[eDebate] On Areas and Lists

Jim Hanson hansonjb
Fri Jun 2 11:18:53 CDT 2006

i second lindsay's concern that merely saying "overrule x case" leaves way 
too many open doors.

i urge the topic committee to include wording that clarifies what kind of 
overrule the resolution requires (eg overrule the gregg decision's support 
for the constitutionality of the death penalty).

jim :)
hansonjb at whitman.edu
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Lindsay Harrison" <lchesq at hotmail.com>
To: <edebate at ndtceda.com>
Sent: Friday, June 02, 2006 7:30 AM
Subject: [eDebate] On Areas and Lists

This is also posted at the blog, but for those not checking (you should

Although this may contradict Ede's call to the committee (and I hate to
disagree with Ede), I'd like to make another call for the committee to work
on a plenary powers or other "areas" resolution, in part based on Paul's
comments below and in part based on what I have heard over the past two
days. I apologize in advance for the length - I had not a lot of time to

First, Paul is correct when he states that the Court almost never directly
states that X case is overruled. It overrules its precedents by announcing
new rules that displace the old ones. As an example -- in Lawrence, the
Supreme Court announces that there is a privacy interest in adult,
consensual, private sexual conduct, thereby overruling Bowers. The Supreme
Court chose to overrule Bowers in that way, but it could have done so in an
infinite number of ways -- by announcing a completely new test for
fundamental rights, by ruling on the basis of equal protection (which
O'Connor did in her concurrence), by ruling on the basis of the first
amendment right to expressive association (which many law review scholars
advocated), by ruling on the basis of the privileges and immunities clause
(which an amicus brief advocated), by ruling that the regulation of
sexuality is outside the state's police powers (which the CATO institute
advocated), etc. I think this is what the various members of the topic
committee understand when they say the topic will be "too big." Each
precedent may be overruled in a tremendously large number of ways.

Because of this, I see this year headed in a dangerous direction if the
resolution simply requires the Aff to overrule a case --there are very,
very, very few advocates there are for the simple overruling of Supreme
Court precedent without advocating a new rule to displace the old (very,
very, very few - pretty much just conservative crackpots discussing the need
to "overrule Roe"). Once the community realizes this, I foresee Affirmatives
that do a huge, wide range of things in very disparate areas of the law
(examples -- if Glucksberg or Casey is included -- plan: rule that gays have
a fundamental right to marry/kids have a right to education/etc., thereby
overruling the test used in Glucksberg and Casey holding that fundamental
rights must be deeply rooted in the concept of ordered liberty).
Affirmatives will overrule the cases on your "list" resolutions by doing
virtually anything that they want.

You are listing cases that come from a huge range of areas of the law -- 
your smallest resolution includes these:
Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992)
Ex parte Quirin (1942)
U.S. v. Morrison (2000)
Milliken v. Bradley (1974)
Gratz v. Bollinger (2003)

Casey involves substantive due process - the test for what constitutes a
fundamental right. This means one could overrule Casey by doing ALMOST
ANYTHING that announces a new fundamental right by displacing the Casey

Ex parte Quirin involves the war powers of the president - one could
overrule Quirin by limiting the war powers of the president or by announcing
a new test for the judicial evaluation of those powers (displacing that
announced in Quirin) or by announcing that questions concerning the
president's war powers are now to be considered "political questions" from
which the court will now abstain, etc.

Morrison involves both Congress's commerce power and its enforcement powers
under section 5 of the 14th amendment. Since Congress has not passed the
VAWA again, the Court could only overrule Morrison by announcing new tests
for the evaluation of the scope of Congress's commerce power or its section
5 authority. In other words, the Court could "overrule" Morrison by
announcing almost any piece of Congressional legislation constitutional
under the 14th amendment or the interstate commerce clause. This is
particularly dangerous since the Negative will need to be prepared to debate
both "Court affirms legislation" and "Court strikes down legislation" Affs.

Milliken involves the authority of courts to order injunctive relief. Yes,
the case involved a desegregation order, but you won't find authors
advocating that the Supreme Court overrule Milliken by approving the plan
that was ordered in effect in Detroit because no such plan exists today to
approve - what you will find are any number of authors who advocate
enlarging the authority of the courts to order various remedies, thereby
overruling the central holding of Milliken that the plan in effect was
impermissible. There are also, of course, the racial aspects of Milliken,
which held that busing remedies could extend across district lines only
where there was actual evidence that multiple districts had deliberately
engaged in a policy of segregation. Well, you could overrule Milliken by
holding that there was, in fact, evidence of intentional segregation in
Detroit (thereby overruling the main factual holding of the case, but
leaving the legal rule the same).

Finally, Gratz involves the evaluation of an affirmative action plan under
the equal protection clause. This is another hugely bidirectional case -- 
you could overrule Gratz by holding that diversity is not a compelling state
interest OR by holding that affirmative action plans should not be subject
to strict scrutiny because they remedy racial discrimination. There are
solvency advocates for doing so in a variety of ways.

I hope I have given you a sense of how huge the topic could get. I think the
community seriously needs to consider the scope of the resolution and needs
to consider putting some limited "areas" resolutions on the ballot.

I'll advocate here for plenary powers since I genuinely think it would be a
much more limited topic than the "lists" resolutions presently under
consideration. I also will explain why I think it is wholly faithful to the
"Supreme Court overrule" topic the community elected.

As I have previously stated, the plenary power doctrine is wholly the
creation of the Supreme Court. For the court to rule that the powers of the
Executive or Congress are not plenary IS an overruling of court precedent.
Thus, the committee could easily draft a plenary powers resolution that is
faithful to the community's election of a "Sup Ct overrule" topic but that
does not include the actual word "overrule."

I still say the best resolution for a plenary powers topic -- one that is
limited and one that has substantial numbers of solvency advocates and one
that excludes Indians -- is this one:
The United States Supreme Court should substantially limit the plenary power
of the Executive or Congress in one or more of the following areas of the
law: immigration, foreign affairs, public lands.

I will try to be clear about why I think this resolution is faithful to the
"Supreme Court overrule" topic in case I have not been in the past. Because
the Supreme Court created the doctrine of plenary powers, for the Court to
now limit those powers is PRECISELY the kind of overruling of Court
precedent that the legal literature is talking about when it discusses
"overrule." Plus, I don't understand why the plans under a plenary powers
resolution would be any more about "overrule" than the plans I have given as
examples for the "lists" topic above. A plan advocating a new fundamental
right (and thereby overruling Casey) doesn't "overrule" precedent any more
than a plan that limits the Executive or Congress's plenary powers -- in
fact, it is probably less faithful to the "overrule" topic.

I think an areas resolution is superior because the Negative will at least
know the direction the Aff must go. The Negative can still use all of its
"overrule" evidence (though, as Josh Zive states in his comments, the hollow
hope and other courts generics are not nearly as strategically beneficial as
the case debates and PICs on a courts topic -- there just aren't a huge
number of Negative authors discussing why overruling precedent, in itself is
bad -- just ask anyone who has debated Korematsu or Bowers whether those
strategies were ever successful -- i mean, "stare decisis good" is just not
a great debate argument -- do you really want every round to be "CP - do the
Aff but don't overrule a case, net benefit is stare decisis"????). Debates
will still be about whether the Court should backtrack from a doctrine that
it created. And the community will learn a ton about a key area or two of
the law -- the area that is, in fact, THE legal hot topic in a post-9/11
world. I do think a first amendment resolution would be good as well,
requiring the Court to overrule one of its first amendment precedents. At
least in such a resolution, the area of the law is singular and
well-defined. I think you could also solve some of the problem by adding in
a directional limiting phrase (requiring the Aff to rule in a particular way
and not just simply to "overrule" a case).

If you have questions about this, I'm happy to talk with the topic committee
today - my work number is 305-579-4414. I'm not trying to scare anyone - I
just have thought about it a lot (while watching the Mavs kick total ass
last night) and felt obligated to share those thoughts...I love that the
community is debating a legal topic and don't want it to be another 15 years
until it happens again.



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