Constitutional Law

Law Prof Who Urged Abandoning the Constitution Gets Abusive and Threatening Emails

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The op-ed by Georgetown law professor Louis Michael Seidman was provocative and, apparently, anger-inducing.

Writing in the Sunday New York Times, Seidman said it was time to abandon the U.S. Constitution and its “archaic, idiosyncratic and downright evil provisions.”

“As someone who has taught constitutional law for almost 40 years, I am ashamed it took me so long to see how bizarre all this is.” he wrote. Imagine the president or Congress decides on a course of action. “Suddenly, someone bursts into the room with new information: A group of white propertied men who have been dead for two centuries, knew nothing of our present situation, acted illegally under existing law and thought it was fine to own slaves might have disagreed with this course of action. Is it even remotely rational that the official should change his or her mind because of this divination?”

The op-ed, written in advance of Seidman’s new book, On Constitutional Disobedience, brought more than 700 emails in Seidman’s in box, the Wall Street Journal Law Blog (sub. req.) reports. “My email box may never recover,” Seidman told the blog. “I would say a large percentage of them are seriously abusive. Quite a few are anti-Semitic. Some are actual threats.”

One email, for example, contained only a subject line reading: “I know where you live … see ya.”

Seidman, who teaches constitutional law, had argued in his op-ed that some constitutional commands should continue to be followed “out of respect, not obligation,” including separation of powers, freedom of speech and religion, equal protection of the laws and protections against governmental deprivation of life, liberty or property. And some matters should remain settled, such as the length of the president’s term or the division of Congress into two houses, he said.

In this Constitution-free world, the president would have to justify military action with more than a reference to his powers as commander and chief, he asserted. Congress may continue to hold the purse strings, but that power should be based on policy. And “the Supreme Court could stop pretending that its decisions protecting same-sex intimacy or limiting affirmative action were rooted in constitutional text,” Seidman wrote.

Why not amend rather than abandon the Constitution? Seidman rejected the idea in his interview with the Wall Street Journal Law Blog. The process, he said, is too “arduous.”

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