From abortion, campaign finance reform, and prayer to affirmative action and pollution. In his new book, Terms of Engagement: How Our Courts Should Enforce the Constitution’s Promise of Limited Government (Encounter Books, October 8) Institute for Justice senior attorney Clark M. Neily III asks if we can trust the Supreme Court to rule wisely on any of these vital these issues.
Neily argues that the Supreme Court has been asleep at the bench for years. From the abandonment of federalism, to open disregard for property rights and economic freedom, the U.S. Supreme Court consistently protects government prerogatives at the expense of liberty.
Of the 15,817 laws passed by Congress between 1954 and 2002, the Supreme Court struck down just 103 - that’s just two-thirds of one percent. The Court struck down less than one-twentieth of one percent of the million-plus state laws passed during that time, and it strikes down just three out of every 5,000 laws passed by Congress and state legislatures in any given year.
Just a few of the shocking abuses documented in the book include:
- How the State of Louisiana prohibited an impoverished widow from working as a florist because she could not pass the state’s absurdly subjective licensing exam.
- How government agents use forfeiture laws to seize property from law-abiding citizens without even alleging—let alone proving—they have committed any crime.
- How the federal government exercises constitutionally unauthorized powers to micromanage people’s lives and even prevent terminally ill cancer patients from receiving potentially life-saving medical treatment.
- How the Supreme Court allowed the use of eminent domain to bulldoze a working class neighborhood in New London, CT, for private development.
- The use of make-believe judging to transform judicial review from a cornerstone of limited government into an empty charade in which courts simply rubber-stamp whatever the government is doing, no matter how arbitrary or unjust.
- Combining real-world examples of the harm wrought by judicial abdication, with a rigorous legal case for a more engaged judiciary, Terms of Engagement is both a full-throated indictment of the status quo and an urgent call for reform.
Clark M. Neily III is a senior attorney at the Institute for Justice, where he litigates constitutional cases involving economic liberty, property rights, free speech, and school choice. In his private capacity, Neily represented the plaintiffs in District of Columbia v. Heller, the historic case in which the Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to own guns.
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