Congressional passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798 dramatically increases the federal government’s authority. In protest, Thomas Jefferson writes the Kentucky Resolutions, which are adopted by the Kentucky State Legislature. These resolutions argue that the states have the right to void federal legislation that they consider to go beyond the scope of Congress’s constitutional authority. In 1799, the Virginia legislature enacts similar resolutions, known as the Virginia Resolutions, that were authored by James Madison.
Under the leadership of Chief Justice John Marshall, the Supreme Court rules, in McCulloch v. Maryland, that Congress has the authority to charter a national bank, even though no such “power” is specifically delegated in the Constitution. With this broad interpretation of the federal government’s authority, the Supreme Court sharply restricts the rights that were reserved to the states by the Tenth Amendment.
A federal statute seeks to end child labor by prohibiting the interstate shipment of goods that child laborers had produced. In Hammer v. Dagenhart, known as the Child Labor Case, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the statute goes beyond the powers the Constitution “delegated” to the federal government. The Court finds that under the Tenth Amendment, it is the right of the individual states to decide how to regulate the use of child labor in manufacturing.
To combat the Great Depression, Congress and the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt establish the National Industrial Recovery Administration (known as the NRA). One of the New Deal’s key programs, the NRA’s provisions include requirements for minimum wages and maximum hours, and certain price controls. In Schechter Corporation v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the NRA exceeds Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce and invades the states’ rights to regulate manufacturing. Even an economic emergency such as the depression does not justify the federal government interference with the states’ economic activities.
Private individuals challenge a contract between the federal government and a local power company for construction of a dam. In Ashwander v. Tennessee Valley Authority, the U.S. Supreme Court supports the contract as constitutional because the government has acted within the scope of its war and commerce powers under the Constitution. The Court holds that the Ninth Amendment does not give to the people rights that were specifically given to the government elsewhere in the Constitution.
In a switch from its earlier pro–states’ rights rulings, particularly Hammer v. Dagenhart, the U.S. Supreme Court rules unanimously in United States v. Darby that the federal government acted within its authority in passing the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The Court finds that the law, which establishes numerous minimum wage and maximum labor standards nationwide, falls within Congress’ authority to regulate interstate commerce.
In Griswold v. Connecticut, the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down a Connecticut law forbidding the use of contraceptives because it restricts the right of marital privacy. Although the Bill of Rights does not actually mention privacy, the Court concludes that it is a natural extension of the rights mentioned in the First, Third, and Fourth Amendments. The Court points to the Ninth Amendment as further evidence that a right does not need to be spelled out in the Constitution to be considered fundamental.
In Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court rejects a Texas law that outlaws abortion because it restricts the right to privacy. As in the Griswold case, the Court finds that even though the right to privacy is not specifically listed in the Bill of Rights, the Ninth Amendment allows “unenumerated” rights to be recognized as well.
In Richmond Newspapers, Inc. v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court holds that the public’s right to attend criminal trials is guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Although that right is not specifically listed in the Constitution, the Court finds the history of the Bill of Rights makes its ruling proper.
In United States v. Lopez, the U.S. Supreme Court grants the states more rights. It rules that Congress overstepped its authority under the commerce clause when it passed the 1990 Gun-Free School Zones Act. To uphold a law that determined the punishment for gun possession and gun use near schools, the Court rules, would convert the commerce clause authority into general police power held only by the states under the Tenth Amendment.
A federal gun control law, known as the Brady Law, imposes on local authorities the obligation to perform mandatory background checks of potential gun buyers. In Printz v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court holds that the law violates the Tenth Amendment. The federal government cannot issue directives requiring the states to address particular problems, or command state officials to enforce a federal regulatory program. The Court reasons that such commands are “fundamentally incompatible with our constitutional system of dual sovereignty.”
Legislation about domestic violence and family law had traditionally been left to the states. In United States v. Morrison, the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down a provision in the federal Violence against Women Act because it exceeds Congress’s authority under the commerce clause and impinges on state control. A provision that permits victims of gender-based violence to bring federal lawsuits against their attackers is found to invade states’ police power.