The Constitution of the United States and the subsequent Amendments were written in order to guarantee that American citizens would have certain rights. Among these rights was that to bear arms, or in simple language, to own a gun. Opponents of gun control seek to eliminate this right because they do not feel that owning a gun is relevant in this day and age; however, those opponents have not considered that our forefathers anticipated this dispute. Therefore, they included it in the Constitution in order to ensure that it would always be an American citizen’s right to own a gun. Amendments can be added to the Constitution in order to reflect changes with time, but none should be eliminated.
The First Amendment also provides that the government cannot establish a national religion or to prevent citizens from following the religion of their choice. I believe that this Amendment was meant not only to protect religious choices, but to protect the right not to follow any religion as well. The removal of religious content from the schools and from every branch of the government is not specifically called for, but doing so protects the rights of the non-religious. The First Amendment also protects freedom of speech and the press. I think the press takes this freedom a bit far in not revealing controversial sources. It isn’t stated in the Constitution, and I don’t believe it is even implied. Finally, people can assemble in peace and petition the government with grievances. These rights must always be protected in order to ensure that the People have a voice within the government.
The Second Amendment also ensures that we will always have military protection. In light of the events since 9/11, this is one right that should always remain within the Constitution. It ensures that a military will not only be provided, but funded as well.
June of 2005 brought a split decision on the subject of displaying the Ten Commandments on government property. The framed copies on display in Kentucky were forbidden while an Austin, Texas monument was permitted to remain on display. The split decision hinged on the intent of the two displays: the Kentucky display was considered to be a blatant promotion of monotheism while the Austin monument was inspired by historical and educational values that were also displayed in less controversial monuments (Lane). While it was an original idea to consider the intention behind the exhibits, religious material should never be displayed at a government site.
The First Amendment not only guarantees a freedom to practice one’s own religion, but the phrase “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” implies that the government will stay out of religious matters altogether. The freedom to practice religion must necessarily include the freedom to practice no religion at all – a right which cannot be enforced as long as religious material is permitted to be displayed in government sites; when students are expected to say “under God”; and when workplaces encourage prayer at meetings. Doing so implies that the government entity is religious and only works for those who honor some type of monotheistic religion.
A government must consider the rights of the many ahead of the rights of the few. Individuals are free to worship, to send their children to religious schools, and to display symbols of their faith within their homes. Government buildings should not contain religious material. Atheists (or individuals who do not honor the Bible as an authority) should not be made to swear on the Bible in court or to accept a high government position. Rather, they should be encouraged to tell the truth with no theological reasoning behind it.
The case of Bush v. Gore, 531 U.S. 98 (2000), was controversial in whether or not it created new election law by allowing a recount in Florida. It was determined that it was unconstitutional, and the recount was not permitted. Justices Breyer and Souter agreed with the decision but disagreed with the remedy, insisting that a proper recount could take place. Ginsberg and Stevens supported the right of the Florida Supreme Court to authorize a recount, believing that the most important right was from the Constitution – that every vote must be counted.
I agree that the Supreme Court needed to look at this process carefully in order to ensure that election laws were upheld when necessary. However, I disagree with the ultimate decision. There were several issues within the case: whether votes in Florida were intentionally withheld; if election law permitted a recount; finally, which was more important – upholding current law or ensuring that every vote is counted. Clearly, there was intentional wrongdoing in Florida. Too many minority groups found that their votes disappeared from the ballot pool. In addition, election law should be held as a guideline, not as a strict list of rules. Every election is different and current law does not allow for flexibility in dealing with disputes.
The purpose of the Constitution is to ensure that every citizen is represented. The decision in Bush v. Gore did just the opposite – it showed that only certain votes were important, the rest simply didn’t matter. Individuals need to be encouraged to vote, showing them that their votes are nebulous will discourage them from voting. Finally, election law needs to be changed in order to reflect the current times. We no longer need an Electoral College as technology provides us with a quick way of transmitting votes.
The Rodney King case did more to put society in the role of victim than any other case in history. The Los Angeles Police Department lost the trust of the public in general and minorities in particular when their officers were filmed beating King. Since that time, minorities are wary of dealing with the police and the LAPD has been found to be the source of a great deal of corruption and controversy. As a result, the reputation of the police has been tarnished in spite of the good men and women who risk their lives every day. Finally, individuals worry about rioting every time there is a controversial court case or any dispute concerning minorities.
Stare decisis should be applied in criminal cases because it succeeds in upholding two processes: the first is using precedent to decide criminal cases; the second, having the power to overturn a case and thus create new precedent. Stare decisis needs to be applied in criminal cases in order to ensure that every defendant is treated exactly the same. In this day and age of accused racism, sexism and bias against individuals who are of a controversial group, precedent is the only thing that makes everyone equal under the law. In this regard, a defendant is treated as a crime, rather than a criminal. If a black defendant and a white defendant were both convicted of rape, they would be sentenced equally under the law. Without precedent, it is possible that one defendant would be treated more harshly than the other.
I believe in a liberal construction of the law. A strict approach requires the courts to see every person and situation as exactly the same. The truth is that every situation is different and every person should be treated as an individual. For example, Defendant A and Defendant B both robbed grocery stores at gunpoint. Defendant A terrorized the employees and customers and robbed the store for drug money, this was not the first arrest or conviction. Defendant B was poor, desperate, and caused as little ruckus as possible. This was B’s first arrest. Should these defendants be sentenced in exactly the same manner? A liberal interpretation of the law allows the Court to take their different situations and potential recidivism into account. Laws need to change with the times; many laws do not account for electronic crimes or biological advances (such as theft of embryos). By taking a liberal approach to the law, not only can laws be upheld, but they can remain timely as well.
An appointment to the Supreme Court should be a lifelong privilege and responsibility. It should be considered the culmination of a long, distinguished career in law. One does not leave law school and put on a judge’s robe, one first practices law and learns how it works. After obtaining enough experience, the lawyer is appointed to a judgeship and later can seek out a higher role. This appointment to the Supreme Court should be considered the pinnacle of one’s career – because they will be deciding such important cases, they need to spend the rest of their lives practicing law at this level.
In addition, the lifetime appointment prevents judges from gaining illegitimate favor in order to sit on the bench. A constant rotation of judges in and out would necessarily mean some judges would be less experienced than others, and this gap in experience could affect how cases are decided. New justices are included upon the retirement or death of a former justice, and this ensures that there will always be a fresh voice within the Supreme Court. The lifetime appointment of justices ensures that the court will apply the law consistently, but not stagnantly.
Lane, C. (2005 Jun 28). Court split over commandments. Retrieved May 16, 2007, from The Washington Post Web site: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/27/AR2005062700416.html
Oyez -- Bush v. Gore. Retrieved May 16, 2007, from Oyez Web site: http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2000/2000_00_949/
(1998 Apr 28). Rodney King. Retrieved May 16, 2007, from Court TV.com Web site: http://www.courttv.com/archive/casefiles/rodneyking/