The first GOP Presidential debate since Texas Governor Rick Perry officially joined the race will be held tomorrow night. Prior to his announcement, I asked whether he would truly be a 10th Amendment advocate, a claim he makes constantly, or whether he would flip-flop on such issues as the states’ right to run their own courtrooms, which would deprive Americans of our 7th Amendment right to a jury trial for civil suits. I have some questions which I hope will be posed to Gov. Perry and other GOP candidates tomorrow night about their support for all of our constitutional rights:
7th and 10th Amendment rights or “fair-weather federalism”?
Governor Perry, you often assert that the federal government should stop encroaching on states’ rights, accusing Washington of intruding “upon the rights of the states and individuals to make decisions about our own healthcare, our businesses, our money,…” But you’ve flip-flopped on your stand on a federal marriage amendment to the Constitution – you were against it until you were for it – and on the need for a pro-life amendment to end abortion on demand. And your position on “tort reform” is inconsistent with that of a 10th Amendment purist. Specifically, you’ve proposed an amorphous concept of “civil justice reform,” citing the changes in Texas law you backed to sharply limit medical malpractice lawsuits and to force the losing parties in civil suits to pay all court costs. And in your book, “Fed Up,” you wrote that Republicans are for “ending frivolous lawsuits through real tort reform.” However, seven experts in constitutional law, including the leading anti-ObamaCare legal expert in the federal court cases, say that federal “tort reform” is not an enumerated power of the federal government and is unconstitutional. That expert, Professor Randy Barnett, accuses Republicans of being “fair-weather federalists” in pursuit of federal “tort reform,” and asserts that tort law is the exclusive province of the states. Famous and respected conservatives and Tea Party leaders agree with that judgment, such as fellow candidate Ron Paul; Sen. Tom Coburn; the co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, Mark Meckler; and the former President of the socially conservative Family Research Council, Ken Connor. So will you guarantee now that as President, you will not support any sweeping federal “tort reform” bill which would override the rights of the states under the 10th Amendment to run their own courtrooms, and that you’ll veto any such bill enacted by Congress?
Question for all candidates: Since many of you identify yourselves closely with the protection of individual rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights, what is your understanding of the 7th Amendment to the Constitution, which states that “In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.” James Madison, principal author of the Bill of Rights, called the right to a jury trial for civil suits “as essential in securing the liberty of the people as any of the pre-eminent rights of nature,” a sentiment joined in by Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and other Founding Fathers. How would you protect that right in federal and state courts? Is the 7th Amendment a “lesser amendment” in your mind than the 2d Amendment right to bear arms, and if so, why?
Bill of Rights & American law or Sharia?
For all candidates, but starting with Gov. Perry: Gov. Perry, some conservative experts and commentators have expressed concern about your relationships with pro-Islamist elements such as the Aga Khan and its associated entities, especially the Aga Khan Foundation, over its involvement in the development of a “Muslim Histories and Cultures Program” in Texas schools. Longtime critics of radical Islam such as Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller have reviewed the course curriculum and questioned whether you are allowing the Aga Khan Foundation to present “a fantasy benign Islam, with all the violent and oppressive bits cut out.” Strict Islamic Sharia doesn’t protect the Constitutional rights of women as equal to men, and doesn’t recognize basic Constitutional rights such as the right to a jury trial for criminal and civil cases. But a recent study by a conservative group warns that local courts are applying Sharia, not the U.S. Constitution and American law. In recent years, anti-Sharia activists have promoted a movement to ensure that American courts enforce only American laws and not those enforced elsewhere, such as Islamic Sharia law. Given your declared allegience to the Bill of Rights, will you endorse that movement, and propose measures to ensure that Sharia law is excluded from contemplation in civil and criminal cases in all courts in the U.S.?Will all GOP candidates also endorse that movement?
“Constitutional conservative” or “crony capitalist?”
Question for Rep. Michele Bachmann, in part based on the previous question for Gov. Perry: You describe yourself as a “Constitutional conservative” and, like Gov. Perry, say that you’re for defending states’ rights. You are recently quoted saying that “the current government is acting outside the bounds of the Constitution. Probably the most obvious would be this Obamacare and the individual mandate that is unconstitutional and is currently contained in Obamacare.” But you are a co-sponsor of the most sweeping federal “tort reform” bill introduced this year in Congress, a bill which would effectively immunize health care and pharmaceutical companies which have contributed tens of thousands of dollars to your campaigns. Considering the conservative opposition to any federal “tort reform” bill on states’ rights grounds, why shouldn’t voters consider your declaration just another position by a “crony capitalist” who stands on the Constitution in order to help backers in the business community?
Religious freedom & right of conscience or abortion rights?
Question for all candidates: Last year, a federal court of appeals ruled that a pro-life Catholic nurse didn’t have the right to sue the hospital where she worked and that forced her to participate in an abortion. The court ignored the nurse’s Constitutional rights to freely exercise her religion and act in accordance with her conscience, rights explicitly recognized for medical personnel in federal and state law. This year, the Obama Administration rescinded a Bush-era regulation that provided conscience protections for medical workers so they could refuse to administer treatments they find morally objectionable. Will each of you commit to restoring the rights of medical workers to sue health care employers when the employer forces the employee to engage in morally objectionable treatments?