Randy E. Barnett
Randy Evan Barnett
February 5, 1952
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
|Education||Northwestern University (BA)|
Harvard University (JD)
|Notable works||Our Republican Constitution|
|Website||Georgetown Law Biography|
|Part of a series on|
in the United States
Randy Evan Barnett (born February 5, 1952) is an American legal scholar and lawyer. He serves as the Patrick Hotung Professor of Constitutional Law at Georgetown University, where he teaches constitutional law and contracts, and is the director of the Georgetown Center for the Constitution. After graduating from Northwestern University and Harvard Law School, he tried many felony cases as a prosecutor in the Cook County States’ Attorney's Office in Chicago. A recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in Constitutional Studies and the Bradley Prize, Barnett has been a visiting professor at Penn, Northwestern and Harvard Law School.
Barnett's publications includes eleven books, more than one hundred articles and reviews, as well as numerous op-eds. His most recent book is An Introduction to Constitutional Law: 100 Supreme Court Cases Everyone Should Know] (2019) (with Josh Blackman). His other books on the Constitution are Restoring the Lost Constitution: The Presumption of Liberty (2nd ed. 2013), The Structure of Liberty: Justice and the Rule of Law (2nd ed. 2014), Our Republican Constitution: Securing the Liberty and Sovereignty of We the People (2016), and Constitutional Law: Cases in Context (3rd ed. 2018) (with Josh Blackman). His books on Contracts are The Oxford Introductions to U.S. Law: Contracts (2010), Contracts: Cases and Doctrine (6th ed. 2016) (with Nate Oman).
In 2004, he argued the medical marijuana case of Gonzalez v. Raich before the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2012, he was one of the lawyers representing the National Federation of Independent Business in its constitutional challenge to the Affordable Care Act in NFIB v. Sebelius. He’s appeared in numerous documentaries, including PBS’s Constitution USA with Peter Sagal and A More or Less Perfect Union with Judge Douglas Ginsburg; and he portrayed a prosecutor in the 2010 science-fiction feature film, InAlienable: The Movie. He blogs on the Volokh Conspiracy.
Randy Barnett was born on February 5, 1952, in Chicago, Illinois. After high school, he attended Northwestern University, graduating in 1974 with a B.A. in philosophy. He then studied law at the Harvard Law School, graduating with a J.D. in 1977. After law school, Barnett returned to Chicago and worked as an Illinois state prosecutor for Cook County, Illinois. He spent the 1981–82 academic year as a research fellow at the University of Chicago Law School, then in the fall of 1982 began his academic career as an assistant professor of law at the Chicago-Kent College of Law. In 1993, Barnett was hired as a professor of law at the Boston University School of Law. In 2006, Barnett left Boston and began teaching at the Georgetown University Law Center, where he remains today.
In The Structure of Liberty, Barnett offers a libertarian theory of law and politics. Barnett calls his theory "the liberal conception of justice" and emphasizes the relationship between legal libertarianism and classical liberalism. He argues private adjudication and enforcement of law, with market forces eliminating inefficiencies and inequities, to be the only legal system that can provide adequate solutions to the problems of interest, power, and knowledge.
He discusses theories of constitutional legitimacy and methods of constitutional interpretation in Restoring the Lost Constitution.
There have been several criticisms and reviews of his theory, including Stephan Kinsella, Richard Epstein, David N. Mayer, Lawrence B. Solum and John K. Palchak and Stanley T. Leung.
Barnett was also lead lawyer for the plaintiffs in Ashcroft v. Raich (later Gonzales v. Raich), which won a victory before the Ninth Circuit, which ruled that federal action against legal marijuana patients violated the Commerce Clause. Barnett's side, however, lost on appeal at the Supreme Court, which ruled that Congress had the power to enforce federal marijuana prohibition in states that had legalized medical marijuana. He was also involved in the famous Affordable Care Act case National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius.
Barnett has also done work on the theory of the United States Constitution, culminating in his books Restoring the Lost Constitution and Our Republican Constitution. He argues for an originalist theory of constitutional interpretation and for constitutional construction based on a presumption of liberty, not popular sovereignty.
Barnett also focuses on the history and original meaning of the Second and Ninth Amendments to the United States Constitution. He has advanced the Standard Model interpretation that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to bear arms, subject to federal regulation under Congress's power to organize the militia in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution.
Barnett is a proponent of the view that the Ninth Amendment's rights "retained by the people" should be vigorously enforced by the federal judiciary. In a 2006 article, Barnett wrote:
The purpose of the Ninth Amendment was to ensure that all [enumerated and unenumerated] individual natural rights had the same stature and force after some of them were enumerated as they had before; and its existence argued against a latitudinarian interpretation of federal powers.
Regarding what stature and force natural rights had before some of them were enumerated, Barnett says that federal courts did not have authority to enforce such rights against the states. He wrote in the same 2006 article:
It was only with passage of the Fourteenth Amendment ... that the federal government obtained any jurisdiction to protect the unenumerated retained natural rights of the people from infringement by state governments.
A related issue is whether the original unamended Constitution gave federal courts authority to enforce unenumerated natural rights against congressional regulation of the federal district. Barnett has indicated that federal courts had such authority and that enumerated rights "had the same stature and force" in the district even before they were enumerated. He has indicated that the case of Bolling v. Sharpe (dealing with integration of public schools in the District of Columbia) is hard to justify textually from the Constitution, and if it were to be overturned, Congress would create more laws desegregating the district, which would be justified in his view of the Constitution.
The question of what constitutional rights citizens possessed in the federal district has ramifications for the meaning of the Privileges or Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In 2003, Barnett wrote:
Just as the Fourteenth Amendment extended protection of the enumerated rights of the first eight amendments to violations by state governments, so too did it extend federal protection of the pre-existing unenumerated rights "retained by the people."
If no such federal constitutional protection of unenumerated rights existed in the federal district prior to the Fourteenth Amendment, only enumerated rights may have been extended by it.
Barnett has proposed a Repeal Amendment to the United States Constitution, which would give two thirds of the states the power to repeal any federal law or regulation. According to Barnett, the proposed amendment "provides a targeted way to reverse particular congressional acts and administrative regulations without relying on federal judges or permanently amending the text of the Constitution to correct a specific abuse." He described the intent of the amendment as follows:
The Repeal Amendment alone will not cure all the current problems with federal power. Getting two-thirds of state legislatures to agree on overturning a federal law will not be easy and will only happen if a law is highly unpopular.
Perhaps its most important effect will be deterring even further expansions of federal power. Suppose, for example, that Congress decides to nationalize private pension investments. Just as it must now contemplate a presidential veto, so too would Congress need to anticipate how states will react.
The Repeal Amendment would help restore the ability of states to protect the powers 'reserved to the states' noted in the 10th Amendment. And it would provide citizens another political avenue to protect the 'rights ... retained by the people' to which the Ninth Amendment refers. In short, the amendment provides a new political check on the threat to American liberties posed by a runaway federal government. And checking abuses of power is what the written Constitution is all about."
Barnett's proposal has received interest from many politicians and academics, even those who do not share his libertarian beliefs. "[A] number of congressional Republicans, including soon-to-be House Majority Leader Eric Cantor" have endorsed the proposal, as has Attorney General of Virginia Ken Cuccinelli. Republican Congressman Rob Bishop of Utah introduced the amendment in the House of Representatives. University of Texas Law Professor Sanford Levinson has said that the Repeal Amendment "ha[s] the merit of recognizing that structures matter.".
|Bill of Federalism|
|Created||May 13, 2009|
|Purpose||"To restore a proper balance between the powers of Congress and those of the several States, and to prevent the denial or disparagement of the rights retained by the people"|
The Bill of Federalism is a list of ten proposed amendments to the United States Constitution by Barnett. It would enshrine in the Constitution certain ideas based on states' rights and free market libertarianism. Barnett drafted the bill in response to the Tea Party movement's emphasis on limiting federal powers. The present draft of the document was published on May 13, 2009 and incorporated much of the feedback that Barnett had received in response to the previous draft. The document is an expansion of an earlier 'Federalist Amendment' that Barnett composed as part of an article he wrote in the Wall Street Journal.
Barnett advocates for the states to call for a Constitutional Convention in which they would propose the amendments comprising the bill. Alternatively, the United States Congress could propose the amendments to the states, as they have done every time a Convention to propose amendments has been called for.
The amendments, summarized by number below, would do the following;
On April 16, 2009, Barnett appeared on the Glenn Beck Show to address the question, "What redress do states have who are tired of getting kicked around by the federal government?" Barnett proposed the idea of passing a constitutional amendment and argued that by threatening to hold a constitutional convention, the states could force Congress to propose the amendment to them.
Barnett then wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal, "The Case for a Federalism Amendment." It was published in the editorial section on April 24, 2009. In it he expounded on his idea for forcing Congress to propose an amendment to the states, and included a draft for a five-sectioned "Federalist Amendment", which would strengthen states' rights and restrict federal power.
According to an interview he gave to PJTV, Barnett utilized the great volume of constructive feedback to further refine his ideas for the amendment. He also decided to disaggregate the amendment into multiple parts so that opposition to a few of the ideas would not sink the entire amendment. He decided to add some popular proposed constitutional amendments, addressing such issues as the fairtax, the line item veto, balanced budgets, and judicial activism to build a broad coalition of groups that may advance the amendments. He hopes to have the Tea Party movement rally around this bill. He claims to have deliberately avoided some amendments that might be seen as 'kooky' such as the repeal of the Seventeenth Amendment, which effected the direct election of senators rather than their selection by the state legislatures, to protect the rest of the project.
On May 13, 2009, Barnett released the intended final draft. Barnett removed amendment 3, which declared the existence of police powers of states. He condensed amendments 4 and 5, which disallowed income and estate taxes respectively, into one amendment now listed as number 1. That made room for two additional amendments not present in the earlier draft. One prevents treaties from enlarging Congress' power in what might be thought of as a Constitutional loophole. Another applies the right to free speech to any medium, including the Internet, and also makes campaign contribution a form of protected free speech.
The Bill of Federalism Project has been incorporated as a nonprofit agency in the State of Tennessee.
Barnett would like the States to call for a Constitutional Convention. That was his main proposition when he appeared on the Glenn Beck show, with the actual amendments being drafted later. He has drafted a resolution to call for a convention. He believes that to be a necessary step, as Congress would not voluntarily propose amendments that largely weaken its power.
Gerard N. Magliocca has written an article supporting the idea of calling for a Convention.
The John Birch Society has criticized the idea of calling for a constitutional convention, calling it a "dangerous temptation" and a "threat to our Constitution." Barnett has countered that historically, whenever the states have called for a Constitutional Convention, Congress has responded by proposing the amendments themselves. He also notes that even in the case of a constitutional convention, the proposed amendments still need to be ratified by three fourths of the states.
Section 1. Congress shall make no law laying or collecting taxes upon incomes, gifts, or estates, or upon aggregate consumption or expenditures; but Congress shall have power to levy a uniform tax on the sale of goods or services.
Section 2. Any imposition of or increase in a tax, duty, impost or excise shall require the approval of three-fifths of the House of Representatives and three-fifths of the Senate, and shall separately be presented to the President of the United States.
Section 3. This article shall be effective five years from the date of its ratification, at which time the sixteenth Article of amendment is repealed.
Section 1 of the amendment would disallow federal income, gift, estate, and consumption taxes. It would explicitly permit a national sales tax, an idea which has been proposed in the United States as the FairTax. Section 2 would require a supermajority of three-fifths of both houses of Congress for any new tax or tax increase. Section 3 repeals the Sixteenth Amendment and delays the implementation of the whole amendment for five years after it is ratified to give Congress time to dismantle the IRS.
The amendment is partially a combination of the fifth and sixth amendments of the previous draft.
The power of Congress to make all laws which are necessary and proper to regulate commerce among the several states, or with foreign nations, shall not be construed to include the power to regulate or prohibit any activity that is confined within a single state regardless of its effects outside the state, whether it employs instrumentalities therefrom, or whether its regulation or prohibition is part of a comprehensive regulatory scheme; but Congress shall have power to regulate harmful emissions between one state and another, and to define and provide for punishment of offenses constituting acts of war or violent insurrection against the United States.
The Constitution grants Congress the power to "regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes." That is amplified by the additional power "To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers. ... " The amendment would overrule the current interpretation of the commerce clause by removing three applications of the interstate commerce clause: the regulation of an activity having effects outside of a state, the regulation of instrumentalities of interstate commerce, and regulation as part of a broader regulatory scheme.
Congress shall not impose upon a State, or political subdivision thereof, any obligation or duty to make expenditures unless such expenditures shall be fully reimbursed by the United States; nor shall Congress place any condition on the expenditure or receipt of appropriated funds requiring a State, or political subdivision thereof, to enact a law or regulation restricting the liberties of its citizens.
The first clause of the amendment would disallow unfunded mandates so Congress could not make laws, even within its power, if they would require the states or their political subdivisions, such as cities, to spend money unless they were fully reimbursed by Congress.
The court has ruled in Printz v. United States that the federal government cannot directly force a state to pass any law or regulation. However, by the precedent set in South Dakota v. Dole, Congress can make routine, unrelated funding conditional upon state compliance with regulation that Congress cannot itself enact. The National Minimum Drinking Age Act was the subject of Dole and uses such a mechanism, as did the National Maximum Speed Law while it was still law. The second clause of the amendment would prevent Congress from using conditional funding to induce the states to enact any law if it would "restrict the liberties of its citizens."
No treaty or other international agreement may enlarge the legislative power of Congress granted by this Constitution, nor govern except by legislation any activity that is confined within the United States.
The Constitution grants to the president the Treaty Clause power "by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur." The Constitution also grants to the Congress the power "To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof." Based on that clause, the Supreme Court held in Missouri v. Holland that Congress can make laws implementing a treaty even if such laws would otherwise be outside of Congress' power to enact. Many thought the decision to be unwise and feared that the federal government could essentially bypass any Constitutional limits by simply enacting treaties granting itself any powers that it saw fit. Such concerns led to the Bricker Amendment of the 1950s, designed to restrict the treaty power. The Bricker Amendment came up a single vote short of the two thirds majority it needed.
The amendment would similarly overturn Missouri, preventing any treaty from enlarging Congress' power. However, the Supreme Court's 1957 Reid v. Covert decision reversed Missouri in that treaties must respect the Constitution, to be valid.
The freedom of speech and press includes any contribution to political campaigns or to candidates for public office; and shall be construed to extend equally to any medium of communication however scarce.
The amendment would expand the scope of the right to free speech to apply to campaign contributions, thereby making it illegal for charges or imprisonment in terms of campaign finance laws. It would make laws such as McCain-Feingold illegal. McCain-Feingold made it illegal for anybody not directly connected with a campaign to voice issues related to that campaign within 30 days of a primary election and 60 days within a general election. The amendment also extends freedom of speech rights to the internet.
Upon the identically worded resolutions of the legislatures of three quarters of the states, any law or regulation of the United States, identified with specificity, is thereby rescinded.
The amendment would provide for the states to have a collective veto power over congress without having to go through the courts. At least 38 of the 50 states would disapprove of an act of congress. It continues to attract political support as the "Repeal Amendment."
No person who has served as a Senator for more than nine years, or as a Representative for more than eleven years, shall be eligible for election or appointment to the Senate or the House of Representatives respectively, excluding any time served prior to the enactment of this Article.
The amendment would simply limit the terms of any representative or senator. A representative would be limited to six terms, plus one year of a previous representative's term. Meanwhile, senators would be limited to two terms, plus three years of a previous senator's term.
That is based on the 22nd Amendment of the US Constitution which limits the President to two terms in office and two years of another President's term, for a total of ten years.
Section 1. The budget of the United States shall be deemed unbalanced whenever the total amount of the public debt of the United States at the close of any fiscal year is greater than the total amount of such debt at the close of the preceding fiscal year.
Section 2. Whenever the budget of the United States is unbalanced, the President may, during the next annual session of Congress, separately approve, reduce or disapprove any monetary amounts in any legislation that appropriates or authorizes the appropriation of any money drawn from the Treasury, other than money for the operation of the Congress and judiciary of the United States.
Section 3. Any legislation that the President approves with changes pursuant to the second section of this Article shall become law as modified. The President shall return with objections those portions of the legislation containing reduced or disapproved monetary amounts to the House where such legislation originated, which may then, in the manner prescribed in the seventh section of the first Article of this Constitution, separately reconsider each reduced or disapproved monetary amount.
Section 4. The Congress shall have power to implement this Article by appropriate legislation; and this Article shall take effect on the first day of the next annual session of Congress following its ratification.
The amendment requires a line-item veto to be established for the President. Section 1 establishes a definition of an unbalanced budget by stating that it is when public debt at the end of one fiscal year (September 30 of the calendar year) is greater than the preceding one. Section 2 allows the President to approve or disapprove of any part of any separate legislation except one that allows for the operation of Congress or the judiciary. Section 3 simply sends the disapproved items to the US House for separate consideration. Section 4 forces Congress to pass a line-item veto law after the amendment is ratified. The amendment is a direct result of an overturned law that Bill Clinton had in his second term as president.
Section 1. All persons are equally free and independent, and have certain natural, inherent and unalienable rights which they retain when forming any government, amongst which are the enjoying, defending and preserving of their life and liberty, acquiring, possessing and protecting real and personal property, making binding contracts of their choosing, and pursuing their happiness and safety.
Section 2. The due process of law shall be construed to provide the opportunity to introduce evidence or otherwise show that a law, regulation or order is an infringement of such rights of any citizen or legal resident of the United States, and the party defending the challenged law, regulation, or order shall have the burden of establishing the basis in law and fact of its conformity with this Constitution.
The amendment is a direct cousin of the Tenth Amendment, but it applies to the people of the U.S. and not the states.
Section 1 puts the Declaration of Independence into coded law. That includes its preamble, which allows for people to live their lives the way they see fit. The proposed right of "making binding contracts of their choosing" would appear to resurrect the legal doctrine of economic due process, which during the Lochner era, was used by the Supreme Court to strike down a wide variety of state and federal laws affecting business, including child-labor and minimum-wage laws.
Section 2 allows all legal persons of the United States to challenge any law that restricts their rights, and puts the burden of proof (fact) on federal, state, and local governments to argue otherwise. Any attempt to establish the constitutionality of any law is thus rested within the government.
The words and phrases of this Constitution shall be interpreted according to their meaning at the time of their enactment, which meaning shall remain the same until changed pursuant to Article V; nor shall such meaning be altered by reference to the law of nations or the laws of other nations.
The amendment establishes a strict interpretation of the Constitution as written and bans the practice of some judges having a broad interpretation including establishing foreign laws into their decisions, which could change the meaning of an article or section of the Constitution.
Barnett also writes about contract theories. He has advanced a theory of contract formation that emphasizes the intention to be bound as the key to contract law. He also has worked on the idea of a default rule, a rule of contract law that binds the parties if their contract does not cover the eventuality or condition that is the subject of the default rule.
Austrian School economist and libertarian legal theorist Walter Block has criticized Barnett's arguments for the inalienability of certain rights.
Barnett is married to Beth Barnett. Their son, Gary Barnett, attended Georgetown University Law Center and now works as a prosecuting attorney in Brooklyn, New York. Their daughter, Laura Barnett, lives in Washington, D.C. and works for the Institute for Humane Studies.