Judicial Philosophies in Collision: Justice Blackmun, Garcia, and the Tenth Amendment
25 Pages Posted: 9 Nov 2007 Last revised: 8 May 2010
This essay offers a reflective overview of the Supreme Court's federalism cases from National League of Cities v. Usery (1976) to that decision's reversal just nine years later in Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority (1985). These cases illuminate the rise and fall of a constitutional doctrine and the intellectual evolution of the Justice, Harry A. Blackmun, who cast the crucial deciding vote in this field. Most intriguingly, they illustrate the collision, in an unusual context, of the different philosophies of judicial decisionmaking which have vied for supremacy on the modern Court.
The essay begins with an overview of the contradictory ideological labels applied to judicial behavior, moves directly to an analysis of the multi-faceted character of the Garcia decision, devotes the bulk of the discussion to tracing how Garcia grew out of the theoretical and practical tensions inherent in National League of Cities and its progeny, and concludes with a brief reflection on Garcia's philosophical significance and its vindication in the political process to which it paid homage.
Keywords: federalism, state sovereignty, state autonomy, commerce power, constitutional law, national league of cities
JEL Classification: K10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation