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The Supreme Court takes up the 10th Amendment

Posted on 10/26/2010 @ 04:36 PM

Adam Liptak of the New York Times recently wrote about a Supreme Court case that pits two former friends in a fight fit for a soap opera. After one friend tried to poison the other, federal prosecutors sought to charge the offending woman with violations of the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993 instead of accepting milder punishments available through state law. The accused woman claims, however, that the federal government did not have the right to get involved.

Now, this may not seem particularly relevant to our work at HFJ. However, Liptak points out that, if the Supreme Court rules that the federal government overstepped its bounds, it could be a crucial interpretation of the 10th Amendment.

The 10th Amendment states:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

This means that everything the federal government does must be spelled out—directly or indirectly—in the Constitution. Should the Supreme Court determine that the poisoning case violates the 10th Amendment, it might jeopardize many of the federal programs Latinos and all Americans benefit from. For instance, Liptak says that activists have already begun clamoring for the health care reform law to be challenged as a 10th Amendment violation.

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