Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Justice Lumpkin's Bill of Rights III

Justice Lumpkin was a smart man and good lawyer. He acknowledged that the Supreme Court had ruled, in Barron v. Baltimore, that the Bill of Rights did not apply to the States. He did not so much disagree as conclude that that was irrelevant. He cited and quoted from a number of opinions of State courts that had held that States were bound to observe certain fundamental principles. His favorite quote was from a Maryland court, for he emphasized the entire passage:

"'Independent of that instrument [the federal Constitution], and of any express restriction in the Constitution of the State, there is a fundamental principle of right and justice, inherent in the nature and spirit of the social compact (in this country at least,) the character and genius of our governments, the causes from which they sprang, and the purposes for which they were established, that rises above the restraints and sets bounds to the power of legislation, which the Legislature cannot pass, without exceeding its lawful authority. It is that principle which protects the life, liberty and property of the citizen, from violation, in the unjust exercise of legislative power.'"

The picture above is of Eugenius Aristides Nisbet, one of Justice Lumpkin's colleagues on the Georgia Supreme Court from its establishment in 1845 until 1853, who concurred in the decision.

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