Sanford Levinson

It’s often noted that the United States is governed by the world’s oldest written constitution that is still in use. This is usually stated as praise, though most other products of the eighteenth century, like horse-borne travel and leech-based medical treatment, have been replaced by improved models.

Jeffrey Toobin, writing in the New Yorker about whether the current dysfunction of the federal government might be due, at least in part, to the Constitution.

(Additional notable quotes from his interesting article, after the jump.)

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Ed. note: Happy Thanksgiving! We will resume our normal publication schedule on Monday, December 2. We hope you have a wonderful holiday, and we thank you for your readership.

* O.J. Simpson is going to be staying in prison longer. The search for the real killers suffers another setback. [Fox News]

* Sriracha-gate continues. A federal judge has ordered a partial shutdown of the plant. [Slate]

* Lawyers are destroying American society. Because the Romans also had a glut of law school grads when the Republic fell. Or something. [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]

* A federal government lawyer who mastered the stock market and lived a frugal life has given some $56 million to the University of Washington School of Law. Go ahead and hold your breath for that Washington tuition decrease. [Seattle Times]

* UNC professors are questioning the motives of a public records request targeting the new director of the law school poverty center. Which isn’t naked intimidation at all. [Chronicle of Higher Education]

* A couple weeks ago Professors Alan Dershowitz and Sanford Levinson debated Professor Eugene Volokh and David Kopel. The former argued that the Second Amendment has outlived its usefulness. Based on minds changed, they won. The debate video is embedded past the jump… [Intelligence2 Debates]

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Another week has come and gone. We’re post Independence Day, so strap in for the long grind to Labor Day before you get any rest. If you need a break, I suppose you can take some summers for a 3-hour lunch, assuming anyone still does that.

But the real importance of the week’s end is that it’s time again to compile my look at some notable stories from the week in legal news. Bring on “5 Thing Friday” or “Working for the Weekend” or something like that.

This week, we had Justice Ginsburg’s declaration that she’s not retiring, the Zimmerman trial continued on its tragically absurd course, Vault released its annual law firm rankings, the NFL got burned in court — twice — and Harry Reid figured out that there’s this thing called a filibuster and the Republicans are really good at it…

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The 2008 Secession Proposal

In the wake of last week’s election, citizens from all 50 states have signed petitions calling for secession from the United States. These petitions have been filed with the White House’s “We the People” website, an initiative of the Obama administration to encourage public involvement in government. Once a petition reaches the threshold of 25,000 signatures within 30 days, the White House forwards the petition to its policy experts to draft a formal response.

It’s kind of ironic that these neo-secessionists submitted their formal demands through a government initiative specifically created by Barack Obama. It’s ironic because, while each state’s petition varies a bit in substance, the crux of every petition is “we don’t like that crazy Kenyan socialist president.”

Just to recap: Kenyan Head of Government. Not Kenyan Head of Government. Kenyan. Not KenyanKenyonNot Kenyan.

As of this hour, only a handful of states have reached the signature threshold to trigger an official White House response. Wanna take a guess which states are ready to bail? If you guessed “states that have past experience with secession,” you’d be right. Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas have all finished their secession petitions.

Do these petitions signal a new round of secession?

(SPOILER ALERT: No)

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As Republicans continue to play chicken with the nation’s solvency, the idea that the president doesn’t need congressional approval to raise the debt ceiling is gaining traction. The thought bubble suggests that President Obama can raise the debt ceiling because of language in the Fourteenth Amendment stating that the nation’s debt “shall not be questioned.”

The idea has been trumpeted by none other than former president Bill Clinton. Clinton said that he would unilaterally raise the debt ceiling and “force the courts to stop me.”

Of course, President Clinton had what the scientists call “balls.” He knew how to handle a group of intractable Republicans more concerned with scoring political points than governing.

President Obama? The New York Times has his response: “I have talked to my lawyers. They are not persuaded that that is a winning argument.”

Can Aaron Sorkin please write a “Let Obama Be Obama” episode? Because sometimes Barack Obama really likes to dangle his feet in the water of whatever the hell it is he dangles his feet in, when he wants to make it look like he’s trying without pissing too many people off.

In any event, is invoking Section 4 of the Fourteenth Amendment a “winning” argument that could solve this debt crisis?

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