October 2, 2008

The hopeless component of Ramesh Ponnuru

Self-appointed National Review legal scholar Ramesh Ponnuru has attempted to clarify his earlier goofball remarks, but only succeeded at making matters worse. Ponnuru scribbles:
It is also true that courts have sometimes referred to the "liberty clause" — just as legal authorities have sometimes referred to "the equal protection component of the due process clause."
No, it's not just like that at all. There are two Due Process Clauses: one in the 14th Amendment and one in the Fifth Amendment. The 14th Amendment expressly restricts State action, while the Fifth applies to Congressional — that is, federal — activities.

The Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment is followed immediately by the Equal Protection Clause, but there is no Equal Protection Clause in the Fifth Amendment.

When the U.S. Supreme Court, in Brown v. Board of Education, held that racially segregated schools violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, it was responding to State action.

On the same day (05/17/54), the Court decided Bolling v. Sharp, which addressed the same question, but as it related to government schools in the District of Columbia, which is not a State but rather a federal enclave, and thus beyond the reach of the 14th Amendment.

As the unanimous Court in Bolling put it:
In view of our decision [in Brown v. Board] that the Constitution prohibits the States from maintaining racially segregated public schools, it would be unthinkable that the same Constitution would impose a lesser duty on the Federal Government.
So when commentators refer to "the equal protection component of the due process clause," they are talking about the Fifth Amendment, not the 14th. Ramesh Ponnuru should stick to demonizing liberals, or whatever it is he does. Because this is just embarrassing.

1 comment:

Pete Gruett said...

The difficulty conservatives are facing with Sarah Palin is the huge double-standard they have to maintain with a straight face. Ponnuru is balling himself up in semantics trying to pick at Joe Biden's legal expertise when Palin couldn't even name a Supreme Court Case. This despite the fact that she'd complained about the outcome of Exxon v. Baker *earlier this year*.