Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Top 5 Amendments in the Bill of Rights

Tim's Top 5:
1) Third Amendment: What, you ask, how on earth can anyone argue this is the best amendment in the Bill of Rights? If you ask this, you obviously have never spoken to me to learn that you should never ask this question. Anyway, next time you're off celebrating that you can't be subjected to establishment of religion and peaceably assembling while speaking freely, enjoying the rights of a well-armed militia, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, and so on, think how much less you'd feel great doing those things if the state national guard was living in your house just because they could live there. In effect, the Third Amendment supersedes all the other Amendments (except the ninth and tenth) -- First: you're not all that free to speak, peaceably assemble, or freely exercise your religion if there's armed patroons in your dwelling. Second: They have bigger guns that you and your pithy militia. Fourth: who needs to search or seize? We live in your house, we'll just observe what you do -- no warrant necessary. Fifth: No need to incriminate yourself, we've got witnesses! Sixth: all right, you've got a fighting chance, but that jury is going to have to ignore an awful lot of those patroons serving as witnesses. Seventh: yeah, right. Eighth: Well, I'm sure this is come consolation that if I'm convicted...I'll likely not be sentenced to live in a cell with a militia, which makes prison superior to my home. Ninth and Tenth: ha, you're kidding, right?

Moreover, the Third Amendment's successfully dodged litigation, which means the Framers wrote it well enough to get the point across, except for one labor dispute in New York that reached the Second Circuit in the early 80s.


2) First Amendment - It's beautiful because absolutely nothing in this amendment is taken literally, the Amendment is at its finest when it's in the hands of morons and malcontents, and it protects freedoms that are absolutely essential. It speaks volumes about the importance of religion to the early founders and protects it from corruption by the state, something that your current bible-thumpers forget all too often when trying to inculcate "civic Christianity" that replaces biblical virtues with discrimination and oppression.

3) Fifth Amendment - This Amendment utterly baffles people who aren't lawyers, wondering how you can be free from incriminating yourself, but Roger Clemens can still be prosecuted for refusing to incriminate himself by lying. Well, what you learn in law school is that the Fifth Amendment only protects non-douchebags. Sorry, Clemens. In fact, it's a beautiful invention, and the Fifth Amendment brings in due process into federal courts and prohibits double jeopardy, at least since courts figured out that double jeopardy had meaning. Sorry, Mr. Palko. And if that weren't enough, we bring in (albeit mild) limitations on eminent domain. This is one power-packed amendment.

4) Fourth Amendment - The Amendment that kept criminal lawyers in business in a century where juries can't wait to put people in jail and add to an endless cycle of crime and violence. While the Amendment's meaning is totally unclear, at times it has substantially limited government intrusions, and its purpose is considerably more noble than one would expect from an era so narrowly removed from witch burnings.

5) Sixth Amendment - No one realizes the Confrontation Clause is in there unless they've taken Evidence in law school, but it's among the last best protections for criminal defendants, and post-Gideon v. Wainwright, it enables our grossly unfair system to at least have a modicum of protection for criminal defendants who have been processed through a system that effectively presumes their guilt and punishes them in a draconian fashion for exercising their rights to a trial. While the Sixth Amendment is in dire need of reform to create an actually "impartial" jury, particularly in capital cases, it is still a vital foundation for criminal rights.

1 comment:

Vulpes Ryanis said...

I think you covered this one better than anyone else possibly could.