Jefferson’s advice to the Supreme Court

By: Chad Kent

Since the Supreme Court is in the middle of hearing a case that will decide if our republic is going to continue or will degenerate into a tyranny of unlimited government power, this seems like a good time to go back and look at some of Thomas Jefferson’s thoughts on how we should interpret the Constitution.

In a letter to Supreme Court Justice William Johnson on June 12, 1823, Jefferson gave him this advice:

“On every question of construction, we should carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.”

This seems like a pretty solid, common sense approach to interpreting the Constitution, but we can be fairly certain that it’s not what we’ll see from the Supreme Court’s decision on Obamacare. When it comes out later this year, read through it and count how many times the justices discuss the writings of the Founders – or even mention them.

This concept couldn’t be more important because this case would be a slam dunk if it were decided based on the Founders‘ intent. It’s simply unreasonable to assume that our Constitution could possibly have been ratified had the people at the time believed that it gave the federal government the power to force them to buy a product.

But there is a significant chance that Obamacare will be upheld because the decision is almost guaranteed to be filled with references to the decisions of other courts and obscure legal concepts that are only loosely related to the Constitution itself. Which brings us to another piece of advice that Thomas Jefferson had for Justice Williams that day:

“Laws are made for men of ordinary understanding, and should therefore be construed by the ordinary rules of common sense. Their meaning is not to be sought for in metaphysical subtleties which make anything mean everything or nothing, at pleasure.”

But this is exactly what we are doing by interpreting the Constitution based on previous court decisions and how individual words can be twisted instead of relying on original intent. After years of this approach, the Constitution now means everything and nothing all at the same time. If Obamacare is upheld, it will mean that a document that was written to put strict limits on the government is now being used to justify giving that same government unlimited power. Yay freedom!


Constitution Law Epic Fail

By: Malcolm A. Kline
Accuracy in Academia

Art Lien/NBC News
Solicitor General Donald Verrilli argued the case for the Obama administration.

There is an obvious teachable moment in the Supreme Court case this week which tests the constitutionality of the Obama Administration’s health care program but most law professors will probably miss it. “The Supreme Court will hear six hours of argument over three days, the longest in 47 years,” of cases heard by the highest court in the land, Randy Barnett of the Georgetown University Law Center pointed out at the Cato Institute on Friday, March 23, 2012. “That alone proves it’s not a constitutionally frivolous case, which 99 percent of my law professor colleagues have been saying.”

While Barnett may have been using that number for effect, it is difficult to find law professors not echoing that theme. “The government has no answer, either in press conferences or in court, as to what the limits are on the law,” Barnett averred at the libertarian think tank.

Barnett disclosed that he is representing the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) in the suit. He argues that the law is unprecedented, unlimited, unnecessary and dangerous.

“The argument that health care is different [from other forms of economic activity the government may choose to regulate] won’t matter in the future since the precedent has been set,” Barnett maintains. Conversely, Barnett notes, “The government concedes that if the mandate goes, the regulations go.” That would include the one forcing Catholic institutions to provide contraception, sterilization and abortifacients.

“The so-called mandate is really a shared-responsibility payment, which sounds kind of Ronald Reagany,” Elizabeth Wydra of the Constitutional Action Center (CAC) insists. The CAC is “a think tank, law firm, and action center dedicated to fulfilling the progressive promise of the U. S. Constitution’s text and history,” according to Wydra’s bio.

Wydra also served as “a supervising attorney and teaching fellow at the Georgetown University Law Center appellate litigation clinic,” her bio shows. Had she stayed with that gig, she could have worked with Georgetown’s most famous law student (at least currently)—Sandra Fluke.

Wydra claims that she is representing 500 state legislators in the Supreme Court health care case.

“In 2004, Barnett appeared before the U. S. Supreme Court to argue the medical cannabis case of Gonzalez v. Raich,” his bio reads. “After Raich, Congress has unprecedented powers,” Barnett said at Cato. “Nevertheless, the court did not give Congress the power to demand that people grow marijuana,” he noted, bringing it all back home to the health care debate currently before the court.

Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.


10 Ridiculously Frivolous Lawsuits Against Big Businesses

By: Zoee Macdonald

Suing major corporations in hopes of making big bucks is a popular game in this society. However, many people get overly creative with their claims, creating lawsuits over laughable causes. Most of these cases get thrown out. But if a business is truly concerned about the fees associated with a frivolous lawsuit, business liability insurance can be helpful. Below are among the most bizarre and absurd lawsuits placed against major corporations.

1. Liebeck v. McDonald’s

Perhaps the most famous “frivolous” lawsuit, Liebeck v. McDonald’s is a case in which 80-year-old Stella Liebeck spilled a McDonald’s coffee in her lap, causing third-degree burns on her legs, lap, and groin area. After she filed the lawsuit, many people criticized her without hearing the full story. After all, coffee is supposed to be hot. In reality, McDonalds has had over 700 complaints filed concerning the scalding temperatures of its coffee, which is served between 180 and 190 degrees for “optimum flavor.” To put that in perspective, coffee at most restaurants is served at around 140 degrees. Liebeck tried to solicit McDonald’s for a mere $800 to cover the skin grafts required for her injuries, but McDonald’s refused. Ultimately, the jury settled, awarding Liebeck $2.7 million.

2. Overton v. Anheuser-Busch

Richard Overton sued Anheuser-Busch for false advertising when drinking a six-pack of Bud Light failed to produce visions of beautiful women on a balmy beach. He sought damages for $10,000, claiming that this deceptive marketing caused him emotional and psychological distress. In other words, Overton was mad that drinking beer didn’t equal hot beach babes. The case was dropped, of course. Hopefully Overton learned a lesson or two about the difference between fantasy and reality. In reality, drinking excessive amounts of Bud Light will only give you a sizable beer gut and a noticeable repellent towards bikini-clad women.

3. Norman v. Honda

The parents of Karen Norman sued Honda when their daughter died from not being able to escape from her Civic after backing into Galveston Bay. At first, the case sounds somewhat legitimate, until you learn the rest of the facts. For example, the Normans sued Honda because their daughter was unable to hit the emergency release button on the seatbelt. However, she failed to hit the button most likely because she had a blood-alcohol level of 0.17 and shouldn’t have been driving in the first place. The incident happened at 2 a.m. with passenger Josel Woods in the passenger seat. Woods was able to swim to safety. Here’s the kicker: the jury actually awarded the parents with just 25% of the damages considered contributorily negligent. Thus, the Normans basically sued and won against Honda in spite of their daughter’s obvious irresponsibility for driving under the influence.

4. Aitken v. NBC

Austin Aitken sued NBC for $2.5 million after a particularly grotesque challenge on Fear Factor allegedly made him vomit and run into a wall. According to Aitken, he was a regular watcher of the show and nothing had previously caused such a reaction until he witnessed contestants competing in a rat-eating challenge. In the show, the rats had been processed in a blender and then served to the contestants, which Aitken claimed caused his blood pressure to rise so much he became disoriented and was unable to see the door on his way to the other room. Aitken claimed that the $2.5 million was an arbitrary amount and that he simply wanted to send networks a message that shows have become too graphic. The judge ultimately threw the suit out, which makes sense. If you don’t want to watch something specific on TV, changing the channel is an effective means of escape.

5. Peters v. Universal Studios

Fifty-seven-year-old Cleanthi Peters filed a suit against Universal Studios for $15,000 because she claimed the annual Halloween Horror Nights haunted house was too scary. After visiting with her 10-year-old granddaughter in 1998, she claimed the haunted house caused her emotional distress. While exiting the haunted house, she was supposedly chased down by a chainsaw-wielding Leatherface (from the movie Texas Chainsaw Massacre), causing her to trip and fall. She claims that the haunted house actor then brandished the weapon over her in a traumatic way. So traumatic, in fact, that it can only be relieved with several grand. Maybe she didn’t realize that haunted houses are supposed to be frightening in nature? If you can’t handle the flames, stay out of the fire.

6. Chiscolm v. Bank of America

A man by the name of Dalton Chiscolm is suing Bank of America for “1,784 BILLION, TRILLION Dollars”, which, coincidentally, is a larger amount than the planet’s gross domestic product. Apparently, his reason for suing the corporation arose from several frustrating phone calls he made to settle some incorrectly deposited checks. The case was thrown out, mainly because there was no federal cause of action for the lawsuit. Along with the absurd amount, Chiscolm asked that the money be deposited into his account the following day with an additional $200,164,000 for his troubles.

7. Rosenberg v. Google

Lauren Rosenberg decided to sue Google for an excess of $100,000 in 2009 when Google Maps advised her to walk on the freeway to get to her destination, causing her to get hit by a car. She also sued the driver of the car. Apparently, the directions took Rosenberg onto Utah State Route 224, a busy freeway without sidewalks. Nonetheless, she meandered along the edge of the road, trusting an electronic device over her apparently missing common sense. Google maps does its best to give users an estimation on directions, but sometimes it gets them wrong, as most computerized programs are bound to do from time to time. Without accurate information of routes in a specific area, Google can only do so much to ensure you get to your destination without being pummeled down by a car. Rosenberg claims that Google should have used its Street View feature to deduce the lack of safety in walking in the area. Perhaps she should have used her own eyeballs, too.

8. Roller v. Blaine & Copperfield

David Roller filed a $2 million lawsuit against magician David Blaine and another $50 million lawsuit against David Copperfield because he claims the two men “stole [his] Godly powers.” According to Roller, the magicians used witchcraft to extort his powers. The underlying message here is that Roller, in his “godliness,” has any powers to begin with. As if we need any more proof that Roller is a nutcase, navigating to his personal website uncovers messages from him in which he stated his belief that Bill Gates would be running against him in the 2008 presidential election.

9. PETA v. Division of Fish and Wildlife

Dan Shannon and Jay Kelly, two PETA members, were leaving an anti-hunting campaign when their Honda Civic was struck by a deer bounding across the road. As a result of the ensuing damage done to the vehicle, they decided to sue the Division of Fish and Wildlife in the New Jersey area. How does this make sense? According to PETA, the deer incident occurred because of the recent deer management program, which stipulated that the Division of Fish and Wildlife increase the deer population so that there will be more available for hunting season. PETA goes on to claim that deer are running across freeways willy-nilly to escape the bloodshed all around them. As usual, PETA is being overly dramatic about animals which, in excess, can cause a real problem. As expected, they are simply trying to find a way to make their own deer-murdering someone else’s fault.

10. Kellogg v. Exxon

Kellogg sued Exxon Mobile, claiming that the Exxon tiger looked too similar to Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes spokesperson Tony the Tiger. Even though both tigers have been emblematic of their respective brands for more than 30 years, Kellogg for some reason felt threatened by the Exxon tiger, concerned that children would mistake the gas station cat for the beloved beast on their cereal box. The matter of trademarking is understandable. However, the fact that Kellogg waited so long to pursue the lawsuit sort of strips them of all credibility.