United States v. Morrison, 529 U.S. 598, 2 (2000)

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Cite as: 529 U. S. 598 (2000)

Syllabus

to come within Congress' authority, Congress elected to cast 13981's remedy over a wider, and more purely intrastate, body of violent crime. Third, although 13981, unlike the Lopez statute, is supported by numerous findings regarding the serious impact of gender-motivated violence on victims and their families, these findings are substantially weakened by the fact that they rely on reasoning that this Court has rejected, namely, a but-for causal chain from the initial occurrence of violent crime to every attenuated effect upon interstate commerce. If accepted, this reasoning would allow Congress to regulate any crime whose nationwide, aggregated impact has substantial effects on employment, production, transit, or consumption. Moreover, such reasoning will not limit Congress to regulating violence, but may be applied equally as well to family law and other areas of state regulation since the aggregate effect of marriage, divorce, and childrearing on the national economy is undoubtedly significant. 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. Pp. 607-619.

(b) Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment, which permits Congress to enforce by appropriate legislation the constitutional guarantee that no State shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process, or deny any person equal protection of the laws, City of Boerne v. Flores, 521 U. S. 507, 517, also does not give Congress the authority to enact 13981. Petitioners' assertion that there is pervasive bias in various state justice systems against victims of gender-motivated violence is supported by a voluminous congressional record. However, the Fourteenth Amendment places limitations on the manner in which Congress may attack discriminatory conduct. Foremost among them is the principle that the Amendment prohibits only state action, not private conduct. This was the conclusion reached in United States v. Harris, 106 U. S. 629, and the Civil Rights Cases, 109 U. S. 3, which were both decided shortly after the Amendment's adoption. The force of the doctrine of stare decisis behind these decisions stems not only from the length of time they have been on the books, but also from the insight attributable to the Members of the Court at that time, who all had intimate knowledge and familiarity with the events surrounding the Amendment's adoption. Neither United States v. Guest, 383 U. S. 745, nor District of Columbia v. Carter, 409 U. S. 418, casts any doubt on the enduring vitality of the Civil Rights Cases and Harris.

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