The Kansas Education Funding Case and Constitutional Democracy

(Co-authored with John Rury, Professor of Education at the University of Kansas – published in the Huffington Post, Jan. 16, 2015).

brown-v.-Board2The ongoing debate in Kansas over school funding is important not only for the state’s education policy, but also for how we think about our democracy. Controversy was rekindled at the end of December when a three judge panel of the District Court in Shawnee County issued a judgment declaring the legislature’s current funding formula inconsistent with the Kansas Constitution. The panel noted that the formula was both inadequate and inequitable, and that as much as $802 million in additional resources for public education could be required for the legislature to meet its constitutional obligations.

Echoing other Republican legislators and conservative pundits, Senator Steven Fitzgerald of Leavenworth was quoted in the Kansas City Star describing the ruling as “terrible,” adding “people who voted for their representatives aren’t going to be too happy with the unelected judges saying their money has to go more into the schools.” This suggests that courts should be subordinate to the majoritarian legislature, which in turn should have complete discretion over how, or even whether, to fund education for everyone.

But this argument misapprehends the nature of constitutional democracy. As conceived since the nation’s founding, constitutions are understood to provide the legal framework for democratic government, distribute political authority among its branches, enshrine rights, and lay out the fundamental values and principles by which to live for generations to come. Given this, other laws and government action must be consistent with the constitution, or be deemed invalid. … Read more…

Re-Examining the ‘Myths’ About Japan’s Collective Self-Defense Change

(Co-authored with Bryce Wakefield – published in The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, Sept. 8, 2014)

In a recent article in the Diplomat, Michael Green and Jeffrey Hornung claimed that critics of the Abe government’s “reinterpretation” of Japan’s constitution, to end the ban on the use of force for the purposes of collective self-defense, were “basing their opposition on myths about the change.” This allegation that resistance to the “reinterpretation” of Article 9 is based on nothing but “myths” is increasingly heard, and so it is worth examining their arguments, and the so-called myths that they purport to dismiss.

Green and Hornung argued that the changes to be made through the “reinterpretation” were actually slight and that the immediate implications were far less problematic than alleged. There is a grain of truth to this as it relates to imminent strategic consequences, but it also misses the essential point. Yes, at least in the short term, changes to the roles and the missions of the nation’s Self Defense Forces resulting from “reinterpretation” will probably be modest; and yes, the changes will not likely lead to militarism, regional adventurism, or various other scenarios that the article examines and dismisses. But this focus on the intended policy shifts misses the far more significant issues raised both by the unconstitutional nature of the move and the possible longer-term and profound systemic ramifications of the “reinterpretation.”

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 The Hyuga – DDH 16 – Hyuga class helicopter destroyer (credit-World Politics News Review)

It is precisely because the immediate strategic implications of the Abe Cabinet’s announcement will probably be relatively modest that the implications for constitutional practice in Japan should be the focus of the debate. Perhaps the changing strategic environment in Asia will require Japan to consider relaxing some of the constraints imposed by Article 9. However, so fundamental a change to the nation’s constitution should only come after broad debate and pursuant to formal amendment procedures as provided for in the constitution. As explained below, the so-called “reinterpretation” process has in fact weakened constitutionalism, the rule of law, and fundamental principles of democracy in Japan, an argument that Green and Hornung, and many other defenders of the “reinterpretation”, never seriously address. In short, the harm is to the Constitution, and so focus on strategy is no answer.

Let us re-examine some of the “myths” that Green and Hornung so quickly dismiss. … Read more…

Japan’s Right of Collective Self-Defense – Radio Interview

(Interview with Katherine Bang on  fm 90.5, Busan, South Korea, July 2, 2014)

I conducted an interview with Katherine Bang of fm 90.5, an English language radio station in Busan, South Korea, on July 2, 2014, on the issue of the Japanese government’s purported “reinterpretation” of Art. 9 of the Constitution of Japan, and the right of collective self-defense that the Japanese government now says it has as a result.

Click this link to access audio file of the interview.

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Undermining the Rule of Law – Tokyo Shinbun Interview

(Interview with Yoichi Takeuchi, in the Tokyo Shinbun, Jun. 30, 2014)

Martin-TS.Interview-Jun.2014

法の支配揺るがす ≪解釈改憲≫ 米の法学者はこう見る(東京新聞6月30日)

安倍政権は集団的自衛権の行使容認に向け憲法9条の解釈変更を7月1日にも閣議決定しようとしている。米政府や識者の多くは日本に集団的自衛権の行使容認をかねて働き掛けており、支持している。だが、政府の独断による解釈改憲は「日本の法の支配を揺るがす」と異を唱える法学者もいる。米中西部カンザス州のウォッシュバーン大学法科大学院のクレイグ・マーチン准教授(53)に聞いた。(アメリカ総局・竹内洋一)

-第1次安倍内閣の当時から解釈改憲には反対を主張してきた。その理由は。

「解釈改憲は憲法の改正規定を犯している。時の政権が不都合な条項を思い付きで簡単に変えられるなら憲法はもはや最高法規ではなくなる。『法の支配』を支える最も基本的で本質的な原則にも反している。法の下の平等だ。改正手続きを無視して解釈改憲を閣議決定すれば、内閣を法の上に置くことになる」

-閣議決定までの手続きも有識者会議や与党協議だけだった。

「憲法に定められた国権の最高機関である国会、違憲審査権を持つ最高裁には諮られていない。内閣の独断で改憲を宣言するのは、完全に違法で無効だ。憲法改正には国会での審議が必要だ。選挙に勝利した与党の協議でも、違法な手続きは正当化されない」

-安倍政権は「日本を取り巻く安全保障環境の変化」を憲法解釈を変える理由の一つに挙げているが。 … Read more…