Wednesday, May 2, 2018

When Moral and Social Justice Unite

Moral and Social justice are often seen as polar opposites similar to conservative and liberal philosophies. However, these philosophies do unite from time to time. For example, both moral and social justice have common themes over crime, but they tend to differ over retribution. There are even times when the two dangerous philosophies unite in Supreme Court cases. One such case is Taylor v. United States (2016) where the Court held that the Hobbs Act which “makes it a crime for a person to affect commerce or to attempt to do so by robbery” was constitutional. Taylor was convicted of robbing two drug dealers in Virginia. Taylor did not get away with any money or marijuana, but instead stole a few household items.

The Commerce Clause has been a heaven for social justice. The Court has used the Commerce Clause to regulate everything that is economic including hourly wages, maximum hourly work days and weeks, as well as to allow workers to unionize. The Commerce Clause has even been misapplied to uphold the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (should have used the Fourteenth Amendment). Liberals believe the reach of the Commerce Clause goes beyond the regulation of economic activities to include the regulation of government mandates, gun laws at schools, and crime against women. So it should come as no surprise all four liberal justices sided with the majority opinion and the federal government’s power grab.

But why would three Conservative justices side with the liberals in this case (if Scalia were alive he would have sided with the majority too)? Only Justice Thomas dissented. Well, the answer is simple, the moralistic code or philosophy of conservativism is to side with 1. Harsher penalties for crime and 2. Always rule against drug crimes.

Taylor v. United States shows the pettiness of both the Liberal and Conservative sects of the Court. It also illustrates the discriminatory flaws in both the moral and social justice aspects of our monopolized government because rulings violate the rights of some individuals but not others. In his majority opinion Justice Alito based his ruling on the Court’s precedent in Raich v. Gonzalez (2005), which was also a bad decision (Liberals and Conservative united over social and moral justice). Alito wrote: “the activity at issue, the sale of marijuana, is unquestionably an economic activity”. However this point neglects modern Commerce Clause principles in United States v. Lopez; United States v. Morrison, and United States v. Bond which implies: “the Constitution requires a distinction between what is truly national and what is truly local.” The Constitution’s Commerce Clause (or any clause) does not “allow Congress to punish robbery.” Allowing Congress to have national police power “would subvert the basic principles of federalism and dual sovereignty”. What is more troubling is Alito statement: “proof that the defendant’s conduct in and of itself affected or threatened commerce is not needed”. That is a remarkable statement because as Thomas points out in his dissent that this “effectively relieves the government of it central burden in a criminal case – the burden to prove every element beyond a reasonable doubt.” This means “today’s decisions weakens longstanding protections for criminal defendants.” Moreover, Alito says “Our holding today is limited to cases in which the defendant targets drug dealers for the purpose of stealing drugs or drug proceeds.” However, the Court’s “reasoning allows for unbounded regulations.” If Taylor can be convicted for violating a federal law that states a person cannot “delay, obstruct, or affect” commerce without any burden of proof, what is to stop the government from treating any local robbery with the same methodology. Worse yet, the Court may apply the law differently depending on what was stolen. This is the definition of discrimination.

Since any robbery is economic in nature, what is to stop the government from applying the Hobbs Act to any theft? And think about the implications if the Court treats “drug robberies” different from other types of robberies? And if all this is not bad enough think about the fact that Taylor never stole any drugs or drug money, but was convicted based on what he intended to steal. What would happen if everyone was arrested for intending to break the law? Wait, it gets worse, the government did not have any burden of proof to show that Taylor broke the law or intended to break the law. This is “guilty until proven innocent” and more innocent people will be jailed if the standard of proof switches to the defendant. This is the power of what happens when moral and social justice unite in one ruling. This is not the only time the Court used the commerce clause to impose stricter standards on a specific type of crime. In 1971 in Perez v. United States, the Court applied federal jurisdiction to the illegal activity of loan sharks. This is scary stuff. Remember, Taylor and Perez would be punished under state statutes and laws, they would not get off without punishment. This case is important because it provides the federal government more police power at the expense of the States. This means the federal government monopoly continues to garner more strength and when that happens nobody’s rights are safe since criminal protections are becoming extinct.

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