Texas Governor Rick Perry is putting a Presidential campaign in place, and I assume he’ll run. But which Rick Perry will we see? Will we see the Rick Perry who cherishes and honors the 10th Amendment as the vehicle for protecting states’ rights – the one who is willing to honor a state’s decisions even when it might interfere with his personal views? Or will we see the Rick Perry who continues to brag about Texas-style tort reform, as it it’s a nationwide solution, even though federal tort reform is clearly a breach of the 10th Amendment and states’ rights? On July 23, I asked whether he would stand against federal tort reform as a true Constitutional conservative, and what I’ve seen since then hasn’t lessened my curiosity or concern.
Both Rick Perrys were on display on July 30, when he addressed the Western Conservative Forum in Colorado. He began the substantive part of the speech by proposing that Washington “has intruded upon the rights of the states and individuals to make decisions about our own healthcare, our businesses, our money,…” all pure pro-10th Amendment, anti-ObamaCare talk. Terrific! And then he described the Constitutional limits on the federal government, and he read the entire 10th Amendment. Great, love it! But then he talked about the Texas model for economic success, which includes tort reform “so frivolous lawsuits don’t paralyze employers…” He never specifically called for a one-size-fits-all, federally mandated takeover of state civil justice systems, but he left the obvious impression that he would take that idea forward, with no consideration of the rights of states or individuals. And in his book, “Fed Up,” Governor Perry says that Republicans stand for ending frivolous lawsuits through “real tort reform,” again with no thought for the Founding Fathers’ respect for civil jury trials.
So while Governor Perry hasn’t specifically called for Uncle Sam to run over the 7th Amendment right of individual Americans to seek a civil jury trial, or or pre-empt the 10th Amendment right of states to run their own courtrooms, it’s obvious that he hasn’t read what’s already been said on the issue by Reps. Ron Paul and Ted Poe; Sen. Tom Coburn; anti-ObamaCare Prof. Randy Barnett and six other experts on the Constitution; Mark Meckler; pro-life activist Ken Connor; and the nation’s largest group of state legislators. All of them say that Texas-style tort reform is unconstitutional on the federal level. There are no group of legal experts who say otherwise now.
The country doesn’t need a part-time Constitutional conservative – we have enough of those. I hope Governor Perry makes a strong statement of his pure commitment to Constitutional rights before he starts the campaign.
P.S. To all of you who attended the WCF and applauded loudly at Gov. Perry’s comments on tort reform, I can only say that you’re not real Constitutional conservatives… yet.