Cornell Law Review Volume 100 Issue 3

Bait and Switch: Why United States v. Morrison is Wrong About Section 5

In United States v. Morrison, the Supreme Court announced the rule that the Section 5 power cannot be used to regulate private individuals. This is one of the most meaningful and, thus far, durable constraints that the Court has placed on federal power. It is the more surprising, then, that it turns out to be based on essentially nothing at all. The Morrison Court asserted that its rule was derived by—indeed, “controlled by”—precedent, but a closer reading of the Reconstruction-era decisions it cites shows that this is simply not the case. An independent evaluation of the rule against regulation of private individuals suggests that it cannot be defended on its own merits. Thus, the Article urges that Morrison be overruled.

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