The opinion commences with this statement:
We the People, distrustful of power, and believing that government limited and dispersed protects freedom best, provided that our federal government would be one of enumerated powers, and that all power unenumerated would be reserved to the several States and to ourselves. Thus, though the authority conferred upon the federal government be broad, it is an authority constrained by no less a power than that of the People themselves. "[T]hat these limits may not be mistaken, or forgotten, the constitution is written." Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch 137, 176 (1803). These simple truths of power bestowed and power withheld under the Constitution have never been more relevant than in this day, when accretion, if not actual accession, of power to the federal government seems not only unavoidable, but even expedient.
These foundational principles of our constitutional government dictate
resolution of the matter before us. For we address here a congressional
statute, Subtitle C of the Violence Against Women Act, 42 U.S.C. §
13981, that federally punishes noncommercial intrastate violence, but is
defended under Congress' power "[t]o regulate commerce . . . among the
several States," U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 3, and that punishes
private conduct, but is defended under Congress' power "to enforce, by
appropriate legislation" the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee that "[n]o
State shall ... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection
of the laws," U.S. Const. amend. XIV, §§ 1, 5. Such a statute,
we are constrained to conclude, simply cannot be reconciled with the principles
of limited federal government upon which this Nation is founded....
Appreciating the precariousness in which appellants find themselves by virtue of the intervening [U.S. Supreme Court] decisions in Lopez and City of Boerne, but accepting these recent and binding authorities as the considered judgments of a Supreme Court that has incrementally, but jealously, enforced the structural limits on congressional power that inhere in Our Federalism, ... we hold today that section 13981 exceeds Congress' power under both the Commerce Clause of Article I, Section 8, and the Enforcement Clause of Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment.
To otherwise hold would require not only that we, as the dissent would do, disclaim all responsibility to "determine whether the Congress has exceeded limits allowable in reason for the judgment which it has exercised," Polish Nat'l Alliance v. NLRB, 322 U.S. 643, 650 (1944), and embrace the view of federalism articulated by Justice Blackmun over passionate denouncements by the Chief Justice and Justice O'Connor in Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority, 469 U.S. 528 (1984), but that we extend the reach of Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment beyond a point ever contemplated by the Supreme Court since that Amendment's ratification over a century and a quarter ago. These things we simply cannot do....
From the dissent:
In response to a mountain of compelling evidence that violence animated by gender bias deprives many citizens of their civil rights, substantially affects the national economy and interstate commerce, and creates a profound problem that the states had been unable to remedy, Congress enacted the Violence Against Women Act of 1994. In passing this legislation, Congress took care to identify the constitutional source of its authority, expressly finding that the regulated activity -- gender-motivated violence -- has a "substantial adverse affect on interstate commerce." Furthermore, Congress specifically limited the reach of the statute challenged here, in order to ensure that it did not interfere with any state law or regulate in any area of traditional state concern.
a majority of this court today holds that Congress had no power to enact
this legislation. The majority can reach this conclusion only by disregarding controlling
Supreme Court precedent, by refusing to give Congress's eminently rational findings
proper deference, by creating troubling new rules of constitutional analysis, and by mischaracterizing the statute before us.
I recognize that
people of good will -- including federal judges -- could believe that
the statute challenged here does not constitute good public policy. But judges' policy choices provide no basis for finding a statute unconstitutional. ... Thus, regardless of our personal policy choices, we must uphold a statute unless it violates the Constitution.
Proper judicial review of the massive congressional record inexorably leads to the conclusion that Congress had a rational basis for finding that gender-motivated violence substantially affects interstate commerce. Further, even when subjected to the most searching examination, it is clear that this carefully drawn statute neither interferes with state regulation nor legislates in an area of traditional state concern. Accordingly, I believe a court must conclude that Congress properly exercised its constitutional authority in enacting this statute.