Eating the Apple

Eve did it. Adam did it. Now it's my turn to take a bite. Why not? Hey! It's delicious.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Dictionary-itis

Recently I heard that the Supreme Court upheld the sentence of a man who was convicted of using a firearm in the commission of a felony. What the man did was to trade a rifle for illegal drugs. He received an extended sentence for 'using' a firearm.

Excuse me! But I thought that the phrase "using a firearm in the commission of a felony" meant things like armed robbery, or threatening someone with a firearm, or using a firearm to commit vandalism. I would have never imagined that it could mean trading a firearm for someting illegal. And I don't believe that the legislators who enacted these laws would have agreed with the Supreme Court.

It seems to me that the Supreme Court is ignoring one of the fundamental tenets of the law, namely respect for the spirit of the law. That can be found often by reading legislative debates and studying the judicial history of the of the law. And the court is ignoring past decisions of the court which said that the spirit of the law is more important than the letter.

What the court did was to use a dictionary meaning of the word 'use' to turn the law on its head.

Let's see where the dictionary gets us. Consider the constitutional requirement that a president be a "natural born citizen". The meaning of this clause is not defined in the Constitution, nor has its meaning been tested in court. Let us consider how a future court might interpret this clause using Webster's dictionary.

To many people the phrase "natural born citizen" means citizen at birth. Then the word 'natural' is redundant. So why did the framers of the Constitution include the word natural? There must have been a reason. Let's consult the dictionary. The word 'natural' is the opposite of 'artifical'. Thus the phrase 'natural born' must be meant to exclude the 'artificially born'. What can this mean? It means that people born by Caesarian section cannot become president.

I love my grandchildren, I cherish them. I just don't want to believe that neither of them can become President of the United States.

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