Dave Meserve/For the Times-Standard
Last week, after having previously canceled the scheduled public
court hearing for oral arguments, Federal Judge Saundra Armstrong
issued her ruling on the federal challenge to the Arcata and Eureka
Youth Protection Acts.
Approved by large majorities in both cities last November, these are
the ballot initiative ordinances which prohibit military recruiters
from initiating contact with minors for the purpose of recruiting
them into the armed forces.
Judge Armstrong granted two U.S. Department of Justice motions.
The first invalidated the cities' ordinances, without any further
opportunity for the attorneys to present arguments in their support.
The second dismissed the cities' counter-claims that sought to allow
for immediate enforcement of the measures.
Her ruling is based on the Supremacy Clause of the United States
Constitution, which mandates that the Constitution, laws enacted by
Congress, and ratified treaties are the "Supreme Law of the Land" and
trump any state or local laws.
While the ruling itself was not unexpected, its content reads like a
word-for-word restatement of the government's motions, and it
includes no response whatsoever to any of the arguments in support of
The attorneys for the city of Arcata believe that the judge, in
ruling without allowing oral arguments, also ruled without giving due
consideration to the legal filings of the cities. Therefore they are
recommending that the cities appeal the ruling, and they have
extended their offer of pro-bono legal representation through the
appeal process. It will now be up to the city councils in Arcata and
Eureka to approve the appeal.
The arguments that will be raised in appeal include the following:
The denial of a public hearing and the focus of the ruling suggest
that the judge did not give fair consideration to the case presented
in defense of the ordinances.
The cities argue that the Supremacy Clause, while mandating the
supremacy of federal law, also states that treaties share the status
of "Supreme Law of the Land."
In 2002, the United States joined over one hundred other nations in
ratifying the "Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of
the Child, regarding the involvement of children in armed conflict."
This treaty commits signatory nations to the principle that people
under the age of 18 should not be recruited into the armed forces.
The U.S. government signed the treaty, with the provision that they
reserved the right to recruit 17-year-olds. The cities have already
offered to settle the case by affirming that they will only enforce
the Youth Protection Act for minors under the age of 17, but that
offer was refused by the DOJ.
Spokesmen for Army recruiting repeatedly have said that they do not
actively recruit anyone who is not eligible for enlistment: That is
anyone under the age of 17. However, there are numerous documented
cases of local 15- and 16-year-olds who have been targeted for
recruitment into the military.
If representatives of the recruiting command state that they have a
policy of not initiating contact with kids under the age of 17, or of
ever pressuring kids to enlist, then why is it a violation of the
Supremacy Clause to codify such a policy?
One goal of an appeal is to get judicial comment on the cities'
arguments that was lacking in Judge Armstrong's ruling. This will
help to develop language that may be used in future local measures or
Finally, the cities are arguing that, under the Supremacy Clause, the
U.S. Constitution reigns supreme.
The Ninth Amendment to the Constitution grants to the people rights
that are not otherwise enumerated in the Bill of Rights. Among these
is the right to privacy, which includes the right of parents to
protect their children from uninvited and inappropriate advances by
anyone, including military recruiters.
We, the Stop Recruiting Kids Coalition, as the proponents of the
measures, believe that the defense of measures F and J should be a
priority for the cities, in order to support the voter-approved will
of the people. Because respected attorneys from the Bay Area continue
to offer free legal representation, the cost to the cities will be
minimal, and the city councils should decide to appeal Judge
Armstrong's ruling and proceed with the defense of the measures.
We are asking Eureka and Arcata residents to urge their council
members to persevere in the defense of Measures F and J. We need to
appeal Judge Armstrong's ruling and state very clearly that we want
the federal government to "Stop Recruiting Kids!" in our community.
Dave Meserve is an Arcata resident and a former member of the Arcata