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Jurors Doing Justice & Jury Nullification | 11 Feb 2013

-Happy Hour: Thank the Nullifiers


Removal of liquor during prohibition

Removal of liquor during prohibition

In this article about the role of nullification in the repeal of Prohibition, Steve Palmer of the Tenth Amendment Center cites the role of jury nullification, alongside other types of nullification, in restoring order. He points out that it was not nullification that resulted in chaos and disorder in society, but government-imposed Prohibition that did so. Jurors exercising their right to refuse to convict defendants who had harmed nobody helped restore order and justice and contributed to the repeal of the 18th Amendment. Palmer points out that this was, in fact, the SECOND time jury nullification and other types of nullification had contributed to the passage of a Constitutional amendment.

Yet Another Nullification Success Story

What strikes me most about prohibition and its repeal is that this is a familiar recipe. NullifiersAmendmentsWe have seen how nullification helped pave the way to freedom for Pennsylvania’s black population during the 19th century. Pennsylvania’s resistance to the federal fugitive slave acts spanned decades and included jury nullification, individual nullification in the form of the underground railroad, state-level nullification in the form of personal freedom acts, and electoral efforts at the national level, eventually culminating in the Civil War and the 13th amendment.

Similarly, the Whiskey Rebellion, consisted of a combination of jury nullification, individual nullification in the form of non-compliance, and organized nullification in the western counties of many of the states. It came to fruition when Thomas Jefferson was elected President. Jefferson appointed Pennsylvanian and accused whiskey rebel, Albert Gallatin, to be his Treasury Secretary and to oversee the repeal of the unpopular whiskey tax.

This article will demonstrate how the same basic template was used in order to bring about the 21st amendment. Can the nullification deniers continue to bury their heads in the sand when nullification has played a role in not one, but two Constitutional amendments? It’s sort-of hard to argue that nullification isn’t a valid part of the Constitutional process when there are two real, live, examples where nullification was part of the process that led up to a Constitutional amendment.

The 18th amendment was Constitutional by definition, but there is an argument to be made that the law passed by Congress and the Supreme Court’s interpretations were not. When confronted with what the people and the states believed to be federal overreach, the people responded with outright disobedience and jury nullification. The cities and states nullified through sporadic or complete absence of enforcement. As with the Whiskey Rebellion and resistance to the Federal Fugitive Slave Act, the federal government was unable to overcome the resistance and was eventually forced to repeal the detested intrusion.

When a nullification denier tells us that nullification is ineffective, the repeal of prohibition tells us otherwise. When a nullification denier tells us that nullification will lead to chaos and disorder, the repeal of prohibition tells us otherwise. In the case of prohibition, disorder arrived because a dishonest federal government attempted to pull a bait and switch on the American people. Order was restored when nullification led to repeal.

Click through for the entire article.