United States v. Morrison, 529 U.S. 598, 20 (2000)

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

Opinion of the Court

We accordingly reject the argument that Congress may regulate noneconomic, violent criminal conduct based solely on that conduct's aggregate effect on interstate commerce. The Constitution requires a distinction between what is

manent and indispensable feature of our constitutional system' " that " 'the federal judiciary is supreme in the exposition of the law of the Constitution.' " Miller v. Johnson, 515 U. S. 900, 922-923 (1995) (quoting Cooper v. Aaron, 358 U. S. 1, 18 (1958)). No doubt the political branches have a role in interpreting and applying the Constitution, but ever since Marbury this Court has remained the ultimate expositor of the constitutional text. As we emphasized in United States v. Nixon, 418 U. S. 683 (1974): "In the performance of assigned constitutional duties each branch of the Government must initially interpret the Constitution, and the interpretation of its powers by any branch is due great respect from the others. . . . Many decisions of this Court, however, have unequivocally reaffirmed the holding of Marbury that '[i]t is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is.' " Id., at 703 (citation omitted).

Contrary to Justice Souter's suggestion, see post, at 647-652, and n. 14, Gibbons did not exempt the commerce power from this cardinal rule of constitutional law. His assertion that, from Gibbons on, public opinion has been the only restraint on the congressional exercise of the commerce power is true only insofar as it contends that political accountability is and has been the only limit on Congress' exercise of the commerce power within that power's outer bounds. As the language surrounding that relied upon by Justice Souter makes clear, Gibbons did not remove from this Court the authority to define that boundary. See Gibbons, supra, at 194-195 ("It is not intended to say that these words comprehend that commerce, which is completely internal, which is carried on between man and man in a State, or between different parts of the same State, and which does not extend to or affect other States. . . . Comprehensive as the word 'among' is, it may very properly be restricted to that commerce which concerns more States than one. The phrase is not one which would probably have been selected to indicate the completely interior traffic of a State, because it is not an apt phrase for that purpose; and the enumeration of the particular classes of commerce to which the power was to be extended, would not have been made, had the intention been to extend the power to every description. The enumeration presupposes something not enumerated; and that something, if we regard the language or the subject of the sentence, must be the exclusively internal commerce of a State").


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