The 37th Amendment by Susan Shelley
When the Constitution of the United States was enacted, the people feared giving excessive power to the federal government and so amended it to include the Bill of Rights, specifically enumerating rights which the federal government could not infringe. The 10th amendment specifically asserted that all powers not delegated to the federal government were reserved to the states or the people. At the time, the Bill of Rights applied only to the federal government; they did not apply to the states. For example, in 1804 Thomas Jefferson wrote:
“While we deny that Congress have a right to control the freedom of the press, we have ever asserted the rights of the states, and their exclusive right, to do so.”
After the civil war, the 14th amendment was enacted in order to guarantee to black Americans the fundamental rights of free citizens; it prohibited states from abridging the “privileges and immunities” of US citizens or denying to any person “due process of law” or “the equal protection of the laws”.
Over the course of the 20th century, the Supreme Court began to find, in the so-called “incorporation doctrine”, that the protections found in the Bill of Rights are incorporated into the due process clause of the 14th amendment and are therefore binding on the states as well as the federal government. The eventual result was that any state law which conflicted with the Bill of Rights could now be struck down as unconstitutional.
Our story opens in 2056, forty years after the 37th amendment has removed “due process of law” from the Constitution. Laws are strict – murderers in California are often executed within a week of arrest – and crime is almost nonexistent. However, a murder in Los Angeles in which an innocent man is wrongly convicted and executed leads the protagonist into a fast-paced, exciting attempt to clear the executed man’s name, eventually becoming the symbol of the fight to reverse the 37th amendment.
In addition to the story, the book includes an appendix tracing the history of the US Constitution and the Supreme Court decisions leading to the incorporation doctrine.