United States v. Morrison

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In United States v. Morrison (2002), the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the federal Violence against Women Act, which provided a federal civil remedy for the victims of gender-motivated violence. Citing United States v. Lopez (1995), which had found the federal Gun-Free School Zone Act unconstitutional because Congress had not demonstrated any connection between the possession of guns in school zones and interstate commerce, the Court also found that the Violence against Women Act also went beyond the reach of the Commerce Clause. According to the Court, the Constitution requires a distinction between what is truly national and what is truly local, and there is no better example of the police power, which the founders undeniably left reposed in the states and denied the central government, than the suppression of violent crime and vindication of its victims. Congress therefore may not regulate noneconomic, violent criminal conduct based solely on the conduct’s aggregate effect on interstate commerce.

The Morrison holding was one of several five-to-four decisions by the Supreme Court during the late 1990s and early 2000s that limited the authority of the federal government in the name of preserving federalism.

Ellis Katz

Last Updated: 2006

SEE ALSO: Commerce among the States; United States v. Lopez