24 January 2010

Is Obamacare Unconstitutional

Obamacare, the derogatory word used by critics to refer to Pres. Obama's attempt at reforming America's health care system, has been in the news quite a bit lately, even here in Germany. But part of the story that is somewhat under-reported is an attempt by opponents of Obama's plan to convince legislators, the public and ultimately the courts that the President's plan is unconstitutional. Unconstitutional? How so? Glad you asked. Yale law professor has a very short and well-written piece in the Los Angeles Times on this very topic. His verdict: Obama's proposal is perfectly constitutional. Students in my Introduction to American Law class should read through Prof. Amar's piece as it discusses some constitutional issues that will form the basis of much of next semester's American Constitutional Law course.

05 January 2010

Original Jurisdiction

So the Attorney General of the State of Michigan is filing a lawsuit in the U.S. Supreme Court in order to protect the Great Lakes from Asian carp. Students in at least one of my classes (you know who you are, students in Introduction to American Law) should immediately be asking themselves a few questions here, and it has nothing to do with fish. This lawsuit is BEGINNING in the U.S. Supreme Court. Wait, didn't we learn that the Court is the highest appeals court in the U.S.? Remember our discussion about something called "original jurisdiction"? Article III of the Constitution specifically gives the Court "original jurisdiction" to hear a variety (albeit limited variety) of cases. One such case is when a state sues another state, which is what we have here: the State of Michigan v. the State of Illinois. In short, such a case begins in the Supreme Court, which is what we mean by "original jurisdiction." Of course, the case ends there too.