Jewish World Review Feb. 8, 2000 /2 Adar I, 5760
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- Two black guys in the South accused of rape by a white woman are being railroaded through the justice system on account of a feminist lunacy known as the Violence Against Women Act. The law was enacted by a Democratic Congress and signed into law by President Clinton during his second year in office. (During his seventh year in office, Clinton was too busy refusing to respond to Juanita Broaddrick's claim that he had raped her to promote any more Violence Against Women laws.)
"Railroaded" is not too strong a word. A grand jury -- which, according to Sol Wachtler's famous adage, would indict a ham sandwich -- refused to indict the accused black men, Antonio Morrison and James L. Crawford.
But Bill Clinton and the Democratic Congress gave the men's accuser, Christy Brzonkala, another shot at holding them liable for the rape she alleges, they deny, and a grand jury refused to indict them for. (Remember that -- along with Lani Guinier, the welfare bill, Sister Souljah, etc., etc., etc. -- the next time Al Gore drones on about Bill Clinton being better for African-Americans than any other president.)
The Violence Against Women Act (also known, discordantly, as VAWA) provides civil remedies, with civil standards of proof, for an accusation of rape and other violent felonies as defined by state law. So the defendants in Brzonkala face the prospect of being labeled "rapists," without ever having been granted the tedious formality of a criminal trial.
That's odd enough, but not even the oddest thing about VAWA. The truly peculiar aspect of the statute is that VAWA is a federal law.
When Christy Brzonkala and a female friend showed up at the defendants' Virginia Tech dorm room one night at 2 a.m. and began chatting with the two football players about sex, the young men certainly had no idea that they were about to engage in interstate commerce. But some months later, Brzonkala claimed the men had raped her and sued under VAWA -- one of the theories for which is that the law consitutes a regulation of interstate commerce.
Lawyers for Morrison and Crawford were in the Supreme Court last month arguing that the federal law is unconstitutional. The court (technically, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor -- the swing vote on "women's issues") will decide the law's fate this term. Defendants raise the fact that the Constitution does not grant Congress the power to pass such a law.
The federal tort remedy provided by VAWA applies only to a "a crime of violence committed because of gender or on the basis of gender, and due, at least in part, to an animus based on the victim's gender." (Though the popular name for the law is the Violence Against Women Act, the law is gender-neutral -- as is required by the Constitution. Of course, constitutional authority to pass the law is also required by the Constitution, but Congress ignored that little detail.)
Admittedly, it's been a while since Congress limited itself to the few and narrow powers the Constitution permits it, such as coining money, punishing piracies and regulating trade with the Indians. But leaping into the traditional criminal law function of the states was virgin territory even for a power-hungry Congress.
You remember the states -- those are the little organizations that retained all powers not ceded to the federal government back in 1787. The deep constitutional thinkers behind VAWA (Senator Joe Biden and Bill Clinton, if you listen to them) theorized that they had constitutional authority to make rape a federal issue under either the Commerce Clause (which permits Congress to regulate interstate commerce), or Section 5 of the 14th Amendment (which precludes states from denying persons equal protection of the laws).
Without parsing the more risible aspects of Congress' theory for its constitutional authority to pass the law, the basic idea is that state criminal justice systems are teeming with woman-hating Cro-Magnons. Consequently, federal judges are required to ride into town to secure basic due process rights for women.
Are federal courts really necessary to give women equal justice under the laws in some parts of the country? Have women recently been enslaved in some of the less progressive states? The answer is: quite the opposite. So entrenched are the feminist lobbies in the states that Congress' own ludicrous "findings" about the harrowing discrimination against women in the judicial system came largely from state organizations themselves.
Indeed, 36 states submitted amicus briefs to the Supreme Court arguing in favor of VAWA. Only one state, noble little Alabama, submitted an amicus brief in opposition. Is that evidence of a) chauvinist state judicial systems, or b) of a lot of liberal lady lawyers permeating every aspect of state judicial systems?
As Cornell professor Jeremy Rabkin has noted, isn't this the point at which Gregory Peck steps in to save the falsely accused black
JWR contributor Ann Coulter is the author of High Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Case Against Bill Clinton.
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