Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Court to Constitution: Drop dead (and we really mean it this time)

In a decision that would make the 9th Circuit proud, the Nevada Supreme Court refuses to reconsider its July 10 decision setting aside the state's supermajority requirement for tax increases. In an interminable 30+ page ruling that reads less like a reasoned legal argument than a bad undergraduate poli sci paper, the majority argued that a) tax increases were necessary to fund education and b) the 2/3 supermajority amendment was probably invalid because voters didn't understand that the mandate would make it difficult to operate the government effectively during tough times. (This, notwithstanding the fact that more than 70 percent of the voters supported the initiative in separate elections and both sides got plenty of air time and column inches to make their case.) The court did not, however, take the logical next step and strike down the supermajority requirement. As far as I can tell, logic played absolutely no part in these proceedings. (Read the decision here. Remove all sharp objects from the room first.) At least Justice Miriam Shearing had the judiciousness, as it were, to offer a brief, separate concurrence providing some legal justification for the decision and then saying that the court had no business defending itself against attacks from the media and other sources -- which is what the other five justices did, ad nauseam.

Justice Bill Maupin again was the lone dissenter. His two-page filing argued that the ruling should have been overturned because a) the phony "constitutional crisis" the majority invented miraculously vanished within days of the original decision when the Legislature passed a balanced budget with a tax increase by a two-thirds majority; and b) the decision remains on the books, setting a troubling precedent. (I have it on good authority that at least two of the state's top Democratic lawmakers think this steamy pile is a wonderful bit of jurisprudence. God help us all.) He also chastised his colleagues for their feeble attempt at mentalism, noting that the court has no business imagining what voters were and were not thinking when they went to the polls. And in a wonderful rhetorical bitch-slap, Maupin cited the Declaration of Independence, noting that the government is legitimate only when it is conducted with the consent of the governed, and that if voters decide to use a legitimate political process to make it harder for lawmakers to take more of our money, that's OK.

If Nevada's conservative and libertarian political activists had two brain cells between them, they'd abandon their idiotic (and ultimately futile) attempt to recall Kenny Guinn and focus their efforts on getting rid of at least one Supreme Court justice. I'd start with Chief Justice Deborah Agosti, who authored both opinions. That would be the only way to let the imperial judiciary know that they do not exercise absolute power. I won't hold my breath waiting for the political types to experience an epiphany.

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