Brief of Amici Curiae Gail Heriot and Peter N. Kirsanow, Members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, in Their Capacities as Private Citizens, in Support of the Reversal of Appellant's Conviction in United States v. Metcalf
42 Pages Posted: 31 Dec 2016 Last revised: 9 Jan 2017
Date Written: December 23, 2016
This brief argues that the section of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 that relies on the Thirteenth Amendment for its authorization is unconstitutional. Section 1 of the Thirteenth Amendment bans slavery and involuntary servitude. Section 2 authorizes Congress to effectuate that ban. Undoubtedly, Section 2 gives Congress broad discretion in its efforts to ban slavery and to prevent its return. But it was not intended as a broad grant of power to remedy all social ills thought to be traceable to, or aggravated by, slavery. Since Congress does not even purport to be motivated by a desire to prevent slavery's return, Section 249(a)(1) is unconstitutional. Indeed, even if Congress had purported to be motivated by a desire to prevent slavery's return, Section 249(a)(1) is neither congruent and proportional nor rationally related to that aim. Note that the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 (Section 249(a)(2) also contains a section that is premised on Congress's power under the Commerce Clause. That section is unaffected by this argument.
Keywords: hate crimes, 13th Amendment, Congress, badges and incidents, race, Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation