Russell and Duenes

Oliver Wendell Holmes on the Misuse of the 14th Amendment

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Supreme Court Justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes, writing in 1930 (Baldwin v. Missouri) about the dangers of judicial overreach on the 14th Amendment. His warning has come ingloriously true.

I have not yet adequately expressed the more than anxiety that I feel at the ever increasing scope given to the Fourteenth Amendment in cutting down what I believe to be the constitutional rights of the states. As the decisions now stand, I see hardly any limit but the sky to the invalidating of those rights if they happen to strike a majority of this Court as for any reason undesirable. I cannot believe that the Amendment was intended to give us carte blanche to embody our economic or moral beliefs in its prohibitions. Yet I can think of no narrower reason that seems to me to justify the present and the earlier decisions to which I have referred. Of course, the words “due process of law,” if taken in their literal meaning, have no application to this case, and, while it is too late to deny that they have been given a much more extended and artificial signification, still we ought to remember the great caution shown by the Constitution in limiting the power of the states, and should be slow to construe the clause in the Fourteenth Amendment as committing to the Court, with no guide but the Court’s own discretion, the validity of whatever laws the states may pass.

-D

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Written by Michael Duenes

July 24, 2010 at 1:14 pm

Posted in Duenes, Supreme Court

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