Monday, September 17, 2007

Happy Constitution Day

Today is Constitution Day. Our Constitution turns 220 today. All federally funded schools must commemorate the ratification of the Constitution in some way. According to the "Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2005,’’ Dec. 8,
2004; 118 Stat. 2809, 3344–45 (Section
111), ‘‘each educational institution that receives
Federal funds for a fiscal year shall hold
an educational program on the United
States Constitution on September 17 of
such year for the students served by the
educational institution.’’ If you're wondering if Constitution Day might not be constitutional, look at this to see what one law prof thinks. In honor of this August occasion, here is a nice little list of "constitutional curiosities" put together by a guy that was once my Con Law prof and is now dean at some law school in ol' Kentuck.

by Jim Chen

This exercise is intended to make reading the Constitution a little livelier. All answers to the questions below may be had by consulting the text of the United States Constitution.

1. Of which state are you a citizen?

2. Are you eligible for the House of Representatives? The Senate? The Presidency? If not, why not?

3. Bill Dodge, son of two United States citizens, was born in Niger during his parents’ African travels. Ousseini Abdoulaye was born in Niger on the very same day; Ousseini’s parents, however, were citizens of Niger. Ousseini later moves to the United States and becomes a United States citizen. Assume that both Bill and Ousseini are 40 years old and have lived in the United States for at least last 20 years. Is either Bill or Ousseini eligible to serve as President?

4. The original Constitution contemplated the continuation of slavery in those states that permitted slavery as of 1787. Find the first instance of the word “slave” or “slavery” in the Constitution. If you don’t find either of these words in the original Constitution, what are the hints that the original Constitution contemplated and tolerated slavery?

5. Assume that the free population of South Carolina in 1850 was 1 million, that its slave population was 500,000, and that its untaxed Indian population was 100,000. For purposes of determining South Carolina’s representation in the House and direct tax obligations to the federal government, what was the population of South Carolina?

6. The Constitution refers to only three types of unlawful behavior, and a fourth may be inferred from the text of a general prohibition. Name all four.

7. Does the Constitution contemplate capital punishment? Where? Which provision or provisions would you invoke if you wished to attack the constitutionality of the death penalty?

8. What is the only use of the word “right” in the original Constitution?

9. When is Inauguration Day? Is it the same as the first day of a new congressional term?

10. What is the maximum time anyone may serve as Presi-dent?

11. What is the only part of the Constitution that may never be amended?

12. Speaking of amendments, name the commercial activity that the Framers of the Constitution declared off-limits to regulation via constitutional amendment until 1808 (i.e., 21 years after the framing of the original Constitution).

13. Still speaking of amendments, how can they be made? (Name two methods.)

14. José and Maria Nazarena are citizens of El Salvador. They enter the United States illegally. Maria then gives birth to Jesus in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Consulting only the Constitution, name one country of which Jesus is a citizen.

15. In a fit of pique, the President decides to skip this year’s State of the Union address. As White House legal counsel, what do you advise?

16. In a fit of pique (probably provoked by the flap over the State of the Union address), the House begins debating a bill to cut the President’s pay and Supreme Court Justices’ pay. As counsel to the Speaker of the House, what do you advise?

17. Before 1913, who chose Senators? After 1913?

18. Rose Perot, a candidate for the House of Representatives, plans to issue a campaign promise to oppose any Supreme Court nominee who will not commit to upholding a woman’s right to abortion. As Rose’s campaign manager, do you run the ad? (Base your answer strictly on your interpretation of the Constitution, not on any political considerations.)

19. Jessie Ventura-Boulevard ultimately defeats Rose Perot in a hotly contested race for Congress. The victorious Jessie now represents Texas in the House of Representatives. Her political “lone star” having risen swiftly, she now seeks a national political platform. She would like to be the running mate of her fellow Texan, Governor George W. Shrub, the Reform Party nominee for President. As Jessie’s political adviser, can you point out the constitutional flaw in the congresswoman’s vice-presidential ambitions?

20. How much Hawaiian money do you have in your purse or wallet?

21. Speaking of purses, your cousin Rhonda left hers at your recent family reunion. Upon rifling through the purse, you discover a certified mail receipt, a Confederate $10 bill, a District of Columbia driver’s license, a copy of the Koran, and a Susan B. Anthony dollar. Whatever their market value, these items make up a constitutional treasure trove. Find any and all constitutional provisions that relate to the contents of Rhonda’s purse. Incidentally, does it make a constitutional difference if you open the purse in your capacity as an FBI agent or if you are simply a nosy busybody?

Find the answers here.

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