D raped Christy Brzonkala while enrolled at Virginia Tech.
Brzonkala became emotionally distressed and dropped out of school.
VT's internal justice system found D guilty initially of sexual assault and suspended him; later, this was dropped on appeal.
Brzonkala sued D and the university under the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 which creates a private right of action to sue for damages when a person commits a crime of violence motivated by gender.
D argued that Violence Against Women Act was improper use of Congress's commerce power.
4th Cir COA found Act unconstitutional.
SCOTUS affirmed, Act unconstitutional.
When does an activity have a substantial relation to interstate commerce?
May Congress regulate private behavior under Section 5 of the 14th amendment?
Factors to consider in determining whether an activity has a substantial relation to interstate commerce...
Whether the activity was non-economic as opposed to economic activity; previous cases involved economic activity.
Jurisdictional element: whether the good had moved in interstate commerce.
Whether there had been Congressional findings of an economic link with the regulated activity.
How attenuated the link was between the regulated activity and interstate commerce.
Congress cannot regulate a noneconomic activity by finding that, looked at cumulatively, it has a substantial effect on interstate commerce.
Congress may not regulate private behavior under Section 5 of the 14th amendment.
Activity regulated here is noneconomic, criminal activity.
There is no express jurisdictional element which might limit its reach.
Act is supported by numerous findings rergarding the serious impact that gender-motivated violence has on victims and their families. But the existence of congressional findings is not sufficient, by itself, to sustain the constitutionality of Commerce Clause legislation.
The link here is very attenuated; if Congress can regulate gender-motivated violence, it would be able to regulate murder or any other type of violence since gender-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.
SC needs to revamp its Commerce Clause test; if they do not, then Congress will continue to appropriate state police powers under the guise of regulating commerce.
The language and purpose of the 14th amendment place certain limitations on the manner in which Congress may attack discriminatory conduct.
Foremost among the limitations is that the 14th amendment, by its very terms, prohibits only state action.
There is no power to regulate private action.
Shortly after adoption of 14th amendment, Court decided U.S. v. Harris and the Civil Rights Cases.
Both held that 14th amendment did not have give Congress the power to regulate private behavior.
Stare decisis is strong since these cases have been on the books since the 1800's.
Also, the judges who decided these cases were living when the amendment was passed; they surely understood the scope of the power conferred on Congress.
The law is not aimed at proscribing discrimination by state actors, it is pointed at individuals; the law is unlike any upheld by the Court before.
Courts should not question Congress's finding of a substantial effect; Congress is much better suited for making such findings.
Courts should review the congressional assessment, not for soundness, but simply for the rationality of concluding that a jurisdictional basis exists in fact.
There is a mountain of data here backing up Congress's finding of a substantial effect on interstate commerce.
The majority is just trying to revive federalism in these cases; the economic/noneconomic distinction didn't work 60 years ago, and it doesn't work today in an integrated economic world.
Cases standing for the sufficiency of substantial effects are not overruled; cases overruled since 1937 are not quite revived.
The practice of such ad hoc review cannot preserve the distinction between the judicial and the legislative, and this Court lacks the institutional capacity to maintain such a regime for very long.