Saturday, January 9, 2010

Commit to States' Rights

Not many tea-party protesters have heard of Comstock v. United States. But the case, which the Supreme Court will hear on January 12, concerns the very limits on government power that they and others are so intent on restoring. At issue is the constitutionality of a 2006 federal law that allows the government to civilly commit a prisoner after the conclusion of his sentence because he suffers from a mental illness that makes him sexually dangerous. Now, certainly, those who pose a danger to society because of their sexual proclivities should be committed. The real question, however, is whether the federal government should be running roughshod over the Constitution to civilly commit these individuals when states can adequately handle the problem. In Comstock, a federal court of appeals in Richmond ruled that Congress had no constitutional authority to enact the law. The Supreme Court should uphold this ruling, keeping Congress within its constitutional bounds. The Constitution establishes that the federal government is one of limited powers. In other words, Congress may not search every corner of our country looking for problems to vanquish. Instead, Congress must be able to justify each law it passes with a specific constitutional authorization. Unfortunately, Congress has no such justification for this civil-commitment more

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