Earlier today, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Murphy v. NCAA. The Court’s opinion was rare in that it not only struck down a federal law that infringed on the reserved powers of the states, but also expanded on the long-standing anti-commandeering doctrine.
In 2014, New Jersey repealed state laws prohibiting sports betting in defiance of the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). The PASPA mandated that states could not “sponsor, operate, advertise, promote, license, or authorize by law or compact” sports wagering. The law made an exception for the state of Nevada. It effectively cemented current state laws related to sports betting in place.
A coalition of sports leagues, including the NCAA, Major League Baseball, the NBA and the NFL sued New Jersey, asserting that by repealing its state law prohibiting sports betting, the state effectively authorized the activity, violating PASPA.
The Court agreed that the New Jersey law effectively authorized sports betting and that it violated federal law. But in a 7-2 opinion authored by Justice Samuel Alito, the court struck down those provisions of the PASPA as unconstitutional because they violated the anti-commandeering doctrine.
The Tenth Amendment Center generally advises against a strategy focused on going to federal courts to limit federal power, as it is usually ineffective or even dangerous for liberty. But SCOTUS has been consistently correct when it comes to anti-commandeering.
In a nutshell, the Court has repeatedly held that the federal government cannot require states to use resources or personnel to help implement federal programs or enforce federal laws. The principle dates all the way back to Prigg v. Pennsylvania in 1842 when Justice Joseph Story held that the federal government couldn’t require states to help enforce the federal Fugitive Slave Act of 1793. He said that it was a federal law, and the federal government ultimately had to enforce it.
The fundamental principle applicable to all cases of this sort, would seem to be, that where the end is required, the means are given; and where the duty is enjoined, the ability to perform it is contemplated to exist on the part of the functionaries to whom it is entrusted. The clause is found in the national Constitution, and not in that of any state. It does not point out any state functionaries, or any state action to carry its provisions into effect. The states cannot, therefore, be compelled to enforce them; and it might well be deemed an unconstitutional exercise of the power of interpretation, to insist that the states are bound to provide means to carry into effect the duties of the national government, nowhere delegated or instrusted to them by the Constitution.
The Court built on Prigg in three other