WVU law professor: Shutdown not legal; cites violations of 5th, 13th amendment rights

MORGANTOWN — The partial government shutdown notched its 25th day Tuesday, with neither President Donald Trump nor House Democrats blinking over the matter of that border wall.

No matter how the impasse is resolved, Anne Marie Lofaso said it will be the country’s taxpayers who ultimately pick up the check.

That’s because, said Lofaso, a WVU law professor and former National Labor Relations Board attorney, the lawsuits already started.

Air traffic controllers are among the 800,000 federal workers putting in hours without pay, and their union, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, sued the Trump Administration last Friday for just that.

The Constitution also enters the argument, said Lofaso, who is an authority on labor law.

Lofaso said the air traffic controllers and other affected employees were denied their 5th and 13th amendment rights to due process and adequate compensation — since they were ordered, and expected, to work without pay during the shutdown.

Unions representing prison workers and, ironically, U.S. Customs and Border Protection employees, also sued. She predicts the Trump Administration will be “riddled” with such litigation by the time it’s all done.

And tax dollars, as she said, will pay the legal fees.

At the core of every proceeding, she said, will be the notion of involuntary servitude, an argument dating back to slavery and the Civil War.

Add the shock of awareness that comes in seeing a padlock on a museum or a once-pristine national park strewn with litter, she said.

Or a sign at the airport reminding you those security measures you used to grouse about won’t be available as you board your flight.

Not this time, and probably not for a while.

“One of the unexpected, tertiary effects, I think, is that we’re seeing how vital our government is to our daily lives,” she said. “We’re seeing what our tax dollars really do.”

In the meantime, Lofaso is staying away from partisan politics during the shutdown.

Trump supporters and those opposed sit in seats in her classrooms at the WVU College of Law.

While she encourages spirited discussion, no political rancor is allowed.

The professor who traffics in ideas and reasoned, researched arguments wants to see more of the same in Washington.

“In a democracy, you don’t get your way 100 percent of the time,” she said. “Politics is a series of compromises.”

Lofaso did allow, however, that it’s hard not to take the current impasse personally — since she is a former federal employee herself.

At the labor board in Washington, she was paid twice a month. The full amount of one of those checks went to her mortgage.

A $5.7 billion sticking point doesn’t constitute a national emergency, she said. Call it more of a political showdown.

She referred to the Steel Seizure case of 1952, when the U.S. Supreme Court famously squashed then-President Harry Truman’s attempt to order striking steelworkers back on the job, saying production was critical to the country then embroiled in the Korean War.

Air traffic controllers, specifically, she said, already have a high stress job.

Lofaso said no one needs that — in the tower control room or the coach-class seat.

“What if, God forbid, a plane goes down?”

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