Tag Archives: Constitution

Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln — The Epic Struggle to Get the 13th Amendment Passed by Congress

lincolnmovie

Abraham Lincoln understood that neither the Emancipation Proclamation nor the end of the Civil War would be enough to abolish slavery; hence, the 13th Amendment of the US Constitution would have to be enacted in order to outlaw the ownership of slaves.

Amendment XIII

Section 1.

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2.

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Lincoln believed that ending the Civil War would not guarantee an end of slavery and believed a permanent legal solution would be necessary. Lincoln proposed adding the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but knew there would be political resistance to getting this law approved by Congress. The majority of the movie dealt with Lincoln’s struggle to get the 13th Amendment enacted and passed by the U.S. Congress. Much of the deal making to get enough votes to pass this amendment to the Constitution was well documented in Doris Kern’s book, A Team of Rivals and was incorporated into the script of the movie. What humor there was in this film was based on all the deal making tactics that Lincoln’s surrogates used to get various politicians to vote for the passage of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Spielberg’s Lincoln tried to show Lincoln as a real man, a realist and as a real politician. In a New York Times’ movie review written by A.O. Scott, the author says that “the legislative process-the linchpin of our system of checks and balances-is often treated with lofty contempt masquerading as populist indignation, an attitude typified by the aw-shucks antipolitics of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”. (N.Y.Times, A.O. Scott, November 8, 2012)

Roger Ebert, the movie critic, gave this movie a 4 star rating and I too would give the movie a high rating because of the excellent script written by Kushner, as well as the terrific cinematography done by Janusz Kaminski and good acting performances given by Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones and Daniel Day-Lewis. The movie is rated PG-13 and lasts for 149 minutes, which could be a little long for some children.  Buy some popcorn and enjoy this legal thriller.

~Jane Fraytet~

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Finding the pot o’ gold at your library

From fun to historical, the Charlotte Law Library has a wide collection of electronic resources to meet your Irish research needs this St. Patrick’s Day.

The Irish Student Law Review (available on Heinonline From 1991-2008)

Fundamental Rights in the Irish Law and Constitution written by John Maurice Kelly (1961) (available on Heinonline)

Irish Law (available on Oxford International Encyclopedia of Legal History) Firm knowledge concerning arrangements on maintaining social order among the inhabitants of Ireland—in short, provision for “law”—begins in the seventh and eighth centuries c.e. when the vast majority of the surviving law texts of Irish provenance and written in Irish were composed. The earliest of today’s surviving manuscripts dates from the twelfth century—though most are very much later—but on linguistic grounds the original writing down of these laws is …”

The story of the Irish Nation by Francis Hackett (1922) (available on HeHeinonline’s collection World’s Constitutions Illustrated Books)

The European Convention on Human Rights and the Conflict in Northern Ireland by Brice Dickson (eBook – Full Text Available on Oxford Scholarship Online)

Concerns regarding possible collusion in Northern Ireland: Police and paramilitary groups: hearing before the Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives, One Hundred Eleventh Congress, First Session, October 22, 2009. (PURL Access)

The Irish Revolution by Michael J.F. McCarthy (1912) (available on Heinonline’s collection World’s Constitutions Illustrated Books)

A history of the penal laws against the Irish Catholics : from the treaty of Limerick to the Union by Sir Henry Parnell. (Available on The Making of Modern Law – Legal Treatises 1800-1926)

In the Name of the Father (DVD) Produced and Directed by Jim Sheridan. “Fact-based film about Gerry Conlon, a young Irish punk who is caught in the wrong place at the wrong time and forced to confess to a terrorist bombing. He and his father, along with friends of Gerry, are found guilty and sentenced to life in prison. There, his father shows his true strength, and Gerry works to prove their innocence and clear his father’s name.”

To find more treasures, try searching the CSL Electronic Resources LibGuide.

- Liz McCurry -

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Student Perspectives: The Firearm Freedom Act

Across the nation, states are declaring themselves exempt from federal firearms laws.  Called the Firearms Freedom Act, the legislation applies to any firearm or ammunition manufactured in-state owned, used, or possessed by a state resident. Automatic weapons or rocket propelled grenades are still subject to federal firearm regulations.

One might ask, how can they do this? The Interstate Commerce Clause of the United State’s Constitution provides the legal basis for the federal government to mandate legislation across the nation.  The framers of the Constitution intended that absent the need to regulate Commerce, the United States Congress does not have authority to govern and control state sovereignty.  The 10th Amendment expressly reserves to the states all powers not delegated to the national government.  Gradually the Federal government expanded their authority until in 1942 the Supreme Court ruled that that Congress may regulate local activities that, when considered alone, have no impact on interstate commerce, if the class of activities might reasonably be deemed to have significant national consequences. Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111 (U.S. 1942). Using the issue of firearms, states are trying to exert their state sovereignty again as provided by the 10th amendment.

What does this mean for the average American? In Wyoming, passing the legislation into law on March 11, 2010, makes it a felony punishable by a year in jail and a $2,000 fine for any state or federal officer who tries to enforce any federal gun law on firearms made and sold in the state. The states of Tennessee, Utah, Montana and South Dakota have enacted similar legislation absent the law enforcement penalty. (See at Firearm Freedom Act analysis by state.)It is also a local issue to North and South Carolina. Senator Bright introduced the “Firearms Freedom Act” in the 2009-2010 session of South Carolina in Senate bill S794. According to Vance County’s GOP website, Representative David Lewis of Harnet County plans to sponsor a similar bill in North Carolina.

So what federal restrictions are impacted?  According to the Billings Gazette, people who are convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence are prohibited from possessing a firearm under federal law; however, under this legislation that restriction is no longer applicable to the purchase of a local weapon.  Other federal restrictions that are seemingly circumvented include: a prohibition against convicted violent felons possessing firearms, a three day waiting period to purchase, a federal firearms license, and payment of federal taxes.

Supporters of the law see it as a manifestation of States rights against an overzealous federal government.  Gun advocates are already testing the legislation with a suit filed in the US District court of Montana against US Attorney General Eric Holder, with future suits planned in other states if the Montana suit is dismissed. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms warned gun dealers that they are expected to comply with all federal regulations regardless of the state legislation. If the states prevail over the issue of firearms, what other federal regulations created due to the Interstate Commerce Clause could be next?

-Charles Lifford ’13 (Part-Time Evening Student)-

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Parading through history

Did you know that the first St. Patrick’s Day parade did not take place in Ireland, but was held in New York City on March 17, 1762.  According to History.com, Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through NYC proudly playing their music in order to show pride and reconnect with their Irish heritage, and other Irishman serving in the United States Army.  Then, “in 1848, several New York Irish Aid societies decided to unite their parades to form one New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Today, that parade is the world’s oldest civilian parade and the largest in the United States, with over 150,000 participants. Each year, nearly three million people line the 1.5-mile parade route to watch the procession, which takes more than five hours. Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and Savannah also celebrate the day with parades involving between 10,000 and 20,000 participants.” 

With tens of thousands of people attending, participating, drinking green beer, and generally having a good time at St. Patrick’s Day celebrations world-wide, inevitably something gets broken, damaged, destroyed, or just plain ol’ creamed.  However, in some states, such as Louisiana, the state legislatures specifically limit the liability for property losses connected with St. Patrick’s Day parades. For example, § 2796.1. Limitation of liability for loss connected with St. Patrick’s Day parades or any ethnic parade of the Louisiana code states,Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, no person shall have a cause of action against any organization which presents St. Patrick’s Day parades or other street parades connected with any ethnic celebration … for any loss or damage caused by any member thereof or related to the parades presented by such organization, unless said loss or damage was caused by the deliberate and wanton act or gross negligence of the organization.”

Louisiana courts further define the scope of gross negligence in Tauzier v. St. Patrick Parade Committee of Jefferson, Inc., App. 5 Cir.2002, 807 So.2d 1106, 01-1138 (La.App. 5 Cir. 1/29/02) by summarizing that a  “sponsor of St. Patrick’s Day parade, in which float rider was injured when struck on head by speaker knocked from its mooring atop float by overhanging tree branch, was not guilty of gross negligence such as required to hold parade sponsor liable for loss or damages related to such parade, despite evidence that similar accident occurred on same float in preceding year; sponsor was aware of need for care and attempted to ensure that float complied with height restriction.” For more case law on this subject, run a search in your jurisdiction with this topic and key number: Public Amusement And Entertainment 79

Not only are there tort issues surrounding St. Patrick’s Day parades, but the Supreme Court has considered historical constitutional concerns raised in regards to the First Amendment Right to Freedom of Speech as well.  In an article for the New England Law Review, Gretchen Van Ness wrote,

On June 19, 1995, in the case of Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual Group of Boston, 115 S. Ct. 2338 (1995), the United States Supreme Court handed down this unremarkable ruling: under the First Amendment, the state may not require private citizens who organize a parade to include in that parade a group imparting a message the organizers do not wish to convey. The Court’s unanimous pronouncement, presented in fewer than twelve pages of text, sidestepped the most compelling issues raised by the case and brought to an end a historic, even epic, three-year civil rights struggle that had occupied the attention of numerous courts of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts commission Against Discrimination (MCAD),   the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, and, of course, the court of public opinion. In the course of over three years of litigation, two different stories were told about this Evacuation Day/St. Patrick’s Day Parade (Parade). The state court decisions tell one story, about an annual civic celebration, open to the public generally, that fell within the reach of the Massachusetts public accommodations law. Unwilling to give effect to the state’s anti-discrimination law, however, the United States Supreme Court decision tells a different story, about a private event and private actors fighting off gay extremists and government-imposed speech. What is the truth about this Parade? Perhaps it no longer matters, as the Supreme Court has spoken, and its words now tell the official history of this Parade. The incredible true story of Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade and the United States Supreme Court, Gretchen Van Ness, 30 New Eng.L.Rev. 625 (1996).

Dwight G. Duncan supplements and adds to Van Ness’s sentiments with his own article, Parading the First Amendment through the streets of South Boston, 30 New Eng.L.Rev. 663 (1996).

Can you think of any other legal issues surrounding St. Patrick’s Day parades?

-Liz McCurry-

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A Writer of Our Own

Our very own Public Services Librarian, Anthony Aycock, completed and published a new article in the Spring 2009 edition of The Missouri Review.  Anthony’s article, “By Oath or Affirmation, Six Books About the U.S. Constitution”, explores six of the key books exploring the Constitution and it’s broad range interpretations.  Not only is the article well-written, but it provides an insightful take on each of the authors’ note-worthy published works.

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