Tag: volokh conspiracy

(Don’t) Call the Federal Cavalry


305px-Recruiting_poster_New_York_Mounted_RiflesOur federal government was intended to be one of enumerated powers granted by the states; as such, it was empowered to do only a relative handful of things, and those things were understood to be ones that the states were incapable of doing effectively on their own. Obviously, practice has not always followed theory, but it’s one of the things that’s made our country unusual, diverse in the best sense of the phrase, and responsive to its citizens at the most local level. You might even say that it’s part of what made America great.

If there’s one thing state governments have generally been good at, and that the federal government has generally stayed away from, it’s been in murder prosecutions. Oh, sure, there are exceptions for organized crime and a handful of other things — some more legitimate than others — but the presumption had always been that local crimes are handled by local authorities. But with an increasingly national media and an ever-aggressive federal government, there’s been a trend lately where the feds jump at any opportunity to prosecute high-profile crimes. We saw it in the Boston Marathon Bombing case a few years ago; we saw it applied with even greater absurdity last year after Dylann Roof murdered nine church-goers in Charleston, SC; and — if Rep. Ken Buck and Senator Jeff Sessions get their way, we’ll see it again whenever a police officer is murdered.

As Ilya Somin argues on the Washington Post’s Volokh Conspiracy, the Blue Lives Matter Act — which makes it a federal hate crime “to knowingly causes bodily injury to any person … because of the actual or perceived status of the person as a police officer” — is foolish, unnecessary, and unconstitutional (other than that, though, it’s great). State and local authorities are not only perfectly capable of prosecuting those who attack law enforcement officers, they’re already highly incentivized to do so. Indeed, it’s probably the one thing you can rely on any local authority to do, even the most virulently anti-cop. As Somin puts it:

A Free Society Requires Educational Freedom


shutterstock_81053836Over at the Washington Post’s essential Volokh Conspiracy blog, David Kopel retells the fascinating and important story of how, in 1922, the US Supreme Court came to recognize the right to teach one’s children in a language other than English — an extension of the general right to raise and educate one’s children according to one’s conscience.

In 1919, Nebraska outlawed teaching students younger than 9th grade in any language other than English. Like the Blaine Amendments, such laws were primarily directed at Catholic and Lutheran schools, which often taught religious studies in the native tongues of children’s immigrant families. When Robert T. Meyer, a schoolteacher at a Lutheran school, was arrested for teaching in German, he appealed his conviction all the way to the US Supreme Court.

Meyer’s lawyer, Arthur Mullen, argued that the Nebraska law violated the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of liberty, which he explained included “the right to study, and the right to use the human intellect as a man sees fit… [M]ental liberty is more important than the right to be physically free.” In response to pushback from Justice James Clark McReynolds during oral arguments, Mullen argued that the freedom of parents to educate their children in their religious tradition and values is central to freedom generally: