Leon Friedman

Leon Friedman is a professor of constitutional law at the Hofstra
University School of Law.

Recent Articles

Overruling the Court

One of the myths of our political system is that the Supreme Court has the last word on the scope and meaning of federal law. But time and time again, Congress has shown its dissatisfaction with Supreme Court interpretations of laws it passes--by amending or re-enacting the legislation to clarify its original intent and overrule a contrary Court construction. The Supreme Court often insists that Congress cannot really "overrule" its decisions on what a law means: The justices' interpretation has to be correct since the Constitution gives final say to the highest court in the land. But Congress certainly has the power to pass a new or revised law that "changes" or "reverses" the meaning or scope of the law as interpreted by the Court, and the legislative history of the new law usually states that it was intended to "overrule" a specific Court decision. Often the reversal is in highly technical areas, such as the statute of limitations in securities-fraud cases, the jurisdiction of...

A Better Kind of Wealth Tax

R epublicans claim it is unfair to impose a "death tax" on income already taxed during a person's lifetime. House Majority Leader Dick Armey said that it is like "someone showing up at the funeral home and saying, 'Hi, I'm from the government, and I'm taking half your money.'" In a Republican weekly radio address, Representative Jay Dickey of Arkansas said that persons who create "something they can pass on to their children" should not be penalized. "Government shouldn't punish success." An article in Fortune compares Sam Spendthrift, who spends all his accumulated wealth during his lifetime and pays no estate tax, with Frank Frugal, who invests in the economy and uses his money for constructive purposes. Why should Frank Frugal have to pay a high estate tax for his thrift? As President Clinton countered, repeal would primarily benefit the very rich (only 43,000, or 2 percent, of all estates are taxed), and half the estate tax is paid by the largest 5 percent of estates. In his veto...