Is a ‘Plenary’ Article V Convention a Viable Option? –

by Stuart MacPhail, October 2019

Paul Gardiner is a Georgia-based man who has been active in Article V efforts for several years.  He has served in state and national leadership positions for the Convention of States Project (CoSP).  Gardiner has written a paper he calls “A Fresh View of a Constitutional Article V Convention of States”.

Gardiner notes that “Conventional wisdom says that an Article V convention of states (COS) to propose constitutional amendments can and/or must be a ‘limited’ convention where the delegates are limited and authorized to only propose, debate and vote on one or a limited set of amendments”.  His paper presents arguments why this may not be the case.

The author (a retired Army officer, Vietnam veteran, and graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Alabama, and the United States Army War College) does not present himself as a constitutional scholar, but relies on his leadership experience in the Article V movement, his personal study of colonial conventions, and the actions of early state legislators as they applied for an Article V convention of states after ratification of the US Constitution.  He also studied the work of noted constitutional scholars and related rulings of the US Supreme Court.

Gardiner’s paper leads to questions about the viability of applications for a “limited” Article V convention, and suggests that a plenary (unlimited) convention is what the drafters of Article V actually contemplated as they “established a new way to govern a nation based on federalism”.

In view of his findings as they relate to current Article V movements, Gardiner suggests “perhaps [a] prudent alternative/additional course of action is for current Article V groups, in conjunction with key state legislators and officials, to thoroughly investigate using 34+ existing aggregated, qualifying applications to call for a [non-limited] COS where any and all amendments can be proposed, debated, and voted upon.  Recent analyses indicate that at least 30 such qualifying applications currently exist”.

Gardiner concludes by saying “It would appear that the various Article V groups have everything to gain and little to lose from pursuing such a strategy.”  And, [S]imply dismissing a [non-limited] COS as an improbability without a thorough, well-funded investigation does a disservice to all Americans.  Further, the American people could be potentially deprived of the use of a crucially important ‘checks and balances’ tool purposely put into the constitution by the Founders”.  Read Gardiner’s 3-page whitepaper (with bibliography) HERE.

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