Posts Tagged ‘15th Amendment’


Shenanigans of Law in Alabama

   Posted by: Robert    in Law

I happened across a curious post on one of my more liberal leaning legal blogs a couple of days ago.  Apparently, a group of voters has filed a lawsuit in one of Alabama’s circuit courts challenging the legality of the Constitution adopted by the state in 1901.  The complaint and supporting document present the claim that the Alabama Constitution is invalid under the Federal Constitution.  Their complaint essentially boils down to the argument that the Constitution was ratified as a result of racist, pro-white voter fraud, making the document and the government it creates illegitimate.  As I see it, this complaint faces a number of deep flaws.

The first and most obvious question to ask in a case like this is, “What about the 14th Amendment?”  It is relied on as one of the two main authorities in the case under which the plaintiffs seek to have the Alabama Constitution declared invalid.  However, as the Utah Supreme Court observed in Dyett v. Turner, there are historical reasons to doubt the legitimacy of the 14th Amendment as well.  Despite these comments from the Utah Supreme Court, there is no indication that any court (Utah’s Supreme Court included) actually believes that the 14th Amendment is not, in fact, an enforceable part of the Federal Constitution.

Moving on to more legalistic matters, the Alabama courts would face an immediate problem if they rule in favor of the plaintiffs in this case.  Plaintifss seek, as a remedy, that the Court “issue a permanent injunction enjoining the [State] from continuing to enforce the [Alabama Constitution].”  More to the point, they believe that the “Constitution was never passed by the people of Alabama” and is, therefore, “invalid.”  If the Court rules that the Alabama Constitution is invalid, it must necessarily also rule that it has no legal authority upon which to base its judgment.  Like all of the other departments of government, Alabama’s judicial department derives its authority, ultimately, from the Alabama Constitution.  Therefore, if plaintiffs are correct, they have asked for relief from a tribunal which has no more legal authority than I have.

Since plaintiffs would put me on equal footing with the Alabama courts, I might as well spend a moment or two talking about the actual merits of their claim.  I find it interesting that in their entire complaint, plaintiffs cite only a few brief words in regard to things like poll taxes and property requirements which, even assuming that those are sitll operative provisions of the Alabama Constitution, are assuredly not enforced (or enforceable).  Importantly, although “[t]he harm … is experienced by each new generation of voters,” (complaint) they fail to set out any harm more tangible than some kind of inherited disenfranchisement.  This  hardly strikes me as the type of claim which is “concrete and particularized” (Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife).  As far as the complaints about the racist history and language go, I know of no precedent holding that laws with racist history or which use racist language are automatically invalid in the absence of actual racial disparity, and there is no actual disparity claimed.

With a bit of luck, the Alabama courts will find a way to resolve this case quickly and at minimal taxpayer expense.  The easy, obvious, and proper thing to do would be to dismiss the case on a matter of standing or some other preliminary issue without even giving the lawyers an opportunity to try presenting the merits of their claim.  To be sure, logic forbids any Alabama court from ruling in plaintiffs’ favor, which is reason enough to bounce the case as soon as possible.

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