‘Forgotten Bill of Rights’ addressed PDF Print E-mail
Written by DAVID DUPONT Sentinel Staff Writer   
Thursday, 19 September 2013 10:12
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Evan Zoldan, Assistant Professor of Law at the University of Toledo speaks on individual rights and the constitution during a guest lecture titled, "The Forgotten Bill of Rights: Individual Rights in the Original Constitution" September 16, 2013 at the BGSU Jerome Library. (Photo: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
Before the First Amendment the founders had already granted certain rights to citizens.
As Evan Zoldan, a law professor from the University of Toledo College of Law explained Monday night at Bowling Green State University, the marquee rights of religion, speech and assembly didn't come until a few years after the Constitution was approved.
That doesn't mean, he said in his talk "The Forgotten Bill of Rights: Individual Rights in the Original Constitution," that there weren't protections embedded in the Constitution.
These "forgotten rights" now may seem arcane and rooted in the politics of the early years of the Republic but they still have bearing on current events, he told an audience of students, faculty and community members.
Sections 9 and 10 specifically forbid the federal government and the states from passing certain kinds of laws. These include bills attainder and ex post facto statutes, and from conferring any title of nobility, he said.
Bills of attainder, Zoldan explained, were statutes that singled individuals or specific groups out for punishment. Those punishments could be as severe as a death sentence or confiscation of all their property.
Title of nobility, he said, did not only mean making someone a duke or earl, but meant as well conferring a benefit on an individual or group, including land grants and exemption from legal prosecution.
An ex post facto law, he explained, meant passing a law to outlaw conduct that had already occurred.
These types of laws, he said, were passed not only by Parliament in England, but also by the legislatures of the newly independent states.
"This was rampant in the decade after the American Revolution," Zoldan said. By the time the founders gathered to write the Constitution there was "something unseemly" about privileges going to well-connected individuals.
"There was even a very strong feeling in some quarters that any privilege that one individual had that was not available to society in general that there was something problematic about it," Zoldan said.
Still the U.S. Congress and especially state legislatures have over the years continued to pass such laws.
When states bestow charters on groups wanting to build multimillion-dollar sports stadiums, he said, this is the kind of privilege sections 9 and 10 were meant to stamp out. "It is the quintessence of a pork barrel project."
Zoldan left much of his time for questions. He said that the government's campaign against Al Qaida probably did not constitute bill of attainder. He based his opinion on U.S. Supreme Court decisions in the 1930s upholding measures to combat domestic Communism.
He also said bills singling out Planned Parenthood for funding reductions would not run afoul of the principle. Cuts in funding do not constitute punishment, he said.
In determining of what does violate the principles set forth in sections 9 and 10, Zoldan advised looking at the abuses that gave rise to their inclusion in the Constitution.
These early measures were so connected to the concept of individual rights, he said, that James Madison who drafted the Bill of Rights wanted them folded into the Constitution in section 9 and 10.
Zoldan's talk was arranged to mark Constitution Day by Leila Kawar, who teaches in the political science department and is advisor for the pre-law program.
 

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