Justice Stevens Weighs In

By Sheila Kennedy

[Originally published at SheilaKennedy.net on April 9, 2014]

Retired Supreme Court Justice Stevens has a new book out in which he makes the case for six Amendments to the Constitution. 

  1. The “Anti-Commandeering Rule” (Amend the Supremacy Clause of Article VI) This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges and other public officials in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding. 
  2. Political Gerrymandering – Districts represented by members of Congress, or by members of any state legislative body, shall be compact and composed of contiguous territory. The state shall have the burden of justifying any departures from this requirement by reference to neutral criteria such as natural, political, or historical boundaries or demographic changes. The interest in enhancing or preserving the political power of the party in control of the state government is not such a neutral criterion. 
  3. Campaign Finance – Neither the First Amendment nor any other provision of this Constitution shall be construed to prohibit the Congress or any state from imposing reasonable limits on the amount of money that candidates for public office, or their supporters, may spend in election campaigns. 
  4. Sovereign Immunity – Neither the Tenth Amendment, the Eleventh Amendment, nor any other provision of this Constitution, shall be construed to provide any state, state agency, or state officer with an immunity from liability for violating any act of Congress, or any provision of this Constitution. 
  5. Death Penalty- (Amend the 8th Amendment) Excessive Bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments such as the death penalty inflicted. 
  6. The Second Amendment – (Amend the 2nd Amendment) A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms when serving in the Militia shall not be infringed. 

Of course, the likelihood of passing any amendments in this politically polarized age is fanciful; lawmakers can’t even manage to pass what should be relatively noncontroversial legislation. 

Nevertheless, these eminently rational suggestions provide plenty of food for thought. Not to mention, an implicit condemnation of our unwillingness to come to terms with the realities of modern life.



Sheila Kennedy is a former high school English teacher, former lawyer, former Republican, former Executive Director of Indiana's ACLU, former columnist for the Indianapolis Star, and former young person. She is currently an (increasingly cranky) old person, a Professor of Law and Public Policy at Indiana University Purdue University in Indianapolis, and Director of IUPUI's Center for Civic Literacy. She writes for the Indianapolis Business Journal, PA Times, and the Indiana Word, and blogs at www.sheilakennedy.net. For those who are interested in more detail, links to an abbreviated CV and academic publications can be found on her blog, along with links to her books..

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