States NOT Required to Enforce Federal Law - U.S. Supreme Court Rules Today

[Bruce Barcott]

For years, the state of New Jersey has been fighting the federal government and the major professional sports leagues for the right to legalize and regulate sports betting within the state’s borders.

In a landmark ruling published this morning, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed with New Jersey. The federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, passed by Congress in 1992, banned wagering on professional and college sports. The Act also explicitly prohibited states from sponsoring or authorizing such gaming...

The 10th Amendment Is Strong

Citing the Constitution’s 10th Amendment, the court’s 7-2 majority affirmed that states are not required to enforce federal law. If the feds prohibit an activity, federal officers can enforce that ban. The states may choose to enforce that ban, too—but state officials are not required to enforce it...
“As is often the case in constitutional law, we have an equal and opposite constitutional command in the 10th Amendment, which says that states have a certain degree of autonomy and that Congress cannot commandeer state processes,” Manheim said. The anti-commandeering doctrine, as it’s known, limits the supremacy clause by prohibiting the federal government from forcing states to do its bidding.

“As a general principle,” Manheim said, “states don’t have any constitutional obligation to cooperate with any federal agency.”

…Adherence to the anti-commandeering principle is important for several reasons, including, as significant here, that the rule serves as ‘one of the Constitution’s structural safeguards of liberty’…”

Here’s perhaps the most optimistic sign in the Murphy v. NCAA decision: This was a bipartisan ruling led by the court’s most conservative justices. The majority coalition consisted of justices Alito, Roberts, Thomas, and Gorsuch (conservative); Kennedy (moderate); and Breyer and Kagan (liberal). In a court where most decisions are slim 5-4 outcomes, a 7-2 vote is a strong signal of agreement.