Thursday, March 03, 2005

Encore

Here's the next stage in the exchange with Ponnuru: Ponnuru's post at The Corner and my Reply (note, for completeness, that I've fixed some typos in the original Reply, nothing substantive).

A note about comments. I inadvertently left the comments marker on when I put this post up. Someone under the screen name Steve took the time to write a lengthy and thoughtful comment. At that point, I very nearly barred comments because I'm very fearful that this subject is going to turn polemical on both sides. But I've asked readers to reach their own judgments about Ponnuru's piece -- favorable or unfavorable -- and express them in writing. In that sense I've committed myself to accepting that type of reflective comment, which to the extent anyone wants to leave it I'll freely post -- again, whether the comment says I'm right or wrong. But other comments, including hyperbolic statements either way, or personal attacks on Ponnuru, Tribe, or me I'm just going to delete. Thanks much. (PS, as soon as I created this blog, I stop accepting comments on the relevant thread on SCOTUSblog -- both the favorable comments, and the one calling me a liar.)

49 Comments:

Blogger Steve said...

Only on the Internet could such a protracted dispute result from such an esoteric issue. In the real world, the two antagonists would have made rude gestures at each other and stormed off long ago. But in any event, maybe there is some light that can be generated from all this heat.

As a disclaimer, I note that I consider myself a liberal, although I also view Ramesh Ponnuru as one of the most thoughtful and intellectually honest thinkers on the Right. So I'm not sure I come to this debate with any particular predisposition.

To my mind, this dispute, and some of the harsh words incident to it, arises from two fundamental misunderstandings.

1. Was Tribe's article primarily about the Ninth Amendment, or was it primarily a personal story about the death of his father? This is a judgment call; anyone who cares can read the article for themselves. My take is that Ponnuru goes too far when he claims that Tribe is trying to set himself up as a "forgotten hero of the Ninth Amendment." I simply didn't get that from Tribe's article. To me, it seemed much more of a personal tale, as perhaps demonstrated by the inclusion of photos of Tribe's family throughout.

It's not as though Richmond Newspapers led to 20 years of glorious Ninth Amendment jurisprudence that Tribe is taking credit for. Nor does he claim anything more than that the Ninth Amendment was one of several grounds relied upon in the plurality decision. If this opinion was a glorious day for the Ninth Amendment and its supporters, it's only because that amendment has gotten so little love over the years.

It's also worth noting that the Ninth Amendment, which sets forth a limitation on the power of federal government, is not often proclaimed by the Left from the rooftops. If anything, it is right-leaning theorists who have opined over the years that the Ninth Amendment should be accorded more weight in our constitutional framework. If Tribe were inclined to make up a story establishing himself as the champion of some constitutional protection, the Ninth Amendment would seem an odd choice of causes for him.

2. Ponnuru believes that Tribe's opening brief barely touched upon the Ninth Amendment; Goldstein believes that the Ninth Amendment was far more prominent. I have read the applicable section of the brief - you can, too - and Goldstein has the better of the argument. It is true that, as Ponnuru says, the Ninth Amendment was not directly mentioned except at the beginning and end of this section. But it is clear from reading Tribe's argument that it is a Ninth Amendment argument from pillar to post.

We are all familiar with the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the 14th Amendment, and with the incorporation doctrine which has been used to apply the Constitution's federal guarantees at the State level through the 14th Amendment. Tribe's argument, quite simply, was a review of 14th Amendment jurisprudence which demonstrated that the Supreme Court has often used the incorporation doctrine to impose restrictions upon State power that are not specifically enumerated in the Bill of Rights. This is exactly what the Ninth Amendment says - even if the Founding Fathers didn't think to include a guarantee of an individual right by name, that doesn't mean you don't have it. By showing that the Court has often enforced unenumerated rights by means of the incorporation doctrine, Tribe demonstrated that the Court has repeatedly upheld the spirit of the Ninth Amendment - even if its decisions rarely mention that amendment by name.

I think Ponnuru's inadvertent overstepping on these two issues is the root cause of the entire silly argument. If one realizes that Tribe's article was more of a personal remembrance than an attempt to wrap himself in the flag of the Ninth Amendment, and that he did, in fact, devote substantial space to Ninth Amendment arguments in his brief to the Court, there is really not much left to argue about.

5:28 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

The Goldstein links in some other posts are not working. All I can get is the latest one (labelled "3").

Also: it would be nice to have a link to the Tribe brief.

7:28 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

I've now read the briefs, and I posted an analysis at

http://www.rasmusen.org/x/archives/000474.html

I don't see how Steve (1st comment) can say that Tribe's brief is a 9th Amendment argument from pillar to post. The 9th Amendment is mentioned, to be sure, but almost as an afterthought, after the 1st and 6th amendment arguments. Those arguments are weak, to be sure, so maybe Steve is thinking that the only tenable argument is the 9th amendment one.

12:15 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

To be clear, I wasn't saying that the entire brief is a Ninth Amendment argument through and through; what I said was that the applicable section of the brief was about the Ninth Amendment "from pillar to post."

In this, I disagree with Ponnuru, who took the view that the section dealt with the Ninth Amendment only at its beginning and end and was otherwise about something else.

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