Federalism v State Sovereignty

Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Order Code RL30315
Federalism, State Sovereignty
and the Constitution: Basis and
Limits of Congressional Power
Updated January 2, 2003
Kenneth R. Thomas
Legislative Attorney
American Law Division
Federalism, State Sovereignty and the Constitution:
Basis and Limits of Congressional Power
Summary
The ratification of the Constitution, to a significant extent, defined the lines of
authority between the state and federal governments. Over recent years, the Supreme
Court has decided a number of cases which address this historical relationship. This
report discusses state and federal legislative power generally and focuses on a
number of these “federalism” cases. Issues addressed include congressional power
under the Commerce Clause and the Fourteenth Amendment; constitutional limits
on congressional powers, such as the Tenth Amendment; and state sovereign
immunity under the Eleventh Amendment. The report does not, however, address the
much larger policy issue of when it is appropriate ! as opposed to constitutionally
permissible ! for federal powers to be exercised.
Contents
Powers of the States . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Powers of the Federal Government . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
The Commerce Clause . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
The Fourteenth Amendment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
The Tenth Amendment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
Eleventh Amendment and State Sovereign Immunity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
1 See, e.g., U.S. Const. Art. I, §10, cl. 2 (“No State shall . . . lay any Impost or Duties on
Imports or Exports.”)
2 “No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any Duty of Tonnage, keep Troops,
or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State,
or with a foreign Power, or engage in War unless actually invaded, or in such imminent
Danger as will not admit of delay.” U.S. Const., Art. I,§ 10, cl. 3.
3 “Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and
Judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe
the Manner in which such Acts, Records, and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect
thereof.” U.S. Const. Art. IV, §1. This “Full Faith and Credit Clause” gives Congress what
amounts to enforcement authority over the required recognition by each state of the
judgments, records, and legislation of other states.
Federalism, State Sovereignty and the
Constitution: Basis and Limits of
Congressional Power
The ratification of the Constitution was, to a significant extent, a defining of the
lines of authority between the state and federal governments. Over recent years, the
Supreme Court has decided a number of cases which address this historical
relationship between the federal government and the states. This report discusses
state and federal legislative power generally, and focuses on a number of these
“federalism” cases. Issues addressed include congressional power under the
Commerce Clause and the Fourteenth Amendment; limits on congressional powers,
such as the Tenth Amendment; and state sovereign immunity under the Eleventh
Amendment. The report does not, however, address the much larger federalism issue
of when it is appropriate ! as opposed to constitutionally permissible !for federal
powers to be exercised.
Powers of the States
States may generally legislate on all matters within their territorial jurisdiction.
This “police power” does not arise from the Constitution, but is an inherent attribute
of the States’ territorial sovereignty. The Constitution does, however, provide certain
specific limitations on that power. For instance, a state is relatively limited in its
authority regarding the regulation of foreign imports and exports1 or the conduct of
foreign affairs.2 Further, states must respect the decisions of courts of other states,3
and are limited in their ability to vary their territory without congressional
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4 “. . . [N]o new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State;
nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or parts of States, without
the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as Congress.” U.S. Const.,
Art. IV, §3, cl. 1.
5 Gibbons v. Ogden, 22 U.S. (9 Wheat.) 1 (1824).
6 Article I, §1, of the Constitution provides that “All legislative powers herein granted shall
be vested in a Congress of the United States.” Unlike a typical grant of power to states
Article I, §1, does not grant to Congress “all legislative power,” but rather grants to
Congress only those specific powers enumerated in §8 and elsewhere in the Constitution.
7 As stated by Chief Justice Marshall in McCulloch v. Maryland, 17 U.S. (4 Wheat.) 316
(1819): “Let the end be legitimate, let it be within the scope of the Constitution, and all
means which are appropriate, which are plainly adapted to that end, which are not
prohibited, but consist with the letter and spirit of the Constitution, are constitutional.”
8 “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises,
to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United
States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States.”
U.S. Const., Art. I, §8, cl. 1.
9 “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made
by Law.” U.S. Const., Art. I, §9, cl. 7.
10 United States v. Butler, 297 U.S. 1 (1936).
permission.4 In addition, the Supreme Court has found that states are limited in their
ability to burden interstate commerce.5
Powers of the Federal Government
The powers of the federal government, while limited to those enumerated in the
Constitution,6 have been interpreted broadly, so as to create a large potential overlap
with state authority. For instance, Article I, § 8, cl. 18 provides that “[t]he Congress
will have power . . . To make all laws which will be necessary and proper for
carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers and all other Powers vested by this
Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer
thereof.” Early in the history of the Constitution, the Supreme Court found that this
clause enlarges rather than narrows the powers of Congress.7
Congress has broad financial powers, including the power to tax and spend in
order to pay debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the
United States.8 The Congress also has the Power to borrow money, and appropriate
money from the United States Treasury.9 The purposes for which Congress may tax
and spend are very broad, and are not limited by the scope of other enumerated
powers under which Congress may regulate.10 On the other hand, Congress has no
power to regulate “for the general welfare,” but may only tax and spend for that
purpose.
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11 “To regulate commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the
Indian Tribes.” U.S. Const., Article I,§ 8, cl. 3.
12 U.S. Const., Art. I, §8, cl. 4.
13 U.S. Const., Art. I, §8 cl. 5.
14 U.S. Const., Art. I, §8, cl. 6.
15 U.S. Const., Art. I, §8, cl. 7.
16 U.S. Const., Art. I, §8, cl. 8.
17 “The Congress shall have power . . . To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization.” U.S.
Const., Art I, § 8, cl. 4. “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to
the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they
reside.” U.S. Const., Amend. XIV, §1.
18 “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities
of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or
property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal
protection of the laws.” U.S. Const., Amend. XIV, §1. The Congress shall have power to
enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article. Id. at §5.
19 U.S. Const., Amend. XXVI.
20 U.S. Const., Amend. XV.
21 U.S. Const., Amend. XIX.
22 “The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives,
shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any
time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.”
U.S. Const., Article I, §4, cl. 1. While the Fifteenth Amendment and the other voting rights
guarantees noted above protect only against state action, congressional authority under this
clause includes protection of the electoral process against private interference. A variety of
enactments can be traced to this authority, including campaign finance laws and the Hatch
Act (insofar as it applies to federal elections).
The Congress also has broad authority over the commercial interests of the
nation, including the power to regulate commerce,11 to establish bankruptcy laws,12
to coin money,13 to punish counterfeiters,14 to establish Post Offices and post Roads,15
and to grant patents and copyrights.16 The Commerce Clause, discussed in more
detail below, is one of the most far-reaching grants of power to Congress. Regulation
of interstate commerce covers all movement of people and things across state lines,
including communication and transportation.
The Congress has broad powers over citizenship, including the power to define
the circumstances under which immigrants may become citizens,17 and to protect the
rights of those persons who have citizenship. The Fourteenth Amendment gives the
Congress the power to enforce the guarantees of the Fourteenth Amendment,
including the right to due process and equal protection.18 This power extends
specifically to the power of Congress to protect the rights of citizens who are at least
1819 to vote regardless of race, color, previous condition of servitude20 or sex.21 The
Congress may also regulate the time, place and manner of federal elections,22 and
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23 “Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own
Members.” Article I, §5, cl. 1. The House and the Senate act as judicial tribunals in
resolving contested election cases.
24 See, e.g., U.S. Const., Amend. XIV, §2 (apportionment).
25 “The Congress shall have power . . . To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases
whatsoever, over such District . . . as may, by Cession of Particular States, and the
Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to
exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the
State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards
and other needful Buildings.” Article I, §8, cl. 17. “The Congress shall have power to
dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other
Property belonging to the United States” . . . . Article IV, § 3, cl. 2.
26 “[N]or shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” U.S.
Const., Amend. V. Implicit in the Fifth Amendment’s requirement that just compensation
be paid for private property that is taken for a public use is the existence of the government’s
power to take private property for public use.
27 See, e.g., U.S. Const. Art. I, § 8, cl. 10 (“The Congress shall have power . . . To define
and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law
of Nations”); U.S. Const., Art. I, § 8, cl. 11 (“. . . To declare War, grant Letters of Marque
and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water.”); U.S. Const., Art.
I, §8, cl. 12 (“To raise and support Armies . . . .”).
28 U.S. Const., Art. I, §8, cl. 3.
29 514 U.S. 549 (1995).
judge the result of such elections.23 The Congress also has a number of other powers
relating to elections and appointments.24
The Congress has the power and authority to purchase and administer property,
and has power over those jurisdictions which are not controlled by states, such as the
District of Columbia and the territories.25 Congress is limited by the Fifth
Amendment, however, in the taking of private property without compensation.26 The
Congress has numerous powers related to war and the protection of the United States
and its sovereign interests.27
The Commerce Clause
As noted above, the United States Constitution provides that the Congress shall
have the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the various
states.28 This power has been cited as the constitutional basis for a significant portion
of the laws passed by the Congress over the last fifty years, and it currently represents
one of the broadest bases for the exercise of congressional powers. In United States
v. Lopez,29 however, the Supreme Court brought into question the extent to which the
Congress can rely on the Commerce Clause as a basis for federal jurisdiction.
Under the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990, Congress made it a federal
offense for “any individual knowingly to possess a firearm at a place that the
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30 18 U.S.C. §922(q)(1)A).
31 Abel, The Commerce Clause in the Constitutional Convention and in Contemporary
Comment, 25 Minn. L. Rev. 432, 443-44 (1941); Greenspan, The Constitutional Exercise
of the Federal Police Power: A Functional Approach to Federalism, 41 Vanderbilt Law
Review 1019, 1022-24 (1988). Those materials which do address Congressional control over
commerce focus on the necessity of uniformity in matters of foreign commerce, although
the drafters clearly intended domestic commerce to be regulated as well. P. Kurland & R.
Lerner, THE FOUNDER’S CONSTITUTION 477-528 (1987).
32 Alexander Hamilton, CONTINENTALIST, No. 5, 18 Apr. 1782 (Paper 3:75-82) as reprinted
in P. Kurland & R. Lerner, supra note 31 (“The vesting of the power of regulating trade
ought to have been a principal object of the confederation for a variety of reasons. It is as
necessary for the purposes of commerce as of revenue.”)
33 Greenspan, supra note 31 at 1023.
34 Gibbons v. Odgen, 22 U.S. (9 Wheat.) 1, 197-98 (1824).
35 See, e.g., Brown v. Maryland, 25 U.S. (12 Wheat.) 419 (1827).
36 United States v. Lopez, 514 U.S. at 593 (Thomas, J., dissenting).
individual knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, is a school zone.”30 In Lopez,
the Court held that, because the Act neither regulated a commercial activity nor
contained a requirement that the possession was connected to interstate commerce,
the Act exceeded the authority of the Congress under the Commerce Clause.
Although the Court did not explicitly overrule any previous rulings upholding federal
statutes passed under the authority of the Commerce Clause, the decision would
appear to suggest new limits to Congress’ legislative authority.
The scope and extent of the Commerce Clause does not appear to have been of
particular concern to the framers of the Constitution.31 There are indications that the
founding fathers considered the federal regulation of commerce to be an important
power of the new Constitution primarily as a means of facilitating trade and of
raising revenue.32 While the Anti-Federalists argued that the new Constitution gave
too much power to the federal government, they apparently did not raise significant
objections to the granting of power to regulate interstate commerce.33
The Supreme Court, however, developed an expansive view of the Commerce
Clause relatively early in the history of judicial review. For instance, Chief Justice
Marshall wrote in 1824 that “the power over commerce . . . is vested in Congress as
absolutely as it would be in a single government . . .” and that “the influence which
their constituents possess at elections, are . . . the sole restraints” on this power.34
However, the issue in most of the early Supreme Court Commerce Clause cases dealt
not with the limits of Congressional authority, but on the implied limitation of the
Commerce Clause on a state’s ability to regulate commerce.35
It has been suggested that the Commerce Clause should be restricted to the
regulation of “selling, buying, bartering and transporting.”36 In fact, much of the
federal legislation approved of by the Supreme Court early in this century did relate
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37 Champion v. Ames (The Lottery Case), 188 U.S. 321 (1903).
38 Hippolite Egg Co. v. United States, 220 U.S. 45 (1911).
39 Hoke v. United States, 227 U.S. 308 (1913).
40 United States v. E.C. Knight Co., 156 U.S. 1, 12 (1895).
41 Carter v. Carter Coal Co., 298 U.S. 238, 304 (1936).
42 301 U.S. 1 (1937).
43 301 U.S. at 41.
44 United States v. Darby, 312 U.S. 100 (1941)(approving legislation relating to working
conditions).
45 312 U.S. at 121.
46 Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111 (1942).
to such issues as the regulation of lottery tickets,37 the transporting of adulterated
food,38 or the interstate transportation of prostitutes.39 And, during the early 1900s,
the Supreme Court struck down a series of federal statutes which attempted to extend
commerce regulation to activities such as “production,” “manufacturing”40 or
“mining.”41
Starting in 1937, however, with the decision in NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel
Corporation,42 the Supreme Court held that the Congress has the ability to protect
interstate commerce from burdens and obstructions which “affect” commerce
transactions. In the NLRB case, the court upheld the National Labor Relations Act,
finding that by controlling industrial labor strife, the Congress was preventing
burdens from being placed on interstate commerce.43 Thus, the Court rejected
previous distinctions between the economic activities (such as manufacturing) which
led up to interstate economic transactions, and the interstate transactions themselves.
By allowing Congress to regulate activities which were in the “stream” of commerce,
the Court also set the stage for the regulation of a variety of other activities which
“affect” commerce.
Subsequent Court decisions found that Congress had considerable discretion in
determining which activities “affect” interstate commerce, as long as the legislation
was “reasonably” related to achieving its goals of regulating interstate commerce.44
Thus the Court found that in some cases, events of purely local commerce (such as
local working conditions) might, because of market forces, negatively affect the
regulation of interstate commerce, and thus would be susceptible to regulation.45 The
Court has also held that an activity which in itself does not affect interstate commerce
could be regulated if all such activities taken together in the aggregate did affect
interstate commerce.46 Under the reasoning of these cases, the Court has upheld
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47 Id.
48 See Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States, 370 U.S. 241 (1964); Katzenbach v.
McClung, 379 U.S. 241 (1964).
49 Perez v. United States, 402 U.S. 146 (1971).
50 Herman Schwartz, Court Tries to Patrol a Political Line, Legal Times 25 (May 8, 1995).
51 The Court failed to note that to some extent, the three categories are intertwined. For
instance, the first category, the regulation of “streams” or “channels” of commerce, allows
regulation of the creation, movement, sale and consumption of merchandise or services. But
the initial extension of the “streams” of commerce analysis by the Court to intrastate trade
was justified by the “effect” of these other activities on commerce. See NLRB v. Jones &
Laughlin, 301 U.S. 1, 31 (1936). Similarly, the second category, which allows the
regulation of such instrumentalities of commerce as planes, trains or trucks, is also based
on the theory that a threat to these instrumentalities “affects” commerce, even if the effect
is local in nature. Southern Railway Company v. United States, 222 U.S. 21, 26-27
(1911)(regulation of intrastate rail traffic has a substantial effect on interstate rail traffic).
Thus, the final category identified by the Court appears to be a catch-all for all other
activities which “substantially affect” commerce.
52 514 U.S. at 559.
53 Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111 (1942).
many diverse laws, including laws regulating production of wheat on farms,47 racial
discrimination by businesses,48 and loan-sharking.49
The Lopez case was significant in that it is the first time since 1937 that the
Supreme Court struck down a federal statute purely based on a finding that the
Congress had exceeded it powers under the Commerce Clause.50 In doing so, the
Court revisited its prior cases, sorted the commerce power into three categories, and
asserted that the Congress could not go beyond these three categories: 1) regulation
of channels of commerce; 2) regulation of instrumentalities of commerce; and 3)
regulation of economic activities which “affect” commerce.51
Within the third category of activities which “affect commerce,” the Court
determined that the power to regulate commerce applies to intrastate activities only
when they “substantially” affect commerce.52 Still, the Court in Lopez spoke
approvingly of earlier cases upholding laws which regulated intrastate credit
transactions, restaurants utilizing interstate supplies, and hotels catering to interstate
guests. The Court also recognized that while some intrastate activities may by
themselves have a trivial effect on commerce, regulation of these activities may be
constitutional if their regulation is an essential part of a larger economic regulatory
scheme. Thus, the Court even approved what has been perceived as one of its most
expansive rulings, Wickard v. Filburn, which allowed the regulation of the
production and consumption of wheat for home consumption.53
The Court in Lopez found, however, that the Gun Free School Zones Act fell
into none of the three categories set out above. It held that it is not a regulation of
channels of commerce, nor does it protect an instrumentality of commerce. Finally,
its effect on interstate commerce was found to be too removed to be “substantial.”
The Court noted that the activity regulated, the possession of guns in school, neither
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54 514 U.S. at 564 The Court rejected arguments that possession of guns in school affected
the national economy by its negative impact on education. Id.
55 514 U.S. at 561.
56 514 U.S. at 560.
57 514 U.S. at 580 (Kennedy, J., concurring).
58 See, e.g., 18 U.S.C. §247 (2000)(forbidding obstruction of persons in the free exercise
of religious beliefs where the offense “is in or affects interstate or foreign commerce.”)
59 529 U.S. 598 (2000).
60 Id. at 609.
by itself nor in the aggregate affected commercial transactions. 54 Further, the statute
contained no requirement that interstate commerce be affected, such as that the gun
had been previously transported in interstate commerce.55 Nor was the
criminalization of possession of a gun near a school part of a larger regulatory
scheme which did regulate commerce.56 Finally, the Court indicated that criminal law
enforcement is an area of law traditionally reserved to the states. 57 Consequently, the
Court found that the Congress did not have the authority to pass the Gun Free School
Zone Act.
It should be noted that the Lopez Court purported to be limiting, but not
overruling, prior case law which had supported an expansive interpretation of the
commerce clause. Consequently, most existing federal laws, which have traditionally
been drafted to be consistent with this case law,58 would survive constitutional
scrutiny even under Lopez. However, in at least one significant case, the Congress
passed a law, the Violence Against Women Act, which seemed to invoke the same
concerns that the Court found in Lopez. Consequently, the relevant portion of that
act was struck down in United States v. Morrison.59
In Morrison, the Court evaluated whether 42 U.S.C.§13981, which provides a
federal private right of action for victims of gender-motivated violence, was within
the power of the Congress to enact under the Commerce Clause. In Morrison, the
victim of an alleged rape brought suit against the alleged rapist, arguing that this
portion of the Act was sustainable because it addressed activities that substantially
affect interstate commerce.60 The Court, however, noted that unlike traditional
statutes based on the commerce clause, the activity in question had nothing to do
with commerce or an economic enterprise. This point had been made previously in
Lopez, and here the Court reaffirmed the holding that in order to fall under the
acceptable category of laws which “substantially affect commerce,” the underlying
activity itself must generally be economic or commercial. As gender-motivated
violence does not inherently relate to an economic activity, the Court held that it was
beyond the authority of the Congress to regulate.
The Fourteenth Amendment
Another significant source of congressional power is §5 of the Fourteenth
Amendment. The Fourteenth Amendment provides that states shall not deprive
citizens of “life, liberty or property” without due process of law nor deprive them or
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61 U.S. Const., Amend. XIII (prohibiting slavery).
62 U.S. Const., Amend. XV (voting rights).
63 384 U.S. 641 (1966).
64 400 U.S. 112 (1970).
equal protection of the laws. Section 5 provides that the Congress has the power to
legislate to enforce the Amendment.
The Fourteenth Amendment represented a significant shift of power in our
federal system. Until the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Constitution
was limited to establishing the powers and limitations of the federal government.
However, those Amendments passed immediately after the Civil War, the
Thirteenth,61 Fourteenth and Fifteenth62 Amendments, dramatically altered this
regime. Passage of these Amendments subjected a state’s control over its own
citizens to oversight by either the federal judiciary or the Congress. The most
significant impact of the Fourteenth Amendment has been its implementation by the
federal courts, as state legislation came under scrutiny for having violated due
process or equal protection. However, the Congress has also seen fit to exercise its
power under the Fourteenth Amendment to address issues such as voting rights and
police brutality.
The scope of Congress’ power under §5 of the Fourteenth Amendment, however,
has been in flux over the years. In Katzenbach v. Morgan,63 the Court held that §5
of the Fourteenth Amendment authorized Congress not just to enforce the provisions
of the Fourteenth Amendment as defined by the courts, but to help define its scope.
In Katzenbach, the Court upheld a portion of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which
barred the application of English literacy requirements to persons who had reached
sixth grade in a Puerto Rican school taught in Spanish. In upholding the statute, the
Court rejected the argument that Congress’ power to legislate under the Fourteenth
Amendment was limited to enforcing that which the Supreme Court found to be a
violation of that Amendment. Rather, the Court held that the Congress could enforce
the Fourteenth Amendment by “appropriate” legislation consistent with the “letter
and spirit of the constitution.”
The rationale for this holding appears to be that Congress has the ability to
evaluate and address factual situations which it determines may lead to degradation
of rights protected under the Fourteenth Amendment. This is true even if a court
would not find a constitutional violation to have occurred. In fact, what the Court
appeared to have done was to require only that the Congress establish a rational basis
for why the legislation was necessary to protect a Fourteenth Amendment right.
Subsequent Supreme Court cases, however, have limited the reach of
Katzenbach. In Oregon v. Mitchell,64 the Court struck down a requirement that the
voting age be lowered to 18 for state elections. In prohibiting the Congress from
dictating the voting age for state elections, a splintered Court appears to have
supported Congress’ power to pass laws which protect Fourteenth Amendment rights
against state intrusions, but rejected the ability of Congress to extend the substantive
content of those rights. As 18-year-olds are not a protected class under the
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65 521 U.S. 507 (1997).
66 494 U.S. 872 (1990).
67 See notes 90-104 and accompanying text, infra.
Fourteenth Amendment, the Court found that Congress was attempting to create,
rather than protect, Fourteenth Amendment rights.
More recently, in the case of Flores v. City of Boerne,65 the Court struck down
the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) as beyond the authority of Congress
under §5 of the Fourteenth Amendment. For many years prior to the passage of
RFRA, a law of general applicability restricting the free exercise of religion, to be
consistent with the Freedom of Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, had to be
justified by a compelling governmental interest. However, in the 1990 case of
Oregon v. Smith,66 the Court had lowered this standard. The Smith case involved
members of the Native American Church who were denied unemployment benefits
when they lost their jobs for having used peyote during a religious ceremony. The
Smith case held that neutral generally applicable laws may be applied to religious
practices even if the law is not supported by a compelling governmental interest.
RFRA, in response, was an attempt by the Congress to overturn the Smith case, and
to require a compelling governmental interest when a state applied a generally
applied law to religion.
The City of Boerne case arose when the City of Boerne denied a church a
building permit to expand, because the church was in a designated historical district.
The church challenged the zoning decision under RFRA. The Supreme Court
reiterated that §5 of the Fourteenth Amendment gave the Congress the power to
enforce existing constitutional protections, but found that this did not automatically
include the power to pass any legislation to protect these rights. Instead, the Court
held that there must be a “congruence and proportionality” between the injury to be
remedied and the law adopted to that end. For instance, the Court’s decision in
Katzenbach v. Morgan of allowing the banning of literacy tests was justified based
on an extensive history of minorities being denied suffrage in this country. By
contrast, the Court found no similar pattern of the use of neutral laws of general
applicability disguising religious bigotry and animus against religion. Rather than
an attempt to remedy a problem, RFRA was seen by the Court as an attempt by the
Congress to overturn an unpopular Supreme Court decision. The law focused on no
one area of alleged harm to religion, but rather just broadly inhibited state and local
regulations of all types. Consequently, the Court found RFRA to be an overbroad
response to a relatively nonexistent problem.
The scope of the enforcement power under § 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment
has also become important in cases where the Court has found that Congress has
overreached its power under other provision of the Constitution, or is limited by
some provision thereof. For instance, as is discussed in detail below, the Supreme
Court has held that the Eleventh Amendment and state sovereign immunity generally
prohibits individuals from suing states for damages under federal law.67 However,
the Supreme Court has also held that Congress can abrogate state sovereign
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68 Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44, 65-66 (1996); See discussion infra
notes 95-98 and accompanying text.
69 527 U.S. 666 (1999).
70 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a).
71 527 U.S. 627 (1999).
72 Patent and Plant Variety Protection Remedy Clarification Act (Patent Remedy Act), 35
U.S.C. §§ 271(a).
immunity under the Fourteenth Amendment.68 This means that in many cases
litigants suing states will have to find a Fourteenth Amendment basis for federal
legislation in order to defeat an Eleventh Amendment defense. For instance, a
significant amount of federal legislation is clearly supported by the commerce clause,
but it might not be supported under §5. Recently, the Court decided two cases which
illustrate the difficulties of establishing Fourteenth Amendment authority for such
legislation.
In College Savings Bank v. Florida Prepaid Postsecondary Education Expense
Board,69 the Supreme Court considered an unfair competition suit brought by a New
Jersey savings bank against the State of Florida. The New Jersey savings bank had
developed a patented program where individuals could use a certificate of deposit
contract to save for college. The State of Florida set up a similar program, and the
College Savings Bank sued Florida for false and misleading advertising under a
provision of the Trademark Act of 1946 (Lanham Act),70 alleging that Florida had
made misleading representations about its own product.
The Court first noted that under Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Florida, Article
I powers such as the power to regulate commerce were insufficient to abrogate
Eleventh Amendment immunity. Thus, the Court next considered whether the
Lanham Act could be characterized as an exercise of Congress’ power under §5 of the
Fourteenth Amendment. Although the Fourteenth Amendment provides that no State
shall “deprive a person of . . . property . . . without due process of law,” the Court
found that the unfair trade in question, which consisted of allegedly inaccurate
statements made by the state of Florida about its own saving program, did not
infringe on any exclusive property right held by the College Savings Bank. As the
Court found that Congress had not established an authority under the Fourteenth
Amendment to abrogate the state’s immunity, the College Savings Bank could not
proceed against the State of Florida for unfair trade practices.
Even if a property interest is established, it would still need to be determined
that the Congress had the authority to protect that property interest under the
Fourteenth Amendment. In Florida Prepaid Postsecondary Education Expense
Board v. College Savings Bank,71 the Court, in a decision concerning the same
parties as the case discussed above, considered whether the College Savings Bank
could sue the State of Florida for patent infringement. The Congress had passed a
law specifically providing that states could be sued for patent violations,72 citing three
CRS-12
73 U.S. Const. Art. I, § 8, cl. 8.
74 U.S. Const. Art. I, §8, cl. 3.
75 528 U.S. 62 (2000).
sources of constitutional authority: the Article I Patent Clause,73 the Article I
Interstate Commerce Clause74 and §5 of the Fourteenth Amendment. As the Court
had previously precluded abrogation of sovereign immunity through the exercise of
Article I powers, the question became whether the Congress had the authority to pass
patent legislation under §5 of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Unlike the previous case, the Court found that, under a long line of precedents,
patents were considered property rights. However, the Court had to further consider
whether the protection of such a property right under §5 of the Fourteenth
Amendment was “appropriate” under its ruling in City of Boerne. Consequently, the
Court evaluated whether a federal right to enforce patents against states was
appropriate remedial or preventive legislation aimed at securing the protections of the
Fourteenth Amendment for patent owners. Specifically, the Court sought to evaluate
whether unremedied patent infringement by states rose to the level of a Fourteenth
Amendment violation that the Congress could redress.
The Court noted that Congress had failed to identify a pattern of patent
infringement by the States, and that only a handful of patent infringement cases had
been brought against states in the last 100 years. The Court also noted that Congress
had failed to establish that state remedies for patent infringement were inadequate for
citizens to seek compensation for injury. In fact, the State of Florida argued that no
constitutionally based violation had occurred, as it had procedures in place which
would provide the necessary due process for patent infringement by the state to be
challenged. Consequently, the Court found that the exercise of §5 of the Fourteenth
Amendment in this context would be out of proportion to the remedial objective.
The Court engaged in a similar analysis, with like results, in evaluating the
application of age discrimination laws to the states. In Kimel v. Florida Board of
Regents,75 the Court noted that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967,
while a valid exercise of Congress’ commerce power, could not be applied to the
states unless the Congress also had the power to enact it under §5 of the Fourteenth
Amendment. The Kimel Court held, however, that age is not a suspect class, and
that the provisions of the ADEA far surpassed the kind of protections that would be
afforded such a class under the Fourteenth Amendment. Further, the Court found
that an analysis of the Congress’s ability to legislate prophylactically under section
§5 required an examination of the legislative record to determine whether the
remedies provided were proportional and congruent to the problem. A review by the
Court of the ADEA legislative record found no evidence of a pattern of state
governments discriminating against employees on the basis of age. Consequently, the
Court held that a state could not be liable for damages under the ADEA.
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76 531 U.S. 356 (2000).
77 Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Center, Inc., 473 U.S. 432 (1985).
78 529 U.S. 598 (2000).
79 See supra notes 59-60 and accompanying text.
80 See Shelley v. Kraemer, 334 U.S. 1, 13 (1948).
81 521 U.S. at 526.
Similarly, the application of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to
states was considered in the case of the Board of Trustees v. Garrett,76 again with
similar result. In Garrett, the Court evaluated whether two plaintiffs could bring
claims for money damages against a state university for failing to make reasonable
accommodations for their disabilities; one plaintiff was under treatment for cancer,
the other for asthma and sleep apnea. Although disability is not a suspect class and
thus discrimination is evaluated under a rational basis test, the Court had previously
shown a heightened sensitivity to arbitrary discrimination against the disabled.77
Further, Congress had made substantial findings regarding the pervasiveness of such
discrimination. However, the Supreme Court declined to consider evidence of
discrimination by either the private sector or local government, and dismissed the
examples that did relate to the states as unlikely to rise to the level of constitutionally
“irrational” discrimination. Ultimately, the Court found that no pattern of
unconstitutional state discrimination against the disabled had been established, and
that the application of the ADA was not a proportionate response to any pattern that
might exist.
Even where the Eleventh Amendment and state sovereign immunity are not at
issue, the Court may be asked to consider whether the Fourteenth Amendment
establishes a sufficient basis for a federal law which does not appear to have a
constitutional basis elsewhere in the Constitution. For instance, in United States v.
Morrison,78 discussed previously,79 the Court found that Congress, in creating a
federal private right of action for victims of gender-motivated violence, had exceeded
its authority under the Commerce Clause. Consequently, the plaintiff in that case
made the alternate argument that the federal private right of action could be sustained
under § 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment.
This argument, however, suffered from two major defects. First, the Court has
long held that the Fourteenth Amendment provides the Congress the authority to
regulate states, but not individuals.80 In Morrison, however, the civil case had been
brought against the individuals alleged to have engaged in the offense. The plaintiff
attempted to avoid this problem by arguing that there is pervasive bias in various
state justice systems against victims of gender-motivated violence, and that providing
a federal private right of action was an appropriate means to remedy this “state
action.”
However, the Court rejected this argument, finding that the remedy did not
meet the City of Boerne test of “congruence and proportionality to the injury to be
prevented or remedied and the means adopted to that end.”81 Since the federal private
right of action was not aimed at the allegedly discriminatory actions by state officials,
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82 529 U.S. at 626.
83 426 U.S. 833 (1976).
84 In National League of Cities v. Usery, the Court conceded that the legislation under attack,
which regulated the wages and hours of certain state and local governmental employees, was
undoubtedly within the scope of the Commerce Clause, but it cautioned that there are
attributes of sovereignty attaching to every state government which may not be impaired by
Congress, not because Congress may lack an affirmative grant of legislative authority to
reach the matter, but because the Constitution prohibits it from exercising the authority in
that manner.
85 469 U.S. 528 (1985). Justice Blackmun’s opinion for the Court in Garcia concluded that
the National League of Cities test for “integral operations” in areas of traditional
governmental functions had proven impractical, and that the Court in 1976 had “tried to
repair what did not need repair.”
86 See also South Carolina v. Baker, 485 U.S. 505 (1988).
87 505 U.S. 144 (1992).
but was instead directed against the individual engaging in the violence itself, the
Court found that the action could not be supported by reference to the Fourteenth
Amendment.82
The Tenth Amendment
The Tenth Amendment provides that “powers not delegated to the United States
by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States
respectively, or to the people.” While this language would appear to represent one
of the most clear examples of a federalist principle in the Constitution, it has not had
a significant impact in limiting federal powers. Initially, the Supreme Court
interpreted the Tenth Amendment to have substantive content, so that certain “core”
state functions would be beyond the authority of the federal government to regulate.
Thus, in National League of Cities v. Usery,83 the Court struck down federal wage
and price controls on state employees as involving the regulation of core state
functions.84 The Court, however, overruled National League of Cities in Garcia v.
San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority.85 In sum, the Court in Garcia seems
to have said that most disputes over the effects on state sovereignty of federal
commerce power legislation are to be considered political questions, and that the
states should look for relief from federal regulation through the political process.86
This appeared to have ended the Court’s attempt to substantively limit federal
government regulation of the states.
The Court soon turned, however, to the question of how the Constitution limits
the process by which the federal government regulates the states. In New York v.
United States,87 the Congress had attempted to regulate in the area of low-level
radioactive waste. In a 1985 statute, Congress provided that states must either
develop legislation on how to dispose of all low-level radioactive waste generated
within the state, or the state would be forced to take title to such waste, which would
mean that it became the state’s responsibility. The Court found that although the
Congress had the authority under the Commerce Clause to regulate low-level
radioactive waste, it only had the power to regulate the waste directly. Here,
CRS-15
88 521 U.S. 898 (1997).
89 “The Constitution and the Law of the United States . . . shall be the Supreme Law of the
Land; and the Judges of every State shall be bound thereby . . . .” U.S. Const., Art. VI, cl.
2.
90 528 U.S. 141 (2000).
Congress had attempted to require the states to perform the regulation, and decreed
that the failure to do so would require the state to deal with the financial
consequences of owning large quantities of radioactive waste. In effect, the Congress
sought to “commandeer” the legislative process of the states. In the New York case,
the Court found that this power was not found in the text or structure of the
Constitution, and it was thus a violation of the Tenth Amendment.
A later case presented the question of the extent to which the Congress could
regulate through a state’s executive branch officers. This case, Printz v. United
States,88 involved the Brady Handgun Act. The Brady Handgun Act required state
and local law-enforcement officers to conduct background checks on prospective
handgun purchasers within 5 business days of an attempted purchase. This portion
of the Act was challenged under the 10th Amendment, under the theory that Congress
was without authority to “commandeer” state executive branch officials. After a
historical study of federal commandeering of state officials, the Court concluded that
commandeering of state executive branch officials was, like commandeering of the
legislature, outside of Congress’ power, and consequently a violation of the 10th
Amendment.
Although the Federal government is prohibited from commandeering either the
legislature or executive branch of a state, this does not appear to be the case with
state judicial branches. The federal judicial system and the state judicial system were
not intended to be as separate as the other branches of government, and the
Supremacy Clause of the Constitution explicitly provides that state courts must
follow federal law, even if it overrides state laws or constitutions.89 So, there appears
to be less of a concern regarding the “commandeering” of state courts.
A key distinction between constitutional “substantive regulation” and
unconstitutional “commandeering” appears to be whether or not the federal mandate
in question is regulating state activities or whether it is seeking to control the manner
in which states regulate private parties. Thus, for instance, the Court recently held in
Reno v. Condon90 that the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act of 1994, which regulates
the sale of personal information gathered from persons seeking drivers licenses, was
substantive regulation, not commandeering. In that case, the Court found that the
state was not being directed on how to regulate its citizens, but rather on how to treat
information which had been elicited from those citizens. However, because the
regulation affected both state governments and private resellers of such information,
the Court reserved the question as to whether a law, which only regulated state
activities, would be constitutionally suspect.
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91 2 U.S. (Dall.) 419 (1793).
92 U.S. Const., Art. III, §2.
Eleventh Amendment and State Sovereign Immunity
The Eleventh Amendment and state sovereign immunity provide an example of
the complicated interaction between the powers of the federal government, the state
and the individual. The basic issue to be addressed here is the extent to which
individuals can sue a state under federal law. The answer to this question may vary
based on a number of factors, including what law the suit is being brought under,
whether the state has taken action to make itself amenable to such law, and what
relief is being sought.
The starting point for such a discussion is usually the Eleventh Amendment. The
Eleventh Amendment reads as follows “The Judicial power of the United States shall
not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted
against one of the United States by Citizens of another State.” The actual text of the
Amendment appears to be limited to preventing citizens from bringing diversity cases
against states in federal courts. However, the Supreme Court has expanded the
concept of state sovereign immunity to reach much further than the text of the
Amendment.
The Eleventh Amendment, the first amendment to the Constitution after the
adoption of the Bill or Rights, was passed as a response to the case of Chisholm v.
Georgia.91 Immediately after the adoption of the Constitution, a number of citizens
filed cases in federal court against states. One of these, Chisholm, was a diversity
suit filed by two citizens of South Carolina against the State of Georgia to recover a
Revolutionary War debt. In Chisholm, the Supreme Court noted that Article III of the
Constitution specifically grants the federal courts diversity jurisdiction over suits
“between a State and citizens of another State.”92 Thus, the Court held that this grant
of jurisdiction authorized the private citizen of one state to sue another state in
federal court without that state’s consent.
The states were outraged that such a suit could be brought in federal court,
protesting that the drafters of the Constitution had promised the states they would not
be sued by their debtors in federal courts. Almost immediately after the decision of
the Chisholm cases, resolutions were introduced in Congress to overturn it, the end
result being the Eleventh Amendment. The Amendment assured that a citizen of one
state could not sue another state in federal court – in other words, a citizen could not
sue under federal diversity jurisdiction without a state’s permission.
However, even after the Eleventh Amendment was passed, a number of cases
were filed against states by private citizens, with jurisdiction based on federal
question rather than diversity. Under this reasoning, if a citizen of a state sued his or
her own state in federal court, the prohibition of the Eleventh Amendment would not
apply. Consequently, for a number of years after the passage of the Eleventh
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93 134 U.S. 1 (1890).
94 See Alden v. Maine, 527 U.S. 706, 2248 (1999).
95 517 U.S. 44 (1996).
96 U.S. Const., Art. I, § 8, cl. 3.
Amendment, this type of case was entertained by the federal courts. However, this
line of cases was ended by the case of Hans v. Louisiana.93
In Hans v. Louisiana, the Court provided for an interpretation of the Eleventh
Amendment which allowed the Court to move beyond the literal text of that
Amendment. Under the reasoning of the Court, the Eleventh Amendment was not
so much an amendment to the original structure of the Constitution, as it was an
attempt to overturn a specific court decision which had misinterpreted this structure.
According to this line of reasoning, the Eleventh Amendment was not an
Amendment, but a restoration of the original constitutional design.
Ultimately, the issue before the Court in Hans v. Louisiana and in subsequent
cases was not the Eleventh Amendment, but the issue of state sovereign immunity.
State sovereign immunity means that a state must consent to be sued in its own court
system. This concept is based on early English law, which provided that the Crown
could not be sued in English courts without its consent. The doctrine of sovereign
immunity was in effect in the states which were in existence at the time of the
drafting of the Constitution. Further, various writings by the founding fathers seemed
to support the concept.94 Thus, the issue before the Court in Hans was whether the
grant of jurisdiction to federal courts under Article III of the Constitution had
abrogated state sovereign immunity. The Hans Court found that Article III did not
have this effect.
Although the Hans Court answered the issue of whether adoption of Article III
of the Constitution had waived state sovereign immunity in federal courts, it left a
number of questions unanswered. For instance, the question as to whether there are
any instances where Congress could, by statute, abrogate a state’s sovereign
immunity, so that a citizen could sue a state under federal law. In Seminole Tribe of
Florida v. Florida,95 the Court seemed to answer that in most cases, such suits would
not be accepted. The Seminole case involved the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of
1988, which provided Indian tribes with an opportunity to establish gambling
operations. However, in order to establish such gambling, the Indian tribes had to
enter into a compact with the State in which they were located. The States, in turn,
were obligated to negotiate with the Indian Tribes in good faith, and this requirement
was made enforceable in federal court. Thus, the question arose as to whether the
Tribes could sue the states under the Eleventh Amendment.
The Court in Seminole found it important to establish what constitutional
authority was being exercised by the passage of the Indian Gaming Law. The Court
determined that the power being exercised was the Indian Commerce Clause,96
which is found in Article I. The Court had found previously in Pennsylvania v.
CRS-18
97 491 U.S. 1 (1989).
98 One apparent argument is that the Fourteenth Amendment was passed after the Eleventh
Amendment and thus, unlike legislative powers found in Article I of the Constitution, it can
be seen as an alteration of the restrictions of the Eleventh Amendment. Seminole Tribe of
Florida v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44, 65-66 (1996). However, as is discussed in detail below, the
Supreme Court has held that state sovereign immunity preceded and predated the
Constitution. Alden v. Maine, 527 U.S. 706, 2248 (1999). Consequently, all the Articles of
the Constitution could arguably be seen as altering the restrictions of the state sovereign
immunity.
Another argument made by the Court in Seminole is that the Fourteenth Amendment
was designed to alter the pre-existing balance between state and federal power at the time
of its passage. This argument is more plausible, but is still difficult to differentiate between
Congress’ power under the Fourteenth Amendment and Congress’ power under the Articles
of the Constitution. Like the Fourteenth Amendment, the Articles of the Constitution were
clearly intended to alter the balance between state and federal power at the time of the
passage of the Constitution, which included state sovereign immunity. This is exemplified
by the Supremacy Clause, U.S. Const., Art. VI, cl. 2 which provides that laws passed under
the Articles of the Constitution would be supreme over state law.
99 527 U.S. 706 (1999).
100 122 S. Ct. 186 (2002).
Union Gas,97 that the Commerce Power, as a plenary power, was so broad that of
necessity it required the ability to abrogate state sovereign immunity. In Seminole,
however, the Court overturned Union Gas, holding that as the Eleventh Amendment
was ratified after the passage of the Constitution and Article I, it was a limitation on
Congress’ authority to waive a state’s sovereign immunity under that Article. The
Court did indicate, however, that Congress can abrogate state sovereignty under the
Fourteenth Amendment. While the logic behind this distinction is unclear,98 it means
that in many cases litigants suing states will try to find a Fourteenth Amendment
basis for federal legislation in order to defeat an Eleventh Amendment defense.
A question left unanswered by the Hans decision was whether the Eleventh
Amendment, which prohibited the Congress from abrogating a state’s sovereign
immunity in federal court, extended to a state’s own courts. In Alden v. Maine,99 the
Supreme Court found that the same principles of sovereign immunity identified in
Hans would prevent Congress from authorizing a state to be sued in its own courts
without permission. As in Hans, the Court acknowledged that the literal text of the
Eleventh Amendment does not prohibit such suits, as its language only addresses
suits brought in federal courts. Consequently, the Court relied instead on the
proposition that sovereign immunity is a “fundamental postulate” of the
constitutional design, and is not amenable to congressional abrogation. The same
reasoning that prohibited these suits from being brought in federal court, a deference
to the “respect and dignity” of state sovereignty, led the Court to conclude that it
would be anomalous to allow such cases to be brought instead in state court.
In Federal Maritime Comm’n v. South Carolina State Ports Authority, the Court
addressed the issue of whether state sovereign immunity extended to proceedings
before federal agencies.100 In this case, the South Carolina State Ports Authority
denied a cruise ship permission to berth at the state’s port facilities in Charleston,
CRS-19
101 46 U.S.C. App. § 1701 (1994 & Supp. V).
102 122 S. Ct. at 1874.
103 The Court noted that “[there are] numerous common features shared by administrative
adjudications and judicial proceedings.” 122 S. Ct. at 1872. “[F]ederal administrative law
requires that agency adjudication contain many of the same safeguards as are available in
the judicial process. The proceedings are adversary in nature. They are conducted before
a trier of fact insulated from political influence. A party is entitled to present his case by
oral or documentary evidence, and the transcript of testimony and exhibits together with the
pleadings constitutes the exclusive record for decision. The parties are entitled to know the
findings and conclusions on all of the issues of fact, law, or discretion presented on the
record.” Id.
104 Justice Breyer noted that after this decision “a private person cannot bring a complaint
against a State to a federal administrative agency where the agency (1) will use an internal
adjudication process to decide if the complaint is well founded, and (2) if so, proceed to
court to enforce the law.” Id. at 1881.
105 Id.
South Carolina, contending that the primary purpose of the cruise was for gambling.
The cruise ship company, Maritime Services, filed a claim with the Federal Maritime
Commission (FMC) arguing that South Carolina had discriminated against it in
violation of the Shipping Act of 1984 and sought, among other things, damages for
loss of profits.101 The Port Authority, however, successfully moved to dismiss the
complaint, arguing that it was inconsistent with the concept of state sovereign
immunity.
In reviewing the case, the Court analogized between the FMC’s quasi-judicial
proceedings and traditional judicial proceedings, while noting that “[t]he preeminent
purpose of state sovereign immunity is to accord States the dignity that is consistent
with their status as sovereign entities.”102 Consequently, the Court agreed that state
sovereign immunity bars the FMC from adjudicating damage claims made by a
private party against a nonconsenting State.103 In dissent, however, Justice Breyer
noted that agency administrative proceedings are not judicial proceedings and that
the ultimate enforcement of such proceedings in a court is done by the federal
agency, to which state sovereign immunity does not apply. Thus, while an agency
remains capable of enforcement actions against States in federal court, it cannot use
its own adjudicative process in order to determine whether to do so, but must rely
on its investigatory powers.104 According to Justice Breyer, “[t]he natural result is
less agency flexibility, a larger federal bureaucracy, less fair procedure, and
potentially less effective law enforcement.”105
Conclusion
In conclusion, it would appear that the status of the state in the federal system
has been strengthened by recent Supreme Court opinions. Although the Court has
not scaled back the federal government’s substantive jurisdiction significantly, it has
to some extent prevented the expansion of Congress’ power under the Commerce
Clause and under §5 of the Fourteenth Amendment. Further it has created a variety
of obstacles as to how these powers can be executed, forbidding the Congress under
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the Tenth Amendment from commandeering the authority of state legislative and
executive branches, and limiting the authority of Congress to abrogate state sovereign
immunity. Ultimately, however, the Congress retains significant powers under the
Constitution, and under the Supremacy Clause may require the enforcement of its
laws in both state and federal court.

2 Responses

  1. Maybe they need to read the constitution here is the power they have and I can not find any amendment that would expand their limits. Nor is there any language in the Constitution that allows expansion or changes of meanings, use of clauses as powers, open frame work construction, in fact the only way to change powers is not statutory acts, court findings, it must be by using Article V as has been done 27 times.

    Article 3 – The Judicial Branch
    Section 1 – Judicial Powers

    <>

    The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behavior, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services a Compensation which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.

    Article 3 – The Judicial Branch
    Section 2 – Trial by Jury, Original Jurisdiction, Jury Trials

    <>

    (The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority; to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls; to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction; to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party; to Controversies between two or more States; between a State and Citizens of another State; between Citizens of different States; between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects.) (This section in parentheses is modified by the 11th Amendment.)

    Article 3 – The Judicial Branch
    Section 3 – Treason

    <>

    Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

    Amendment 11 – Judicial Limits

    <>

    The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.

    Not a single word allowing British Common law – not a single word on torts, liens, common crimes, murder, drug dealing, tax law suits, writs of attachment and on and on – they simply do not posses any of the Powers they usurp and have since Marbury V Madison.

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