Constitutional Law

Irked at Loss in Commandeering Cases, John Paul Stevens Proposes Constitutional Change

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Retired U.S. Supreme Court
Justice John Paul Stevens.
Rena Schild /

Retired Justice John Paul Stevens wants to overrule two Supreme Court decisions with a four-word change to the U.S. Constitution.

Stevens is proposing an amendment to the supremacy clause to make clear that the federal government can use state officials to carry out national policies, the Wall Street Journal Law Blog reports.

Stevens was a dissenter in the two cases establishing the court’s anti-commandeering doctrine, the story says. One case, New York v. United States, held the federal government could not “commandeer” the states to carry out regulations on the disposal of radioactive waste. The other, Printz v. United States, held the federal government could not require local police to perform background checks on gun purchasers.

Stevens wants to amend the supremacy clause with four words (see italics):

“This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges and other public officials in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.”

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