Among several other projects, the Center for Constitutional
Jurisprudence was at the center of a major constitutional crisis
involving the Nevada Supreme Court and state legislature. In the
face of a constitutional amendment requiring a 2/3 vote in each
House of the legislature for any bill which would increase taxes, the
Governor of Nevada attempted to pass a nearly $1 billion tax
increase to fund education. When the legislature was unable to
secure the 2/3 vote necessary to pass the bill, the Governor sued the
legislature, asking the state supreme court for a writ of mandamus.
The Supreme Court played its part on Thursday, July 10, ordering
the Legislature to proceed to consider the tax increase by simple
majority vote, in violation of the explicit command of the Nevada
The Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, led by myself and
several interns, developed a legal strategy and prepared and filed a
federal complaint and application for an emergency restraining
order. We flew to Reno, Nevada for an emergency hearing and
prepared a reply brief to respond to the briefs of the legislature and
Governor. The Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence was
involved with this crisis until the very end, when the Nevada state
constitution and the will of the citizenry expressed in it was
The interns who assisted me so ably came from the Blackstone
Fellows Program.The Claremont Institute has launched collaboration
with the Phoenix-based Alliance Defense Fund that will bring
law students to Claremont every summer for a six-week internship
with the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence. The principal
focus of the Blackstone Fellows Program is on litigation projects
involving religious liberty and morality, including the Boy Scout's
rights and invocations before city council meetings.
This year's Blackstone Fellows were: Leah Boyd (Washington and
Lee Law School); Elizabeth Kim (NYU Law School); Karin Moore
(St.Thomas School of Law); and Dina Nam (Brooklyn Law School).
A major project of the Center has been continuing litigation to
rein in the administrative state. In the past few months, with major
amicus briefs before the U.S. Supreme Court, it has in the past few
years helped the Supreme Court uphold the limits of the commerce
clause. And the Center has been pressing the battle before the U.S.
Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on behalf of a California landowner
who was threatened with federal prosecution for erecting a
fence on his property, which might have prevented southeastern
arroyo toads from hopping beyond the fence. Though our commerce
clause argument lost, the strong dissents on our behalf may
prove to be a beacon for the Supreme Court, as it continues to
struggle with its interpretation of legitimate national powers.
John Eastman is Director of the Center for Constitutional
Jurisprudence, of the Claremont Institute. A former clerk of Judge
Michael Luttig and Justice Clarence Thomas, he teaches at Chapman
University School of Law. He has also served on the staff of the U.S.
Commission on Civil Rights. He has earned a Ph.D. in government
from Claremont Graduate University, and a J.D. from the University of
Chicago Law School.
Return to the Fall, 2003 edition of Local Liberty