Citation. 529 U.S. 598, 120 S. Ct. 1740, 146 L. Ed. 2d 658, 82 FEP Cases 1313 (2000)
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Brief Fact Summary.
The Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) held that the Commerce Clause does not provide Congress with the authority to enact 42 U.S.C. Section:13981, which provides a federal civil remedy for the victims of gender-motivated violence. The Court also held that the section’s civil remedy was beyond the Section:5 of the Fourteenth Amendment enforcement powers of Congress.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
The language and purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution) place certain limitations on the manner in which Congress may attack discriminatory conduct. These limitations are necessary to prevent the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution from obliterating the Framers’ carefully crafted balance of power between the states and the National Government.
This case arose from a rape claim brought by Petitioner, Christy Brzonkala (Petitioner), a student at Virginia Polytechnic Institute (Virginia Tech) against two football players enrolled at the university. Petitioner filed a complaint under the Virginia Tech disciplinary system, but one of the accused was not punished and the other’s punishment was eventually suspended. She dropped out of school and sued both men and Virginia Tech in federal district court under 42 U.S.C. Section:13981.
Whether Congress has authority to enact 42 U.S.C Section:13981 based on Section:5 of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution?
Whether the section’s civil remedy should be upheld as an exercise of Congress’ remedial power under Section:5 of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution?
No. Every law enacted by Congress must be based on one or more of its enumerated powers in the Constitution. In section II of the opinion, the Chief Justice found no authority for the provision in the Commerce Clause of Article I, section 8, clause 3. Therefore, Congress does not have authority to enact 42 U.S.C Section:13981 based on Section:5 of the Fourteenth Amendment.
No. Section 13981 is not aimed at proscribing discrimination by officials, which the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution might not itself proscribe. Section 13981 is not directed at any state or state actor, but at individuals who have committed criminal acts motivated by gender bias. Section 13981 visits no consequence on any Virginia public official involved in investigating Petitioner’s assault. Therefore, it is unlike any of the Section:5 remedies that the Court has previously upheld. It is also different from previously upheld remedies in that it applies uniformly throughout the Nation. Therefore, Congress does not have authority to enact 42 U.S.C Section:13981 based on Section:5 of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution.
The remedy is not disproportionate and there is no lack of congruence between the remedy and the violation.
This holding has been criticized for improperly constraining Congress’ power to combat systematic discrimination, by holding that Congress does not have authority to enact 42 U.S.C Section:13981 based on Section:5 of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitu