Barnett v. Kerr on McDonald v. Chicago. A fun little tussle is brewing on Volokh today.

November 18th, 2009

A fun little tussle is brewing on Volokh today.

Professor Kerr made his predictions for McDonald (my thoughts here), Professor Bernstein made his predictions (my thought here), and now Professor Barnett has opined.

A few choice nuggets from Professor Barnett regarding Professor Kerr’s posts:

“How sad it is that one can implicitly criticize a brief to the Supreme Court of the United States for relying on the text of the Constitution. Although Alan Gura’s brief does stress both original public meaning and original intent, under the relevant precedent Orin thinks the Court will or should (?) follow, the alternative is not that the Privileges or Immunities has a modern meaning but has no meaning whatsoever! “

“Faced with this background and the actual question presented, I wonder how would Orin have briefed the case. Would he have offered any of the analysis in his post? Would he have told the Court just to ignore the Privileges or Immunities Clause? Or might he not have assumed as an experienced litigator that the Justices could write a Due Process Clause “incorporation” opinion in their sleep–heck, their clerks could write that opinion in their sleep–and then devoted the bulk of his brief to describing the meaning of the Privileges or Immunities Clause in context? ”

“The sort of “legal realist” analysis offered by Orin in his post would simply be of no assistance to the Court in reaching its decision. Nor would it help much in oral argument. But who knows? As a mere prediction, it could turn out right, in which case Orin can say he told us so.”

I am expecting Professor Kerr to reply shortly, but Barnett I think has the better argument. As Barnett points out, 4 Justices had to request that the Privileges or Immunities reference should exist in the Question Presented. On Kerr’s breakdown, only one Justice seems interested. This just doesn’t jive.

With the Supreme Court, always expect the unexpected.

Update: Orin replied to Randy,  kind of:

I had a feeling my post predicting the votes on the Privileges and Immunity argument in McDonald v. City of Chicago might draw a disapproving response from Randy, and I see it did. Based on past experience, I gather Randy’s questions directed to me are rhetorical questions designed to defend Randy’s view of the Constitution, not ones asking for my response. But I did want to open a comment thread on the issue in case our commenters wanted to weigh in.

He posted an open thread, which should yield some interesting debate.

(Oh, and I should be clear that I think McDonald will win on the Due Process argument, perhaps by 7 or 8 votes; I just don’t think more than one Justice is on board for the P or I stuff, especially given that it’s not necessary to even reach the issue to decide this case.)

Update 2: Barnett just replied:

I predict that, every time I or another VC blogger posts with closed comments on a subject that Orin finds interesting, he will post something short with open comments soon thereafter. We will see how this prediction holds in the future.