Clint Bolick argues constitutionality of health care bill

Rachel Alexander

Photo Credit : Fennell

“There are thousands of people who have had their rights taken away because the courts have abdicated their responsibility,” said Clint Bolick during his lecture on judicial activism in Maxey Hall, on Wednesday, April 21. Bolick is the director of constitutional litigation for the Goldwater Institute, a conservative public policy think tank. He is best known for arguing a number of prominent cases about school choice before various state Supreme Courts, and successfully defended an Ohio school voucher program before the United States Supreme Court in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris.

Bolick argued that in an era where government regulations are constantly increasing and becoming more burdensome, an activist judiciary is necessary to ensure that the Constitutional rights of individuals are upheld. According to him, an activist judiciary is one willing to strike down laws which are unconstitutional. He believes that many regulations governing business fall under this category, because the 14th Amendment prohibits any state from making laws which abridge the privileges and immunities of its citizens. As an example, he mentioned a regulation prohibiting shipping wine across state lines, which existed primarily to protect the interests of an oligopoly of wine sellers. The judicial system, he argued, provides a place where “the proverbial hammer of David” can be wielded against the “Goliath of special interests”.

The lecture was presented by WEB and ASWC, as part of an effort to bring more conservative speakers to campus.

“We want to present a diversity of opinion, especially with the health care debate going on,” said sophomore Charlie Weems, the WEB Lectures Director.

Bolick addressed concerns he has with the health care reform bill, and said he plans to litigate against the provision requiring people to purchase health insurance or pay a tax if they do not. He believes that this provision is unconstitutional, because it mandates commerce which occurs almost exclusively within individual states, rather than regulating interstate commerce. He also argued that previous Supreme Court decisions about abortion have established a right to medical autonomy, which prevents the government from interfering directly in an individual medical decision.

For all the current issues raised by the lecture, only about 30 students attended. Among those students, the reaction was overwhelmingly positive.

“It’s nice to have something like this once in a while that’s the opposite of what most people would think at Whitman,” said sophomore Yonas Fikak. Though Fikak said he disagreed with Bolick about the constitutionality of the health care mandate, he ended up reconsidering some of his own opinions.

“His definition of an activist judge is different than what I expected,” said Fikak, who said he has always associated the term with interpreting the Constitution in the context of today’s world, rather than by the literal words of the Founding Fathers.

For Bolick, the primary duty of courts is to protect individuals from the other, often overreaching branches of government.

“It is imperative that courts enforce the rights in the Constitution,” he said.