Tabloid Constitutionalism: How a Bill Doesn’t Become a Law

Here’s a fun one:

Tabloid Constitutionalism: How a Bill Doesn’t Become a Law

Brian C. Kalt
Michigan State University College of Law

Georgetown Law Journal, Vol. 96, No. 6, — August 2008, p. 1971-1985
MSU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 06-12

Abstract:

What does it take to get Congress to pass a law? To get a judge to declare a statute unconstitutional? To get your law-review article featured in the National Enquirer? Based on one data point, at least, I can say that two of those three things are difficult.

This piece is a follow-up to my 2005 Georgetown Law Journal article, The Perfect Crime. Back then, I argued that there is a fifty-square-mile swath of Idaho – a so-called zone of death – where one can commit crimes with impunity.

In this piece, I first discuss the attention that The Perfect Crime generated: it was covered not just by the Enquirer but by mainstream media, and it inspired a best-selling novel.

I next discuss my efforts to lobby Congress. I initially tried to get Congress to change the law. When that failed, I tried to get Congress to acknowledge my existence. That effort essentially failed as well, at least until a senator read the aforementioned novel.

Finally, I discuss the treatment of my theory in an actual criminal case where the defendant invoked it. The handling of the theory there was almost as dispiriting as Congress’s.

The theory I set out in the Perfect Crime had plenty of limitations and counterarguments; it is not my intention in this piece to criticize people for disagreeing with me. Rather, my intention is just to recount one case study – amusing in some parts, infuriating in others – of the American system of government and law.

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