Litigation » Constitution Didn’t Contemplate Empire, Prof Argues

Constitution Didn’t Contemplate Empire, Prof Argues

December 21, 2015

Staten Island Ferry cruises past the Statue of Liberty on a misty sunset. Manhattan, New York City, United States of America. Square composition.

A series of lawsuits before the Supreme Court concerning the non-contiguous U.S. states, Native American tribes, and Puerto Rico deal with issues the Constitution didn’t contemplate, argues University of Baltimore law professor Garrett Epps. The Court has, or will, be considering whether those born in U.S. Samoa are citizens, to what extent Native Americans can try members of their own tribe, and whether Puerto Rico is a “separate sovereign” from the U.S. or a subdivision, like a territorial government. The current spate of cases, outlined in detail in the article, highlight the “mismatch between constitutional theory and national reality,” which began almost as soon as the ink dried on the founding document, Epps writes. “The American Constitution was written for a coastal republic of 13 states and ran into trouble soon after. It now governs, awkwardly, an empire.”

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