Remembering what constitution is all about

Letter to the editor

Posted: Thursday, March 29, 2007

Rep. John Coghill's annoying My Turn column is so full of distortions and twisted logic that it cries out for a response. Coghill seems to have forgotten his high school civics lesson on the three branches of state government, which is unfortunate since he is among those charged with operating one of them.

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It is true that the Legislature and the people, working together, could decide to amend the Alaska Constitution as they did in 1998. But if they do it will then be up to the judicial branch to determine how the new and changed language interacts with the rest of the document. That is not a misdeed; that is one of its main functions.

The court is not charged with interpreting "messages" from the people (which would be a purely political function) but with interpreting the constitution. When it does so it is acting as one of those "checks and balances" that Coghill refers to - and erroneously thinks in need of reestablishment.

As for the constitution: One of its main functions is to protect vulnerable minorities from the tyranny of the majority and the nefarious schemes of grandstanding demagogues. In that respect it seems to be working just fine. It cannot be "usurped," but it can be amended unwisely, and that is why I encourage everyone to vote no on April 3.

If Coghill was elected to "support and defend the constitution" then perhaps he should consider doing that, and stop trying to tinker with it to suit his petty political purposes. If the Supreme Court seems to be telling us that the last amendment was largely incompatible with the rest of this defining document, we should all be paying close attention to what they have to say.

John Roxburgh


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