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Printz v. United States (95-1478), 521 U.S. 898 (1997)
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Nos. 95-1478 and 95-1503


JAY PRINTZ, SHERIFF/CORONER, RAVALLI COUNTY, MONTANA, PETITIONER 95-1478 v. UNITED STATES RICHARD MACK, PETITIONER 95-1503

on writs of certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the ninth circuit

[June 27, 1997]

Justice Souter, dissenting.

I join Justice Stevens's dissenting opinion, but subject to the following qualifications. While I do not find anything dispositive in the paucity of early examples of federal employment of state officers for executive purposes, for the reason given by Justice Stevens, ante, at 11-12, neither would I find myself in dissent with no more to go on than those few early instances in the administration of naturalization laws, for example, or such later instances as state support for federal emergency action, see ante, at 12-14; ante, at 5-10, 16-18 (majority opinion). These illustrations of state action implementing congressional statutes are consistent with the Government's positions, but they do not speak to me with much force.

In deciding these cases, which I have found closer than I had anticipated, it is The Federalist that finally determines my position. I believe that the most straightforward reading of No. 27 is authority for the Government's position here, and that this reading is both supported by No. 44 and consistent with Nos. 36 and 45.

Hamilton in No. 27 first notes that because the new Constitution would authorize the National Government to bind individuals directly through national law, it could "employ the ordinary magistracy of each [State] in the execution of its laws." The Federalist No. 27, p. 174 (J. Cooke ed. 1961) (A. Hamilton). Were he to stop here, he would not necessarily be speaking of anything beyond the possibility of cooperative arrangements by agreement. But he then addresses the combined effect of the proposed Supremacy Clause, U. S. Const., Art. VI, cl. 2, and state officers's oath requirement, U. S. Const., Art. VI, cl. 3, and he states that "the Legislatures, Courts and Magistrates of the respective members will be incorporated into the operations of the national government, as far as its just and constitutional authority extends; and will be rendered auxiliary to the enforcement of its laws." The Federalist No. 27, at 174-175 (emphasis in original). The natural reading of this language is not merely that the officers of the various branches of state governments may be employed in the performance of national functions; Hamilton says that the state governmental machinery "will be incorporated" into the Nation's operation, and because the "auxiliary" status of the state officials will occur because they are "bound by the sanctity of an oath," id., at 175, I take him to mean that their auxiliary functions will be the products of their obligations thus undertaken to support federal law, not of their own, or the States', unfettered choices. [n.1]

Madison in No. 44 supports this reading in his commentary on the oath requirement. He asks why state magistrates should have to swear to support the National Constitution, when national officials will not be required to oblige themselves to support the state counterparts. His answer is that national officials "will have no agency in carrying the State Constitutions into effect. The members and officers of the State Governments, on the contrary, will have an essential agency in giving effect to the Federal Constitution." The Federalist No. 44, at 307 (J. Madison). He then describes the state legislative "agency" as action necessary for selecting the President, see U. S. Const., Art. II, §1, and the choice of Senators, see U. S. Const., Art. I, §3 (repealed by Amendment XVII). Ibid. The Supremacy Clause itself, of course, expressly refers to the state judges' obligations under federal law, and other numbers of The Federalist give examples of state executive "agency" in the enforcement of national revenue laws. [n.2]

Two such examples of anticipated state collection of federal revenue are instructive, each of which is put forward to counter fears of a proliferation of tax collectors. In No. 45, Hamilton says that if a State is not given (or declines to exercise) an option to supply its citizens' share of a federal tax, the "eventual collection [of the federal tax] under the immediate authority of the Union, will generally be made by the officers, and according to the rules, appointed by the several States." The Federalist No. 45, at 313. And in No. 36, he explains that the National Government would more readily "employ the State officers as much as possible, and to attach them to the Union by an accumulation of their emoluments," The Federalist No. 36, at 228, than by appointing separate federal revenue collectors.

In the light of all these passages, I cannot persuade myself that the statements from No. 27 speak of anything less than the authority of the National Government, when exercising an otherwise legitimate power (the commerce power, say), to require state "auxiliaries" to take appropriate action. To be sure, it does not follow that any conceivable requirement may be imposed on any state official. I continue to agree, for example, that Congress may not require a state legislature to enact a regulatory scheme and that New York v. United States, 505 U.S. 144 (1992) was rightly decided (even though I now believe its dicta went too far toward immunizing state administration as well as state enactment of such a scheme from congressional mandate); after all, the essence of legislative power, within the limits of legislative jurisdiction, is a discretion not subject to command. But insofar as national law would require nothing from a state officer inconsistent with the power proper to his branch of tripartite state government (say, by obligating a state judge to exercise law enforcement powers), I suppose that the reach of federal law as Hamilton described it would not be exceeded, cf. Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority, 469 U.S. 528, 554, 556-567 (1985) (without precisely delineating the outer limits of Congress's Commerce Clause power, finding that the statute at issue was not "destructive of state sovereignty").

I should mention two other points. First, I recognize that my reading of The Federalist runs counter to the view of Justice Field, who stated explicitly in United States v. Jones, 109 U.S. 513, 519-520 (1883), that the early examples of state execution of federal law could not have been required against a State's will. But that statement, too, was dictum, and as against dictum even from Justice Field, Madison and Hamilton prevail. Second, I do not read any of The Federalist material as requiring the conclusion that Congress could require administrative support without an obligation to pay fair value for it. The quotation from No. 36, for example, describes the United States as paying. If, therefore, my views were prevailing in these cases, I would remand for development and consideration of petitioners' points, that they have no budget provision for work required under the Act and are liable for unauthorized expenditures. Brief for Petitioner in No. 95-1478, pp. 4-5; Brief for Petitioner in No. 95-1503, pp. 6-7.


Notes

1 The Court offers two criticisms of this analysis. First, as the Court puts it, the consequences set forth in this passage (that is, rendering state officials "auxiliary" and "incorporat[ing]" them into the operations of the Federal Government) "are said . . . to flow automatically from the officers' oath," ante, at 12; from this, the Court infers that on my reading, state officers' obligations to execute federal law must follow "without the necessity for a congressional directive that they implement it," ibid. But neither Hamilton nor I use the word "automatically"; consequently, there is no reason on Hamilton's view to infer a state officer's affirmative obligation without a textual indication to that effect. This is just what Justice Stevens says, ante at 11, and n. 8.

Second, the Court reads Federalist No. 27 as incompatible with our decision in New York v. United States, 505 U.S. 144 (1992), and credits me with the imagination to devise a "novel principle of political science," ante at 12-13, n. 5, "in order to bring forth disparity of outcome from parity of language," ibid.; in order, that is, to salvage New York, by concluding that Congress can tell state executive officers what to execute without at the same time having the power to tell state legislators what to legislate. But the Court is too generous. I simply realize that "parity of language" (i.e., all state officials who take the oath are "incorporated" or are "auxiliar[ies]") operates on officers of the three branches in accordance with the quite different powers of their respective branches. The core power of an executive officer is to enforce a law in accordance with its terms; that is why a state executive "auxiliary" may be told what result to bring about. The core power of a legislator acting within the legislature's subject matter jurisdiction is to make a discretionary decision on what the law should be; that is why a legislator may not be legally ordered to exercise discretion a particular way without damaging the legislative power as such. The discretionary nature of the authorized legislative Act is probably why Madison's two examples of legislative "auxiliary" obligation address the elections of the President and Senators, see infra, at 4 (discussing the Federalist No. 44, p. 307 (J. Cooke ed. 1961) (J. Madison), not the passage of legislation to please Congress.

The Court reads Hamilton's description of state officers' role in carrying out federal law as nothing more than a way of describing the duty of state officials "not to obstruct the operation of federal law," with the consequence that any obstruction is invalid. Ante, at 13. But I doubt that Hamilton's English was quite as bad as all that. Someone whose virtue consists of not obstructing administration of the law is not described as "incorporated into the operations" of a government or as an "auxiliary" to its law enforcement. One simply cannot escape from Hamilton by reducing his prose to inapposite figures of speech.

2 The Court reads Madison's No. 44 as supporting its view that Hamilton meant "auxiliaries" to mean merely "nonobstructors." It defends its position in what seems like a very sensible argument, so long as one does not go beyond the terms set by the Court: if Madison really thought state executive officials could be required to enforce federal law, one would have expected him to say so, instead of giving examples of how state officials (legislative and executive, the Court points out) have roles in the election of national officials. See ante, at 14-16, and n. 8. One might indeed have expected that, save for one remark of Madison's, and a detail of his language, that the Court ignores. When he asked why state officers should have to take an oath to support the National Constitution, he said that "several reasons might be assigned," but that he would "content [himself] with one which is obvious & conclusive." The Federalist No. 44, at 307. The one example he gives describes how state officials will have "an essential agency in giving effect to the Federal Constitution." He was not talking about executing congressional statutes; he was talking about putting the National Constitution into effect by selecting the executive and legislative members who would exercise its powers. The answer to the Court's question (and objection), then, is that Madison was expressly choosing one example of state officer agency, not purporting to exhaust the examples possible.

There is, therefore, support in Madison's No. 44 for the straightforward reading of Hamilton's No. 27 and, so, no occasion to discount the authority of Hamilton's views as expressed in The Federalist as somehow reflecting the weaker side of a split constitutional personality. Ante, at 16, n. 9. This, indeed, should not surprise us, for one of the Court's own authorities rejects the "split personality" notion of Hamilton and Madison as being at odds in The Federalist, in favor of a view of all three Federalist writers as constituting a single personality notable for its integration:

"In recent years it has been popular to describe Publius [the nominal author of the Federalist] as a `split personality' who spoke through Madison as a federalist and an exponent of limited government, [but] through Hamilton as a nationalist and an admirer of energetic government. . . . Neither the diagnosis of tension between Hamilton and Madison nor the indictment of each man for self contradiction strikes me as a useful of perhaps even fair minded exercise. Publius was, on any large view--the only correct view to take of an effort so sprawling in size and concentrated in time--a remarkably `whole personality,' and I am far more impressed by the large area of agreement between Hamilton and Madison than by the differences in emphasis that have been read into rather than in their papers. . . . The intellectual tensions of The Federalist and its creators are in fact an honest reflection of those built into the Constitution it expounds and the polity it celebrates." C. Rossiter, Alexander Hamilton and the Constitution 58 (1964).

While Hamilton and Madison went their separate ways in later years, see id., at 78, and may have had differing personal views, the passages from The Federalist discussed here show no sign of strain.