Working Paper No. 05-10:
Fig Leaf Federalism and Tenth Amendment Exceptionalism

Author(s):

Nelson Lund

Date Posted: 2005

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Abstract:

The Supreme Court's jurisprudence of federalism is at best undergoing an unfinished transformation, and is at worst just troubled and unsatisfying. In a little-noticed dissent in Tennessee v. Lane, Justice Scalia proposed an approach that could be generalized well beyond the specific position that he took in that case. Thus generalized, this approach may be understood as an elaboration of a proposal made by Justice O'Connor in her dissenting opinion twenty years ago in Garcia v. San Antonio Metro. Transit Auth. If adopted by the Court, this synthesis of the O'Connor and Scalia suggestions could work a real transformation in its federalism jurisprudence, and without some of the potentially radical side-effects that have thus far made the Court timorous and inconsistent. This very short paper explains how the synthesis would work, and why the Court should adopt it.