Friday, August 06, 2010

COOPER v. AARON, 358 U.S. 1 (1958)

Yesterday, Senator Donald McEachin (D - 9th) released a statement in which he cited COOPER v. AARON, 358 U.S. 1 (1958) to support the assertion that states and state elected officials do not have the ability to "nullify" federal laws and the pronouncements of federal courts.

A handful of conservative and/or Republican commenters persist in the error of believing that nullification is a valid legal theory. It is not, and those who doubt it would do well to read the unanimous decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of COOPER v. AARON, 358 U.S. 1 (1958). A couple of key quotes from the case:
In short, the constitutional rights of children not to be discriminated against in school admission on grounds of race or color declared by this Court in the Brown case can neither be nullified openly and directly by state legislators or state executive or judicial officers, nor nullified indirectly by them through evasive schemes for segregation whether attempted "ingeniously or ingenuously."
The court then goes on to issue a warning:
No state legislator or executive or judicial officer can war against the Constitution without violating his undertaking to support it. Chief Justice Marshall spoke for a unanimous Court in saying that: "If the legislatures of the several states may, at will, annul the judgments of the courts of the United States, and destroy the rights acquired under those judgments, the constitution itself becomes a solemn mockery . . .
It was therefore appropriate for Senator McEachin to cite COOPER v. AARON in his statement, and Governor McDonnell would do well to take note of this case. When Governor McDonnell flirts with nullification he flirts with "violating his undertaking to support" the U.S. Constitution. If Governor McDonnell intends to oppose the U.S. Constitution, then he should have the courage to state his opposition openly, not by pandering to the extremist elements of the Republican Party, and not by winking at the laws he is bound by solemn oath to uphold.


MKUltra said...

The defenders of centralized governmental power (a.k.a. tyranny) despise the Jeffersonian idea that the citizens of the states have a right to nullify what they believe to be unconstitutional federal laws. That’s why it was necessary to have our bill of rights in order to ratify the US Constitution. The 10th amendment is very clear and direct on this issue “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively or to the people.” Thomas Jefferson clearly explained if you allow the federal government to be the sole judge of it’s own powers surely it would interpret it so it would expand it powers. Every time the federal government creates an unconstitutional mandate it is null and void! The states have the duty to nullify unconstitutional mandates from the federal government it clear to me that Senator McEachin is only an pirate that has the federal government interest in mind.

J.C. Wilmore said...

Thomas Jefferson did not participate in the writing of the U.S. Constitution nor was he ever a U.S. Supreme Court justice. His opinions as to what the Constitution allows in terms of "nullification" powers is just that: the personal opinion of a private citizen.

On the other hand, the U.S. Supreme Court in COOPER v. AARON, 358 U.S. 1 (1958) ruled 9-0--a unanimous decision--that there is no such thing as "nullification." No where does the word "nullify" or "nullification" appear in the U.S. Constitution or any of its amendments, including the 10th Amendment.

Simply put: there is no such thing as "nullification." It is a legal fantasy.

Bob Stewart said...

Earl Warren was Chief Justice for COOPER v AARON in 1958. The quote from Chief Justice John Marshall was from United States v. Peters 9 U.S. 115 (1809)

Bob Stewart said...

Chief Justice John Marshall's quote is from United States v. Peters 9 U.S. 115 (1809). Warren was Chief Justice for Cooper v. Aaron.