stock brokerage firm copies Schwab, basically enabling Wall Street, which already liquidated billions in pension accounts, to throw ethics out the window again and take investors into another financial crash without penalty.

Tomorrow we'll see if the Supreme Court will take forced arbitration another step further and force small businesses with American Express accounts to submit to forced arbitration procedures designed and run by AMEX. If the Supremes are consistent, every small business with a Gold Card will know how individuals feel when the phone company tells us to go to arbitration or enjoy our crummy phone.

WHAT'S NEXT?! Will we see a sign on the grocery store door and on receipts, telling us that the purchase of food there constitutes an agreement to not sue it for spoiled, poorly stored food that makes us sick? Will we see a little paragraph on our car mechanic's bill, telling us that we can't sue for a dangerously negligent care repair, even if we're killed?

When will Congress start taking this seriously and change the Federal Arbitration Act so we can exercise our rights in state courts, as the Founders said we should?

UPDATE, March 4: I Discussed this issue on the What's Up radio program, hosted by Terry Lowry and broadcast on 100.7 FM KKHT, the Word Live stream at www.KKHT.com in Houston, TX, and on KBXD-AM 1480 in Dallas. You can download and listen to the interview in three segments:
Segment One
Segment Two
Segment Three

Yesterday was the 102nd birthday of Ronald Reagan, the greatest President of my lifetime, to whom I owe personal and professional thanks for my marriage (to one of his White House secretaries) and my Washington career (beginning as a Reagan Administration political appointee). His personally autographed photo congratulating us on our marriage is one of our most cherished possessions.

Almost two years ago, I researched all of his speeches and writings available on the internet to determine whether he would be considered a "constitutional conservative" by today's standards, meaning fidelity to the Bill of Rights, or whether he would stand with today's "Crony Capitalists" who lobby in Washington for special protection in federal law through the preemption of state law or, worse yet, immunity through federal tort reform. Too many politicians who pass themselves off as constitutional conservatives ditch the 7th Amendment right to civil jury trials and side with Crony Capitalists to protect companies they represent.

I then wrote a special post titled, "What Ronald Reagan REALLY Said About Tort Reform," which I re-posted in January of last year. The conclusion of my research is crystal clear.

Ronald Reagan was never for federal tort reform. He never proposed a federal tort reform bill in his State of the Union speeches, budget proposals, nomination acceptance speeches, or major addresses on the economy.

Reagan's silence in the issue is due primarily to his strong belief in the rights of the states and individual, as protected in the Bill of Rights. Reagan understood, better than almost any political figure of our times, the limitations on central power built into the Constitution and fortified by the Bill of Rights. He highlighted his fidelity to federalism in his first Inaugural Address in 1981:

All of us need to be reminded that the federal government did not create the states; the states created the federal government.

And before that, in his 1979 speech announcing his candidacy:

The federal government has taken on functions it was never intended to perform and which it does not perform well. There should be a planned, orderly transfer of such functions to states and communities and a transfer with them of the sources of taxation to pay for them.

That sounds like a constitutional conservative, not a Crony Capitalist. And I remember that Reagan was the presidential candidate for "Main Street Republicans," including the social conservative movement, while John Connolly of Texas was the guy backed by the "Wall Street Republicans."

In the decades in which he addressed public policy issues as a commentator, Governor and President, he addressed the issue of federal tort reform apparently only once, near the end of his Presidency. In remarks he gave in Washington in April 1986, he remained true to his roots, saying, "To be sure, much tort law would remain to be reformed by the 50 States, not the Federal Government. And in our Federal system of government this is only right." That's a man who knows that Uncle Sam's authority is limited to the powers enumerated in the Constitution. Unlike many on the left and right today, Reagan would have had no inconsistency between his opinion on Obamacare and his thoughts on federal tort reform. He would have found both unconstitutional.

Reagan would feel right at home with the Tea Party base of the Republican Party that recognizes and honors the 7th Amendment right to a jury trial for civil suits. He would have stood with legal scholars Randy Barnett and Rob Natelson; Senators Tom Coburn and Mike Lee; and Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli against the takeover of state tort law by the feds. I have to believe that anyone proposing sweeping preemption of the states' rights to protect citizens and manage courtrooms would've drawn severe skepticism or outright opposition by President Reagan.

So thank you, Ronald Reagan, for your vigorous defense of personal and states' rights, and for so much more.

It wasn't difficult to see liberals standing on the Mall in Washington, bundled in warm clothing and loudly cheering President Obama's Inaugural Address, with the promise of larger and more activist central government deployed to implement a "progressive" agenda. But I saw another group smiling softly deep in the background. It was the Crony Capitalists, watching from warm, comfortable Fortune 100 boardrooms across America and on Wall Street, and their K Street lobbyists in DC, all nodding their heads at the opportunity to transform that vision into new laws and regulations that would benefit their own interests. That's the way it works in Washington, and the rest of us are the cream in the Oreo cookie, stuck in the middle and crushed by both sides.

Liberals, especially those dedicated to the cause of civil justice, should be careful what they wish for in the next four years. An Uncle Sam unleashed from the limits on centralized power designed into the Constitution and Bill of Rights could hinder or even crush the individual right to have civil suits heard before a local jury and the right of state governments to enforce local laws benefitting the consumer. In the hands of Big Government Liberals and Crony Capitalists working behind closed doors in smoke-filled rooms, phrases of Obama's speech such as "collective action" and "common effort" could result in budget "compromises" and "Grand Bargains" that leave us with ugly surprises, such as federal caps on damages in medical malpractice lawsuits filed in state and county courts; preemption of state consumer protection laws; and limits on the authority of state Attorneys General. Is that what liberals signed up for when they cheered President Obama?

Civil justice activists of all stripes should heed and cite the majority decision by the Supreme Court in the Obamacare ruling. Thankfully, the Court expressed the need for the Executive Branch and Congress to recognize and follow constitutional limits on their authority under the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause. Constitutional experts whose theories were adopted by the majority, such as Randy Barnett and Rob Natelson, have already made it clear that the Roberts decision imposed new limits on the unbridled ambition to override state governments and individual rights. Randy Barnett promises to lead any legal challenge to an enacted federal cap on medmal damages, and both experts predict such a law would be struck down by the current Court. As long as that opinion isn't overruled through the appointment of justices who believe in an unlimited Commerce Clause, as promoted in Justice Ginsberg's minority opinion, the Founding Fathers' vision of a civil justice system dominated by local juries, and not bureaucrats in Washington, will remain alive.

Ironic, isn't it? Civil justice advocates on the left need libertarians and constitutional conservative thinkers such as Randy Barnett and Rob Natelson; conservative Republicans such as Ted Poe, Louis Gohmert, Tom Coburn, Mike Lee and Ken Cuccinelli; and wise Tea Party activists such as Judson Phillips, to keep the promise of equality under law. Let's hope civil justice liberals realize it.

On this anniversary of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, I want to highlight the God-given and constitutionally protected rights of American terrorism victims to hold the terrorists and their sponsors accountable in court. Our Founding Fathers designed a civil justice system to enable all Americans to hold wrongdoers accountable for damages. The Founders built this system upon a centuries-old Judeo-Christian ethic, established by Moses among the Israelites and ensconced in Western jurisprudence in the Magna Carta in Britain in 1215.

"Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?" When visitors to Washington, D.C. walk into the beautiful Jefferson Memorial, they look up and read a number of quotes from Thomas Jefferson, including that one. Our Founders had no difficulty identifying Almighty G-O-D as the source of all human rights. In our Founding Documents, God the Creator is explicitly recognized time and again. Jefferson, Adams, Madison, and Washington couldn't comprehend an America that deletes that conviction from our political documents.

It's been my honor to assist American terrorism victims for over seven years in the halls of Congress and the Executive Branch, lobbying for legislation and administrative action to enable their constitutional rights and achieve some measure of justice. Victims of the 9/11 attacks, Muammar Qaddafi's reign of terror, deadly bombings by Hamas in Israel, and Iranian terrorism attacks have benefitted from a bipartisan consensus to help Americans take the terrorists' and their sponsors' money through civil suits. Section 502 of the new Iran sanctions law, signed by President Obama last month, enables the taking of the most money from a state sponsor of terrorism in 30 years, for the benefit of American victims of Iran's terrorism.

I discussed the God-given rights of terrorism victims to hold terrorists accountable, and the need to protect the 7th Amendment right to a jury trial for civil suits in health care lawsuits, on today's edition of the What's Up radio program, hosted by Terry Lowry, broadcast on Sirius Channel 131 and on 12 radio stations. You can download and listen to that show in four segments:

Segment One - Where Do My Rights Come From?
Segment Two - Where Were You On September 11, 2001?
Segment Three and Segment Four - Obamacare, federal caps on medmal lawsuits, and Prof. Randy Barnett's opposition to both.

Columnist Timothy Carney of the Washington Examiner, who has a strong following among conservatives, has followed the "K Street Republicans vs. Tea Party" for several years and wrote again about the conflict last week. And Carney identifies some of the practical points of conflict between the two groups: "The GOP establishment rallies industry donors behind the Republican seen as stronger in November. A deeper reason: The revolving-door clique of K Street and Capitol Hill operatives needs Republicans elected to upper chamber who are likely to play ball."

That's all true, but it's not complete. Industry-side Republicans just see the world differently than people like me and Tea Party allies, such as Judson Phillips or Jenny Beth Martin, who lead and populate the grassroots Tea Party groups, or Rob Natelson and Randy Barnett, who write about the constitutional bases for rolling back Obamacare and limiting the size of the federal government. The pro-Wall Street or U.S. Chamber types, such as the Koch brothers' groups and lobbyists, don't really see the imperative to radically reduce the size and scope of the mechanisms created over the past 50 years to regulate the everyday activities of the American people. They would be perfectly satisfied if the EPA, CPSC, and FDA were forever oriented to be pro-business. They don't care about the historical or constitutional arguments by the Founding Fathers for the right to a civil jury trial. That side of the Republican Party "talks the talk" of limited government but actually fights for federal pre-emption of state laws and courtrooms in almost every aspect of commerce, from products liability law to medical malpractice lawsuits to financial services regulation. That's the difference I see. I'm as pro-business as any of the Kochs towards taxes (too high), overt federal regulation that kills job creation (too much), Obamacare (the worst) and so on. We just fundamentally see the role of the civil jury trial and state courtrooms very differently. The Seventh and Tenth Amendments never enter into their discussions. That's why they argue for H.R. 5, a federal medical malpractice bill, with no citation to any recent constitutional scholarship, while I can point to the writings of numerous respected scholars and like-minded Republicans who know that bill is unconstitutional.

And not all politicians or groups who proclaim themselves as "Tea Party" are really Tea Partiers. The Club for Growth, one such "Tea Party group" named in the Carney article, has asked prospective candidates for their views on federal tort reform and, I assume is for that concept, regardless of its unconstitutionality. Numerous Republican politicians who pass themselves off as "Tea Partiers" or "constitutional conservatives," starting with many Congressional Republican leaders, are pro-federal tort reform in order to bash trial lawyers and collect campaign contributions from business. It's an old habit that dies hard.

Fortunately a growing number of Republican politicians, at all levels of government, are recognizing the reality that federal power isn't unlimited and all ten amendments in the Bill of Rights are worth protecting in law. I've personally seen a number of Republican politicians take a step back from the tort reform agenda and re-evaluate their position upon reading statements by experts they admire, such as Randy Barnett or Sens. Coburn and Lee. The mission for those of us seeking constitutional consistency inside the Republican Party is to persevere, support and convert those open to rational discussion, and recruit candidates to support limited government and constitutional rights before they become committed otherwise. And we have to differentiate between the phony and the real constitutional conservatives.

In a special memorandum issued to House Republicans this week, the four senior House Republicans (Reps. Boehner, Cantor, McCarthy and Hensarling) laid out their plan for implementing a ten-year federal budget under Rep. Paul Ryan's plan and that would avoid cuts in national security and certain domestic programs. In so doing, they thoroughly trashed the concept of state sovereignty over their own judicial systems, and ignored real budget reforms that save far, far more than would their beloved federal medmal limits bill, H.R. 5, the bizarrely named "HEALTH Act." Anyone with a true allegiance to the Constitution and Bill of Rights should see this plan as a death knell of states' rights, delivered by House Republican leadership as a diktat to the Congressmen.

The last section of the memo is titled, "Reforming the Medical Liability System," and it begins by condemning state supreme courts: "Many state supreme courts have judicially nullified reasonable litigation management provisions enacted by state legislatures... " So the leaders apparently don't have much respect for the state judges selected or elected under the state constitutions. But state legislators don't get any respect either, with the leaders stating later in that section, "Further, abusive state tort laws drive what is known as 'defensive medicine,'..." Well, those state tort laws don't just drop out of the sky; they're enacted by the elected representatives of the people under state constitutions.

So, in a little more than a page, the House GOP leaders tell the 50 states and the people who elect the state legislators that they're all idiots unworthy of governing themselves. It's the arrogant, Washington-know-it-all attitude on open display, exactly what the House Republicans were elected to replace under the Capitol dome.

And in between those two quotes is another one, the Big Lie about H.R. 5: "The HEALTH Act also does not preempt any state law that otherwise caps damages." EVERY constitutional scholar who has studied and written on the bill, from Randy Barnett and Rob Natelson and the Heritage Foundation to Ted Frank and Walter Olson, has concluded otherwise. In almost 8 hours of debate on the House floor, and several more this week in the House Judiciary Committee, proponents of H.R. 5 haven't been able to point to ONE, just ONE current scholar who believes that H.R. 5 protects or respects state laws.

The leaders' utter disregard for the Constitution, buttressed with their extraordinarily hypocritical stand against Obamacare on constitutional grounds, is the reason why a small but increasing number of House Republicans are vocally rebelling against the leaders' insistence on H.R. 5. They know that federal tort reform is as violative of states' and individual rights as Obamacare, as both are based on the overly broad, Wickard v. Filburn interpretation of the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause.

These Members also realize that the pittance supposedly saved by H.R. 5, now estimated at $41 billion over ten years (under 1% of the total budget for that period), is dwarfed by Rep. Ryan's own proposal to change Medicare and Medicaid, where the real health care dollars are spent. He estimates his plan would save hundreds of billions of dollars. Whether you agree with that proposal or not, it's an option defended by the senior House Republican on the federal budget.

But House GOP leaders won't propose or defend that plan. Instead, it's full speed ahead on the road to federal control of state courtrooms.

Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee for President, but he can't stop the "Washington GOP" from putting him in an untenable position on various issues. For instance, Republicans in both houses have introduced bills which would protect all oil companies, domestic and foreign, from any liability for deadly accidents from the rig to final distribution. The sponsors of the bills (the Senate's "Domestic Fuels Act," S. 2264, and the House companion bill, the "Domestic Fuels Protection Act," H.R. 4345) want us to believe - they guarantee - that the bills would not discharge Big Oil, including Big Foreign Oil, from deaths and injuries due to negligence. But the language of the bills say otherwise. For instance,

1. As long as a storage tank meets new EPA regulations or guidelines, no entity can be held liable under any federal, state, or local law.

2. The bills give complete immunity to all fuel corporations if a claim is based on the fuel being put into an engine. This immunity extends to every entity on the petroleum chain of commerce, including entities that design, manufacture, sell, distribute or store fuel, fuel additives, blend stocks, vehicles, engines, and non-road equipment.

3. These bills wipe out state and federal consumer protection laws and state product liability laws. Even if injured consumers prove that the product is dangerous and defective and caused catastrophic harm, the manufacturers and retailers will be completely immune, even if they intentionally or recklessly expose consumers to serious health risks.

Once again, the Washington GOP is trying to force legislation through the Congress that would ignore and crush the states' rights to run their own civil litigation systems and compromise Americans' 7th Amendment right to a civil jury trial. Additionally, I don't understand why the Washington GOP wants to extend total immunity to foreign oil companies, especially Hugo Chavez' nationalized oil company, which Chavez uses to raise revenues for his nefarious ventures and to crush democracy in Venezuela.

The Washington GOP has trapped its new Presidential nominee by forcing him to defend a special protection bill for Hugo Chavez and domestic oil companies while Americans are being hammered by record-high gas prices. I'm as pro-oil production as any Republican, and Republicans have already aggressively pursued legislation to promote increased oil production in the U.S. These bills are unnecessary and unwise, both legally and politically.

It's a stunning betrayal of all those hardworking, pro-Constitution Americans who gave U.S. House Republicans their majority.

That's how Rob Natelson, premier constitutional scholar and past Republican candidate, yesterday described the plan concocted by House GOP leaders to force House Republicans to vote for either a bill crushing states' rights or to affirm a key section of the equally unconstitutional Obamacare health care law. After the House adjourned last week, Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Cantor announced that they would push Members to vote for H.R. 5, a bill mandating sweeping a federal takeover of all medical malpractice lawsuits. That bill has been on the shelf for months, thanks to strong conservative opposition. So to make it extremely difficult for GOP Congressmen to oppose it now, Boehner and Cantor attached a very attractive Obamacare repeal bill to H.R. 5. The result is the Hobbesian choice as described succinctly by Rob Natelson: If Republicans vote "aye," they get unconstitutional tort reform. If they vote "no," then they're retaining an unconstitutional part of Obamacare.

Mr. Natelson, a former law professor at the University of Montana, has made a national reputation in constitutional scholarship for identifying the early writings and letters of the Founding Fathers. He has been warning Republicans to avoid H.R. 5 for almost a year. Once again, he takes dead aim at it on the Tenth Amendment Center website:

Although promoted as "medical malpractice reform," the measure is actually a big step toward federal control of state court systems. Essentially, it's a lengthy set of mandates telling state and federal judges how to run their own courts whenever they deal with any health-care-related personal injury cases... This measure tells state judges and legislatures what damages they can allow, when they can allow them, how to instruct their juries, what the time period for bringing suit must be, etc. etc. One section beginning with the words "The provisions governing health care lawsuits set forth in this title preempt . . . State law" is given the Orwellian title, "State Flexibility and Protection of States' Rights."

Mr. Natelson's new blast at the plan to push H.R. 5 was joined yesterday by Prof. Ilya Somin of the George Mason Law School, who criticized House leaders on the legal blog, "Volokh Conspiracy."

"It is indeed true that I have argued that federally mandated tort reform is both constitutionally suspect and largely unnecessary, because interjurisdictional competition gives states strong incentives to reign in their tort lawsuits on their own, as many have already done. House Republicans' support for federal tort reform calls into question the genuineness of the GOP's commitment to respecting constitutional limits on federal power."

Mr. Natelson also slams the hypocrisy of the House GOP leaders for basing their plan to take over state courts on the same constitutional justification as Obamacare:

"How do its sponsors justify this under the Constitution? The same way the national health care zealots justify Obamacare: The Constitution gives Congress power to regulate interstate commerce, so Congress may regulate everything that "affects" commerce, presumably including breathing. Of course, this justification is bogus. When the Constitution was being debated, its supporters emphasized that personal injury law within state boundaries would be a state concern. And although the modern Supreme Court has smudged constitutional boundaries a good deal, it has never authorized congressional micro-meddling of state judicial systems. On the contrary, the Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that states and state courts are constitutionally free of most federal 'commandeering.'

These two respected conservative scholars join the National Conference of State Legislators in opposing H.R. 5.

NOTE: In his post, Prof. Somin comments on my characterization of his positions in my post yesterday about Ted Frank's and Walter Olson's positions on H.R. 5. I certainly did not intend to refer incorrectly to Prof. Somin and have amended that post accordingly.

The National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL), the bipartisan group of state legislators in all 50 states, today announced its continued strong opposition to H.R. 5, the bill to establish federal limits on awards in medical malpractice lawsuits, and to House leadership's plans to force a floor vote on the bill early next week. In a letter to Speaker Boehner and Minority Leader Pelosi, NCSL leaders said that it opposes attaching HR 5 to any piece of legislation and opposes the "one-size-fits-all" approach enacted in the bill. "Medical malpractice, product liability and other areas of tort reform are areas of law that are regulated by the states."

You can download the letter here.

I've traded Tweets this morning with Ted Frank of the Manhattan Institute and is a leading critic of civil litigation, about his position on H.R. 5, the bill mandating limits on awards in medical malpractice lawsuits. With House leadership intent on forcing a floor vote on H.R. 5 next week, I want to remind everyone what Mr. Frank and Walter Olson, another esteemed member of the anti-civil litigation movement, wrote last year about H.R. 5.

On May 22 of last year, Prof. Ilya Somin of George Mason Law School, a noted libertarian and anti-Obamacare scholar, concurred with Prof. Randy Barnett's view that H.R. 5 is an unconstitutional infringement on states' rights and inconsistent with Republican opposition to Obamacare. "Hopefully, at least some Republican conservatives will begin to see that you can't advocate strict limits on federal power with one hand while trying to impose sweeping federal control over state tort law with the other." (CORRECTION, March 15: Prof. Somin is a libertarian and has never been in the "anti-trial lawyer" camp and I apologize for any confusion. I include his views in this post to establish the timeline.)

The next day, Ted Frank wrote his concurrence with that view. Quote: "It's easy enough for Congress to condition portions of Medicare block grants on a state establishing reasonable medical-malpractice litigation guidelines, or for Congress to prohibit certain types of lawsuits over federally-funded medical care. It doesn't need to impermissibly federalize all medical malpractice litigation to accomplish reform."

That day, Walter Olson wrote on his agreement with Randy Barnett. A short segment: "Thanks to star libertarian lawprof and Cato senior fellow Randy Barnett for pointing out something that has needed saying for a while: most proposals in the U.S. Congress to address medical malpractice law run into serious federalism problems. Most medical malpractice suits go forward in state courts under state law. If the U.S. Congress wishes to impose a nationwide rule on these suits, such as by limiting damages for pain and suffering, it first needs to answer the question: under which of the federal government's constitutionally prescribed powers is it acting? Even if it can identify such authority, it should also ask: is it a wise idea--consistent with what one might call a prudential federalism--to gather yet more power in Washington at the expense of the states? Unfortunately, the backers of the current federal med-mal bill have chosen to rely on the Supreme Court's very expansive "substantial effects" doctrine..."

I'm not taking anyone's words out of context. I truly respect Messrs. Frank and Olson for their views, even as I disagree with them. I'm just quoting two of the bright shining lights in the "tort reform" movement. each of whom are clearly opposed to H.R. 5 in its current form. House leadership should take note.

UPDATE: As I was posting the above, Mr. Frank wrote a new post on H.R. 5 on his blog (which I recommend to anyone interested in legal policy), and I'll quote in full below:

"HR 5, federal regulation of medical malpractice litigation, represents good public policy that would reduce abusive lawsuits and improve health outcomes. But since it would transfer wealth away from lawyers to patients and doctors, the litigation lobby has actively opposed it, and quoted me out of context in that regard. One would certainly prefer that HR 5 be tweaked to unambiguously comply with a vision of the Commerce Clause consistent with, say, the Randy Barnett view. It would be painless to do so. For example, one could structure the legislation to withhold 25% of Medicare funds from states that fail to meet certain medical malpractice litigation standards, rather than federalizing what is (unlike, say, product liability or consumer class actions) largely a local issue: the end result would be even better than this bill. And states that have already implemented reform might be legitimately offended that the benefits of their foresight will be blunted when Congress shunts competing states along; one solution to that might be to limit the reforms to patients who use federally-subsidized medicine, such as Medicare, Medicaid, or PPACA exchanges. But given trial lawyer support for an administration that has propounded PPACA, the trial lawyer opposition to this bill on Commerce Clause grounds is totally disingenuous. Let's see the trial bar lobby for repeal of PPACA, and then they can legitimately complain about HR 5's federalism issues. (Of course, as a political matter, this is largely counting angels on the heads of pins: Harry Reid will never permit this to come to a vote in the Senate, and even if it passed the Senate, Barack Obama would veto this on behalf of his trial-lawyer friends.)"

Four points in response: First, Mr. Frank is still clearly uncomfortable with H.R. 5 in its current form. Second, I wouldn't consider the changes that he proposes to be mere "tweaks," and I'll bet the bill's sponsors and supporters wouldn't either. Third, the trial lawyers' lobby (my clients) didn't lobby for the enactment of Obamacare and supports principled conservatives in the Republican Party every day, and my longtime readers know that I HATE OBAMACARE, mostly because it's as unconstitutional as H.R. 5. Fourth, a House bill's chances in the Senate are irrelevant; something like 90% of House-passed bills never get a Senate floor vote. That's no reason for the House to pass an unconstitutional bill.

I appreciate Mr. Frank's post and will update this post accordingly.

For months, it appeared that House Republicans had largely agreed with conservatives and libertarians such as Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli; Randy Barnett; Senators Tom Coburn and Mike Lee; Tea Party movement leaders such as Judson Phillips and numerous House Republicans that federal tort reform bills violate the states' rights under the 10th Amendment to run their own legal systems without federal interference. There has been no floor action on H.R. 5, a bill mandating federal limits on awards in medical malpractice lawsuits and the subject of numerous posts on this website.

But last Friday, after the House adjourned for ten days, House Republican leadership reportedly decided to attach H.R. 5 to the bipartisan bill repealing the Independent Payment Advisory Panel (IPAB), a key staple of ObamaCare, with a floor vote as early as next week. Here's a reminder of the lineup against H.R. 5: Prof. Randy Barnett stands against both ObamaCare and federal tort reform, referring to pro-H.R. 5 Republicans as fair-weather federalists and FINOs ("Federalists In Name Only"). Prof. John Baker, a Federalist Society superstar, wrote last year that a vote for H.R. 5 would weaken the anti-ObamaCare legal argument before the Supreme Court. And Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli promised to sue against a federal tort reform bill even quicker than he sued against ObamaCare. Sen. Tom Coburn has told me personally that if the federal government is going to take over state tort law, there's no reason to even have states, and he opposed federal tort reform in an interview last year. Sen. Mike Lee refused to vote for the Senate Republican jobs bill precisely because it included a version of H.R. 5. State legislators warned Congress last year against mandating federal medmal limits. Other conservative politicians and leading intellectuals against H.R. 5 include Reps. Ron Paul, Ted Poe, John Duncan, Lee Terry, and Morgan Griffith; and Walter Olson, Ted Frank, Rob Natelson, Carrie Severino and Ilya Somin.

The upper echelon of conservative and libertarian legal theorists know that neither tort law nor health care are enumerated powers for the federal government in the Constitution. The pro-medmal law crowd abuses the Commerce Clause, as well as the Necessary and Proper Clause, as much as ObamaCare proponents. Yet House Republican leadership unilaterally decided, behind closed doors in the oak-panelled, leather-appointed chambers of the Capitol, to blast away at states' and individual rights. This cannot stand. Real constitutional conservatives should contact their Representatives immediately and oppose this assault on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

The Seventh Amendment provides that " [i]n Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved... Accordingly, we must conclude that the Seventh Amendment provides a right to a jury trial where the copyright owner elects to recover statutory damages... The right to a jury trial includes the right to have a jury determine the amount of statutory damages, if any, awarded to the copyright owner. It has long been recognized that "by the law the jury are judges of the damages.'' Lord Townshend v. Hughes, 2 Mod. 150, 151, 86 Eng. Rep. 994, 994-995 (C.P. 1677). Thus in Dimick v. Schiedt, 293 U.S. 474, 55 S.Ct. 296, 79 L.Ed. 603 (1935), the Court stated that "the common law rule as it existed at the time of the adoption of the Constitution'' was that "in cases where the amount of damages was uncertain[,] their assessment was a matter so peculiarly within the province of the jury that the Court should not alter it.''

So wrote Justice Clarence Thomas in his opinion for a unanimous Supreme Court, when it ruled in a 1998 copyright infringement case that the Seventh Amendment requires the right to a jury trial where the copyright owner elects to recover statutory damages. In Feltner v. Columbia Pictures Television, Inc., the Court overruled the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which had affirmed a district court's ruling denying Feltner's motion for a jury trial. Justice Thomas' opinion included a discussion of the applicability of the Seventh Amendment to copyright infringement cases and, in effect, a terrific defense of the right to a civil jury trial and the role of local juries. Justice Thomas noted that even before adoption of the Constitution, in England and in the American colonies, "copyright suits for monetary damages were tried in courts of law, and thus before juries." And he wrote that the Copyright Act of 1790 didn't change that practice.

Ironically, the attorney asserting Mr. Feltner's Seventh Amendment rights was John Roberts, now the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and during oral argument before the Court, he eloquently noted the historical role and significance of civil jury rights enumerated under the Seventh Amendment:

In light of clear historical practice on both sides of the Atlantic prior to 1971, Feltner had a right under the Seventh Amendment to have a jury make that finding and others on which the award was based and determine the amount of damages to be imposed within the statutory limits.

The idea that... when Congress fixes the amount of the penalty it can therefore delegate that task to judges ignores the whole purpose of the Seventh Amendment.

The Seventh Amendment is to protect against judicial bias and corruption and overreaching and, while that's not implicated when Congress fixes the amount because Congress is doing that, the judge is just applying it, when you give that task to the judge the whole reason for having the Seventh Amendment comes into play...

As someone who has criticized the Roberts Court for decisions denying civil jury trials in a number of preemption and arbitration cases, I was surprised to learn of this defense of the Seventh Amendment by Justice Thomas. My thanks to Bob Peck of the Center for Constitutional Litigation in Washington for pointing it out. Now if only the Roberts Court would only take a realistic view of the practical and harmful impacts of federal preemption and forced arbitration clauses on our right to a civil jury trial.

The chairman of the top health subcommittee in the House, Rep. Joe Pitts, announced this week that the House GOP would offer a "replace Obamacare" bill that be a "free-market alternative." But he added that the proposal would mandate a federal cap on awards in medical malpractice lawsuits filed anywhere in the U.S. There's nothing "free-market" about using federal law to give orders to juries and judges sitting in state courtrooms. The Founding Fathers trusted local juries to make the decisions on claims before them, including the level of damages. That's why so many Republican Members of Congress, conservative legal scholars, and states' rights advocates have criticized legislative proposals to federally mandate awards in medmal lawsuits, tell local judges which cases they can and cannot handle, and impose federal wage controls on attorneys. Did Rep. Pitts pay any attention when Ken Cuccinelli, Attorney General of Virginia, promised that he would sue to stop such a law more quickly than he sued to stop Obamacare? Or when Randy Barnett, co-counsel for the NFIB in the lawsuit to kill Obamacare, wrote that tort law belongs exclusively to the states and called out Republicans like Pitts as "fair-weather federalists?" Or when his fellow Republicans in Congress such as Senators Tom Coburn and Mike Lee, and Reps. Lee Terry, Morgan Griffith, Ted Poe and Louis Gohmert stood up for the Founding Fathers' vision of liberty, trusted local juries and opposed federal medmal limits? Or when Rob Natelson of the conservative Independence Institute documented the writings of the Founding Fathers, in which they clearly insisted on protecting the right to a civil jury trial in state courts from federal interference? Or when the Cato Institute reported that medmal caps hurt consumers, or when the non-partisan National Conference of State Legislators objected to federal medmal limits in a letter to Congress? What do the 7th Amendment and 10th Amendment mean to Rep. Pitts?

Why doesn't he realize that his beloved federal cap on medmal lawsuit awards shares the same basis in constitutional theory as the Obamacare he wishes so hard to replace? Both are fundamentally based on the expansion of the Commerce Clause initiated after the Supreme Court's decision in Wickard v. Filburn. The Obama Justice Department cited that case in its briefs in Obamacare cases (page 18), and the American Tort Reform Association cited it in a paper supporting federal medmal limits (page 2). Or does Rep. Pitts recognize only those limits on federal power with which he agrees?

And why - WHY - does Rep. Pitts want to reward the pro-Obamacare and pro-abortion AMA and their buddies among medical groups, who shoved the individual mandate down our throats? Why does he want to give them partial civil immunity from deadly medical errors when they're pursuing the federal takeover of all health care?

Maybe most importantly, is Rep. Pitts speaking just for himself or for most or all of the House GOP? If he took off on his own to propose an unconstitutional and hypocritical bill, then it's easy to predict the bill won't enjoy even the support of too many Republicans. Let's hope so.

I posted the following eleven months ago to prove that Ronald Reagan never believed that the federal government should run state civil justice systems through federal tort reform or caps on damages awarded in state courts. With President Obama poised to deliver another State of the Union and the Republican Presidential race raging at full tilt, I thought it would be instructive to repost what I wrote in February 2011.
-------------------------
During the recent 100th anniversary of the birth of Ronald Reagan, we read many tributes to him and re-read many of his greatest speeches. I worked for the 1980 Reagan campaign during law school, was a political appointee in the Commerce Department during the Reagan Administration, and my wife worked for the President in the West Wing, so I joined in all the attention paid to my favorite President.

I thought it was time to go back and research President Reagan's personal stance on federal tort reform. I knew a number of senior officials in the Reagan Administration who were for some federal interference with the right to a jury trial for civil suits and states' rights, notably then-Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige, for whom it became a personal crusade. But when reviewing President Reagan's major speeches, from before the 1980 election to the end of his Presidency in 1989, I found the following:

1. Ronald Reagan never proposed any tort reform measure during any of his eight State of the Union speeches, and never criticized trial lawyers in them either. I've searched every word of his SOTUs. It's a strange fact that President Obama proposed more tort reform in this year's SOTU than Ronald Reagan did in eight SOTUs (I wonder if Republicans are comfortable with that).

2. Reagan didn't criticize trial lawyers or propose tort reform in his major address to Congress on April 28, 1981, in which he proposed his economic plan. This was his first speech since the assassination attempt on his life, and it set up the entire Reagan Revolution.

3. Reagan didn't criticize trial lawyers or propose tort reform in either of his Inaugural Addresses in 1981 and 1985. Neither did he in either of his speeches accepting the Republican nomination for President in 1980 and 1984.

4. I can find no mention of this topic in any of his major speeches prior to his election: not in his famous "Time For Choosing" speech in 1964; not in his speech to the first CPAC conference in 1974; not in a speech at Hillsdale College in 1977 titled, "Whatever Happened to Free Enterprise" - none of them. It's obvious that Ronald Reagan wasn't interested in limiting civil suits.

In 1986, President Reagan gave a speech at the Chamber of Commerce, in which he backed the findings of a "Tort Reform Working Group" (TRWG) inside the Administration. To backtrack: The Reagan White House created a number of "Working Groups" to address a variety of topics. For instance, I worked on a "Consulting Services Working Group" that changed the procurement of outside consultants and saved the Commerce Department several million dollars. The TRWG proposed a group of sweeping tort reform proposals, many of which are also included in H.R. 5, the bill reported last week by the House Judiciary Committee to impose federal limits on health care lawsuits.

Here's what Reagan said about the TRWG proposals in his 1986 speech, and note the emphasis on protecting states' rights:

Earlier this year I endorsed the report of my Domestic Policy Council's Tort Policy Working Group. This report contains a number of recommendations, recommendations that include fixed-dollar limitations for certain kinds of awards and the establishment of assurances that liability judgments go to those actually wronged or injured and not to the lining of their attorney's pockets. Now, one of the report's most important recommendations urged our administration to submit reform legislation to the Congress.

This legislation, carefully drafted, has now been introduced in the Congress by Senator Robert Kasten and Congressman Hamilton Fish. It restores the fault standard, which requires that actual fault or wrongdoing must be established in most cases before liability can be assessed. It limits pain-and-suffering and punitive damage awards, awards the amount contingency-fee lawyers could earn, and restricts the joint and several liability doctrine that can force a single defendant to pay all damages even if he is only partly to blame. To be sure, much tort law would remain to be reformed by the 50 States, not the Federal Government. And in our Federal system of government this is only right. Many of the Tort Policy Working Group recommendations, for example, would have to be implemented at the State level to be fully effective. This administration's bill represents a much-needed overhaul of Federal laws governing interstate commerce -- one of the fields of authority the Federal Government is specifically granted by the Constitution -- and sets an example of common sense for the rest of the Nation to follow.

To my knowledge, and with the limitations that come with Internet research, this is the only speech in Ronald Reagan's long political career that comes close to proposing specific federal tort reform measures. And he recognized that states are the proper venue for the debate over tort reform, under "our Federal system of government," not the federal government. And he said it ONCE. He didn't follow up that speech with any other, not at the 1987 CPAC conference, not at the 1988 Republican convention, nowhere. You can do your own research and try to prove me wrong (I suggest you start at this website and at this website, where I found links to every speech cited in this post).

Anyone asserting that "Ronald Reagan was for tort reform" is mistating the Reagan record. It wasn't a priority for him, he didn't see civil litigation as a major problem, and it appears that he gave only one speech on it. That's certainly no basis for sweeping away states' rights in a new federal tort reform law.

In August, I asked here whether we would see Presidential candidate Rick Perry as the hardcore states' rights advocate, or Rick Perry the hardcore advocate of limiting the 7th Amendment right to a civil jury trial through limitations on plaintiffs' rights. He couldn't logically be both, since federal tort reform is completely incompatible with the concept of states' rights under the Constitution and Tenth Amendment. But Perry tried to be both, with no success. Perry suffered from the same malady as Michelle Bachmann, who falsely promoted herself as a "Constitutional conservative" while proposing federal medical malpractice laws (which would benefit the medical device industry located in her district). Republican primary voters were smart enough to see the blatant inconsistencies of the Perry and Bachmann campaigns, simultaneously calling to protect states' rights while they urge closing state courtroom doors under federal law. To his credit, Gov. Perry seemed to back off of federal tort reform in the fall and winter; it wasn't included in his "Cut, Balance and Grow" economic plan, and he stopped mentioning it in debates.

Gov. Perry ended his campaign today by endorsing Newt Gingrich. It's time to ask the same question about Newt Gingrich, still one of the frontrunners for the GOP nomination. Will we see a states' rights champion or an advocate for closing courtrooms and crushing constitutional rights?

I see Gingrich as evolving in his position during the past year or two. The "Old Newt" was a hardcore tort reformer with no respect for the right to a civil jury trial or states' rights. "Old Newt" developed a "Contract With America" in 1994 which propelled Republicans into a House majority and Gingrich into the Speaker's chair. It was blatantly pro-federal tort reform and didn't protect state authority for any purpose whatsoever. And an early version of a new "Contract," posted in early 2010 on the conservative Newsmax website, included a call for "Litigation Reform." But Gingrich has championed his support for states' rights in recent years, most notably in the books such as "Fed Up" (ironically co-authored with Rick Perry). As his Presidential campaign revived, he proposed enforcing the 10th Amendment "to return power back home" to the states, as part of the new "Contract With America."

So, you might ask, where is Newt now on this issue? Interestingly, Gingrich hasn't mentioned federal tort reform at all in the Presidential debates. When Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli called out Bachmann over her disrespect for state civil justice systems, Gingrich didn't respond either way. Although his campaign website proposes in one sentence to "Stop junk lawsuits that drive up the cost of medicine with medical malpractice reform," I'm not aware of any forum in which he's proposed it. When Rick Santorum, an unrepentant non-states'-righter, slammed Ron Paul over Paul's principled criticism of a national tort law, once again Gingrich didn't take the bait and didn't jump in on either side. It's fair to say that with the exception of that one sentence, Gingrich can claim that he's not for federal tort reform. Does he stand by that sentence or was it just an addition by a campaign staffer to make some contributors happy? If reports on the Internet about Gingrich and Perry building a pro-10th Amendment platform are true, we'll have a real means of judging Gingrich's fidelity to constitutional principle.

Will he recognize that the Founding Fathers unreservedly left authority over tort law out of the hands of the national government when they drafted the Constitution and Bill of Rights? Does he agree with conservatives such as VA AG Ken Cuccinelli, Sens. Tom Coburn and Mike Lee, Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips, Tea Party Patriots leader Mark Meckler, and top anti-Obamacare legal experts such as Randy Barnett and Walter Olson, all of whom said last year that federal tort reform is an unconstitutional abridgment of states' rights and that tort law isn't an enumerated power for Uncle Sam under the Constitution? Will he see the folly of rewarding the AMA and their associated medical groups, who want to use an unlimited Commerce Clause to justify national healthcare as well as special immunity from liability for harmful medical errors? Does he now realize that trial lawyers and civil suits had nothing to do with the Wall Street crash, the housing bubble and its collapse, the BP oilspill, and that those actors in those types of scandals need to be held accountable before local juries as the Founders intended?

Let's hope we see the "New Newt" standing for open courtrooms and state sovereignty, not the "Old Newt" who sought unconstitutional legal protection for selected sections of American business.

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has taken another opportunity to expand the use of forced arbitration clauses in consumer contracts, denying us the right to negotiate such clauses out and take our claims to a jury. On the heels of the landmark ATT Mobility v. Concepcion decision, the Court held in CompuCredit v. Greenwood, that companies that promise to repair an individual's credit can force customers into arbitration, instead of to a judge or jury trial, under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), even though the 1996 the Credit Repair Organizations Act gives consumers "the right to sue," because the latter act doesn't explicitly overrule the FAA. The impact of this decision extends the scope of the FAA and represents another in a string of decisions approving of forced arbitration clauses in consumer contracts.

A 1965 Supreme Court decision included a powerful summary of the detriments of arbitration: "Arbitration differs from judicial proceedings in many ways: arbitration carries no right to a jury trial as guaranteed by the Seventh Amendment; arbitrators need not be instructed in the law; they are not bound by rules of evidence; they need not give reasons for their awards; witnesses need not be sworn; the record of proceedings need not be complete; and judicial review, it has been held, is extremely limited."

Forced arbitration clauses are never negotiable by the consumer, and the proceedings are heavily biased towards the business. The FAA might now be the most powerful anti-jury trial federal law on the books, with consumers trapped.

Within the last week, two conservatives who have previously opposed federal tort reform on constitutional grounds did so again. Judson Phillips, founder of Tea Party Nation, wrote Tort Reform? It's Unconstitutional on World Net Daily on December 13. He began by reiterating the Founding Fathers' support for the right to a civil jury trial:

First, there is no authority in the Constitution for the federal government to take over an area of law that has always been governed by the states. There is also no provision in the Constitution that allows the federal government to impose price controls on one industry or even one segment of an industry.

Perhaps more importantly, it flies in the face of what the founders undoubtedly considered the most important of the constitutional rights, the right to a jury trial.

The Founding Fathers considered the jury trial to be so important that it is the only right in the Bill of Rights that is specifically enumerated in two amendments.

Then Judson recounted the story of the McDonald's "Hot Coffee" case to show how the real facts of that case differ markedly from the mythology surrounding it, and how the jury decision in the case led to a change in corporate behavior:

In the end, the jury decided that Ms. Liebeck was partially at fault for the accident, so the damages award was reduced by 20 percent to $16,000. Ms. Liebeck asked for punitive damages, and the jury, after considering the evidence, awarded punitive damages of $2.7 million, or the equivalent of two days of profit McDonald's receives from its coffee sales.

In post-trial motions, the judge reduced the punitive damages to $480,000. In the end, McDonald's settled the case, and the details were kept confidential.

The free-market system is a wonderful system. It promotes good behavior and punishes bad behavior. McDonald's chose to sell its coffee at a temperature that caused injuries to people so it would make more money. The jury sent McDonald's a message, and today McDonald's does not sell its coffee at 190 degrees.

Rob Natelson, longtime law professor and constitutional scholar at the Independence Institute in Colorado, also reiterated his opposition to federal tort reform last week in an interview on the nationally syndicated What's Up radio program, hosted by Terry Lowry. On November 21, I posted about his new study, The Roots of American Judicial Federalism, in which he quoted from the numerous writings of the Founding Fathers. They clearly opposed any federal intervention in state judicial systems, including in civil justice issues. Rob's interview on December 12 was broadcast in four parts, with the third segment and the fourth segment (podcasts) the most pertinent, discussing the separation between federal and state powers as developed during the Founding Era. Proponents of federal tort reform ignore the sizable body of evidence presented by Rob Natelson and real Constitutional conservatives, but have lost the intellectual and political battle in Washington during 2011.

During a speech on November 11 at the national convention of the Federalist Society, Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah discussed why he could not vote for the jobs bill proposed by Senate Republican leadership (he voted "present"), even though it included many economic growth proposals with which he agreed. The Senator made it clear that he would have trouble voting for any federal tort reform bill, because most such bills inherently override states' rights. Here is a transcript of the pertinent section of that speech:

I had a situation just yesterday in which members of my party put forward a proposal consisting of a lot of bills rolled together. I agreed with almost all of them. Almost all of them achieved some favorable policy objective. But there was one with which I fundamentally disagreed; not because it was bad policy, but because it was utterly reconcilable with principles of federalism to which I took an oath. There was one portion of this Republican jobs package that would have told state courts, applying state law, reviewing state causes of action, that they were subject to certain limits, all in the name of interstate commerce; all because these things, like everything else, have a substantial effect on interstate commerce. I wanted to vote for the bill. Were I a member of the state legislature in the State of Utah, I would have voted for that kind of tort reform. But I couldn't do it, because it's not within my power. It was painful not to be able to vote in favor of that bill, but sometimes we have to do painful things, even when they undercut our underlying policy interests. In other words, just as textualism and originalism need to be protected and preserved, they need to be followed religiously so that they don't come under fire, and correctly as I believe, as simple tools to bring about a conservative philosophical revolution of sorts, we in the political branches of government who are dyed-in-the-wool advocates of federalism need to stick to federalism. Federalism is the answer, not just because it leads to right results, but because it is the right result, and it is the law. (Emphasis mine.)

Senator Lee's comments were met with applause by the audience, who obviously recognized and approved of his steadfast allegiance to constitutional principles.

During questioning by the audience, Senator Lee conceded that Congress could enact "some medical malpractice reforms" for federal suits brought in federal courts under federal law, or if such a bill is tied to "the provision of medical services with federal funds." But the federal tort reform bills being pushed by the AMA and other medical groups are straightforward, head-on, bills to crush states' and individual rights in health care-related lawsuits. Personally, I don't foresee Republicans proposing a bill to limit Medicare or Medicaid recipients' right to civil litigation, because of the political backlash it would generate.

Senator Lee's courageous vote on that bill and his statement in his speech place him squarely among the many Republicans and Tea Party-side conservatives who have come to recognize the unconstitutionality of federal tort reform bills. That growing list includes Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli; constitutional law expert Rob Natelson of the Independence Institute; Professor Randy Barnett; Tea Party movement leaders Judson Phillips and Mark Meckler; and many others, including critics of the plaintiffs' bar, all of whom insist on upholding the Constitution and Bill of Rights over political objectives. They've found, as Rob Natelson has detailed in his new study, that the Founding Fathers clearly and specifically did not want state tort law and state courts pre-empted or overruled by Congress through federal tort reform.

You can watch Senator Lee's entire speech below; scroll to the 20-minute mark to hear him discuss this issue.

In their zeal to adopt a federal malpractice reform bill to dictate procedures to state courts, many Republicans in Congress are doing precisely what they rightly accuse Democrats of doing: blithely disregarding the Constitution's clear limits on federal power.

Their proposals, once encapsulated in H.R. 5 and then slipped into the Senate Republican "jobs bill," not only violate the true meaning of the Constitution, but also likely run afoul of such modern Supreme Court cases as New York v. United States and Printz v. United States, which voided efforts to impose unfunded federal mandates on state officials. The same Virginia attorney general who brought the first suit against Obamacare has threatened to challenge this measure in court as well.

The effort to impose federal control over state courts and state civil justice violates one of the core principles of our federal system: That most judicial matters are local. Keeping courts and procedures local is, in fact, a crucial protection for individual liberty.

As I show in my new paper, "The Roots of American Judicial Federalism," one of the chief causes of the American Revolution was the British effort to undercut local courts by centralizing the administration of justice. As I also explain, after the Revolution Americans deliberately enshrined the local-control principle in our Constitution.

In other words, medical malpractice reform, like most other aspects of civil justice, is a matter for state, not federal, law. (Emphasis added.)

So wrote Rob Natelson, Senior Fellow in Constitutional Studies at the Independence Institute in Colorado, in a post titled, "Congress, Butt Out! The Constitution Reserves Malpractice Reform for the States" to introduce his newest research study, The Roots of American Judicial Federalism. Rob Natelson is one of the most respected constitutional scholars in America; was Montana's best known political activist -- leading, among other campaigns, the most successful petition-referendum drive in Montana history -- and in June 2000, was the runner-up among five candidates in the party primaries for Governor of Montana.

The Roots of American Judicial Federalism is not Rob Natelson's first foray into the federal medical malpractice debate. In April, he became the first of a long line of conservative and Tea Party-side activists and scholars who oppose federal medmal laws on federalism grounds. In his letter to Congress, he spelled out the constitutionally based objections to H.R. 5, the primary bill desired by the medical groups to limit all health care lawsuits, including those filed for medical malpractice. "H.R. 5 flagrantly contravenes the limitations the Constitution places places upon Congress, and therefore violates both the Ninth and Tenth Amendments. H.R. 5 is purportedly an exercise of the Constitution's Commerce Power. Yet as I shall explain, its subject-matter--civil actions in federal and state courts--is not within the Constitution's meaning of 'Commerce.' Nor can H.R. 5 be justified under the Necessary and Proper Clause as incidental to the regulation of interstate Commerce."

In the opening page of Roots, Natelson explains that the Founding Fathers were committed to reserving tort law for the states, even years before the drafting of the Constitution.

In drafting the Constitution, the Framers provided for additional federal judicial authority. Like the post-1768 pre-Revolutionary pamphleteers, however, they rejected proposals for a central government with power over all activities with inter-jurisdictional impact. Instead, they limited federal authority to items specifically enumerated. Reserved to the states would be nearly all the authority they had exercised previously, including power over state court procedures and over existing areas of substantive jurisdiction. With a few exceptions, therefore, the states were left in exclusive possession of the law of torts, contracts, inheritance, property, and criminal law.

When the Constitution became public in September, 1787, opponents argued that the Constitution could be construed to permit Congress or the federal courts to exceed prescribed limits. They contended that the new government might interfere with criminal and civil justice within the states. The Constitution, they said, should be rewritten to prevent manipulation of its terms by legal "sophistry."

To quiet such apprehensions, the Constitution's proponents explained to the ratifying public that the Constitution, if adopted, would grant only restricted authority to the new government. The Constitution's proponents listed for the ratifying public numerous areas in which the federal government would have no power and the states would enjoy exclusive power. Among the areas listed were several pertaining to state judicial systems.

The remainder of the study reveals the detailed writings of the Founding Fathers in support of judicial federalism. Professor Natelson quotes them time and again, including in letters and pamphlets that many Americans have probably never read before:

Like earlier authors, the writers of the 1774 pamphlets emphasized that judicial matters should be administered locally. In his Novanglus, (John) Adams pointed out that the dispute between colonists and the British government was not limited to taxes:

"Is the threepence upon tea our only grievance? Are we not in this province deprived of the privilege of paying our governors, judges, &c.? Are not trials by jury taken from us? Are we not sent to England for trial? Is not a military government put over us? Is not our constitution demolished to the foundation?"

Alexander Hamilton, in A Full Vindication of the Measures of Congress, agreed:

"Give me the right to be tried by a jury of my own neighbors, and to be taxed by my own representatives only. What will become of the law and courts of justice without this? The shadow may remain, but the substance will be gone. I would die to preserve the law upon a solid foundation; but take away liberty, and the foundation is destroyed."

Professor Natelson discusses the assurances that delegates to the Constitutional Convention gave to the public that the right to a civil jury trial would not be abridged:

At the New york convention, Hamilton underscored exclusive state jurisprudence over internal state administration, arguing that state powers are "civil and domestic--to support the legislative establishment, and to provide for the administration of the laws." He added that:

"Were the laws of the Union to new-model [reform] the internal police of any state; were they to alter, or abrogate at a blow, the whole of its civil and criminal institutions; were they to penetrate the recesses of domestic life, and control, in all respects, the private conduct of individuals,--there might be more force in the objection; and the same Constitution, which was happily calculated for one state, might sacrifice the welfare of another."

Chancellor Robert R. Livingston assured the convention that state power over traditional areas of judicial power was exclusive:

"They tell us that the state governments will be destroyed, because they will have no powers left them. This is new. Is the power over property nothing? Is the power over life and death no power? . . .In one word, can [Congress] make a single law for the individual, exclusive purpose of any one state?"

Natelson concludes by discussing the fight to recognize the right to a civil jury trial and the states' right to run their own civil justice systems through a Bill of Rights.

Federalists had to go beyond representing the meaning of disputed provisions. They also had to promise that they would support a bill of rights once the Constitution was ratified. Five of the 11 ratifying state ratifying conventions had accompanied their approval with suggested amendments. The two states that thus far had refused to ratify, North Carolina and Rhode Island, determined to stay out of the union until a bill of rights was proposed.

Among the restrictive amendments were some restraining the federal judiciary. Thus, the Fourth Amendment regulated judicially-issued warrants, the Fifth barred double jeopardy, the Seventh prescribed jury trial in civil cases, and so on. The Ninth and Tenth Amendments were the declaratory amendments. They highlighted the limited scope of federal powers, including federal powers over judicial matters.

Although the Ninth Amendment is widely misunderstood today, its principal role was as a protection for federalism, including judicial federalism. It affirmed that Congress was no more able to impair the independence of the state judiciaries after adoption of the Bill of Rights than had been true before adoption.

The Tenth Amendment, based on the most popular proposal from the states, reinforced that whatever was not given was reserved. It may have been targeted specifically against claims raised during the Confederation period that, despite the Articles' limits on congressional power, Congress enjoyed additional "inherent" authority merely by virtue of being a sovereign.

In other words, both the Ninth and Tenth Amendments rendered explicit the Constitution's implicit restraints on Congress and the federal judiciary, as explained by Federalist essayists during the ratification debates. Both amendments protected the exclusive sphere of the states, including the integrity of the state courts.

Rob Natelson's study is a enormously revealing and powerful paper that will assist real constitutional conservatives in their fight against the federal takeover of state courts. The tort reform movement finds itself without intellectual ammo, and cannot cite any writing from the Founding Fathers in support of their positions (I've offered free dinner on that). I will post quotes from this outstanding paper throughout the coming weeks.

Over a year ago, I first posted an open bet with an offer to buy the winner the best dinner in Washington, DC. I've re-posted that twice, and want to renew the bet now, because no one has even tried to win the bet. Here it is:

If anyone shows me ONE, just ONE quote from any of the Founding Fathers that is pro-"tort reform," I'll buy you the best dinner in Washington, DC, with your choice of appetizer, entree, wine (2 glasses only, $50/bottle max) and dessert. After researching the Founders' quotes on the subject for months (see the links in the right sidebar on the home page), I'm supremely confident that I have nothing to fear. For purposes of this offer, I'm defining the term "Founding Fathers" based on a list at this website, which includes signers of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and other notable figures from the founding of the United States.

I would value this dinner at roughly $200 but I'm not limiting the offer to that amount. Go ahead, make my day!

An article in today's "Roll Call" newspaper, which covers Congress, discusses the extensive influence that Sen. Tom Coburn has over members of the debt reduction "supercommittee" charged with finding over $1 trillion in federal budget cuts ovr a ten-year period. It appears that Sen. Coburn's own "Back to Black" deficit reduction plan, which he released in July, is the basis for many pollicy proposals under consideration by the supercommittee.

That could be a positive development in the fight to protect each state's right under the 10th Amendment to the Constitution to run their own civil justice systems and each American's right under the 7th Amendment to seek a jury trial for civil suits, including medical malpractice lawsuits. Sen. Coburn's "Back to Black" plan doesn't call for unconstitutional federal tort reform in any way. Instead it relies on the states to manage their own legal systems, and specifically enables any injured patient to take a medical malpractice case to state court. Sen. Coburn also recognizes the terrible toll on patients as a result of deadly medical errors.

Sen. Coburn recommends that the federal government fund expert panels and health courts to resolve medical disputes, ideas implemented in some states and which do not, in practice, always protect a patient's rights. But it preserves the patient's right to access the state court system at any point; the state panels and health courts aren't a mandatory step. The Senator disagreed with federal tort reform solutions on constitutional grounds in an interview posted on June 30, and this plan is consistent with his objection. I'm not endorsing the plan, but at least it protects our constitutional rights from federal "tort reform" efforts.

In contrast, the American Medical Association and numerous medical groups are asking the supercommittee to squash our constitutional rights and grant total immunity to medical professionals from their errors. They sent a letter to the supercommittee that ignores the clear consensus against federal tort reform by respected conservative legal experts such as Professor Randy Barnett; longtime tort reform proponents Walter Olson and Ted Frank; Republican Members of Congress such as Sen. Coburn and Reps. Ted Poe, John Duncan, and Ron Paul; and the largest association of state legislators in the country. Rolling over the Constitution and Bill of Rights is nothing new for the AMA and most of their fellow medical lobbying groups, the co-conspirators in the enactment of ObamaCare, with its equally unconstitutional individual mandate to buy health insurance.

The Founding Fathers' insistence on individual liberty and state sovereignty over their legal systems means nothing to "Big Medicine." They're the walking definition of "Crony Capitalism" for continuously lobbying for national health care with total civil immunity. Limits in the Constitution on the enumerated powers for the federal government, and the 7th and 10th Amendments, are mere bumps in the road for the AMA and their cronies, which wants to interfere in local health care and tort law decisions so they can shape and manage our lives. There's nothing "constitutionally conservative" about federal "tort reform" laws which would ignore the Founding Fathers, shut down local juries, and deprive Americans of our unalienable rights. The supercommittee should reject these blatant attempts by Big Medicine, and instead seek real reductions in the federal deficit.

Peter Orszag, President Obama's first director of the Office of Management and Budget, was one of the key figures in the enactment of ObamaCare, with its unconstitutional individual mandate and new government bureaucracy designed to order doctors to not cure us as they see fit. He must love the idea of sitting behind the Big Desk himself, signing off sweeping Executive Orders at a rapid-fire place, ordering Americans to do this and not do that. How else do you explain his bizarre penchant for writing that the panacea for the messiness of democracy is... less democracy? He wrote exactly this in an article titled, Too Much of a Good Thing for The New Republic:

To solve the serious problems facing our country, we need to minimize the harm from legislative inertia by relying more on automatic policies and depoliticized commissions for certain policy decisions. In other words, radical as it sounds, we need to counter the gridlock of our political institutions by making them a bit less democratic... But we need to confront the fact that a polarized, gridlocked government is doing real harm to our country. And we have to find some way around it.

Orszag attributes this polarization to the common, average American who has decided to not trust the mainstream media, and becomes "more radical" when meeting people "with similar opinions." And it's not the fault of "the elites," because according to some of his favorite political scientists, "polarization is not primarily an elite-driven phenomenon... Polarized politics are partly here, so to speak, by popular demand." No, the hatred for ObamaCare out there in fly-over land isn't Orszag's fault, it's just us "little people" who don't grasp the genius of all this "managed" health care.

Orszag is yet another ELITIST who blames AMERICANS for our political disagreements. He hides his hatred for Tea Partiers who revolt with his arrogant disdain for constitutional democracy behind the utterances of some equally arrogant, poli-sci psycho-babblers. During the Reagan years, we called people like this "Blame America Firsters."

And Orszag's prescription for ripping up our God-given rights and the Founding Fathers' vision of limited government? Hold on to your seat:

To solve the serious problems facing our country, we need to minimize the harm from legislative inertia by relying more on automatic policies and depoliticized commissions for certain policy decisions... we need to jettison the Civics 101 fairy tale about pure representative democracy and instead begin to build a new set of rules and institutions that would make legislative inertia less detrimental to our nation's long-term health...

Yeah, take it out of our hands, and build some bureaucratic dictatorial mechanisms. He wants "automatic stabilizers," like a progressive tax system and more unemployment insurance; and "more backup rules," like automatic spending triggers" when Congress doesn't do its job and pass appropriations bills on time (and note that the GOP House has been doing its job this year). Classic high-taxing big government by fiat.

And we need more "independent institutions" - you know, independent of the PEOPLE who would be ordered to do something - like that ObamaCare bureaucracy he created to dictate our health care decisions. And what about accountability to us? He sweeps that away by quoting another poli-sci "expert" who analogizes the New Bureaucratic Order to the unaccountability of Supreme Court Justices who decided on their own to legalize abortion. And we're supposed to accept MORE of that?!

Trashing the Constitution and Bill of Rights is a regular practice for Peter Orszag. Not only does he want Uncle Sammy to decide which health care we can receive and pay form and which we cannot, he wants to dictate which medical malpractice lawsuits we can file, and thus take over entire state court systems. He wrote an op-ed last year in the New York Times in which he wrote, "Lawmakers missed an important opportunity to shield from malpractice liability any doctors who followed evidence-based guidelines in treating their patients." Tort reform proponents slobbered all over it, trumpeting the Obama Administration's "conversion" to their hope for new federal powers over local juries, local judges, and local health care decisions.

Those fans of Orszag's tort reform proposal forgot, or purposefully ignored, the common thread between his ObamaCare and his medmal lawsuit limits: It would be the ORSZAGS of America who would make all the key decisions in both cases! The Orszag Elitists sitting in Washington will decide who gets the health care through ObamaCare, and the Orszag Elitists would also decide which "evidence-based guidelines" would be imposed to immunize doctors from their deadly negligence. Both are defended in lofty legalese under the Commerce Clause of the Article I of the Constitution, but patriots should know better.

Both ObamaCare and federal medical malpractice bills are based on the lust for federal power to override our decisions, made in the course of everyday life, including the judgment of twelve common, average Americans sitting in a jury box. When those decisions are made in the marbled halls of Washington, the lobbyists for the most powerful can sway a Congress, an Executive Branch, and a bureaucracy, and the people be damned.

Our Founding Fathers knew this and designed a federal government with limited enumerated powers precisely to avoid the Orszag Elitists from running our lives through ObamaCare or federal tort reform. This year, five conservative, anti-ObamaCare legal experts and two other experts who make a living criticizing trial lawyers agree that a federal medical malpractice law lies outside constitutional boundaries and is an unconstitutional violation of states' and individual rights.

Peter Orszag hasn't considered any of that and couldn't care less. He loves to play The Man Behind the Curtain, spinning the dials and twisting the institutions of American life. Our basic rights and our authority to run our own government are "harming Washington's ability to do the basic, necessary work of governing" and should be plowed under.

Remember the common danger between Orszag's ObamaCare and Orszag's tort reform: that lust for federal power.

On September 12, Texas Governor Rick Perry called for federal tort reform during the GOP Presidential debate. "You want to talk about some powerful job creation, tell the trial lawyers to get out of your state and to quit costing businessmen and women. That's what needs to happen in the states. and it's also what needs to happen at the federal level, passing federal tort reform at those federal levels." As I wrote on September 16, Gov. Perry now stands against some of the most respected Tea Party-side and conservative legal experts in America, who have written that a federal tort reform law is as unconstitutional as ObamaCare, and for the same reasons. But Gov. Perry also ignored two of the leading proponents of tort reform, who conceded months ago that a Texas-style national limit on medical malpractice lawsuits is clearly unconstitutional.

Walter Olson of the Cato Institute has been dubbed the "intellectual guru of tort reform." He was previously a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, and his writing appears regularly in all of the major newspapers and networks. But on May 24, Mr. Olson wrote that conservative and anti-ObamaCare Professor Randy Barnett of the Georgetown University law Center was right in stating that tort law is strictly a state power and not subject to federal oversight. A short segment of his concession post: "Thanks to star libertarian lawprof and Cato senior fellow Randy Barnett for pointing out something that has needed saying for a while: most proposals in the U.S. Congress to address medical malpractice law run into serious federalism problems. Most medical malpractice suits go forward in state courts under state law. If the U.S. Congress wishes to impose a nationwide rule on these suits, such as by limiting damages for pain and suffering, it first needs to answer the question: under which of the federal government's constitutionally prescribed powers is it acting? Even if it can identify such authority, it should also ask: is it a wise idea--consistent with what one might call a prudential federalism--to gather yet more power in Washington at the expense of the states? Unfortunately, the backers of the current federal med-mal bill have chosen to rely on the Supreme Court's very expansive "substantial effects" doctrine..."

Ted Frank, Adjunct Fellow with the Center for Legal Policy at the Manhattan Institute, is described by the Wall Street Journal as a "leading tort-reform advocate." He's also the Editor of the pro-tort reform Point of Law blog; president of the Center for Class Action Fairness; has written for law reviews and numerous media outlets; and has testified before Congress multiple times. Mr. Frank is one of the chief theorists and spokepersons for the pro-tort reform movement. But also on May 24, Ted Frank conceded that Prof. Barnett and another conservative and anti-ObamaCare Professor, Ilya Somin of the George Mason University School of Law, were correct in their criticism of a federal tort reform law. Mr. Frank's quote: "It's easy enough for Congress to condition portions of Medicare block grants on a state establishing reasonable medical-malpractice litigation guidelines, or for Congress to prohibit certain types of lawsuits over federally-funded medical care. It doesn't need to impermissibly federalize all medical malpractice litigation to accomplish reform."

So the "intellectual guru of tort reform" says that a national, one-size-fits-all law killing medmal lawsuits would have "serious federalism problems," while "a leading tort-reform advocate" says a Texas-style federal medmal law is "impermissible." Between them and the five conservative legal experts, such as Randy Barnett, it looks like the case is closed.

Is Rick Perry listening? Maybe we'll find out during the next GOP Presidential debate on Thursday. Personally, I'm not optimistic, since he ignored the writings of the five conservative legal experts and two pro-tort reform experts on the Internet months before he went nuclear on the subject.

It's remarkable that Texas Governor Rick Perry would call for federal tort reform and ignore the writings of so many highly respected conservative and Tea Party-side constitutional experts. Instead, he's sided with the pro-tort reform community in its reliance on constitutional theory that enables the federal government to trample on individual and states' rights in health care and tort law, issues which the Founding Fathers clearly reserved for the states alone. Ironically, his "federal tort reform" would reward members of health care associations, such as the AMA, AHIP, and the health insurance industry, which were the co-conspirators in the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. ObamaCare, which he promises to repeal. Let's review the legal theories in controversy here and how conservative legal experts have condemned federal tort reform this year.

At the start of the new Congress, pro-tort reform Republicans, led by a "Doctors Caucus" seeking special protection for their industry, introduced a bill, H.R. 5, a bill to impose stringent limits on the damages that victims of medical malpractice and other health care negligence can seek. The limits would apply to all lawsuits in the U.S. against doctors, hospitals, drug and device companies, nursing homes, and the insurance industry. The bill preempts all state laws that provide additional protections to patients.

Rob Natelson, formerly of the University of Montana Law School, is now Senior Fellow at the Independence Institute, a Tea Party-side legal expert and a former Republican candidate in Montana. He was the first expert from "the right side" to criticize H.R. 5, in a letter to Congress in April, and then again in an op-ed piece on May 9. Here are some excerpts from each:

H.R. 5 flagrantly contravenes the limitations the Constitution places places upon Congress, and therefore violates both the Ninth and Tenth Amendments. H.R. 5 is purportedly an exercise of the Constitution's Commerce Power. Yet as I shall explain, its subject-matter--civil actions in federal and state courts--is not within the Constitution's meaning of "Commerce." Nor can H.R. 5 be justified under the Necessary and Proper Clause as incidental to the regulation of interstate Commerce. On the contrary, during the debates over ratification of the Constitution, leading Founders specifically represented that the subject-matter of H.R. 5 was outside federal enumerated powers and reserved to the states...

Even before the Ninth and Tenth Amendments reinforced the limits, Founders, such as Madison, Hamilton, and James Wilson, among others, represented that tort law and civil justice specifically were to be state concerns. True, Congress could erect and regulate federal courts with diversity jurisdiction, but only because of separate constitutional grants, not as a result of the Commerce Power. Indeed, I have never seen any evidence that the power to erect and regulate federal courts included authority to alter prevailing tort law even in those courts, and certainly not in state courts.

To the extent that H.R. 5 regulates health care in addition to civil justice, it is also outside the Commerce Clause. No less an authority than Chief Justice John Marshall said so, in Gibbons v. Ogden, a decision celebrated as an expansive interpretation of the Commerce Power. In that case, Marshall (himself formerly a leading Ratifier) stated that "health laws of every description"--presumably including laws governing health care litigation--were reserved exclusively to the states...

Up till now the state courts have been one of the few areas of life relatively untouched by federal meddling. That is as it was supposed to be: State court systems are central to state sovereignty. Moreover, the Constitution reserves most issues of civil and criminal justice to the exclusive authority of the states, rather than the federal government. When the Constitution was being considered, its supporters said explicitly that state court systems are constitutionally out-of-bounds for Congress...

HR 5 is advertised as addressing abusive lawsuits against physicians, but it goes far beyond that. It would regulate in detail just about every American lawsuit that has anything to do with health care: What an injured party can allege in his or her initial filing, the damages he or she can recover, how damages are disbursed, burdens of proof, what the jury may and may not consider, which state laws survive and which don't. HR 5 even directs state judges to conceal pertinent information from the jury. It's not certain the Supreme Court would uphold all of this bill. But it is certainly a flagrant invasion of local control. Here's a real irony: The Republicans supporting HR 5 justify it by parroting exactly the same ridiculous "Commerce Clause" claims the President uses to justify ObamaCare.

Partially in response to the Rob Natelson's April letter to Congress, the pro-tort reform side trotted out a corporate lawyer to write a defense of H.R. 5. The paper relies on what has become, since the early 1940s, the standard basis cited for all encroachments by the federal government into business decisions. Quoting from the ATRA paper:

Since the 1942 case of Wickard v. Filburn, involving Congress's power to regulate the production of homegrown wheat, the United States Supreme Court has interpreted the Commerce Clause quite broadly with respect to the regulation of economic activity... The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) has closely analyzed judicial precedent and concluded that 'there seems little doubt that tort reform legislation, in general, would be within Congress's commerce power.' Under its power to regulate interstate commerce, Congress may 'make such legislation applicable to intrastate torts, because tort suits generally affect interstate commerce.' With respect to the HEALTH Act, CRS has specifically recognized that '[m]edical malpractice liability is governed by state law, but Congress has the power, under the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution (Art. I, ยง 8, cl. 3) to regulate it.' Healthcare is truly national in scope and fundamental to interstate commerce... By placing an upper limit on subjective and otherwise limitless pain and suffering damages against doctors and other medical professionals, Congress can promote a more cost-effective healthcare delivery system... H.R. 5 is consistent with the Tenth Amendment, which provides that '[t]he powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Other conservative and Tea Party-side legal experts revolted openly against this paper and H.R. 5, and chastised House Republicans for condemning ObamaCare in one speech and pushing the expansion of fedral authority over health care and states' rights in another.

Professor Randy Barnett of Georgetown University Law Center, the conservative legal superstar involved in the multistate lawsuit against ObamaCare in federal court, wrote in an op-ed on May 21: "But tort law -- the body of rules by which persons seek damages for injuries to their person and property -- has always been regulated by states, not the federal government. Tort law is at the heart of what is called the "police power" of states... Indeed, if Congress now can regulate tort law, which has always been at the core of state powers, then Congress, and not the states, has a general police power. This issue concerns constitutional principle, not policy: the fundamental principle that Congress has only limited and enumerated powers, and that Congress should stay within these limits. Constitutional law professors have long cynically ridiculed a 'fair-weather federalism' that is abandoned whenever it is inconvenient to someone's policy preferences. If House Republicans ignore their Pledge to America to assess the Constitution themselves, and invade the powers 'reserved to the states' as affirmed by the Tenth Amendment, they will prove my colleagues right."

Prof. Barnett was interviewed on the nationally syndicated What's Up radio program by host Terry Lowry about how H.R. 5 violates the limitations on the powers granted to the federal government in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. You can listen to the first segment of his interview here and listen to the second segment of the interview here (MP3 audio files). Starting at 2:32 of the second segment, he said, "Congress doesn't really have the authority to do tort reform legislation because that has historically been within the province of the states..." He proceeded to reiterate the other points of his op-ed, especially that federal tort reform legislation is an abuse of the Commerce Clause.

Prof. Ilya Somin of the George Mason University School of Law, another conservative legal expert who co-authored amicus briefs in anti-ObamaCare court cases, concurred with Prof. Barnett in a May 23 blog post. "Hopefully, at least some Republican conservatives will begin to see that you can't advocate strict limits on federal power with one hand while trying to impose sweeping federal control over state tort law with the other. In this post, I explained why federally mandated tort reform is, in most cases, both constitutionally dubious and unnecessary. The better way to restrict abusive tort suits is through interstate competition combined with constraints on states' ability to regulate conduct outside their borders." The previous post to which he referred was in February in which he wrote, "In my view, however, current precedent is badly misguided in allowing Congress to regulate virtually any 'activity.' Therefore, I think most federally mandated tort reform is in fact unconstitutional, even if the Supreme Court would permit it to go forward."

Yet another respected conservative professor, Jonathan Adler of the Case Western Reserve School of Law, wrote a very brief comment against H.R. 5 in support of an attack from an unusual source, an pro-tort reform advocate, about which I will write in a separate post. Prof. Adler wrote that, "support of a particular policy goal does not require abandoning a principled commitment to the broader federalist scheme." Professor Adler is a frequent contributor to the events and publications of the Federalist Society, considered the premier conservative-side legal organization in the country.

Professor John Baker, a Distinguished Scholar at Catholic University Law School, Professor Emeritus at LSU Law School, and frequent presenter at Federalist Society events, wrote on the Daily Caller website on June 22 that H.R. 5 and ObamaCare are two peas from the same post-Willard Commerce Clause pod:

To justify their efforts to nationalize medical malpractice law, House Republicans are stretching the Supreme Court's New Deal Commerce Clause jurisprudence almost as far as Democrats did for Obamacare. Both national medical malpractice reform and Obamacare are radically at odds with our constitutional structure of federalism, though Obamacare is especially radical because it represents the first time that the federal government has required people to purchase a product (health insurance).

What compels House Republican leaders to ignore the Constitution? Nationalizing medical malpractice law would not necessarily protect hometown doctors. Some states currently offer doctors better protection, without being subjected to federal bureaucrats. Other states would do so if doctors worked their own state legislatures, rather than relying on a Washington lobby, the American Medical Association.

The explanation for the eagerness of House Republican leaders to nationalize even more of the economy is a simple reality: both Congressional Democrats and Congressional Republicans like the New Deal interpretation of the Commerce Clause, which allows them to expand national power. They would just do so for different purposes.

Prof. Baker went further, warning Republicans like Rick Perry that enacting a federal tort reform bill like H.R. 5 could boost the chances that the Supreme Court would rule favorably on the Affordable Care Act. "Seeing that Republicans are as willing as Democrats to nationalize different parts of healthcare, the justices might conclude that there is a Congressional consensus to nationalize all of healthcare. Since justices tend to defer to Congress, that might be enough to tip the scales in Obamacare's favor."

Is that really what Rick Perry wants? To boost the chances of victory for ObamaCare?

Rob Natelson returned to the subjects of federal tort reform and the Commerce Clause on July 18 in the course of a discussion on Chief Justice John Marshall and his signature case, Gibbons v. Ogden, on the Tenth Amendment Center website:

"Gibbons v. Odgen is often appealed to, as Justice Jackson did, for a very broad reading of the 'commerce' component of the Necessary and Proper Clause. Under this reading, the Necessary and Proper Clause allows Congress to regulate any economic activity "substantially affecting" interstate commerce: agriculture, mining, manufacturing, heath care, insurance, medical marijuana--in fact, the entire economy.

However, Gibbons did not even mention the Necessary and Proper Clause. The primary holding of Gibbons was that navigation was within the prevailing legal definition of 'commerce' for constitutional purposes--a decision that, under the original understanding of the Constitution, was clearly correct. Some of the Court's dicta (extraneous language) added that in some circumstances commerce (including navigation) within state boundaries might be so tied up with interstate commerce that Congress could regulate it as well. But when Marshall addressed other aspects of the economy, it was to say that they were outside of Congress's power. He specifically mentioned 'health laws of every description' as being reserved exclusively to the states.

So those who use Gibbons to argue for the constitutionality of federal control of manufacturing, agriculture, land use, or health care are twisting some of Marshall's words and omitting others.

In other words, the pro-ObamaCare forces and the pro-tort reform causes make the same error for the same reasons. In both cases, the result of victory in each case would be the exercise of excessive federal power, to the detriment of individual rights and the rights of individual states to regulate and manage the daily activities of the citizenry.

That makes FIVE conservative legal experts, bright shining stars in the conservative legal universe, standing against the concept of federal tort reform. Two other legal experts wrote about the unconstitutionality of H.R. 5, but they deserve special discussion in another post, because they're pro-tort reform advocates who recognized the unconstitutionality of H.R. 5.

Rick Perry used to be a sincere advocate of states' rights. He was against a federal tort reform bill as recently as last year.

Rick Perry, November 4, 2010, on CNN:

"One of the reasons why I was never for a national tort reform was because I think we do it better in the state of Texas... that ought to be our decision in the state of Texas."

Now? Well, he's under pressure from other Republican candidates, so he whipped out his big applause line last night.

Rick Perry, September 12, 2011, during the CNN-Tea Party Express debate:

"...one of the things that's really important, one of the things that the Fed Reserve chairman said was the most powerful, one of the most powerful thing that happened, was tort reform that we passed in that state. You want to talk about some powerful job creation, tell the trial lawyers to get out of your state and to quit costing businessmen and women. That's what needs to happen in the states. and it's also what needs to happen at the federal level, passing federal tort reform at those federal levels."

But you don't have to take my word for it, watch it yourself on YouTube below!

Governor Rick Perry took the gloves off in the CNN-Tea Party Express debate, declaring war on the 7th and 10th Amendments by calling for "federal tort reform," as follows:

"...one of the things that's really important, one of the things that the Fed Reserve chairman said was the most powerful, one of the most powerful thing that happened, was tort reform that we passed in that state. You want to talk about some powerful job creation, tell the trial lawyers to get out of your state and to quit costing businessmen and women. That's what needs to happen in the states. and it's also what needs to happen at the federal level, passing federal tort reform at those federal levels."

So never mind that SEVEN conservative experts on constitutional law, including the leading anti-ObamaCare professor in America and two noted ANTI-civil litigation experts, have written that federal tort reform is an unconstitutional abridgement of states' rights. Never mind that the long list of REPUBLICANS who agree with that assessment include former Texas judge and current Congressman Ted Poe; Rep. Ron Paul; Sen. Tom Coburn; Tea Party favorite Rep. Morgan Griffith of Virginia; and veteran Rep. John Duncan of Tennessee. Never mind that the co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, Mark Meckler of Texas, also says that tort law is a province of the states. Forget about the long letter by the bi-partisan National Conference of State Legislators, co-signed by a Texas state representive, that warned Congress against enacting federal tort reform because it violates states' rights.

Has Rick Perry or his vaunted team ever read what the Founding Fathers actually wrote about the right to a jury trial for civil suits? What about James Madison's famous admonition that the 7th Amendment right is "as essential in securing the liberty of the people as any of the pre-eminent rights of nature," and Thomas Jefferson's clear principle that trial by jury in all cases is "the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution." Doesn't he realize that
the protection of any of our inalienable rights depends, in large measure, on the right to unfettered access to state and local courts?

Conservatives like Rick Perry who think that "tort reform" can be limited to just medical malpractice cases are dreaming. When any of our rights are compromised, ALL of our rights are limited, including the rights to freely exercise our religion, bear arms, express our opinions without fear of being muzzled, and enjoy the benefits of our private property and labor freely offered.

No, Perry didn't care about constitutional principles at all. He felt the heat of all the criticism he was taking from the other candidates and grasped for the big applause line - "kill all the lawyers." He shot his mouth off in the heat of battle. Sound like a real President to you? What will he say when he's up against a real tough guy, like Ahmadinijad? If he's ignorant on some of the basic writings of our Founding Fathers, distrustful of local juries, and willing to throw the Constitution overboard for an applause line, how are we supposed to trust him with our lives and fortunes?

Ideas have consequences. I'll discuss the real-world consequences of Rick Perry's federal tort reform for victims in my next post. For starters, the consequences are that Rick Perry breaks his promises; that he's a phony "states' righter;" he's flip-flopped on the use of federal power and the Constitution as they apply to abortion, marriage, and the civil jury process; he's not a real "Tea Party" leader or representative; and he's a classic "crony capitalist." What else is there?

The first GOP Presidential debate since Texas Governor Rick Perry officially joined the race will be held tomorrow night. Prior to his announcement, I asked whether he would truly be a 10th Amendment advocate, a claim he makes constantly, or whether he would flip-flop on such issues as the states' right to run their own courtrooms, which would deprive Americans of our 7th Amendment right to a jury trial for civil suits. I have some questions which I hope will be posed to Gov. Perry and other GOP candidates tomorrow night about their support for all of our constitutional rights:

7th and 10th Amendment rights or "fair-weather federalism"?

Governor Perry, you often assert that the federal government should stop encroaching on states' rights, accusing Washington of intruding "upon the rights of the states and individuals to make decisions about our own healthcare, our businesses, our money,..." But you've flip-flopped on your stand on a federal marriage amendment to the Constitution - you were against it until you were for it - and on the need for a pro-life amendment to end abortion on demand. And your position on "tort reform" is inconsistent with that of a 10th Amendment purist. Specifically, you've proposed an amorphous concept of "civil justice reform," citing the changes in Texas law you backed to sharply limit medical malpractice lawsuits and to force the losing parties in civil suits to pay all court costs. And in your book, "Fed Up," you wrote that Republicans are for "ending frivolous lawsuits through real tort reform." However, seven experts in constitutional law, including the leading anti-ObamaCare legal expert in the federal court cases, say that federal "tort reform" is not an enumerated power of the federal government and is unconstitutional. That expert, Professor Randy Barnett, accuses Republicans of being "fair-weather federalists" in pursuit of federal "tort reform," and asserts that tort law is the exclusive province of the states. Famous and respected conservatives and Tea Party leaders agree with that judgment, such as fellow candidate Ron Paul; Sen. Tom Coburn; the co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, Mark Meckler; and the former President of the socially conservative Family Research Council, Ken Connor. So will you guarantee now that as President, you will not support any sweeping federal "tort reform" bill which would override the rights of the states under the 10th Amendment to run their own courtrooms, and that you'll veto any such bill enacted by Congress?

Question for all candidates: Since many of you identify yourselves closely with the protection of individual rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights, what is your understanding of the 7th Amendment to the Constitution, which states that "In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law." James Madison, principal author of the Bill of Rights, called the right to a jury trial for civil suits "as essential in securing the liberty of the people as any of the pre-eminent rights of nature," a sentiment joined in by Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and other Founding Fathers. How would you protect that right in federal and state courts? Is the 7th Amendment a "lesser amendment" in your mind than the 2d Amendment right to bear arms, and if so, why?

Bill of Rights & American law or Sharia?

For all candidates, but starting with Gov. Perry: Gov. Perry, some conservative experts and commentators have expressed concern about your relationships with pro-Islamist elements such as the Aga Khan and its associated entities, especially the Aga Khan Foundation, over its involvement in the development of a "Muslim Histories and Cultures Program" in Texas schools. Longtime critics of radical Islam such as Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller have reviewed the course curriculum and questioned whether you are allowing the Aga Khan Foundation to present "a fantasy benign Islam, with all the violent and oppressive bits cut out." Strict Islamic Sharia doesn't protect the Constitutional rights of women as equal to men, and doesn't recognize basic Constitutional rights such as the right to a jury trial for criminal and civil cases. But a recent study by a conservative group warns that local courts are applying Sharia, not the U.S. Constitution and American law. In recent years, anti-Sharia activists have promoted a movement to ensure that American courts enforce only American laws and not those enforced elsewhere, such as Islamic Sharia law. Given your declared allegience to the Bill of Rights, will you endorse that movement, and propose measures to ensure that Sharia law is excluded from contemplation in civil and criminal cases in all courts in the U.S.? Will all GOP candidates also endorse that movement?

"Constitutional conservative" or "crony capitalist?"

Question for Rep. Michele Bachmann, in part based on the previous question for Gov. Perry: You describe yourself as a "Constitutional conservative" and, like Gov. Perry, say that you're for defending states' rights. You are recently quoted saying that "the current government is acting outside the bounds of the Constitution. Probably the most obvious would be this Obamacare and the individual mandate that is unconstitutional and is currently contained in Obamacare." But you are a co-sponsor of the most sweeping federal "tort reform" bill introduced this year in Congress, a bill which would effectively immunize health care and pharmaceutical companies which have contributed tens of thousands of dollars to your campaigns. Considering the conservative opposition to any federal "tort reform" bill on states' rights grounds, why shouldn't voters consider your declaration just another position by a "crony capitalist" who stands on the Constitution in order to help backers in the business community?

Religious freedom & right of conscience or abortion rights?

Question for all candidates: Last year, a federal court of appeals ruled that a pro-life Catholic nurse didn't have the right to sue the hospital where she worked and that forced her to participate in an abortion. The court ignored the nurse's Constitutional rights to freely exercise her religion and act in accordance with her conscience, rights explicitly recognized for medical personnel in federal and state law. This year, the Obama Administration rescinded a Bush-era regulation that provided conscience protections for medical workers so they could refuse to administer treatments they find morally objectionable. Will each of you commit to restoring the rights of medical workers to sue health care employers when the employer forces the employee to engage in morally objectionable treatments?

On July 27, I wrote for the third time about the real facts on the severe limits imposed in Texas on medical malpractice lawsuits. This week, Terry Lowry, host of the nationally syndicated What's Up radio program, interviewed Alex Winslow, Executive Director of Texas Watch, about the results of the virtual elimination of those lawsuits through a constitutional amendment.

Mr. Winslow discussed the promise made to voters in Texas in 2003 that individual and overall health care costs would be reduced as a result of the limits in medmal lawsuits. But state and family costs (premiums and out-of-pocket costs) have risen and the state's cost of health care is rising faster than national average, the exact opposite of what was promised. Texans were promised that giving away their right to hold wrongdoers responsible in a civil jury trial would result in lower costs.

Texans were also promised that that the quality and access to care would improve, and by every measure those promises have also been broken. The access to health care - the number of doctors - has not increased at all in rural and poor areas, such as in the Rio Grande Valley. The AMA still ranks Texas in the mid-40s in the number of physicians per capita, so the influx of doctors in Texas hasn't kept up with the increase in state population. Meanwhile, according to Mr. Winslow, the Texas Medical Board, which is supposed to sanction bad doctors, is neither acting more quickly nor sufficiently sanctioning the small percentage of dangerous doctors in Texas. For instance, the TMA doesn't run background checks on doctors moving from another state; a doctor practicing in Corpus Christi apparently left Minnesota in a hurry after leaving a trail of medmal claims.

You can listen to the first segment of the interview here, the second segment here, and the third segment here.

I've written often about Rep. Ron Paul's support for real Constitutional conservatism and states' rights, including for protecting state civil justice systems from federal takeover through "tort reform" or limits on state medical malpractice lawsuits. Recently the conservative Club for Growth issued a "Presidential White Paper" about Dr. Paul's votes on key issues, and they devoted an entire section to "Tort Reform." It's obvious that on this issue, the CfG is no more of a "Constitutionally conservative" group than many groups in the business community - check out the following comments on Dr. Paul's stand:

The American economy suffers from excessive litigation which increases the cost of doing business and slows economic growth. The Club for Growth supports major reforms to our tort system to restore a more just and less costly balance in tort litigation.

Representative Paul opposes federal tort reform for the same reason he opposes most federal solutions--he believes the federal approach "damages the Constitution by denying states the right to decide their own local medical standards and legal rules." To that end, he has voted against many tort reform measures in Congress...

Instead of traditional federal tort reform, he proposes "private contractual agreements between physicians and patients" that "enables patients to protect themselves with 'negative outcomes' insurance purchased before medical treatment." In theory, Paul's solution may help alleviate the situation, but it is politically untenable. While Paul's idealism is laudable, he has not offered a viable alternative for dealing with a problem that is hurting American consumers and businesses, while diminishing our international competitiveness.

So when it comes to the civil justice system, the CfG treats the Constitution as just a "laudable ideal" that isn't "viable" in dealing with "problems." There's nothing Constitutional about that stance. The Founding Fathers didn't think that way. Dr. Paul doesn't think that way, thank God. Neither do Republican Members of Congress like Reps. Ted Poe, Lee Terry, and Morgan Griffith, or Sen. Tom Coburn. Seven nationally respected experts on the Constitution, the National Conference of State Legislators, and Tea Party Patriots co-founder Mark Meckler don't think so either. They recognize that "a problem that is hurting American consumers and businesses" is no excuse for cutting the Bill of Rights in half.

The Club for Growth's disdain for Constitutional limits on federal power is closer to the views of the pro-ObamaCare crowd than it is to the Founding Fathers or the Tea Party movement's views. To the Club for Growth, the Constitution and Bill of Rights are movable targets subject to negotiation and the impact of lobbying and campaign contributions, not a set of firm principles of limited government protecting God-given, "unalienable" rights. Candidates seeking the support of the Club for Growth should be wary of their demands.

One editorial note here about what has been termed by politicians and the public the "ridiculous" debt limit debate as the compromise bill is enacted. Now matter which side you take in the outcome, it should be clear that the issue highlights the massive size and scope of federal power today (80 million checks a month!), and the tendency for that power to eventually overshadow all other facets of Americans' daily life. That's exactly what the Founding Fathers feared, and why signers of the Constitution, such as George Mason, Eldridge Gerry and Edmund Randolph, led the movement to ensure that federal power is limited even beyond the language of the Constitution, through enactment of a Bill of Rights. Many wise legal scholars are asserting, correctly, that the Commerce Clause in Article I of the Constitution was never intended as the basis for either ObamaCare or a sweeping federal tort reform/medical malpractice bill. George Mason explicitly warned that, absent a Bill of Rights, the power granted in Article I would eventually overpower both God-given individual rights (including the right to civil jury trials) and the authority which is better left to the states.

In the midst of overheated rhetoric about the intentions of either sides in the debt limit debate (I take particular offense to the characterization of Tea Party activists as "terrorists"), I hope all Americans determine that any enterprise with this much power MUST be limited by strict and pure adherence to the protection of individual and states' rights. Any politician who adheres to such a belief cannot pick and choose between which rights to protect and the time at which to protect them. The "ridiculous" debt limit debate is the perfect opportunity for those of us who cherish the right to civil jury trials to remind the rest of America that the man who drafted the Bill of Rights, James Madison, referred to that particular right in the highest terms: "as essential to secure the liberty of the people as any one of the pre-existent rights of nature."

Over the course of the year, I've quoted constitutional scholar Rob Natelson of the Tea Party-side Independence Institute numerous times, for his clear writings condemning a federal bill to limit damages awarded in medical malpractice and other health care-related lawsuits. He continues to analyze the original writings of the Founding Fathers to determine their intentions for the scope and shape of the powers enumerated to the federal government in the Constitution.

Writing recently on the pages of the Tenth Amendment Center, Natelson wrote an article titled, "The Greatly Misunderstood Chief Justice John Marshall." In it he discussed the twisting of Marshall's legacy by historians to justify judicial activism. Included in the discussion is an analysis of Marshall's rulings in key cases such as McCulloch v. Maryland (1819) and Gibbons v. Ogden (1824), the case often cited for an expansive view of the Commerce Clause by proponents of both ObamaCare and a federal tort reform bill to override state court systems. Natelson describes the actual intention of Marshall's rulings in those two cases:

Marshall's treatment of the Necessary and Proper Clause in McCulloch v. Maryland is widely misunderstood by people who (A) don't know the law of the time, (B) haven't read the entire opinion, and/or © don't know that two of the words Marshall used--"convenient" and "appropriate"-- had narrower meanings in his time than they have today. Marshall himself explained the decision in a subsequent series of op-eds, where he acknowledged that the Necessary and Proper Clause is not a grant of power at all, but an interpretive guide.

Gibbons v. Odgen is often appealed to, as Justice Jackson did, for a very broad reading of the "commerce" component of the Necessary and Proper Clause. Under this reading, the Necessary and Proper Clause allows Congress to regulate any economic activity "substantially affecting" interstate commerce: agriculture, mining, manufacturing, heath care, insurance, medical marijuana--in fact, the entire economy.

However, Gibbons did not even mention the Necessary and Proper Clause. The primary holding of Gibbons was that navigation was within the prevailing legal definition of "commerce" for constitutional purposes--a decision that, under the original understanding of the Constitution, was clearly correct. Some of the Court's dicta (extraneous language) added that in some circumstances commerce (including navigation) within state boundaries might be so tied up with interstate commerce that Congress could regulate it as well. But when Marshall addressed other aspects of the economy, it was to say that they were outside of Congress's power. He specifically mentioned "health laws of every description" as being reserved exclusively to the states.

So those who use Gibbons to argue for the constitutionality of federal control of manufacturing, agriculture, land use, or health care are twisting some of Marshall's words and omitting others.

In other words, the pro-ObamaCare forces and the pro-tort reform causes make the same error for the same reasons. In both cases, the result of victory in each case would be the exercise of excessive federal power, to the detriment of individual rights and the rights of individual states to regulate and manage the daily activities of the citizenry.

Americans are fortunate to have someone like Rob Natelson who has the ability and time to dig into the details of the foundational documents of our nation and educate us on the limits on federal power as intended by the Founders.

"Our friends in New York six weeks ago passed a statute that said marriage can be between two people of the same sex. And you know what? That's New York, and that's their business, and that's fine with me. That is their call. If you believe in the 10th Amendment, stay out of their business."

That's Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, quoted by the AP and repeated in Politico yesterday. So obviously, Gov. Perry should be in favor of protecting state tort law regimes and against federal tort reform, right?! After all, his fellow Texans, Rep. Ron Paul and Tea Party Patriots co-founder Mark Meckler, are already on record against it, and another Texas Republican, Rep. Ted Poe, is against H.R. 5, the medical malpractice tort reform bill pushed by Texas Republican Rep. Lamar Smith.

We need a clear statement from Gov. Perry on his stand on federal tort reform if he runs for President. Either he's the real deal like Ron Paul, or he's just another inconsistent "Constitutional conservative" like Michele Bachmann and all of the other GOP Presidential candidates right now.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the Preemption category.

Liability limits is the previous category.

Quote of the Day is the next category.

Find recent content on the home page or look in the archives to find all content.