The Balance of Power; Constitution Belongs to the People

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 17, 2004 | Go to article overview

The Balance of Power; Constitution Belongs to the People


Byline: Orrin G. Hatch, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

On this date, 217 years ago in Philadelphia, the Constitutional Convention approved the new Constitution of the United States and sent it to the states for ratification.It remains the oldest operative written constitution in the world. Americans understand the importance of the nation's charter to our lives and our rights. But what we sometimes fail to recognize is that only by appointing the right kind of judges can we ensure the continued integrity of this cherished document.

Believing that the people would embrace the Constitution if they understood it, America's founders ensured ratification by writing essays about its principles. Those essays, collectively called the Federalist Papers, were then published in newspapers but today are routinely ignored even in America's law schools. There are other signs that we are losing such an understanding of our nation's most important document. Alarmingly, twice as many Americans know the number of Rice Krispies characters than know the number of Supreme Court justices. Fifty percent more teenagers can name the Three Stooges than can recite the first three words of the Constitution, "We the People."

So it is little wonder that many misunderstand the role of the three branches of government - especially the judiciary. This lack of understanding and attention leaves our liberty at risk.We must insist that just as "we the people" established the Constitution, only the people can change it.And we must insist that judges adhere to this principle as well so that judges are subject to, not the masters of, the Constitution.

Unfortunately, for the last several decades, many judges have been moving in the other direction, their power expanding as they make law, and even amend the Constitution, from the bench. They have radically changed the balance of power between the federal and state governments, effectively rewritten statutes, and even created new constitutional rights. This trend threatens liberty by taking away the people's power to govern themselves.

Yet judges take the same oath as other public officials, to support and defend "the Constitution of the United States."Not a Constitution of their own making, but the Constitution. …

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