For the first time ever, a retired Supreme Court Justice offers a manifesto on how the Constitution needs to change.
By the time of his retirement in June 2010, John Paul Stevens had become the second longest serving Justice in the history of the Supreme Court. Now he draws upon his more than three decades on the Court, during which he was involved with many of the defining decisions of the modern era, to offer a book like none other. SIX AMENDMENTS is an absolutely unprecedented call to arms, detailing six specific ways in which the Constitution should be amended in order to protect our democracy and the safety and wellbeing of American citizens.
Written with the same precision and elegance that made Stevens's own Court opinions legendary for their clarity as well as logic, SIX AMENDMENTS is a remarkable work, both because of its unprecedented nature and, in an age of partisan ferocity, its inarguable common sense.
Stevens (Five Chiefs), the liberal Justice who retired in 2010, aims "to avoid future crises before they occur" with his new book, which proposes a half-dozen changes to the Constitution that would "nullify judge-made rules" endorsed by the Court's powerful conservatives. Two of Stevens's proposed corrections tackle constitutional issues that are largely impenetrable to the layman. One would help state officials enforce federal law when in response to disasters. The other would eliminate sovereign immunity which currently allows states and related agencies and officials to avoid civil or criminal charges. Stevens wants to eliminate gerrymandering, which would prevent any one political party from using geographic jujitsu to gain or maintain political power. He suggests modifying the Citizens' United decision that underscores corporations' right to donate to political candidates. His most provocative arguments address the death penalty and gun control. He dismisses retribution as an anachronism and underlines the problem of "fallibility" of executing innocent people. As for the Second Amendment, he argues that private ownership of guns is permitted only "when serving in the militia." Stevens's deceptively slim volume packs a wallop as it illuminates current controversies in constitutional law.