How’d that secession thing work out for you? Not so well? Want to get all the benefits of secession without any of the drawbacks? The Tea Party has your answer – nullification. Any law a state doesn’t like can be declared unconstitutional and poof, the state can ignore it. Want to ignore Brown v. Board of Education? No worries.
Only one problem, nullification is unconstitutional.
Article III of the Constitution:
The judicial Power [which is vested in one supreme Court] shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority;
The Supreme Court gets the final decision, which is the only one that counts, of what’s constitutional and what’s not. The Tea Party should just drop the “unconstitutional” pretext and be honest by saying that states can ignore federal laws they don’t like. But, then they’d run smack into the supremacy clause:
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 in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.
James Madison, in a letter to N. P. Trist, explained the problems concerning the establishment of the national government’s supremacy over the states:
The obvious necessity of a controul on the laws of the States, so far as they might violate the Constn & laws of the U. S. left no option but as to the mode. The modes presenting themselves were 1. A Veto on the passage of the State Laws. 2. A Congressional repeal of them. 3. A Judicial annulment of them. The first tho’ extensively favored at the outset, was found on discussion, liable to insuperable objections arising from the extent of Country and the multiplicity of State laws. The second was not free from such as gave a preference to the third as now provided by the Constitution.
The Founders had a preference for judicial annulment, which ultimately rests with the supreme judiciary of the land, the Supreme Court.
James Madison from NOTES ON NULLIFICATION:
But it follows, from no view of the subject, that a nullification of a law of the U. S. can as is now contended, belong rightfully to a single State, as one of the parties to the Constitution; the State not ceasing to avow its adherence to the Constitution. A plainer contradiction in terms, or a more fatal inlet to anarchy, cannot be imagined
It is an adage of Constitutional theory that if the text doesn’t support your claim, argue original intent. The Tea Party’s claim fails on both counts.
-David Drumm (Nal, who likes to stick “it” out there on legal theory issues)
Aside: Some are confusing my posts with Professor Turley’s. This could be because of similar writing styles, similar wit, or similar legal acumen, and not because of lazy reading.