Study Center Offers New U.S. Constitution
Special to the New York Times - Sept. 8, 1970, front page

    WASHINGTON, Sept. 7—On the theory that one way to stimulate thinking about the shortcomings of the present United States Government is to conceive a plan for a better one, the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions has suggested a new Constitution for the United States.
    With the 183d anniversary of the signing of the original Constitution coming up on Sept. 17, there are no signs of a rising public groundswell in favor of scrapping the Constitution in favor of a newer model.
    But at Santa Barbara, Calif., a serious effort to draft a better Constitution for modern America has been under way for six years.
    The result is a proposed constitution that would concentrate authority in the national government, while strengthening the Presidency, weakening the national judiciary, and creating new branches of government to oversee planning, elections and economic regulations.
    Rexford G. Tugwell, the 79-year-old former member of President Roosevelt's "brain trust," drafted the document, in consultation with the center's resident fellows and some 150 other experts.
    The experts who assisted included Warren E. Burger, who, before his appointment as Chief Justice, visited the center and persuaded the drafters to omit from the proposed constitution a guarantee of trial by jury and of an adversary trial. He argued that jury trials slowed the wheels of justice and that the adversary system — requiring a formal case with two opponents — did not necessarily produce justice.
    Today, The Center Magazine published Mr. Tugwell's 37th draft of a proposed Constitution for a United Republics of America. It said that its purpose was to stimulate discussion and to help the public "understand the U.S. of the seventies."
    "Nobody thought for a moment that a constitution drawn up at the center would be adopted by the people," said an introductory article by Robert M. Hutchins, chairman of the privately endowed and liberally oriented center.
    Throughout the supporting articles by various members of the center, and in the explanatory writings of Mr. Tugwell, however, runs the notion that events may be outrunning the Constitution of 1787 and that the American public may suddenly find the need for a new Constitution and may turn to this one for their starting point.
    The new constitution would abandon the present theory of a union of small but sovereign states, in favor of a national government with strong central powers. It would be divided into a score or less of regional "republics," with limited powers.
    The boundaries of the republics would chang as the population shifted so that each republic would contain at least 5 percent of the people. If a republic's government became corrupt or inept, the national Senate could remove it.
    The national government would be composed of six branches rather than the current three — legislative, executive and judicial. In addition to these three, there would be a regulatory branch to house and control all of the present scattered independent agencies; an electoral branch to control political functions that are now supervised by the states or not at all; and a planning branch to prepare six-year and 12-year development programs.
    The present Constitution gives little opportunity for long-range planning, as Congress has the sole power of the purse and exercises it in annual appropriations.
    The regulatory branch would share its authority with private industry, which could join in multicompany groups to set standards. This reminder of the Roosevelt Administration's National Recovery Administration runs counter to present antitrust laws.
    Some of the other recommended provisions of the New Dealer's suggested constitution seem to reflect the frustrations of the Roosevelt years as well as an eye for the future.
    Foremost among these provisions is the elimination of the Supreme Court and its major judicial powers. (Mr. Tugwell was Assistant Secretary and Under Secretary of Agriculture in the first four years of the Roosevelt Administration, when New Deal legislation was being bowled over with regularity by the Supreme Court.)
    In an introductory statement, Mr. Tugwell laments that the Supreme Court has achieved "a position of supremacy" through its power to declare unconstitutional actions of other branches to the point that it can now "tell the other branches what they can and cannot do."
    The proposed constitution would fragment the Supreme Court's powers, leaving the most important—that of interpreting the Constitution—to a high court of the constitution. This court would not have the final power of judicial review that permits the present Court to declare laws unconstitutional. Under the proposed constitution, if the high court struck down any law, the Senate could over-rule the decision.
    In his introduction, Mr. Tugwell also recalls President Roosevelt's difficulties with a cantankerous congress, even after the President's landslide election in 1936. His constitution would attempt to eliminate the "lame duck" weakness of some Presidents in their second terms by having Presidents serve a single term of nine years, unless removed by a 60 per cent vote of the electorate after three years.
    It would also make the House of Representatives more responsive to the national vote by having 100 of its 400 members elected at-large on a national basis. The 300 others would be elected from districts. Committee chairmen would be picked by the House leadership rather than by the present seniority system, and no chairman could serve more than six years.
    The Senate, akin to the British House of Lords, would be composed of officials who would hold their positions for life. They would be former Presidents and other former high officials, plus members chosen by the other branches of Government. The Senate could veto all House bills except the annual budget.
    The present Bill of Rights proved to be the most durable portion of the present Constitution, in the new draftmen's eyes. Almost all of the safeguards contained in the first eight amendments are carried over into the new document, although they are scattered throughout its provisions.
    Mr. Tugwell said in a telephone interview today from his home in Santa Barbara that the major recommendations, made after six years of frequent discussions, repressented a virtual consensus of his colleagues at the center.
    He said that the decision to eliminate the right to jury trial and the "trial by combat" concept of advocacy was a result of Mr. Burger's eloquence during his visit in 1968. Further refinements are contemplated in future drafts, and the center hopes that it will receive a large "feedback" from the public as a result of today's publication.
    However, Harry S. Ashmore, senior fellow of the center, said that not everyone connected with the group agreed with Mr. Tugwell.

Proposals on Constitution

Special to the New York Times

    WASHINGTON, SEPT. 7The following table compares key provisions of the present Constitution with provisions proposed by the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions.

General Structure
    United states of America, composed of sovereign states (now 50) with all powers not delegated to the national Government reserved to the states.
    The United Republics of America, a nation divided into not more than 20 republics, with each republic containing no less than 5 percent of the nation's population. Powers similar to the states' powers are granted to the republics, whose governments may be removed by the national Senate for corruption or ineptitude.
Executive Branch
    President elected to a four-year term, with a limit of two terms.
    President elected to one nine-year term, unless rejected by the electorate after three years. With no responsibility over administrative agencies, he could concentrate his efforts on foreign affairs and domestic policy.
    Vice President—four year term.
    Two Vice Presidents—The President would designate one to supervise general affairs, the other to supervise internal affairs. The President would also say which was first in succession.
Legislative Branch
    Senate—two from each state elected for six-year terms.
    Senate—Would serve for life. Composed of former Presidents, Vice Presidents and other former high public officials, plus some members selected by the President, judiciary and House of Representatives. Would have power to object to any measure approved by the House except annual budget.
    House of Representatives—One Representative elected to a two-year term from each of 435 Congressional districts.
    House of Representatives—Similar to the present House, except that it would have 400 members, with 100 elected at-large and the rest from districts. Also the seniority system of selecting committee chairman would be eliminated and no chairman could serve longer than six years.
    Supreme Court—presided over by Chief Justice, chosen for life. Plus special courts and inferior courts. Supreme court will not give advisory opinions, but acts only in adversary cases. It can declare unconstitutional laws passed by Congress or states.
    Supreme Court is abolished and its powers divided among a high court of the Constitution, a high court of appeal, and special courts of claims, rights and duties, administrative settlements, tax appeals and arbitration review. The Principal Justice, replacing the office of Chief Justice, would be chosen for a term of 12 years. The high court of the Constitution must advise the Senate on the constitutionality of questionable measures passed by the House. If the high court declares a law unconstitutional, the Senate may overrule the decision.
The closing meeting of the Constitutional Convention in September, 1787, from a painting by Junius Brutus Stearns