Archive for January 11, 2010

There Are Limits on Congress’s Power

January 11, 2010 Comments off

CATO Institute: There Are Limits on Congress’s Power.

In 2006, Congress passed the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act. One provision of the law authorizes the federal government to civilly commit anyone in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons whom the attorney general certifies to be “sexually dangerous.” The effect of such an action is to continue the certified person’s confinement after the expiration of his prison term, without proof of a new criminal violation.

Six days before the scheduled release of Graydon Comstock — who had been sentenced to 37 months in jail for receiving child pornography — the attorney general certified Comstock as sexually dangerous. Three years later, Comstock thus remains confined in a medium security prison, as do more than 60 other similarly situated men in the Eastern District of North Carolina alone.

Comstock and several others challenged their confinements as going beyond Congress’s constitutional authority and won in both the district and appellate courts. The United States successfully petitioned the Supreme Court to review the case.(This case will be heard tomorrow, January 12, 2010)

Cato, joined by Georgetown law professor (and Cato senior fellow) Randy Barnett, filed a brief opposing the government. We argue that the use of federal power here is unconstitutional because it is not tied to any of Congress’s limited and enumerated powers. The government’s reliance on the Necessary and Proper Clause of Article I, Section 8, is misplaced because that clause grants no independent power but merely “carries into execution” the powers enumerated elsewhere in that section. The commitment of prisoners after their terms simply is not one of the enumerated powers.

While the government justifies its actions by invoking its implied power “to establish a federal penal system” — itself a necessary and proper auxiliary to certain enumerated powers — civil commitment is unrelated to creating or maintaining a penal system (let alone any enumerated power). Nor can the law at issue fall under the Commerce Clause, because civil commitment involves non-economic intrastate activity.

As the Supreme Court recognized almost 150 years ago in Ex Parte Milligan, “[n]o graver question was ever considered by this court, nor one which more nearly concerns the rights of the whole,” than the government’s unconstitutional assertion of power against its own citizens. In this spirit, the Court should affirm the Fourth Circuit’s rejection of this blatant government overreach.

United States v. Comstock will be argued on January 12. You can read Cato’s brief here.


“Here, the Act does not involve the regulation of commerce in any fashion. Nor does the Act reach intrastate economic activity that substantially affects Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce. Instead, Congress seeks to authorize the civil commitment
of persons deemed to be “sexually dangerous,” a subject matter not even remotely economic in nature. Finally, the Act cannot be justified as an “essential” means of carrying into execution a broader regulation of interstate commerce. Therefore, it is unconstitutional.

The decision of the Fourth Circuit should be affirmed.”

Del. Lawmaker Proposes Castration for Sex Offenses

January 11, 2010 Comments off

Delaware Lawmaker Who Proposes Castration for Sex Offenses has had Legal Problems Himself.

Delaware Rep. John C. Atkins is considering legislation to allow chemical castration of chronic sex offenders.
In addition, he is advocating special vehicle tags for high-risk, repeat sex offenders and registration of all Internet domain and chat room names with authorities. But Mr. Atkins seems to have several legal issues in his own life.

In October 2006, Atkins was arrested for abusing his wife. Then again, in Decemeber 2006, Rep. Atkins was pulled over by police in Ocean City, Maryland with the odor of alcohol on his breath and empty alcohol containers in the backseat. A field sobriety test was conducted and his blood-alcohol level measure at .14

Perhaps those special vehicle license plates which Atkins advocates should also apply to drunk drivers?

Track bills in Delaware Legislature

Contact this idiot here:
Representative John C. Atkins (D) Millsboro, Legislative District: 41
Legislative Hall Office Outside Office, P.O. Box 1401,Dover, DE 19903, Phone: (302) 744-4351
Carvel State Office Building, 820 N. French St., Wilmington, DE 19801, Phone: (302) 934-1587
E-mail Address: