Restoring government to its proper role
|(Clockwise from top right): Thomas Jefferson, Von and Taige Mueller, Mrs. Morrison, Corissa and Taige Mueller|
ur constitutional form of government is built on the idea of limited authority. The Constitution, embodying the belief that a government which is dispersed protects freedom best, grants to the federal government only certain, enumerated powers. All other, power is reserved to the states (subject to the Bill of Rights) and to the people.
CIR seeks to restore a principled conception of the constitutional limits on the federal government. Called “federalism,” this idea sometimes is described as “states’ rights.” But for CIR, federalism is not about whether federal or state governments will regulate the lives of citizens, nor is it about advocating any particular ideology. Federalism is simply about restoring the proper limits on all levels of government. The Federal government should not interfere with state matters, and no government should interfere with the rights that appropriately protect individuals. CIR will fight to limit all government to its proper role.
Checking Federal authority
“THE POWERS NOT DELEGATED TO THE UNITED STATES BY THE CONSTITUTION, NOR PROHIBITED BY IT TO THE STATES, ARE RESERVED TO THE STATES RESPECTIVELY, OR TO THE PEOPLE.”
— TENTH AMENDMENT TO THE US CONSTITUTION
For decades, the Federal government’s legislative activities have exceeded the powers given to it by the Constitution. There simply is no support in either the letter or spirit of the Constitution for national laws regulating vast parts of citizens’ lives.
For example, in 1994, Congress enacted subtitle C of the Violence Against Women Act, which created a federal tort remedy for female victims of violence. Congress claimed authority to do so under the “commerce clause,” which permits it to regulate commerce among the states. Yet even a superficial reading of subtitle C makes clear that it goes far beyond the regulation of interstate commerce, and in fact purports to regulate purely in-state conduct between individuals.
IF I ACCEPTED PLAINTIFF’S ARGUMENT… I WOULD BE HARD-PRESSED TO POSIT ANY ACTIVITY BY AN INDIVIDUAL THAT CONGRESS IS WITHOUT POWER TO REGULATE… EVEN INSOMNIA.
– U.S. FEDERAL JUDGE JACKSON KISER (U.S. V. MORRISON)
CIR mounted a constitutional challenge to subtitle C on behalf of Tony Morrison, a student at Virginia Polytechnic school. In 2000, the Supreme Court struck down this portion of the Violence Against Women Act. U.S. v. Morrison is one of the most important constitutional precedents because it restores critical, constitutional limits on Congress’s power to regulate individual conduct. In fact, when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit struck down the “individual mandate” portion of Obamacare, ruling that Congress may not require individuals to purchase health insurance pursuant to its power under the Commerce Clause, the court’s opinion cited Morrison 89 times. The court’s opinion also made much of the argument CIR advanced in itsamicus brief: the individual mandate is overbroad in purporting to cover individuals who decline to purchase health insurance for non-economic reasons as well those who decline to do so for economic reasons.
Limiting all levels of government
“NIP THE SHOOTS OF ARBITRARY POWER IN THE BUD, IS THE ONLY MAXIM WHICH CAN EVER PRESERVE THE LIBERTIES OF ANY PEOPLE.”
– JOHN ADAMS
Federal agencies are not the only threats to individual rights. State and local governments are just as prone to sacrificing individuals rights when they interfere with the state’s regulatory ambitions. Most directly affected by overzealous state regulation are so-called “mediating institutions”: families, churches, clubs, fraternal organizations (including college fraternities) professional associations, and the like. These institutions mediate between individuals and the state by giving support and expression to self-governance at a local level.
Standing between individuals and the state
As Tocqueville pointed out, mediating institutions stand as a bulwark of freedom against the encroaching power of the state. And for exactly this reason, the modern state often takes aim at such institutions, declaring that its expert judgments are preferable to the unpredictable and sometimes idiosyncratic nature of this type of organization.
THE MUELLER FAMILY
One agency that is notorious for substituting its judgements for individual judgements is child protective services. These bureaucracies often try to impose state-defined standards of parental care families wrestling with complex issues of child welfare. To the extent that a family deviates from state norms, its actions are deemed abusive as a matter of law and regulation.
In Mueller v. Idaho, for example, CIR is representing parents whose infant child was temporarily seized by the state because a parent asked to defer a a medical procedure until other, less invasive (and risky) treatments had been tried. In the Mueller case, CIR is fighting to restore a measure of accountability to child protective services by restricting it to constitutional limits. Currently, CIR’s appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is pending.