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Federalism, Law Enforcement, and the Supremacy Clause: The Strange Case of Ruby Ridge

By Seth P. Waxman


There is no \u22federalism clause\u22 in the Constitution, and the case law ranges over a number of different provisions - the Commerce and General Welfare Clauses, and the Eleventh and Fourteenth Amendments, for example. But the two provisions that most directly implicate the doctrine are the Supremacy Clause and the Tenth Amendment. The former states that \u22[t]his Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof ... shall be the supreme Law of the Land ....”, The latter provides that \u22[t]he powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Together, these provisions describe a straightforward principle: where Congress and the President act within the powers expressly afforded them by the Constitution, their laws and acts prevail; in all other respects, power and authority reside with the States, or with the people themselves. In practice, of course, life rarely divides cleanly into hermetic categories. And it is therefore somewhat curious that there is so little case law addressing the long doctrinal border between the Supremacy Clause and the Tenth Amendment. For much of our constitutional history, the latter was thought to constrain the federal government from telling a state where it could locate its capital, and not much else

Topics: exclusive and concurrent legislative powers, federal government, constitutional history, Constitutional Law
Publisher: Scholarship @ GEORGETOWN LAW
Year: 2002
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