(Fred Weinberg/The Penny Press) – Once upon a time, back in 1972 at Bradley University, I took Constitutional Law 101.
I cannot remember the name of the professor, but I certainly remember the specifics of a case named Marbury v. Madison.
The actual case itself was a relatively petty dispute about a prospective justice of the peace, William Marbury, who had been appointed by President John Adams near the end of his term.
Well, it actually wasn’t that simple. Adams was a Federalist and so was the majority of Congress. Congress was tossed in the election cycle of 1800 but incoming President Thomas Jefferson and the new Congress didn’t take office until March 4 of 1801.
Until that time, a lame-duck Federalist controlled Congress was in session.
They passed and Adams signed a court packing act. Adams appointed, among others, Marbury who historians called a “prominent financier” (he was an early American version of a bundler of campaign contributions).
Back in those days, the Secretary of State delivered the Commissions which made you a Judge. Marbury did not get his before James Madison became Secretary of State for President Jefferson. And, once Madison became Secretary of State, Marbury would never get that Commission.
He sued, hence the name of the case, Marbury v. Madison. It was the first time in American history that a big-time campaign contributor actually sued the Government.
The Supreme Court said he was correct, that Madison should have to cough up the Commission.
They also found that the court packing act, the Judiciary Act of 1801, was unconstitutional and thus all of the Commissions were invalid.
The reason this case is important is that it is the first time the Supreme Court found a law passed by Congress unconstitutional and invalid. Nobody really cared about Marbury, his Commission, or Madison.
But it established the American constitutional concept of judicial review.
I learned that in 1972.
Presumably, Barack Obama learned that sometime prior to the time be became a Constitutional Law professor at the University of Chicago, sometime after I learned that.
Between the time I took ConLaw 101 and the time the President did, the facts and the decision in Marbury have not changed. In fact, they are still the same in 2012.
But it seems that the politician in Barack Obama overrode the law professor the other day when he questioned the authority of the Supreme Court to find the Obamacare act unconstitutional.
Surely he paid at least as much attention to Marbury v. Madison as I did in ConLaw 101. After all, he became a professor.
This is my first con law lecture.
What Obama was doing, in the parlance of the recently concluded NCAA Basketball season was working the refs.
Because that’s what the Supreme Court is. Chief Justice John Roberts once explained that he sees the role of the court justices as umpires calling strikes and balls.
And, when a law overreaches, the court can call a technical foul (switching back to basketball) and throw it out of the game.
That is what 26 states, including Nevada, have asked the Court to do.
Obama, in his intellectual dishonesty, was trying to intimidate them.
Just as when a basketball coach tries it with a ref, we sure hope it doesn’t work.
This isn’t about health care. It’s about how much power the Federal Government should have over your life. If it can make you buy an insurance policy simply because you are alive, can it make you buy a Chevy Volt?
We think not, but we’ll see what the refs think. We suspect they all have studied Marbury more closely than the President.