It looks like we are going to see this year a campaign to restrict the right of Americans to keep and bear arms. It is going to be led by politicians racing to exploit the tragedy at Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 children and seven adults were slain by a mentally ill young man using a semi-automatic rifle. It is too soon to gauge whether this campaign will center on the Congress, the courts, or the states. It is not too soon to say that it will be quite a show at the palladium.
“Palladium” is the word that was used by St. George Tucker to describe the Second Amendment to the Constitution. Tucker was a lawyer from Virginia, where he taught at William and Mary and served on the state’s supreme court before he was elevated in 1813 to the federal district court. The most quoted legal authority of his day, Tucker brought out an American edition of Blackstone’s Commentaries, in which he offered his famous description of the Second Amendment.
THIS IS A DECIDEDLY MINORITY OPINION, but the case with the biggest potential impact before the federal courts this year is not the saga of Obamacare. There’s no gainsaying that Obamacare was an important case, and it’s hard to sugarcoat the majority opinion vouchsafing the power of Congress to impose a mandate for health insurance via the taxing power. But what does one figure that will impact—5 percent of Americans? Twenty? Twentyfive? How about a case that has, if only on the ricochet, the potential to impact everyone who uses American money?
Welcome to Beer v. United States, a lawsuit brought by a rainbow coalition of some of the most distinguished judges on the federal bench. They are suing—in their own court system—for a raise in their pay. They contend that when Congress suspended an automatic pay increase previously legislated to protect the judges against inflation, it violated the Constitution—specifically, the diminishment clause, which says that the compensation for federal judges “shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.”
AS ABDELBASET AL-MEGRAHI settles in on the far side of the river Styx, let us reflect on the scandal of his final years. It will always be a mark on the administration of President Obama that the Libyan died a free man. He had been convicted in the downing of Pan American World Airways flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988. There had been opportunity aplenty to act once a Scottish judge gave him his freedom in 2009. But the American government failed to lift so much as a finger.
The administration may-or may not-have had the power to prevent al-Megrahi's release from a Scottish prison or h is flight back home to Libya, where he was greeted by adoring throngs. The judge who freed him supposedly did so on "humanitarian" grounds, because, even though al-Megrahi Killed 270 people, he was suffering from the indignities of prostate cancer. If the terrorist's release caught Mr. Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by surprise, as they suggested at the time, it's all the more shocking that there was no attempt to seize the mass murderer after he got to Libya.