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Mr. Louis Brandeis
Associate Justice Emeritus
United States Supreme Court
C/o Saint Peter
The Pearly Gates

Dear Louie:

Happy birthday! If you were still down here on earth you'd be 150 years old today. Of course, you'd probably look like Keith Richards, but appearances aside we sure could use someone like you on the Supreme Court today.

I don't know if you have been keeping up with the news up there but we have some highly placed law-enforcement officials and Supreme Court Justices who have some pretty wacky ideas about the law. Look at Alberto Gonzales for example. Here's a man who actually wrote a legal opinion saying it's ok to torture prisoners of war. And, you know that whole right of privacy thing that you fought so ardently for during your time on our nation's highest court? As they say in certain neighborhoods in New York: fuhgett about it.

The problem started after some very unpleasant men used jetliners to crash into buildings on September 11 of 2001. After that, we basically chucked a bunch of rights that many of us had always taken for granted. Even though the right of privacy isn't specifically detailed in our Constitution many of us had grown accustom to it. But our current President doesn't seem to believe in it. That's why we've had an illegal wiretapping program being run right under our noses. Even though your decision in Olmstead v. the United States was a minority view back then, I believe you wouldn't stand for this kind of intrusion into our lives today. Here are the words you used in Olmstead:

Decency, security, and liberty alike demand that government officials shall be subjected to the same rules of conduct that are commands to the citizen. In a government of laws, existence of the government will be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy.

Like I said before, we sure could use someone like you today. I'll bet you never imagined that the greatest democracy on earth would ever establish something like "free-speech zones." Remember what you said about the topic? "Full and free exercise of this right by the citizen is ordinarily also his duty; for its exercise is more important to the nation than it is to himself. Like the course of the heavenly bodies, harmony in national life is a resultant of the struggle between contending forces. In frank expression of conflicting opinion lies the greatest promise of wisdom in governmental action; and in suppression lies ordinarily the greatest peril." (Gilbert v. Minnesota (1920))

Your dissenting opinion in Gilbert v. Minnesota was so powerful that some states revised their laws to reflect your reasoning. And yet today, we are in an environment were a military lawyer can be refused promotion for vigorously defending his terrorist suspect client. And those free speech zones I talked about earlier pretty much squelch opposition voices.  

And now we have Presidential signing statements. This is a tactic that is used to allow the President to pick and choose what portions of legislation he will adhere to. It's kind of like cafeteria-style democracy. I'm pretty sure you'd take a dim view of it.

All in all Louie, we've gotten ourselves into one big mess down here. It's going to take someone with your kind of passion and reasoning skills to put it right.

I know you can't make it down here personally, but at least add your voice to those of us that are praying down here. You see, your legal reasoning appeals to the best in what we are. So much of what has been passed since 9/11 appeals to the worst.

Hoping you can help, I remain:

Cordially yours,

Father David Jennings
The Ancient Apostolic Communion

Originally posted to Left of Calvary on Sun Nov 12, 2006 at 09:20 PM PST.

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