United States v. Morrison

Key Facts—A rape victim attempted to sue her alleged rapists and Virginia Tech under the federal Violence Against Women Act of 1994, a law intended to provide a federal civil remedy for gender-based violence cases.

Procedural History—District Court held that Congress lacked the authority to enact this law. Court of Appeals reversed. Court of Appeals reheard the case en banc and reversed the reversal. Supreme Court decided to settle the matter.

Issue—Can Congress create a civil remedy for cases of gender-based violence using their Commerce Clause power?


Result—Original ruling essentially upheld; law partially stricken.

Reasoning—As in US v. Lopez, this law is only very tangentially related to commerce. Also, the prohibitions of the Fourteenth Amendment, which formed an alternative possible justification for the law, are inapplicable here, because they cannot be used to constrain private individuals.

Morrison case