Guest editorial: Comments about Senator Ken Jacobsenís call for a constitutional convention

by Thom Satterlee

(Please note footnotes are included to aid in fact checking)


Washington State - Senator Jacobsen from the 46th District wonders "if a constitutional convention is in order to reorganize state government to meet the challenges of the 21st century." In his approximately 1,000 word editorial essay of March 14, 2003 he never actually says what the challenges of the 21st century are. Rather, the thesis of his essay is how inconvenient it is for state officials to comply with the limitations imposed by the state constitution.

It seems to us that before we release the constitutional restraints upon government we should first determine what we expect of our government. Ours is the only nation on earth where the people themselves are sovereign. That fact makes it difficult, for self-interested elitists, from seizing power and imposing their will on the rest of us. Our present system isnít perfect, but then nothing yet invented by mankind has reached perfection.

The senator lays the present uncertainty of government at the feet of the United States Supreme Court. He contends that the courtís decisions with respect to one-man one vote have resulted in legislative gridlock. Next, he contends that allowing supporters of initiatives to defray the expenses of initiative signature gatherers perverts the process. And, finally he claims that the courtís ruling with respect to judicial campaigns will degrade the quality of our judiciary.

The purpose of our present government is clearly set forth in Article I §1, our government is "established to protect and maintain individual rights." Efficiency in the processing or adoption of legislative acts is not mandated by our constitution. Historically the most efficient forms of government are those where power is vested in a single office, just like in Hitlerís Germany, Stalinís Soviet Union, Pol Potís Cambodia and Husseinís Iraq. The Senator may be enthralled with such efficiency, but we are confident the people of The State of Washington would not be.

The Senator also decries the practice of compensating those who take time to gather signatureís for initiativeís as somehow corrupting the process. We think that adopting the Senatorís reasoning on the peopleís exercise of their reserved legislative power would necessarily lead to the logical conclusion that no-one involved in legislative processes should be compensated for their efforts. We doubt that either the Senator or any other elected official would agree that they should not be compensated for their service.

Next the Senator speaks to the issue of "the image of judicial impartiality." Few people who have dealt with the judicial process place any "confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary." Both the legislature and the courtís share responsibility for the peopleís growing doubt in the fairness and impartiality of the judicial process. In 1933 the legislature imposed the burdened of paying ransom to obtain justice1. In 1987 the legislature further burdened the people by decriminalizing certain misdemeanors and turning them into revenue streams in which the presumption is one of guilt and the standard for collecting the plunder is a mere preponderance of the evidence2. The courts have invented doctrines judicial immunity and discretion that protect even corrupt judges from liability. There are numerous examples of the courtís abusing their judicial power to advance the interests of the special interests they serve. For example the Supreme Court recently ruled that the people could not place limitations on elective offices, claiming that such limitations require a constitutional amendment3. Prior to that decision, the court ruled that legislation was an appropriate mechanism for limiting who could serve as justice of the peace4. The former decision protected the interests of the professional political class and the latter protected the interests of the judicial class. Both, decisions deprived the people of the ability to control the abuses of the government they the people ordained.

Constitutional revision has long been a goal of the political class. There was a constitutional revision commission5 in the early 1930's the primary purpose of which was to find a constitutional justification for government getting into the power distribution business. In the late 1960ís there was another constitutional revision commission and its primary purpose was to find a way to remove the constitutional restraints imposed by the present constitution.

The aim of the 1968 constitutional revision commission was to find a way to impose regionalized government upon the people. Regionalized government places political power in the hands of appointed boards over which the people have no political influence. The commissionís report went so far as to declare that if constitutional changes cannot be achieved through the amendment process then it can be done through judicial interpretation. The suggestion was an open admission of a conspiracy to subvert the limitations imposed upon the government by the constitution.

"The security of individual right and perpetuity of free government" (Article I §32) is under attack6 by special elitist political interests, and already threatened by an indifferent and unaccountable judiciary. The fact is that professional politicians pay little, if any, attention to the constitution and the courts have no qualms about perverting it to serve special interests. Lawyers competent in constitutional law are few and far between because law schools teach but one semester of constitutional law and that merely an overview. These serious problems are complicated by a naïve and uniformed media overly dependent upon "official sources."

Consideration of a constitutional convention should not be dismissed out of hand. The dangers of such a course of action are real, particularly in light of the fact that government officials rarely if ever consider the constitutional limitations they are bound by. In our view we would be better served requiring our elected officials and judges to stick to their constitutionally mandated purpose of "protecting and maintaining individual rights."

Thom Satterlee

Chairman, Board of Commissioners
County of Freedom

c/o 40520 E. Whitehorse Drive
Arlington, [98223]
The State of Washington
United States of America
(360)435-5979 Cell (425)870-6162

1 Secession laws of 1933 Chapter 94 §17: "The legislature hereby declares that it would have passed this act, and each section, subsection, sentence clause, and phrase thereof, irrespective of the fact that any one or more sections, subsections, sentences, clauses or phrases be declared unconstitutional." Even though this law remains in effect the Code Reviser no longer includes this information in the codified Revised Code of Washington.

2 Secession laws of 1987 Chapter 456 §6 and §15.

3 Gerberding v. Munro, 134 Wn.2d 188, 949 P.2d 1366, (Wash. 1998)

4 Bartz, In re, 47 Wn.2d 161, 287 P.2d 119, (Wash. 1955)

5 The final report of the Constitutional Revision Commission is available from the state archivist in Olympia

6 The legislature has yet to enact the constitutionally anticipated special legislation (Aricle II §28(18)) providing a system of county government, uniform with the other counties of the state (Article XI §4), for the people, of East King County, South East Snohomish County, North Snohomish County and Whatcom County, who delivered their express written and signed political will to governance by newly consented to county governments. The people withdrew their consent from their respective parent counties (Article I §1) as mandated by Article XI §3. No branch or agency of the government of The State of Washington has, to date, been able find or present any "express words" which render Article I §§ 1, 4, 29, & 32, Article II §§1 & 28(18), Article XI §§3 & 4 other than mandatory and self executing. Because Article I §29 makes every provision of the constitution mandatory, "unless by express words they are declared otherwise," the judiciary has to date refused to hear and decide the issue of the peopleís right to government to which they consent. Determination of the peopleís right to government to which the people consent is presently working its way through the state Supreme Court in Cause No. 73654-5


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