Dawn Johnsen

  • April 11, 2017
    Guest Post

    *This piece is part of the ACSblog symposium: "The Future of the U.S. Constitution

    by Walter Dellinger, ACS Board of Advisors Member, Douglas B. Maggs Professor Emeritus of Law, Duke University School of Law and Dawn Johnsen, ACS Board of Advisors Member and Walter W. Foskett Professor of Law, Indiana University Maurer School of Law

    America’s increasing economic inequality threatens our liberal democracy. Economic inequality translates into political inequality and corrodes our democratic institutions and the viability of our Constitution. Ganesh Sitaraman describes these threats in his excellent new book, The Crisis of the Middle Class Constitution: Why Economic Inequality Threatens Our Republic. We need urgently to find innovative tools to counter the erosion of our foundational, shared belief in opportunity and fairness, the American Dream.

    It is time to begin a serious national debate about the wisdom and constitutionality of a federal tax on wealth – an annual tax of a small percentage of an individual taxpayer’s net worth in excess of some large minimum. Just for example:  a 1 percent annual tax on wealth in excess of 10 million dollars, which would affect less than 1 percent of Americans. We leave the details to those skilled in economic and tax policy. Nor do we have in mind the short-term political viability of such a tax in the current Congress – though we will note that in 1999 Donald Trump suggested a one-time 14.25 percent tax on net worth in excess of 10 million dollars.

  • April 6, 2017
    Guest Post

    *This is the first piece in the ACSblog symposium: "The Future of the U.S. Constitution"

    by Dawn Johnsen, ACS Board of Advisors Member and Walter W. Foskett Professor of Law, Indiana University Maurer School of Law

    Over the next week, the ACSblog will feature posts from some of the nation’s leading constitutional law experts as they prepare to gather on Friday, April 14 at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law to examine “The Future of the U.S. Constitution.” ACS and the Indiana Law Journal (ILJ) join Maurer School of Law as co-sponsors for this symposium in Bloomington, Indiana, and a live stream will make the day available to all, at youtube.com/iumaurerlaw. The symposium participants have been active in academia and public life, including in government, nonprofit advocacy and as members of the ACS Board of Academic Advisors. They will address the great constitutional challenges of our time: presidential power, judicial review, congressional dysfunction, political polarization and mobilization, economic inequality, plutocracy, immigration, race, religion, refugees, abortion, guns, voting, disenfranchisement, presidential conflicts of interest, anti-intellectualism, disdain for facts, discrimination, exclusion, nativism and justice. A special ILJ symposium issue is forthcoming in September 2017, with essays from participants and several others. In the meantime, we hope you will enjoy this special ACSblog series on “The Future of the U.S. Constitution.”

  • January 31, 2017
    Guest Post

    *This piece orignially appeared on Slate

    by Dawn Johnsen, Walter W. Foskett Professor of Constitutional law at the Maurer School of Law at Indiana University

    As President Donald Trump’s nominee for the vacant Supreme Court seat receives public scrutiny in the coming days, it is incumbent for us all to remember one thing: This seat was not Trump’s to fill.

    In fact, the U.S. Senate should refuse to confirm anyone President Trump nominates to the Supreme Court—until Trump renominates and the Senate confirms Chief Judge Merrick Garland. On Monday, Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon said he would be leading a Senate filibuster of any Trump nominee until Garland is seated. This is the only correct approach.

    To recap: The Senate failed to fulfill its constitutional responsibility with its unprecedented refusal even to consider President Obama’s nomination of Garland. Obama made the nomination with about a year left in his presidency, but from day one the Republican Senate leadership insisted that it would permanently block the nomination.

    No one ever questioned Garland’s qualifications—an impossibility for this brilliant, dedicated public servant. The obstruction constituted an insulting challenge to Obama’s legitimacy, accompanied by calls for the people to decide via the election of the next president.

  • January 25, 2017
    Guest Post

    *This post originally appeared in the Herald Times of Bloomington, Indiana.

    by Dawn Johnsen, Walter W. Foskett Professor of Constitutional law at the Maurer School of Law at Indiana University, and her husband, John Hamilton, Mayor of Bloomington, IN

    What do patriots do when they believe their country is headed in a dangerous direction?

    We sound alarms, mobilize and work hard toward a better course. Last Saturday, patriots peacefully and forcefully took to the streets with women’s marches to say “we are here and we are dedicated to action.” Busloads of Bloomingtonians in our state and national capitals joined in solidarity with millions around the country and the world.

    After an election with unprecedented interventions by a foreign power and the FBI, with false facts, and a victor with millions fewer votes nationwide, we have inaugurated our new president. Power transferred peacefully and our 240 year-old democracy continues.

    Some urge us all to wish for a successful presidency, on behalf of the nation. And to give the new administration the benefit of the doubt. Is that right?

    To wish for a successful presidency sounds patriotic, but is wrong when the president supports terrible changes in the country. Economic policy. Foreign policy. Health care. Environmental protection. Public education. Civil rights. Reproductive rights. Religious rights. The Supreme Court. All these and more are in the cross-hairs of President Trump’s administration, which seeks to take our communities, country and planet backwards from hard-fought progress.

  • June 27, 2016
    Guest Post

    by Dawn Johnsen, Walter W. Foskett Professor of Law,  Indiana University Maurer School of Law; member, ACS Board of Academic Advisors

    * This post is part of the ACSblog symposium: Members of the ACS Board of Academic Advisors reflect on the 2015-2016 Supreme Court Term.

    *This post originally appeared at Slate.

    First and foremost, HOORAY! The Supreme Court’s 5–3 decision striking down the Texas abortion restrictions is an unqualified, tremendous, and long overdue victory for abortion rights and the Constitution. It is a win for women—and also for families, men, children, and American society. It is also a win for our core constitutional values of liberty and equality and for the Supreme Court: The court could have done nothing but strike down the Texas law and still been consistent with its 1992 reaffirmation of the core of Roe v. Wade in Casey. As Walter noted, the court’s very integrity was on the line, and ultimately it did much more than the bare minimum that needed to be done.

    Whole Woman’s Health reaffirmed that this most important and personal of decisions is for women to make, not the state of Texas nor any governmental entity. Beyond that, the court applied the undue burden test in a way that should provide meaningful protection against many of the mounting state restrictions—especially those aptly called TRAP (targeted regulation of abortion providers) laws—that disguise their purposes and for years have been denying increasing numbers of women access to abortion services.

    Monday’s decision is not just a pro-women decision, respecting our autonomy and protecting our health. It also is pro-family: Most women who have abortions already have children and are making the decision that is right for them and their families. It also clarifies that it is an illegitimate role of government to impose impediments to women’s reproductive health care. The government instead should support women in preventing unintended pregnancies, and in having healthy pregnancies and children at times of their choosing.

    So it’s an important and long-awaited victory.