Monday, August 09, 2010

The Court has Original Jurisdiction, But Not Exclusive O.J., In Arizona Immigration Case

There is this "I went and read the Constitution, and boy was I surprised!" meme running around the Interwebs for the past few days.

It goes like this:

1. Judge Bolton ruled against the State of Arizona

2. But the Constitution says (Article III):

Clause 2. In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be a Party, the Supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all other Cases before mentioned, the Supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.

3. Therefore, Judge Bolton had no jurisdiction, and the stay is invalid. For example...

The answer: Thanks for playing, but SORRY, you lose. I think Johnny has some FABULOUS prizes for you--on the way out.

Some problems with argument:

A. It was made by some Canadians. And some American Protestants. Like all Prot's, they have this "priesthood of all believers" hangup, where you read the Bible and you know as much as someone who speaks Greek and actually studied what the Bible means. You can't just go reading the thing. Same with the Constitution: the words have been interpreted by a community called the "courts" for 220 years.

B. There are explicit precedents that establish that the lower courts have "concurrent" original jurisdiction. That doesn't mean that the SC does NOT have original jurisdiction. It means that cases can be heard EITHER in the SC or the lower courts. Hard to get on the SC docket. Check this, for example. The simple version...

C. This was not a full-fledged trial, but rather a petition for a stay, pending Supreme Court ruling.

In short, the argument that Judge Bolton had no jurisdiction is simply absurd. It may be a shame that you can't read the Constitution without knowing the huge body of interpretations of its meaning, but you can't. "Discoveries" in the Constitution should always be discounted. Ask a lawyer before you make a fool of yourself.

Some sources: The SC's Original Jurisdiction

Adler in Volokh Consp.

Some precedents, on concurrent original jurisdiction:
Rhode Island v. Massachusetts, 37 U.S. (12 Pet.) 657 (1838); Bors v. Preston, 111 U.S. 252 (1884); Ames v. Kansas ex rel. Johnston, 111 U.S. 449 (1884).

(Interestingly, such suits could be brought and maintained in state courts as well, if all parties consent, so concurrent jurisdiction is even broader! Plaquemines Tropical Fruit Co. v. Henderson, 170 U.S. 511 (1898); Ohio ex rel. Poporici v. Alger, 280 U.S. 379 (1930).)

(Nod to the Blond, for asking cool questions)

4 comments:

Nicholas said...

Not that I'm here to defend bad readings of the Constitution (or anything else), but this is pretty clearly wrong:

"Like all Prot's, they have this "priesthood of all believers" hangup, where you read the Bible and you know as much as someone who speaks Greek and actually studied what the Bible means. You can't just go reading the thing. Same with the Constitution: the words have been interpreted by a community called the "courts" for 220 years."

Wrong in the first place because you would not, I assume, also say that one cannot give an interpretation of (say) Homer without having read the original Greek and knowing the relevant schools of interpretation.

Wrong in the second place because we don't have to go outside the text you quote to see why the loony-bin interpretation is incorrect. The bit of Article III ends by noting that Congress can change the rules of jurisdiction. Therefore, any moderately aware reader will note that the rules of jurisdiction given there are not exhaustive, and will consult the appropriate other sources. (On appellate jurisdiction only, it's true, but Art III indicates much of the structure of the court system is left to Congress and prudence--it points beyond itself quite a bit.)

There are readings that are bad (for any number of reasons), and there are readings that are bad because of a flawed methodology. This is an example of the first, not the second.

ilan said...

I agree with you

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Anonymous said...

One does not need Greek to study the Bible. One would be better equipped knowing Hebrew (Old Testament, the basics + parts of the new) and Latin...