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February 20, 2008

Danforth's articulation of criminal justice federalism

There is so much of interest in the Supreme Court's Danforth opinion (basics here), and I'm not sure where to begin my analysis.  So, to start, I'll just highlight this great passage from the majority opinion:

This interest in uniformity, however, does not outweigh the general principle that States are independent sovereigns with plenary authority to make and enforce their own laws as long as they do not infringe on federal constitutional guarantees.  The fundamental interest in federalism that allows individual States to define crimes, punishments, rules of evidence, and rules of criminal and civil procedure in a variety of different ways — so long as they do not violate the Federal Constitution — is not otherwise limited by any general, undefined federal interest in uniformity.  Nonuniformity is, in fact, an unavoidable reality in a federalist system of government.

Ah, the sweet sound of criminal justice federalism (and pointed criticism of a "general, undefined federal interest in uniformity").  Discuss.

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February 20, 2008 at 05:12 PM | Permalink


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What is there to discuss? It's one of the sanest things to come out of the SC in years. I have never understood this desire to make the constitution a straight-jacket on the states down to the tiniest details. Yes, there does need to be some broad uniformity of laws and priciples, otherwise the "united" in United States would be meaningless. Yet at the same time the word "states" is present in the United States and should not be rendered meaningless either. Where the fine point of that balance should lie is a rational debate and a fluxation over time is to be expected. But the fact that there should be a balance appears to me beyond discussion.

Posted by: Daniel T | Feb 21, 2008 2:06:29 PM

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