Should we change the Constitution …And when?

Serving 35 years on the Supreme Court, former Justice John Paul Stevens has had a front row seat for many of the United States’ most intense legal battles. From this position, Stevens witnessed a number of problems plaguing the country that the highest court could not — or would not — fix.

However, Stevens only had the ability to interpret the law, not create it. Still, his experience has inspired him to suggest a handful of Constitutional Amendments that he believes would put the country back on the right track, including:


1. Limiting Campaign Finance


The First Amendment should not be interpreted to stipulate that money equals speech and therefore individuals and corporate entities can spend unlimited amounts of money on American elections. States and Congress should be permitted to put sensible restrictions on campaign donations.


Why is it a problem?


This is an issue that Stevens has been gravely concerned about since the moment Citizens United passed in 2010. Writing a passionate dissent for the infamous case, Stevens warned that comparing corporate money and influence to human speech would have major consequences for the country.

Indeed, Stevens’ projections were correct: Citizens United has wreaked utter havoc on our political system. This dark money has completely changed the way elections are run and has given corporations even further control of Washington D.C.


2. Banning the Death Penalty


The 8th Amendment, which already forbids “cruel and unusual punishments,” should now include the clause “such as the death penalty.”

Why is it a problem?


Shortly after retiring from the bench, Stevens went on the record as being opposed to the death penalty. Though he was previously in favor of capital punishment, he came to see it as an unfair punishment in a racist system often influenced by personal politics rather than the evidence at hand.

Stevens is not alone in calling for a stop to the death penalty. Opponents of the practice have also pointed out that innocent people have been erroneously killed, the death penalty does not appear to deter crime, defendants with inadequate legal counsel representation are more likely to be sentenced to death, and the cost to execute is significantly higher than someone serving life in prison.


3. Forbidding Gerrymandering

Redrawn districts must be “compact and composed of contiguous territory.” States that do not adhere to these guidelines would have to prove that changes are fair and neutral based on “natural, political, or historical boundaries.” Attempts to redistrict to keep specific politicians and parties in power would be explicitly forbidden.


Why is it a problem?

Stevens hit the nail on the head with this one: gerrymandering is killing democracy in the United States. Politicians have successfully used this overlooked ploy to actually steal and rig elections.

Because redistricting has been used to ensure predetermined outcomes anyway, in many districts, no one even bothers to run against the presumed winner, leaving the races uncontested. The powers that be have not only eliminated a chance at fair elections, but also the illusion of fair elections altogether.


4. Promoting Reasonable Gun Control


The 2nd Amendment should stipulate that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” applies to citizens serving in a militia as the writers of the Constitution originally intended.

Why is it a problem?


After a rash of mass shootings, the majority of Americans are now calling for stricter gun laws. Though it seems like common sense to put some limitations on who can own a gun and how much ammunition a person needs for personal protection, the existing wording of the Constitution is interpreted to mean that any limitations are an infringement.

Stevens’ suggestion wouldn’t forbid guns altogether, just allow for some wiggle room when it comes to creating rational gun control measures.



To learn more about Justice Stevens’ proposed amendments, you can read his book “Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution,” scheduled for release on April 22.

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One Response to “Should we change the Constitution …And when?”

  1. the warrioress Says:

    Very interesting, Dr. Thanks!

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