The Tenth Amendment

Nobody's memory is expected to be perfect, but Rex Lee, former United States solicitor general, forgot about a big loss when he boasted of a perfect record before the Supreme Court [``Civil rights seen as judicial issue of '80s,'' by Marshall Ingwerson, July 8]. In one of the most important decisions returned by the court this year, Mr. Lee got clobbered, along with 50 states, thousands of local governments, and one pillar of the Bill of Rights, namely, the Tenth Amendment.

The reversal came in Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority, which the Supreme Court expanded into a rehearing on the question of whether the Tenth Amendment can shield state and local governments from certain acts of Congress.

The issue was whether Congress could impose federal wage-hour laws on state and local government workers.

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Nine years ago the Supreme Court said ``no'' to Congress in a landmark decision, National League of Cities v. Usery.

Last year, Mr. Lee wrote the brief and represented oral arguments that ``the key principle articulated in National League of Cities is sound and enduring constitutional doctrine.''

We wish the court concurred with Mr. Lee in that view, but the 5-to-4 decision announced in February proclaimed the 1976 decision ``unworkable,'' ``inconsistent,'' and ``overruled.'' I and many other state and local officials wish it weren't so, especially since we had much more at stake than Mr. Lee's perfect record. George V. Voinovich Mayor of Cleveland President of National League of Cities -Marshall Ingwerson replies: Mr. Voinovich is correct regarding the Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority case, but so is Mr. Lee, who claims to be undefeated only in cases he argued personally. This case was not one of them.-

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