United States v. Morrison Case Brief

Summary of United States v. Morrison
529 U.S. 598 (2000).

Facts: A college student was raped by 2 football players and no proper actions were taken against the players by the school. The female student brought an action against the institution under 42 U.S.C. § 13981 which states that “all persons within the United States shall have the right to be free from crimes of violence motivated by gender." The constitutionality of this statute is challenged in this case.

Issue: Does this statute fall under the Commerce Clause power of the Congress?

Holding: No

Rationale: There are 3 major reasons why this statute does not fall under the commerce clause power of the Constitution:

  1. Gender motivated crimes are not, in any sense of the phrase, economic in nature.
  2. The statute does not have any jurisdictional element that could show interaction between states.
  3. The effects of gender motivated violence on interstate commerce are too attenuated.

According to the court: “Indeed, if Congress may regulate gender-motivated violence, it would be able to regulate murder or any other type of violence since genger motivated violence, as a subset of all violent crime, is certain to have lesser economic impacts than the larger class of which it is a part."

Concurrence (Thomas): The substantial effects test made by earlier decisions of the court needs to be replaced because it is repugnant to the original understanding of the Constitution.

Dissent (Souter): History seems to be repeating here. The Founders intended politics and not juridical review to mediate between state and national interests.

Dissent (Breyer): “We live in a Nation knit together by tow centuries of scientific, technological, commercial, and environmental change. Those changes, taken together, mean that virtually every kind of activity, no matter how local, genuinely can affect commerce, or its conditions, outside the State-at least when considered in the aggregate."

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