Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘Supremacy Clause’

2nd August 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that personnel of the United States Justice Department have filed a case challenging the provisions of a recent State immigration law enacted by the sovereign State of Alabama. In order to provide further information this blogger is compelled to quote directly from the website AL.com:

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — The U.S. Justice Department today filed a lawsuit challenging Alabama’s new immigration law, which is slated to go into effect next month. In its lawsuit, the Justice Department says Alabama’s law unconstitutionally interferes with the federal government’s authority over immigration. “To put it in terms we relate to here in Alabama, you can only have one quarterback in a football game. In immigration, the federal government is the quarterback,” said Joyce White Vance, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama. Justice Department lawyers write in the lawsuit that the department is filing the action “to declare invalid and preliminarily and permanently enjoin the enforcement of various provisions” of the state law, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Birmingham this afternoon. Provisions within the state’s immigration law “are preempted by federal law and therefore violate the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution…”

The administration of this web log asks readers to click upon those relevant hyperlinks noted above in order to read this insightful article in detail.

Frequent readers of this blog may have noted that this blogger has rather strong feelings regarding inherent States’ Rights and the inherent prerogatives which are reserved to State sovereigns notwithstanding the enumerated powers of the federal government pursuant to the United States Constitution. That stated, American immigration is one of the relatively few fields in which Congress has virtually monopolistic power regarding the imposition of laws, rules, and regulations. This is due to the fact that immigration falls into the jurisdiction of Congressional and executive plenary power. Therefore, it is little wonder that this recent case was filed since the Alabama law would seem to be operating in violation of that aforementioned plenary power. How this case will ultimately be resolved remains to be seen, but clearly issues pertaining to US immigration can be dramatic in a political context.

Of further interest to those who find the information above to be noteworthy, it recently came to this blogger’s attention that the American Congress seems to be attempting to create some sort of extra-Constitutional body for legislative purposes. To provide further elucidation regarding these developments it is necessary to quote directly from the official website of the Huffington Post, HuffingtonPost.com

This “Super Congress,” composed of members of both chambers and both parties, isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Constitution, but would be granted extraordinary new powers. Under a plan put forth by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his counterpart Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), legislation to lift the debt ceiling would be accompanied by the creation of a 12-member panel made up of 12 lawmakers — six from each chamber and six from each party. Legislation approved by the Super Congress — which some on Capitol Hill are calling the “super committee” — would then be fast-tracked through both chambers, where it couldn’t be amended by simple, regular lawmakers, who’d have the ability only to cast an up or down vote. With the weight of both leaderships behind it, a product originated by the Super Congress would have a strong chance of moving through the little Congress and quickly becoming law. A Super Congress would be less accountable than the system that exists today, and would find it easier to strip the public of popular benefits. Negotiators are currently considering cutting the mortgage deduction and tax credits for retirement savings, for instance, extremely popular policies that would be difficult to slice up using the traditional legislative process…

This blogger asks that readers click on the appropriate hyperlinks above to read this article in detail.

This blogger would argue that this proposed so-called “Super Congress” is a prima facie violation of the United States Constitution since there is no explicit reference to such an institution within the text of the Constitution itself and because Congress cannot delegate their lawmaking function to this institution per the doctrine of nondelegation. As noted in the quotation above, under the proposed scheme “rank and file” Representatives and Senators would not be able to make amendments or changes to proposed legislation emanating from this questionably Constitutional body, but would be required to vote “yes” or “no” only. This blogger would not have a Constitutionality issue with the proposed scheme if it were proposed as an Amendment to the Constitution and not as a statute since, again, the Nondelegation precludes such a transfer of power and therefore any law passed pursuant to this scheme may not be in compliance with notions of due process of law in American jurisprudence since there is a specific Constitutional framework for enacting legislation which does not include a “Super Congress”. For those who wish to understand this issue through the prism of analogy there are certain parallels between the argument that this scheme violates the Nondelegation doctrine and the argument that the so-called federal “line item veto” violated the Presentment Clause of the American Constitution. The future circumstances of this scheme have yet to unfold, but clearly there are many legal aspects of this plan which could face challenge down the road.

– Benjamin Walter Hart

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3rd March 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention through the Huffington Post website that a legislator in the sovereign State of New Hampshire has introduced a bill that could criminalize certain activities of the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA). To quote directly from the story posted on the Huffington Post official website:

A Republican state representative from New Hampshire named George Lambert has co-sponsored a bill that would make it a felony to touch or view someone’s private parts without probable cause.

Lambert was interviewed by MSNBC on Wednesday to discuss the bill, which would apply to TSA pat downs, as well as the agency’s x-ray scanners. The bill would essentially make it a sexual assault to conduct an invasive pat down or look at images of a traveler on one of the TSA’s new high-tech scanners.

Clearly, the TSA’s current policies on so-called “pat downs” (which many argue are unduly invasive and violate Constitutional protections prohibiting unreasonable search and seizure) and scanning are under fire from many different circles. However, the question must be posed: is New Hampshire Constitutionally permitted to enforce criminal sanctions against TSA officers? TSA officers operate under the jurisdiction of the United States Federal government’s Department of Homeland Security. Most currently binding American jurisprudence has found against the notion that State’s may enforce State law against Federal agents or institutions. The most notable case in this vein is probably McCulloch v. Maryland. In the language of the McCulloch decision, the Court found that the State of Maryland did not have the right to levy a tax upon the Bank of the United States. This decision set the stage for the, now rather sophisticated, premise that the States’ power to enforce State law is curtailed when attempting to enforce that law against the Federal government. Through later cases, this notion was expanded upon. This blogger recently found an interesting article on this topic entitled: What Kind of Immunity? Federal Officers, State Criminal Law, and the Supremacy Clause. This article delves deeply into the issues associated with Federal preemption of State prerogatives in matters pertaining to Federal operations and Federal agents and this blogger highly recommends those interested in this issue click on the link above to read this article.

It would appear from the plain language of the McCulloch decision that the States’ ability to enforce actions against the Federal government are not restricted completely. To quote directly from page 2219 of the What Kind of Immunity? article noted above, the article’s authors, Seth P. Waxman and Trevor W. Morrison, cited a section of the McCulloch decision which is noteworthy:

[N]o principle [of state power] . . . can be admissible, which would defeat the legitimate operations of a supreme government. It is of the very essence of supremacy, to remove all obstacles to its action within its own sphere, and so to modify every power vested insubordinate governments, as to exempt its own operations from their own influence.

At first blush, the above citation may appear to fully favor the Federal authorities on the issue of whether the sovereign State of New Hampshire has the authority to enforce criminal penalties against TSA officers, but one phrase is critical to an analysis of New Hampshire’s proposed legislation and that phrase is “legitimate operations“. In the McCulloch case, the Bank of the United States was deemed to be a legitimate operation of the Federal government notwithstanding the fact that the Constitution did not expressly permit such an institution because the Court reasoned that the Federal government, through the Necessary and Proper Clause, could establish a bank so as to facilitate the express Federal powers granted under the Taxing and Spending Clause. In short: the Federal government’s ability to tax and spend is considered a “legitimate operation” of the Federal government and if a bank facilitates that operation, then it is operating lawfully.

This analysis begs the question: Is groping Americans’ genitalia (also referred to as “enhanced pat downs”) and capturing nude body scanner images a “legitimate operation” of the Federal government? If not, then the State may have a right to enforce State criminal law against those who engage in such activity. That said, this issue is far from resolved and the State of New Hampshire has yet to actually promulgate this legislation, but clearly the issues noted above make for interesting jurisprudence.

For related information please see: US States.

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