The Impact of United States v. Lopez: The New Hybrid Commerce Clause

44 Pages Posted: 28 Jun 2007


The Commerce Clause has long been a constitutional powerhouse underlying federal legislation. The decision in United States v. Lopez marked the first time in almost sixty years that the Supreme Court has held that Congress had exceeded its power to regulate interstate commerce. In Lopez, the Court held that Congress overreached its power in enacting the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990, which prohibited possession of firearms within one thousand feet of a school. Lopez thus breaks a long line of cases deferring to congressional action. Historically, the Court has sustained federal regulation of civil rights, loan-sharking, restoration of environmental damage, labor relations, and home-grown wheat, even where such activities had tenuous links to interstate commerce. The Lopez Court, although recognizing the great breadth accorded Congress under such decisions, attempted to create special protection for state sovereignty. This article will argue that Lopez does so by implicitly combining two previously separate limitations on the commerce power into a heightened scrutiny of federal legislation regulating areas of traditional concern to the states.

Suggested Citation

McJohn, Stephen M., The Impact of United States v. Lopez: The New Hybrid Commerce Clause. Duquesne University Law Review, Vol. 34, p. 1, 1995. Available at SSRN:

Stephen M. McJohn (Contact Author)

Suffolk University Law School ( email )

120 Tremont Street
Boston, MA 02108-4977
United States

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