Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘Justice Robert H. Jackson’

7th May 2011

It is unfortunate that there is a seeming trend within the zeitgeist of the American collective consciousness to immediately associate the term “States’ Rights” with notions of slavery, discrimination, and, in a sense, political corruption. It is this author’s opinion that much of the animosity surrounding the term “States’ Rights” is derived from some egregiously wrongheaded positions held by bigoted and xenophobic American politicians in years past. This trend is unfortunate because it is this author’s opinion that the very diversity of jurisprudence in an intrastate and interstate jurisdictional context within the American Union (by this term, this author refers to the United States of America as enshrined in the United States Constitution and the amendments thereto in conjunction with the 50 several sovereign United States each having their own State Constitution) is the very sinew which reinforces America’s economic strength on the global stage. Others associate the term “States’ Rights” with secessionist movements in years past. To be clear, this author has always believed that America’s strength is in the Rights of the Several States WITHIN THE UNION! American Founder Benjamin Franklin once famously stated: “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately”. This statement is no less true now than at the time it was uttered. America’s strength lies in her simultaneous interstate and intrastate diversity buttressed by a virtually monolithic national government in matters pertaining to foreign affairs and national defense. It is something of a paradox that is both vexing to outsiders and the source of America’s ability to remain fluid in both a political and economic sense. In short: this duality is the secret to America’s historical success.

Full Faith and Credit: The Clause That Binds The American Republic

The Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution could be viewed non-literally as the mortar securing the bricks which maintain the indomitable structure acting as a repository for the ideals of the American republic. Around the Full Faith and Credit Clause the Union of American jurisprudence is maintained. Therefore, analysis of said Clause is important for our purposes. This author has come to find much insight in studying the thoughts of Justice Robert H. Jackson on this issue, to quote directly from Justice Jackson:

“By other articles of the Constitution our forefathers created a political union among otherwise independent and sovereign states. By other provisions, too, they sought to integrate the economic life of the country. By the full faith and credit clause they sought to federalize the separate and independent state legal systems by the overriding principle of reciprocal recognition of public acts, records, and judicial proceedings. It was placed foremost among those measures which would guard the new political and economic union against the disintegrating influence of provincialism in jurisprudence, but without aggrandizement of federal power at the expense of the states.”

This author has often found that Justice Jackson is a unique resource on these issues as he understood the fundamentals of American law through long practice and study of New York law and later study of Federal law in his capacity as a Supreme Court Justice. Concurrently, Justice Jackson also was a trailblazer in matters pertaining to international law especially in his capacity as prosecutor during the Nuremberg trials. Therefore, this author finds Justice Jackson’s epitaph to be one of the most fitting: “He kept the ancient landmarks and built the new.” Such a notion should be palpable as America looks across the horizon of the 21st century.

Legal Diversity in an American Context

The motto on the Seal of the United States is “E Pluribus Unum”. This phrase is Latin and translates to English as “Out of Many, One”. Many Americans have long associated this phrase with the notion of the American “melting pot,” a phrase which alludes to the fact that America is a racially, ethnically, ideologically, and religiously diverse nation. This is very true and this fact has been one of the cornerstones of America’s relative economic success since her founding. However, rather few take note of the fact that from the perspective of an attorney this phrase could also allude to the notion of a legally stratified republic in a geographic sense as each sovereign American State has her own jurisprudence which operates simultaneously with much of that of the United States federal government. Under some circumstances, the federal government’s authority may override that of the States, but such circumstances, in this author’s opinion, are likely to be of less concern moving forward in light of the fact that the internet and World Wide Web have integrated the global economic platform to the point that true “Long Tail” economics is creating novelty and comparative advantage for the 50 states in both an interstate context as well as an intrastate context. This is also true in a global context as businesses located in the 50 States are likely to continue to do business in increasingly creative ways both domestically and internationally. The author does not mean to imply that there will be less Federal oversight in the future as there will likely be regulations and scrutiny emanating from federal authorities, but America is incredibly flexible when it suits her interests and as the business environment in America evolves so too does it seem likely that State and Federal regulatory schemes will evolve as well. This current state of affairs is likely to be the precursor to future economic dynamism in the relatively long term and could be the key to economic success in the short term as well.

Meanwhile, an understanding of States’ Rights, in conjunction with an understanding of the enumerated powers of the United States Federal government can provide a sort of framework for thinking about the opportunities which can be exploited by Americans in an increasingly economically integrated global marketplace of not only goods, services, and commodities; but ideas as well. For example, the State of North Dakota and the State of Utah have made interesting decisions regarding intrastate monetary and financial policy. North Dakota has opted for a sort of miniaturized Federal Reserve in that State in the form of the Bank of North Dakota, which is considered by some to be a departure from “mainstream” thinking regarding State finances. Also, the State of Utah has recently enacted a legal tender reform bill which appears to recognize gold and silver coinage minted by the federal government as legal tender within that jurisdiction. This legislation also appears to have changed the way in which the exchange of gold and silver coins are taxed in an intrastate context as the bill apparently repeals state taxation of such coinage. Those interested in further information on these issues are well advised to contact an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of Utah (and/or North Dakota, for that matter), as further commentary by this author on that subject would simply be an exercise in speculation. What is clear merely from the information noted above: American States are becoming increasingly creative and dynamic in terms of intrastate activity and this relatively new dynamism may be the driving force behind an eventually resurgent American economy.

America: A Nation of Webmasters

The Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte once snidely declared: “L’Angleterre est une nation de boutiquiers.” This statement could be roughly translated to state that: “England is a nation of shopkeepers”. Unfortunately for Napoleon that nation of shopkeepers went on the defeat his Grand Army at the Battle of Waterloo and thereafter administer an Empire upon which the sun never set. This historical factoid is important for the reader to understand because it elucidates an analogy in a modern context. Namely, the United States of America, due to the rise of e-commerce, appears set upon the path to becoming a nation of e-shopkeepers. These e-shopkeepers, e-commerce businesses, and webmasters are increasingly coming to form a major component of the American economy at a time when some areas of the economy are showing signs of stagnation. Bearing this in mind, the reader is encouraged to note a quotation from Sir Winston Churchill: “Some see private enterprise as a predatory target to be shot, others as a cow to be milked, but few are those who see it as a sturdy horse pulling the wagon.” The reader is encouraged to note the fact that Churchill was a British-American and quite proud to be so. Churchill understood that strong nations are built upon the foundation of a vibrant free market as well as a thriving business environment and he knew this from long study of American, British, and world history. In this author’s opinion, the wagon of America will continue to be drawn by the forces of her citizenry’s entrepreneurialism, but much of the commerce which emanates from the United States in the future will be on platforms which exist in cyberspace. Therefore, such commerce will not have all of the same attributes as that of years past.

America, China, Thailand, ASEAN, and Greater Asia

As the 21st century rolls on it seems likely that America will be increasingly engaged with Asia in both a diplomatic context as well as a commercial context. This commercial engagement is increasingly likely to occur across the spectrum of business as American companies large and small trade goods, services, and intellectual property with jurisdictions in Asia. While most Americans are aware of the growing economic might of Greater China comparatively few are aware of increasingly vibrant economies of countries such as the Kingdom of Thailand and the Kingdom of Cambodia. Meanwhile, the somewhat young Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) would seem to be on track toward creating economic efficiencies across Southeast Asia to the apparent benefit of all concerned. In this author’s opinion, Americans would be wise to remain mindful of the East Asian and Southeast Asian markets as there appears virtually no limit to the economic potential inherent in some of these economies. Hopefully, through skillful statesmanship, keen understanding of relevant law, and shrewd business acumen America and the American people can benefit from economic developments in Asia and throughout the world.

For related information please see: Full Faith and Credit Clause or ecommerce.

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23rd April 2011

Much to her credit Secretary of State Hillary Clinton once declared:

“Gay rights are human rights.”

Although this blogger may not have personally agreed with every one of the opinions espoused by Mrs. Clinton over the years, he can at least state that she has been a zealous and effective advocate, where possible, for the rights of the LGBT community. However, this blogger might add that the statement quoted above could be construed as incomplete.  In order to elucidate why this statement may be incomplete this blogger would need to quote directly from a recent posting on the website Lez Get Real:

Sen. Al Franken is the newest co-sponsor of legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate late last week that would give binational same-sex couples the same rights as married couples for immigration purposes. The Uniting American Families Act is authored by Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont and is sponsored by 18 other Democrats. Even though same-sex marriage is legal in seven jurisdictions in the United States, couples in which one partner is not a citizen do not have any right under current federal law.

Frequent readers of this blog may recall that Representative Jerrold Nadler recently introduced similar legislation in the United States House of Representatives. To continue by quoting an interesting question raised in the previously cited posting on Lez Get Real:

DOMA’s repeal will enable gays and lesbians – same-sex spouses – to sponsor foreign spouses for green cards so why do we need both bills before an unfriendly house at the same time?

The administration of this web log strongly encourages readers to click upon the hyperlinks noted above to read the full story on the website cited above in order to gain further insight and perspective into this posting.

The question above raises a great many issues that are both complex and, at times, controversial; but go to the heart of the current struggle to secure equal rights for all Americans under the law of the United States of America.  Getting back to Mrs. Clinton’s remark: it is perhaps incomplete because it fails to take into consideration the rights of the Several States. The United States Constitution is composed of 50 co-equal sovereign States as well as a Federal government which has enumerated powers to perform certain functions while reserving the residual inalienable rights to the States and the People respectively. One of the rights which the States have always reserved unto themselves is the right to legalize and/or solemnize a marriage within their jurisdiction. Notwithstanding this fact, the United States Federal government decided to pass legislation referred to colloquially as The “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA). By doing so, they rode roughshod over the rights of the States to make decisions regarding the intra-State definition of marriage and how State sanctioned marriages between two people of the same sex would be treated by other States (including the Federal government which is a separate sovereign from the 50 States), but at that time this was not readily apparent due to the fact that States had yet to change the law regarding what constitutes a marriage.

To shed more light upon these issues it may be best to quote directly from an extremely insightful article on the subject of Full Faith and Credit by Justice Robert H. Jackson and posted on the website, RobertHJackson.org:

By other articles of the Constitution our forefathers created a political union among otherwise independent and sovereign states. By other provisions, too, they sought to integrate the economic life of the country. By the full faith and credit clause they sought to federalize the separate and independent state legal systems by the overriding principle of reciprocal recognition of public acts, records, and judicial proceedings. It was placed foremost among those measures(n69) which would guard the new political and economic union against the disintegrating influence of provincialism in jurisprudence, but without aggrandizement of federal power at the expense of the states.

To quote the Full Faith and Credit Clause directly:

Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.

Some have discussed the issue of Full Faith and Credit at length with this blogger and cite the quotation above noting that Congress does have the power to prescribe laws regarding the “Effect” of State legislation. This blogger would concur with such an assessment, but the current provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) do not merely regulate the Effect of duly solemnized and legalized same sex marriage in the States which allow such unions, but instead DOMA makes such legislation wholly INEFFECTIVE because that law simply refuses to recognize the validity of same sex unions. In this blogger’s opinion this is clearly violative of the U.S. Constitution as true Full Faith and Credit has not been accorded to same sex marriages legalized within those sovereign States.

In Justice Jackson’s concurring opinion in the case of Youngstown Steel & Tube Co. v. Sawyer the following framework was created for analyzing executive action:

In determining whether the executive has authority, there are three general circumstances:

  1. When the President acts pursuant to an express or implied authorization of Congress, the President’s authority is at its greatest.
  2. When the President acts in the absence of either a congressional grant or denial of authority, he can only rely upon his own independent powers, but there is a zone in which he and Congress may have concurrent authority. When this is the case, the test depends on the imperatives of events and contemporary imponderables rather than on abstract theories of law.
  3. When the President takes measures incompatible with the expressed or implied will of Congress, the authority of the President is at its lowest.

This blogger asks that readers click on the hyperlinks above to understand this case further.

To continue analyzing this issue: it is this blogger’s opinion that States’ Rights issues in connection with Full Faith and Credit could be analyzed in a similar manner to the first prong of the analysis used by Justice Jackson to adjudicate Presidential authority. When the Sovereign States act pursuant to an express or implied authorization of their legislatures or pursuant to the will of the People (ex. a State referendum), then shouldn’t the greatest amount of Full Faith and Credit be accorded to the laws created therefrom? Why does the Federal government get to override sovereign prerogatives clearly reserved to the States and the People, respectively? Clearly, from the plain language of the Full Faith and Credit Clause Congress can make rules regarding the regulation of the Effect of such legislation on other States which do not have similar prerogatives, but, in this blogger’s opinion, the Federal government simply cannot unilaterally overrule, either preemptively or after the fact, State prerogatives simply by citing their power to regulate the Effect of such prerogatives.

To get back to the issue of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) vs. repeal of DOMA (either outright or through a statute similar to the Respect for Marriage Act). In this blogger’s opinion the reason that both of these bills are on the floor stems from the inherent tensions which arise as a result of the fact that the USA uses a federal system within her Constitution providing concurrent jurisdiction for 1 Federal government as well as 50 State sovereigns. Institutions within government, especially the US Federal government, are often loathe to give up power. By recognizing that refutation of marriages solemnized and legalized within sovereign State jurisdiction is outside of their bailiwick the Federal government could be construed to have conceded to a practical loss of authority on such issues (which this blogger believes that they do not have to begin with).

Concurrently, there are sound political reasons for having both bills out there on the floor of the Federal legislature. One, it provides a better chance of seeing at least some progress on this issue. If a DOMA repeal is not possible within this session, but passage of UAFA can occur, why not take it? At the very least passage of UAFA could lead to reunification of same sex bi-national couples who are geographically separated due to the provisions of DOMA. Therefore, this blogger would argue that such a strategy is sound, but those within the LGBT should not lose sight of the ultimate goal: full equality under the law. IF UAFA can be secured along the way, all the better, but mere passage of that legislation should not be viewed as the end of the struggle.

To sum up, the issues associated with accordance of Full Faith and Credit to same sex marriages solemnized and legalized by a sovereign State with appropriate jurisdiction are myriad and few, if any, have been resolved, but they continue to be some of the most interesting issues to be currently debated in the realm of U.S. Constitutional law. In conclusion, although it is not debatable in this blogger’s mind that Gay Rights are Human Rights. Perhaps Gay Rights are States’ Rights as well?

For related information please see: Same Sex Visa.

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