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United States v. Morrison, 529 US 598 (US Sup. Ct. 2000)
Everything labeled [Note:….] is a comment by Prof. Nancy White to help you understand the case. The actual case has been considerably shortened and modified for you.
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT [Note: This means this case came fromthe 4th Circuit Court of Appeals and this opinion is directed back to that court and explains to that court what the law is. Remember, appeal courts, such as the US Supreme Court, only tell judges what the law is. The facts in this case are particularly upsetting but that is irrelevant to what the law is.]
In these cases we [Note: “We” is referring the panel of justices sitting on the bench of the U.S. Supreme Court] consider the constitutionality of 42 U. S. C. § 13981, the Gender Violence Act. [Note: “U.S.C.” stands for “United States Code” and is a statute, really a set of statutes or an “act” passed by U.S. Congress. Hereafter in this opinionit is referred to as the Gender Violence Act], which provides a federal civil remedy for victims of gender-motivated violence. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, sitting en banc, struck down theGender Violence Act because it concluded that Congress lacked constitutional authority to enact the section’s civil remedy. Believing that these cases are controlled by our decisions in United States v. Lopez, 514 U. S. 549 (1995), United States v. Harris, 106 U. S. 629 (1883), and the Civil Rights Cases, 109 U. S. 3 (1883), we affirm.
Petitioner Christy Brzonkala enrolled at Virginia Polytechnic Institute (Virginia Tech) in the fall of 1994. In September of that year, Brzonkala met respondents Antonio Morrison and James Crawford, who were both students at Virginia Tech and members of its varsity football team. Brzonkala alleges that, within 30 minutes of meeting Morrison and Crawford, they assaulted and repeatedly raped her. [Note: Further facts in evidence are omitted to make this case shorter].
In early 1995, Brzonkala filed a complaint against respondents under Virginia Tech’s Sexual Assault Policy. During the school-conducted hearing on her complaint, Morrison admitted having sexual contact with her despite the fact that she had twice told him “no.” After the hearing, Virginia Tech’s Judicial Committee found insufficient evidence to punish Crawford, but found Morrison guilty of sexual assault and sentenced him to immediate suspension for two semesters.
[Note: Various other hearings at the university level were held. You need not worry about those.]
In December 1995, Brzonkala sued Morrison, Crawford, and Virginia Tech in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia. Her complaint alleged that Morrison’s and Crawford’s attack violated § Gender Violence Act.
The District Court dismissed Brzonkala’s claims. It then held that Brzonkala’s complaint stated a claim against Morrison and Crawford under the § Gender Violence Act, but dismissed the complaint because it [the court] concluded that Congress lacked authority to enact the section under the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution. Brzonkala v. Virginia Polytechnic and State Univ., 935 F. Supp. 779 (WD Va. 1996).
The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion affirming the District Court’s conclusion that Brzonkala stated a claim under § Gender Violence Act because her complaint alleged a crime of violence and the allegations of Morrison’s crude and derogatory statements regarding his treatment of women sufficiently indicated that his crime was motivated by gender animus.Nevertheless, the court by a divided vote affirmed the District Court’s conclusion that Congress lacked constitutional authority to enact § Gender Violence Act’s civil remedy.
The Gender Violence Act was part of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994, § 40302, 108 Stat. 1941-1942. It states that “[a]ll persons within the United States shall have the right to be free from crimes of violence motivated by gender.” 42 U. S. C. § Gender Violence Act(b). To enforce that right, subsection (c) declares:
“A person (including a person who acts under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage of any State) who commits a crime of violence motivated by gender and thus deprives another of the right declared in subsection (b) of this section shall be liable to the party injured, in an action for the recovery of compensatory and punitive damages, injunctive and declaratory relief, and such other relief as a court may deem appropriate.”
Section Gender Violence Act defines a “crim[e] of violence motivated by gender” as “a crime of violence committed because of gender or on the basis of gender, and due, at least in part, to an animus based on the victim’s gender.” § Gender Violence Act(d)(1). Federal and state courts “shall have concurrent jurisdiction” over complaints brought under the section.
Every law enacted by Congress must be based on one or more of the powers given to the US Congress in the Constitution. US Congress cannot pass any law it wishes, but its power is limited by the US Constitution. “The powers of the legislature are defined and limited; and that those limits may not be mistaken, or forgotten, the constitution is written.” Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch 137, 176 (1803) (Marshall, C. J.).
Congress explicitly identified the sources of federal authority on which it relied in enacting § Gender Violence Act. It said that a “Federal civil rights cause of action” is established “[p]ursuant to the affirmative power of Congress” . . . under the Commerce Clause.
[Note: Congress also claimed it had the power to pass the Gender Violence Act under section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution but that argument is eliminated here and the Court did not accept it either.]
Due respect for the decisions of a coordinate branch of Government demands that we invalidate a congressional enactment only upon a plain showing that Congress has exceeded its constitutional bounds. See United States v. Lopez, 514 U. S., at 568, 577-578 (Kennedy, J., concurring); United States v. Harris, 106 U. S., at 635. With this presumption of constitutionality in mind, we turn to the question whether § Gender Violence Act falls within Congress’ power under Article I, § 8, of the Constitution. Brzonkala and the United States rely upon the third clause of the section, which gives Congress power “[t]o regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.”
As we discussed at length in Lopez, our interpretation of the Commerce Clause has changed as our Nation has developed. We need not repeat that detailed review of the Commerce Clause’s history here; it suffices to say thatCongress has had considerably greater latitude in regulating conduct and transactions under the Commerce Clause than our previous case law permitted, however Congress’ power is still limited.
As we observed in Lopez, modern Commerce Clause jurisprudence has “identified three broad categories of activity that Congress may regulate under its commerce power.” “First, Congress may regulate the use of the channels of interstate commerce.” “Second, Congress is empowered to regulate and protect the instrumentalities of interstate commerce, or persons or things in interstate commerce, even though the threat may come only from intrastate activities.” “Finally, Congress’ commerce authority includes the power to regulate those activities having a substantial relation to interstate commerce, . . .i. e., those activities that substantially affect interstate commerce.” [Note: I have removed all of the citations to make it easier for you to read].
Petitioners do not contend that these cases fall within either of the first two of these categories of Commerce Clause regulation. They seek to sustain § Gender Violence Act as a regulation of activity that substantially affects interstate commerce.
Since Lopez most recently canvassed and clarified our case law governing this third category of Commerce Clause regulation, it provides the proper framework for conducting the required analysis of § Gender Violence Act. In Lopez, [Note: This is another case on the same issue but involving the Gun-Free School Zones Act. The US Supreme Court in Lopez invalidated the Gun-Free School Zones Act because US Congress did not have the power under the US Constitution to pass that law].
[Still talking about Lopez here] First, we observed that § 922(q) was “a criminal statute that by its terms has nothing to do with `commerce’ or any sort of economic enterprise, however broadly one might define those terms.” Id., at 561. Reviewing our case law, we noted that “we have upheld a wide variety of congressional Acts regulating intrastate economic activity where we have concluded that the activity substantially affected interstate commerce.” Id., at 559. “Where economic activity substantially affects interstate commerce, legislation regulating that activity will be sustained.” Id., at 560.
If we accepted the argument that carrying guns could affect interstate commerce [Note: This was the argument ion Lopez}:
“Congress could regulate any activity that it found was related to the economic productivity of individual citizens: family law (including marriage, divorce, and child custody), for example. Under the[se] theories . . . , it is difficult to perceive any limitation on federal power, even in areas such as criminal law enforcement or education where States historically have been sovereign. Thus, if we were to accept the Government’s arguments, we are hard pressed to posit any activity by an individual that Congress is without power to regulate.” Therefore, the government’s argument are rejected and the Gun-Free School Zone Act is a violation of the power given to Congress by the US Constitution and must be overturned.
With these principles underlying our Commerce Clause jurisprudence as reference points, the proper resolution of the present cases is clear. Gender-motivated crimes of violence are not, in any sense of the phrase, economic activity.
In this case Congress did say that it adopted the Gender Violence Act because of its effect on interstate commerce. US Congress knows it has limits on the types of laws it can pass and tried to justify its power to pass this unconstitutional law. However, “`[S]imply because Congress may conclude that a particular activity substantially affects interstate commerce does not necessarily make it so”
The the concern that we expressed in Lopez that Congress might use the Commerce Clause to completely obliterate the Constitution’s distinction between national and state authority seems well founded. This is what Congress is trying to do here, allow itself to pass any law it wants and avoid the limits placed upon federal government power by the US Constitution.
We accordingly reject the argument that Congress may regulate noneconomic, violent criminal conduct based solely on that conduct’s aggregate effect on interstate commerce.
For a story about the lives of these people after this lawsuit see: .cir-usa.org/articles/115.html”>http://www.cir-usa.org/articles/115.html ]
MorrisonBrief Grading Rubric
Assignment: Week #2
Contains the label “Name of case” with the name of the case. At this level of your education a correct legal citation is not necessary but no deduction if you attempt to put the legal citation and it is wrong.
Contains the label “Facts” with a summary of the facts following the label.CAUTION: ONLY FACTS SHOULD BE HERE.
Contains the label “Issue” with the issue WORDED IN THE FORM OF A QUESTION AND USING A QUESTION MARK.Hint: The issue is NOT “Did Morrison violate the Gender Violence Act?”
Contains the label “Rule” or “Law” with a summary of the law used in the argument relevant to the issue. The law need not be cited in the brief but no deduction if it is.
No credit if law is taken from other source such as the text or the web. You must summarize the law used to come to the answer to the issue. Hint: The law used to come to the conclusion includes both the U.S. Constitution law and U.S. Constitutional law cases. Summarize that law here.
Contains the label “Analysis” or “Premises” with a summary of why the author came to the conclusion the author did. Hint: If you merely cut and paste the facts and/or law here your grade will suffer. This must be in your writing, not cut and paste.
This is where you summarize what the US Supreme Court said about why it did what it did.
Contains a one or two word answer to the issue. This should not be a complete sentence but just an answer to the issue without any explanation.
TOTAL. This brief must be a minimum of two double spaced pages.
______ Your brief contains almost no information to the reader and the reader cannot understand this case from reading your brief. Fix: Give the reader a lot more information.
______ Your brief gives some, but not enough information to the reader for ht reader to understand what is going on. Fix: Give the reader more information.
______ Your brief is not professional looking. Fix: Proofread after writing the brief to make sure all fonts, colors, and formats match and are neat and professional looking.
______ Your brief contains grammatical errors. Fix: Proofread after writing the brief and correct grammar errors.
______ Other: Almost an entire page of the case discussed the Lopez case and you ignored it. This case cannot be adequately briefed without mentioning that in the analysis. I did not take anything off if it was not mentioned in the “Rule” section although it is a rule used by the court to come to this decision. However, there is no acceptable way this case can be briefed without mentioning that case.