Monday, August 23, 2010
McDonald v. Chicago and Bill of Rights Uniformity
Justice Stevens’s dissenting opinion in McDonald v. Chicago is remarkable for many reasons. This post focuses on Stevens’s argument that provisions of the Bill of Rights need not apply in the same way everywhere. The Justices in the majority did not fully come to terms with Stevens’s claim. Understanding Stevens’s argument and assessing its implications require reading McDonald through the lens of some earlier cases in which Stevens also wrote about Bill of Rights uniformity.
"Reading Steven’s dissent in McDonald through the lens of Marsh also suggests the possibility that state courts could apply stronger Second Amendments against state government than the Supreme Court itself imposes."
This is generally the case, so I'm not sure if his dissent makes it a particularly notable.
Lest we forget, Stevens was a Nixon/Ford appointee, so his more restrained, state discretion approach here is not that surprising. It would be interesting to see how he would have decided cases if he was on the Warren Court. Would he incorporate as fully or take a middle of the road approach?
This is particularly interesting since I'd like to know the breadth of his "state should have discretion" argument. Other than juries, and is he really fully on board with non-unanimous juries?, that simply isn't the rule now.
Well, it is in respect to obscenity, but Stevens doesn't support that. He opposes the exception as a whole, but at the very least supports national standards.
So, it seems a bit curious that the 2A is singled out. In respect to speech and let's say sexual conduct or abortion rights, local discretion doesn't seem to be a big thing for him. This too leads me to be curious about how he would decided without decades of precedent on the matter.
I personally really convinced by his dissent in McDonald. A one-way ratchet (states can offer more defense) on criminal matters isn't really on point, unless you think discretion on guns is equally protective of liberty.
"The Justices in the majority did not fully come to terms with Stevens’s claim."
Not really much there to come to terms with. It's just one of the stock rhetorical tactics for pretending you're not really advocating that the 2nd amendment be ignored, while letting all the jurisdictions that want to ignore it do so.
Scalia is right, that's not how the Bill of Rights works. It's how people try to keep it from working.
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As for Jason's ridiculous assessment that Steven's decision might be based on Federalist principles, one needs to read no further than his descent in Printz. I also take umbrage at this idea that the court is split along lines of liberalism and conservatism; It is not. The court is split along nihilist and constructionist, and Stevens is firmly entrenched in the nihilist camp.
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