10.01.2008 0

“A Constitutional Crisis in the Making”

  • On: 10/15/2008 11:24:16
  • In: Term Limits

  • In what Nevada State Senator Bob Beers is calling “a constitutional crisis in the making,” the Nevada Supreme Court on July 14th will hear arguments to determine the constitutionality of the State’s popular term limits law. What makes this proceeding so chilling is that the Court, clearly urged on by a handful of powerful politicians, will be in the awkward position of determining the constitutionality of its own earlier ruling.

    This is a capricious set of circumstances for threefold reasons: 1) The term limits amendments were enacted overwhelmingly by Nevada voters in 1994 and 1996, limiting elected officials to 12 years in office; 2) The question of whether the law was enacted constitutionally was resolved by the Supreme Court in 1996; and 3) The Supreme Court had just determined on June 13th that it would not hear arguments on the constitutionality of the enactment of term limits.

    In 1996, the Supreme Court, when it split the term limits amendment into parts A and B, ruled that: “…this meets the Constitutional requirement that the ballot question be submitted to the voters ‘in the same manner.'”

    For the Court now to hear arguments on whether the ballot question was submitted to voters constitutionally when the Court itself was responsible for the manner in which it was submitted is troubling to the say the least. That it already ruled that the enactment was constitutional 12 years ago makes it all the more odious to Nevadans, and to all who respect the rule of law. That it turned around after only 12 days to say that it would take up the case after it said it would not is more than puzzling; it is disconcerting.

    We believe that Senator Beers has it right. This is “a constitutional crisis in the making,” for the constitutional system of Nevada is being torn asunder. And if the Court now rules against its own prior decision, it will have disenfranchised the will of Nevadans who voted in favor of term limits. And it will have rendered future Supreme Court rulings worth less than the paper which they are printed.

    To make matters worse, the entire case stems from several term-limited local officials who deliberately sought re-election in order to invoke the term limits law. They did so knowing that their candidacies would be challenged under the clear meaning of the law, and that it could create an opportunity to revisit the enactment of the amendments to the State’s highest court. The Court at first refused to take the tainted bait. It should have stuck by that decision.

    Now that the 12 years ordained by law is up, many Nevadan politicians are clearly doing whatever it takes to keep their own jobs. Instead of representing the will of the people and upholding the rule of law, they are dodging it.

    The law is clear: 12 years means 12 years.

    There are apparently no lengths that politicians will not go in order to squirm their way out of term limits, the will of their own constituents, and the clear meaning of their own Constitution. Their move undermines the representative, democratic, constitutional system that the State was founded to uphold.

    The crisis here is over the rule of law, which states that nobody—neither the people nor public officials—can violate the law. It is a crisis over the rule of the people in a democratic society, who in 1994 and 1996 determined that they wanted their elected officials to be term-limited.

    And yes, Senator Beers, it is a “constitutional crisis” of historic proportions.

    The justices currently serving on the Nevada Supreme Court need to be reminded that they too are elected officials, chosen by the people, and that they can and will be held accountable for their decisions. They still have an opportunity to uphold the will of Nevadans, and to preserve term limits. The Court should sustain its prior ruling that term limits were enacted properly in accordance with the Nevada Constitution. And it should apply that law to those finagling politicians who have indeed served their prescribed 12 years and tell them in no uncertain terms, “It is not fit that you should sit here any longer.”

    ALG Editor’s note: The following featured column covers the weak dollar, an issue that ALG News has referenced on several occasions, most recently in “The Creature is on the Loose—Yet Again.”

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