Meese Supreme Court Suggestions Are Irritating When You Want a Clean House

Article excerpt

NEW YORK - Attorney General Edwin Meese is causing a fuss with his excited view of the Constitution. He says the courts interpreting the Constitution ought to consider what its authors intended whenthey wrote it.

He suggests the Supreme Court for at least the past 30 years has ignored the intent of those 18th-century lawyers, with the result that we now have a lot of cockeyed laws on the books.

This is not an abstract argument between jailhouse lawyers.

Meese has a decisive say about who will go on the federal bench, including the Supreme Court. If he wants judges who won't move until they consult the authors' intent, that is the kind of judges wewill have in increasing numbers.

Obviously, this could lead to some very knotty problems in a certain kind of lawsuit. Take the famous case that broke up the telephone company. Under the Meese doctrine, the court would be obliged to find out how the Constitution's authors intended to deal with monopoly in the telephone business once the telephone was invented.

Did the framers know that the telephone would be invented 100 years after the framing was finished?

If they did, why didn't they know the even more dreadful developments that were to occur in the future, like the incomprehensible income tax law, and frame a clause forbidding such cruel and unusual harassment of the citizenry?

It seems obvious that they didn't have advance knowledge about anything that was going to happen or be invented after they finished the Constitution. This being the case, how could they have had any intent toward these things that's worth considering?

In my opinion, even my opinion on breaking up the telephone company would be more valuable than the opinion of William Few or Jared Ingersoll.

Sure, Few and Ingersoll helped frame the Constitution 200 years ago. You have to respect them for that. But would you trust either one to make a vital long-distance credit-card call from a pay telephone at a turnpike fast-food dispensary where they had just eaten a piece of pie bought from a slot machine and washed it down with coffee whitened by a chemical powder identifying itself as a ""non-dairy creamer?''

I am describing a situation in which your respect for the framers is going to be drastically moderated by your instinctive knowledge. While the old-timers could be brilliant, they wouldn't last long enough to get out of their wigs and into a $35 hair styling if you sent them up against the 20th century. …