United States v. Morrison, 529 U.S. 598, 25 (2000)

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Opinion of the Court

Evans, 517 U. S. 620, 628 (1996) ("[I]t was settled early that the Fourteenth Amendment did not give Congress a general power to prohibit discrimination in public accommodations"); Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co., 457 U. S. 922, 936 (1982) ("Careful adherence to the 'state action' requirement preserves an area of individual freedom by limiting the reach of federal law and federal judicial power"); Blum v. Yaretsky, 457 U. S. 991, 1002 (1982); Moose Lodge No. 107 v. Irvis, 407 U. S. 163, 172 (1972); Adickes v. S. H. Kress & Co., 398 U. S. 144, 147, n. 2 (1970); United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U. S. 542, 554 (1876) ("The fourteenth amendment prohibits a state from depriving any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; but this adds nothing to the rights of one citizen as against another. It simply furnishes an additional guaranty against any encroachment by the States upon the fundamental rights which belong to every citizen as a member of society").

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. Every Member had been appointed by President Lincoln, Grant, Hayes, Garfield, or Arthur—and each of their judicial appointees obviously had intimate knowledge and familiarity with the events surrounding the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Petitioners contend that two more recent decisions have in effect overruled this longstanding limitation on Congress' 5 authority. They rely on United States v. Guest, 383 U. S. 745 (1966), for the proposition that the rule laid down in the Civil Rights Cases is no longer good law. In Guest, the Court reversed the construction of an indictment under 18 U. S. C. 241, saying in the course of its opinion that "we deal here with issues of statutory construction, not with issues of constitutional power." 383 U. S., at 749. Three Members of the Court, in a separate opinion by Justice Brennan, expressed the view that the Civil Rights Cases

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