Friday, September 14, 2012

United States v. Lopez case brief

United States v. Lopez
      1. Whether Title II of the Consumer Credit Protection Act (18 USC 891) was a valid exercise of congressional authority under the commerce clause.First case in 60 years that the Supreme Court struck down a federal law on Commerce Clause grounds.
      2. Issue: Whether the Gun Free Public School Act was a valid exercise of congressional authority under the commerce clause.
      3. Facts:
        1. Gun Free Public School Act makes it a federal offense for any individual knowingly to possess a firearm within a school zone.
        2. Senior in high school goes to school with a gun. Originally prosecuted under Texas law for firearm possession on school premises. The nest day, federal agents charged and prosecuted under the federal Gun Free Public School Act.
        3. Lopez challenges on Commerce Clause grounds.
        4. As in Perez, statute does not make any mention of the jurisdictional hook.
      4. Holding and Analysis:
        1. Rhenquist writes the opinion, says that there is absolutely no economic regulation here, the act is blatantly crime control. No substantial effect on commerce.
        2. Government’s theory on why it DID effect commerce:
          1. (1) National productivity argument: Guns disrupt education, education is essential to productivity, so guns will result in a less productive work force. This is how guns “affect commerce.”
            1. Rhenquist does not really address this argument. His concern, however, is that if you accept this argument, virtually anything can be federalized.
          2. (2) Cost of crime theory: Cost of prevention is allocated across the country and all citizens bear the cost.
          3. (3) Interstate travel: no one is going to want to come to San Antonio to visit if there are guns in public schools.
        3. Rhenquist is afraid of a “general federal police power.” There are certain areas of law that are almost sacred for states (e.g. family, education)
        4. If the federal government gets involved, you have two problems:
          1. (1) Reduces laboratory effect: states as laboratories for how to deal with certain problems. When the federal government take the lead and dictates what should be done, you have much higher stakes because it is binding on the entire nation.
          2. (2) Preemption: Federal law will completely take away a state’s ability to regulate because federal law ALWAYS trumps state law.
        5. Rhenquist’s tests:
          1. (1) “Substantial effect on commerce” test
          2. (2) Commercial Activity Test:
            1. Buying wheat is a commercial activity (Wicker v. Filmore), taking a gun to school is not.
          3. (3) Jurisdictional Element:
            1. No explicit jurisdictional element in the statute.
            2. This is really the big issue here. If Congress had included the appropriate jurisdictional language, Matt and Z think that this case comes out the other way.
          4. (4) Congressional Findings
      5. Post Lopez, there have been thousands of jurisdictional challenges to federal statutes. However, Matt says that almost all of them have failed. As mentioned before, he thinks Lopez is not as significant as it might initially appear. The scope of federal criminal law is expanding.

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