A constitutional perfect storm?

April 6, 2010

At American Thinker, Larrey Anderson takes a cautious view of the chances for success in the suits by state Attorneys General against ObamaCare, especially the individual mandate, because the states have since the Great Depression largely cooperated in the cession of power to Washington. It’s a point well-taken, though I disagree with his example of the interstate highway system; I think that clearly falls under the Commerce Clause.

However, Mr. Anderson does believe that a combination of suits from the states and individuals harmed by ObamaCare might well have a chance. In a rather shotgun approach, he argues for relief based on more than half the Bill of Rights, specifically the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th amendments. Follow the link above for the full article, but I want to quote his argument regarding the 5th amendment, which quite matches my own thinking. The hypothetical situation is that of a woman who chooses not to get insurance for herself, and then contests the penalty the IRS assesses against her:

The “penalty” is a violation of the young mother’s 5th Amendment rights: “No person shall … be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” [Emphasis mine.]

Since the IRS will garnish the mother’s wages, there will be no due process for the mother without a protracted legal battle through many strata of bureaucracies. The woman’s money is her private property. It is being taken from her, for public use, without any (let alone “just”) compensation.

I think this is inherently correct, though an attack based on this reasoning would likely meet a lot of resistance, because it could be interpreted as a challenge to the whole of the IRS’ administrative enforcement powers.  However, by combining the the taking of private property without just compensation condition with the lack of due process, an argument can be made limited to the specific abuse of power, not the structure of IRS enforcement in total.

Anderson also makes an interesting and ironic argument related to the 9th amendment, which protects the unenumerated rights of the people.

Finally, the mother could sue under the 9th Amendment. The 9th Amendment is short and sweet:

  • The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

What is interesting about the possibility of a 9th Amendment challenge to ObamaCare is that previous “progressive” decisions issued by the Supreme Court could offer some of the best ammunition for the case that the legislation is unconstitutional.

Anderson cites the precedent of Griswold v. Connecticut, a birth-control case that laid the legal foundation for Roe v. Wade, and which relied heavily on 9th amendment protections. He again makes an interesting argument that the same 9th amendment reasoning applied in Griswold also applies against the Federal government’s claim to the power to enforce an individual mandate. Since Griswold and the cases based on it are darlings of the progressive Left, it would be ironic indeed if the same amendment and constitutional logic were used to undo the Left’s golden-calf legislation.

RELATED: Some earlier thoughts on the matter.