Larry Tribe’s (Belated) Mea Culpa

Seeing the star of Vice President Biden finally begin to fade with his decision to not seek the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination reminded me of the rather sad spectacle that occurred during his chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1987. When my friend, the late Bernard H. Siegan, was nominated by President Reagan for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that February, he faced a firestorm of opposition due to his seminal advocacy of property rights and economic liberties.

Siegan’s path-breaking book, Economic Liberties and the Constitution (1980), advocated greater judicial review of legislation affecting property rights and economic liberties than the standard used by the U.S. Supreme Court since West Coast Hotel v. Parrish (1937). For this and other heresies, Siegan was regarded by the legal establishment as a radical—and in some ways he was—but mainly he was ahead of his time.

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