Baby Ninth Amendments Part V: Real Life, Potpourri, and the Big Picture
Thank you to everyone who has read and commented on my posts this week. It’s been so much fun! And thanks again to Eugene and his co-conspirators for the opportunity. After this final edition I will go back to assisting my colleague John Ross with his Short Circuit newsletter, which he posts here every Friday.
You can see the previous four posts in this series here, here, here, and here, all of which summarize my new book from the University of Michigan Press, Baby Ninth Amendments: How Americans Embraced Unenumerated Rights and Why It Matters (available for free here).
Today I’m going to give an example of how a Baby Ninth should work in practice, briefly address a potpourri of issues I haven’t had space for, and close with some big picture thoughts about what Baby Ninths mean for how we look at American constitutionalism more generally.
In the book I talk about some food truck cases we’ve done at IJ, where cities block food trucks from operating for protectionist reasons that aren’t plausibly related to public health and safety. Let’s suppose you’re one of them. You want to park your truck in the lot of an office building. The building’s owners also want you to park there—they like that their tenants can buy lunch from your truck. But there’s a city ordinance that prohibits you from parking within 500 feet of a restaurant, even if you’re on private property. And there are other restaurants on the building’s street within that distance.
Now let’s say you live in a state with a Baby Ninth. Does this law violate one of your rights “retained by the people”? Well, it certainly seems to get in the way of your right to contract with the building’s owners and your right to earn a living by selling from there. But, as I said yesterday, that in itself doesn’t mean the city has violated the state constitution. These rights aren’t absolute. The city could defeat a claim you might bring if, based on real facts, it can show it’s needed to further a legitimate public purpose. That would allow the city to demonstrate that in this case, your asserted right—to the degree that it’s implicated—is not actually “retained” but has been given up to the government in the social contract bargain.
In this case you should prevail. It’s unlikely the city can show the truck causes any public problems just because it’s within 500 feet of a restaurant. For other regulations you might have to abide by, such as fire restrictions, litter control, or food safety rules, the story could be very different. But suppressing competition isn’t enough. “We’re living in a society!” doesn’t mean we delegate to the government the pow
Article from Latest