‘Six Amendments’

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By Steven G. Calabresi,

from The Wall Street Journal,

Justice Stevens argues that we need six new amendments. Among them: ending the death penalty and taking away the right to bear arms.

Over the course of his 35-year career on the Supreme Court, Justice John Paul Stevens distinguished himself as one of the most articulate, disciplined and accomplished jurists in U.S. history. He struck down both state-imposed term limits on members of Congress and the so-called Line Item Veto Act, two actions critically important to upholding the meaning of the Constitution. He was also a paragon of fairness: During the bruising 1987 confirmation fight over Supreme Court nominee Robert H. Bork, Justice Stevens gave a speech in favor of Bork’s confirmation. Bork’s views, caricatured by Democratic politicians as extreme, were well within the legal mainstream, Justice Stevens argued.

But in the 1990s, with the retirements of Justices William Brennan, Thurgood Marshall and Harry Blackmun, Justice Stevens became the leader of a bloc of four left-leaning justices, dissenting in major cases like Bush v. Gore and Gonzales v. Carhart until his retirement in 2010. His liberal legacy is on full display in “Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution,” in which he makes the case that, in the past two decades, “rules crafted by a slim majority of the members of the Supreme Court have had such a profound and unfortunate impact on our basic law that resort to the process of amendment is warranted.” Though the last constitutional amendment was passed more than two decades ago, Justice Stevens argues that we need six constitutional amendments to overturn majority opinions in cases that he lost during his time on the bench.

Justice Stevens would abolish the death penalty and take away Americans’ individual right to keep and bear arms. His proposals would limit First Amendment freedoms by overturning Supreme Court decisions disallowing campaign-finance laws and allow state governments to be sued for money damages for the first time in history. Two additional amendments would compel state officials to work for Congress and force the courts to get involved in redrawing congressional-district boundary lines.

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