Missouri will again try to compel state judges use original intent interpretation of federal constitution, nullify federal laws & court decisions

For the fifth year in a row Missouri will be considering a bill to mandate the state’s judiciary rely solely on “original intent” when interpreting the U.S. Constitution. Such an amendment to the Missouri Constitution would require only a simple majority of the House and Senate in order to forward it onto the 2014 ballot.

SJR 38 of 2014 effectively repeats SJR 17 of 2013, SJR 45 of 2012, HJR 26 / SJR 15 of 2011, and HJR 88 of 2010 and includes, among other things:

  • Prohibits the Missouri legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government from recognizing, enforcing, or acting in furtherance of any federal action that exceeds the powers delegated to the federal government.
  • Provides the state’s courts shall not recognize, enforce, or act in furtherance of any federal actions that:
    • restrict the right to bear arms
    • legalize or fund abortions, or the destruction of any embryo from the zygote stage
    • require the sale or trade of carbon credits or impose a tax on the release of carbon emissions
    • involve certain health care issues
    • mandate the recognition of same sex marriage or civil unions
    • increase the punishment for a crime based on perpetrator’s thoughts or designate a crime as a hate crime
    • interpret the establishment clause as creating a wall of separation between church and state
    • restrict the right of parents or guardians to home school or enroll their children in a private or parochial school or restrict school curriculum.
  • Requires state courts interpret the U.S. Constitution based on its language and the original intent of the signers of the Constitution. Amendments to the U.S. Constitution shall be interpreted based on their language and the intent of the congressional sponsor and co-sponsors of the amendment.
  • “Any interpretation of the Constitution based on an emerging awareness, penumbras or shadows of the Constitution, a theory of the Constitution being a “living, breathing document”, or any interpretation that expands federal authority beyond the limited powers enumerated and delegated to the federal government, without an amendment to the Constitution, shall be deemed to exceed the limited powers enumerated and delegated to the federal government.”
  • Declares that Missouri citizens have standing to enforce the provisions of the amendment in state court.
  • Provides enforcement of the amendment applies to:
    • federal actions taken after the amendment is approved by the voters
    • federal actions specified in the amendment
    • any federal action, regardless of when it occurred, that the general assembly or the Missouri Supreme Court determines to exceed the powers enumerated and delegated to the federal government by the U.S. Constitution.

In 2010, HJR 88 was approved by the Missouri House and made it to the Senate floor before dying due to adjournment.

In 2011, HJR 26 made it out of committee and died on the House floor, while the similar SJR 15 met a similar fate on the Senate side.

In 2012, SJR 45 was approved by the Senate General Laws Committee and died on the Senate floor.

In 2013, SJR 17 was referred to the Senate General Laws Committee and died in committee.

4 thoughts on “Missouri will again try to compel state judges use original intent interpretation of federal constitution, nullify federal laws & court decisions”

  1. Original intent can be an effective guide to statutory construction. There is also the idea of having constitutional rights expanded to all people. The first point might not have helped decide Brown v.School Board (1954) but the second point apparently did.

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