Thursday, December 04, 2003

Sanford pleads case directly with Supreme Court justices - The State.com

A citizen says SC governor Sanford can't serve in the Air Force reserve and in the executive, according to the SC constitution.

This case is interesting for a couple of reasons. Sanford simply made himself look silly by appealing to the court personally in mid-session. It's pretty weird if you watch it. It's like he thinks it's a board meeting, not a session of the supreme court.

But the merits of the case are also a bit interesting. The relevant portion of the SC constitution, Art. IV, § 2, reads as follows:

No person shall be eligible to the office of Governor who denies the existence of the Supreme Being; and who on the date of such election has not attained the age of thirty years; and who shall not have been a citizen of the United States and a citizen and resident of this State for five years next preceding the day of election. No person while Governor shall hold any office or other commission (except in the militia) under the authority of this State, or of any other power.

I think Sanford should lose. The deciding factor for me is that the SC constitution isn't like the US Constitution, where virtually all of the words are unchanged since 1789. This section of the SC constitution was revised as recently as 1973. The legislature has had multiple opportunites to alter the word "militia" if they wanted to broaden the governor's options.

But even if it was the US Constitution, I still think the case should be decided against Sanford. The Constitution contemplates a navy, army, and militia, each as a separate entity (Art. I, § 8). It's fair to say that if an air force existed in the 18th century, it would've been a separate entity too. To read the SC constitution to include a national service position may be a "nice" thing thing to do for Sanford, but I don't think a reasonable reading of the text supports it. If South Carolina citizens think this restriction is pointless, they should change it. But it's not up the courts to do it for them. Not that some courts won't do it anyway.

Oh, and isn't the "denies the existence of the Supreme Being" disqualification interesting? Besides being just plain funny, note that you don't have to affirm the existence of the Supreme Being; you just can't deny it. Thankfully, Art. VI of the US Constitution forbids this sort of restriction for federal offices.

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