Monday, November 20, 2006

Nobody's Too Dumb For the Boston Globe-Democrat

Reading the Globe-Democrat's coverage of the marriage amendment rally, I came across this quote regarding the constitutional issues raised by the legislature refusing to vote on the amendment:

"The constitution doesn't actually require the Legislature to take a vote. It says that they have to discuss it and debate it, and I don't think there is any good argument that there hasn't been a lot of discussion and debate."

Now, I've heard quite a few novel legal theories attempting to defend the legislature's refusal to vote, but the "all they have to do is debate" was a new one. So I sent Professor Friedman the following email:

Professor Friedman,

I just read your comments in the Globe re: the process of amending the Constitution. I've also been reading the MA Constitution and I can't find the cite for legislators being required merely to "discuss it and debate it" when it comes to a lawfully-submitted amendment to the Constitution.

I did find Article IV, Section 3: A proposal for an amendment to the constitution introduced by initiative petition shall be voted upon in the form in which it was introduced, unless such amendment is amended by vote of three-fourths of the members voting thereon in joint session, which vote shall be taken by call of the yeas and nays if called for by any member.

Obviously, you know far more about the law than I. Could you please let me know where to find the "discuss and debate" clause in the state constitution regarding the treatment of lawfully submitted amendments?

Thanks so much for your time!

Michael Graham

I was hoping for a helpful reply, one with legal citations--maybe some Latin thrown in for effect. Instead, I got:

Mr. Graham,

The Constitution does not require a vote, but plainly the legislators are expected to do something with initiative petitions, and that something would, given the procedures outlined, seem to be discussion and debate about a proposal.

I hope this answers your question,

Lawrence Friedman
Assistant Professor of Law
New England School of Law

Uh, am I stupid? Or is this answer NOT an answer? In fact, it appears to be a nonsequitor (in case Professor Friedman is logged on, that means "a non-responsive answer with no relation to the original question.")

Professor Friedman--sorry, make that "Assistant Professor"--clearly is not a credible source on the legal issues at the heart of this story. So why did the Boston Globe-Democrat use him as a source? Why hang your key 'graph on someone so clueless regarding the constitution?

Could it be that Friedman was the only lawyer they could find offering any argument in defense of the legislature? And since he was the only attorney giving the BG-D the answer they wanted, he's the one they quoted?

Another proud journalistic moment from the folks on Morrissey Blvd.

UPDATE: It's been 12 days, and the Boston Globe-Democrat STILL hasn't run an editorial on the legislature's massive civil rights violation. 12 days, and counting.