Thursday, June 24, 2010

24th Amendment, Implied Law, Open Primaries, Bill of Attainder

Constitution Study with Douglas V. Gibbs
Thursday, June 24, 2010
24th Amendment, Implied Law, Open Primaries; Article I, Section 9, Clause 3 - Bill of Attainder

Supporters of Open Primaries contend that Closed Primaries are in violation of the 24th Amendment because limiting who can vote in a primary by party membership is a poll tax as per implied law.

Poll Tax: NOUN: A tax levied on people rather than on property, often as a requirement for voting.

A poll tax is a uniformed tax levied on every adult in the community. Poll taxes have their roots in ancient tax systems and have been criticized as an unfair burden on the poor. Historically, in the U.S., they were enacted in the South as a prerequisite for voting disfranchising many African Americans and poor whites.

The 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution ratified in 1964 that made it illegal for a state to use payment to all taxes as a requirement to vote in national elections. Few blacks could vote because they had a little money. The poll tax to vote was $1.50. A woman decided to take the poll tax issue to court. In October 1965, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Evelyn T. Butts' appeal. In 1966 the Supreme Court of the United States declared Poll Taxes unconstitutional.


A recent shake-down by the Obama administration of British Petroleum forced the oil company to take responsibility for their failure regarding the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico at the Deepwater Horizon rig. The White House has declared BP to be guilty of negligence, is the responsible party, and non-compliance with the demands of the Obama administration will not be tolerated.

Is the meeting between Obama and the BP CEO that resulted in a $20 billion fund paid out by BP as a punishment for their negligence constitutional?

The Constitution is very specific, and calls such action a Bill of Attainder. A Bill of Attainder is by definition a "legislative act which declares a named person guilty of a crime, particularly treason." Such bills are prohibited by Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution.

A bill of attainder (also known as an act or writ of attainder) is an act of the legislature declaring a person or group of persons guilty of some crime and punishing them without the benefit of a trial.

Bills of attainder find their history in connection to America's disdain for such an action in 18th century England. Bills of attainder were also applied to the British colonies. Anger about bills of attainder was one of the motivations for the American Revolution. The colonists considered bills of attainder an injustice. Later debate, however, arose when the American Colonies used bills of attainder themselves to confiscate the property of British loyalists (called Tories) during the revolution. The American dissatisfaction with attainder laws motivated the prohibition of bills of attainder in the Constitution.

The U.S. Constitution forbids bills of attainder under Article I, Section 9. The colonists considered bills of an excess or abuse of the British monarchy and parliament. Attainder as such was also a legal consequence of convictions in courts of law, but this ceased to be a part of punishment in 1870. The provision forbidding state law bills of attainder reflects the importance that the framers attached to this issue, since the unamended constitution imposes very few restrictions on state governments' power. (Article I, Section 10, Clause 1)

Two purposes are served by the presence of the clauses forbidding attainder laws. The attainder laws reinforce the separation of powers, by forbidding the legislature to perform judicial functions - since the outcome of any such acts of legislature would of necessity take the form of a bill of attainder. Also, the clauses embody the concept of due process, which was later reinforced by the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution.

Up until 2002, only five acts of Congress had ever been overturned on bill of attainder grounds. The Elizabeth Morgan Act was overturned in 2003 as a bill of attainder. many suggested that the Palm Sunday Compromise in the case of Terri Schiavo was also a bill of attainder. The cases of U.S. v. Brown, U.S. v. Lovett, and In re Yung Sing Hee establish bills of pains and penalties as punishment without trial, and included within the prohibitions of bills of attainder. The precedent that best reflects most of the original intention of the mandates is from Cummings v. Missouri. It states a bill of attainder is a legislative act which inflicts punishment without judicial trial and includes any legislative act which takes away the life, liberty or property of a particular named or easily ascertainable person or group of persons because the legislature thinks them guilty of conduct which deserves punishment.

U.S. v. Lovett was a case historically relevant to taking away pay checks of government workers Congress could accuse of being Communists. This was an asset forfeiture case. It states: Legislative acts, no matter what their form, that apply either to named individuals or to easily ascertainable members of a group in such a way as to inflict punishment on them without a trial, are 'bills of attainder' prohibited under this clause.

a Special Thanks to:

Faith Armory, 27498 Enterprise Cir W #2, Temecula, CA 92562
951-699-7500, - For providing us with a classroom to meet in.

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