#2: Read the Supreme Court decision in U.S. vs.
Morrison (2000). The question presented to the Supreme
Does Congress have the authority to enact the Violence
case. Against Women Act of 1994 under either the Commerce
Clause or Fourteenth Amendment?
The Supreme Court considered a suit brought by a former
student of Virginia Polytechnic Institute (Brzonkala) who
alleged two university athletes raped her. The defendant
players and university argued that the Violence Against
Women Act, which allowed victims of gender
violence to bring federal civil suits for damages (a federal
cause of action), was unconstitutional under the Commerce
Clause. The Court agreed with the defendants, in concluding
that Congress must distinguish between “what is truly
national and what is truly local”–and that its power under
the Commerce Clause reaches only the former.
In a one to two page (single spaced) response answer the
1. Why did Ms. Brzonkala, a Pennsylvania resident, file
suit in U.S. District Court Eastern District of
Pennsylvania (federal court) instead of state court?
2. Did the Supreme Court find that the section of the
Violence Against Woman Act allowing a cause of
action to bring a federal civil suit for damages
violated the Fourteenth Amendment?
3. Do you believe the Supreme Court made the right
decision? If so, why. If not, why not?
4. Some constitutional scholars say that the Commerce
Clause of the United States Constitution is the most
important power conveyed upon Congress. The
United States Constitution, Article I, Section 8 states:
“the Congress shall have Power…To regulate
Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the
several States, and with the Indian Tribes (the
“Commerce Clause”).” Do you believe the scholars
are right? Why or why not?