April 01, 2012 Top Story

Congress Guts Bill of Rights

Repeal contained in footnote to Omnibus Health-Care Bil

Mark A. Drummond

Litigation News has learned that a provision contained in a footnote to the Omnibus Health-Care Bill has eliminated all even-numbered amendments in the Bill of Rights.

“I was in my fifth year of medieval studies at Yale and wanted to take a semester off when I discovered it,” explains Brandon (last name withheld upon request). “My congressman told me they had a $10,000 left from the No Child Left Behind allocation last year, and a grant was available for anyone who was willing to sit down and read the entire bill,” he recalls.

Dropped in a Footnote

“I started to read and discovered that I could not find the footnotes. Evidently, under the Paperwork Reduction Act, they decided to print the footnotes in a separate volume and sell them. They were $19.95 plus shipping and handling through the Congressional Budget Office, but I found them on Amazon for $9.99 each if you buy three.”

“I was going through the provision, which requires nursing homes to have all the little wheels on the walkers to be the kind that don’t leave those black marks on the linoleum,” continues Brandon. “I guess the nursing home janitorial lobby is pretty strong in Congress. Anyway, in footnote 29 to that provision I found they repealed the even- numbered amendments to the Bill of Rights. I thought I should tell someone, so I told my mom, who is an attorney.”

Unprecedented Bipartisan Support

“The drafters of the nationwide health-care act knew this would result in litigation throughout the states and added cost to the taxpayers,” said Heather Willoughby-Schwartz, Portland, OR, cochair of the Congressional Subcommittee for Legislation Reduction. “Our subcommittee was assigned with the task of seeing if there is other legislation that could be eliminated to lessen the burden on the courts and the taxpayers. We all remembered the Bill of Rights from high school civics, so we started there.”

The Congressional Subcommittee for Legislation Reduction was formed just this year, and all of the members are part of the freshman class just entering Congress. There are supposed to be six Republicans and six Democrats on the subcommittee.

“We were all concerned that our Republican colleague from New Hampshire was really a closet Libertarian,” claims Rep. Harold “Buck” Torgeson of Mobile, AL. “Our fears were confirmed when he tried to slip a period behind the words, ‘Congress shall make no law . . . in the First Amendment. We followed him out to the parking lot and saw him get into a pickup truck that had a Ron Paul bumper sticker on the back. After that, we just didn’t tell him about the meetings.”

“We knew we had to cut somewhere,” continues Willoughby-Schwartz. “We went back and forth on which amendments Republicans wanted and which amendments we wanted. We suggested a coin toss, but, in an effort to show bipartisanship, decided on keeping the odds and throwing out the evens. There was no way the Democrats would budge on the First Amendment, and we thought there was no way the Republicans would budge on the Second Amendment, but they did. That’s about as far as we got. We all knew the Fifth Amendment from Law and Order, but since nobody could remember what any amendment said after the Fifth, we just figured those weren’t all that big a deal anyway.”

“Yes, we were willing to lose the Second Amendment, as long as that pesky Fourth Amendment went with it,” explains Rep. Torgeson. “You see, the beauty of this is the law is not retroactive. All of us who have guns or buy guns by the effective date will get to keep them. Sure, I care about future generations, but a new Glock 9mm will keep for decades if you keep it well oiled and in a case.”

Two, Four, Six, Eight. How You Going to Litigate?

The exact effect of the repeal is unknown. Gun manufacturers are gearing up for what looks like banner domestic sales through the end of 2012. There has also been, however, an inexplicable increase in the rental of large and extra-large P.O. boxes in many border cities in Canada and Mexico.

Law enforcement reports that drug trafficking has skyrocketed in anticipation of the repeal of the Fourth Amendment next year. This does not appear to trouble law-and-order types, who point out the abolition of speedy trials [Sixth] and repeal of the ban on cruel and unusual punishment [Eighth] should counterbalance any increase.

Section Response

The Section of Litigation has sprung into action. A blue ribbon task force is being appointed to prepare a Power Point, training video, and, possibly, branded drink cozies. The goal is to creating a dialogue so as to better articulate the Section’s position, if any, on this issue. The committee is scheduled to report back to the Section as a whole during the Fall 2016 meeting, at which point the Section’s Delegates to the Council will be instructed on how to vote should the matter come before the full ABA. The meeting is scheduled for the beautiful Four Seasons, Maui.

This article was written for your enjoyment on April Fools' Day and should not be taken seriously.

Mark A. Drummond is an associate editor for Litigation News.

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