The Court’s Transition Impacts On Federalism - Essay Prowess

The Court’s Transition Impacts On Federalism


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The Court’s Transition Impacts On Federalism

The United States of America’s government and administration system has witnessed a revolution and major changes over a long period since its conception. The United States government system has evolved from a small insignificant type of administration to one of the most admired government systems in the world which have contributed to the country’s high development levels. The American system of administration is known as one of the oldest democracies that are guided by a constitution[. For a long time, the united states of America have been using the federalism type of government to which is developed by combining the federal government and the state,  regional or local government in a single political system.

Federalism is a structure of the government that allows power to be divided between the national and state government. The modern federalism political system of the United States of America is a true definition of how public administration should work or how it functions. It is through the state, the regional, and local government that the federal government can administer and implement and enforce its policies to the locals through the state and local government. The federalism system of government has witnessed changes after the modernization of the courts and its powers during the mid-1930s when the court of law especially the Supreme Court became an engine of nationalization.

After World War II the court became a strong and powerful force of nationalization in the United States as it viewed itself as a protector or a defender of the rights of the minority, civil liberties, and political equality promoter. In The New Deal, the Supreme Court began interpreting the constitution in broad terms making trying to make an extensive meaning of the parts and the powers of the different branches of the government. Through the constitutional interpretation, the Supreme Court changed the perspective of the federalism system of the government by allowing the elected branches of government to make changes in their functions and powers which brought a change in the federalism system of America. The change in the federal system of the post-New Deal era is witnessed in the court rulings that overturned the federal statutes that had been developed before the New Deal.

The transition period from the warren court to the Rehnquist court was from the early 1970s to the late 1980s which was highlighted by the inconsistencies and indecisions of court rulings which were against the federalism perspective. One of the main cases that revolutionized federalism and showed how the courts are independent and are no longer under the control of the government was the case of the National League of Cities (NLC) v. Usery. During the National League of Cities (NLC) v. Usery case, the court listened to the case and giving each side a chance to present their case, and when the time to give a verdict came the court held that the congress was on the wrong. Ruling against the government or a branch of the government was unheard of pre the New Deal so this was one of the historical rulings by the court which marked the transition era. And the court as a protector of the minority rights.

In the National League of Cities (NLC) v. Usery case, the court found the congress on the wrong by trying to apply the hour and wages endowment to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to the local government employee. The court held that the move of the congress was unconstitutional as it violated the Tenth Amendment of the constitution. The court expansively translated the tenth amendment and stated that it would be unconstitutional for Congress to get involved with the integral functions of the state and the local governments. The action of the court was bold and it attracted attention as it was the first case that had been ruled against the court’s philosophy on the tenth amendment. The ruling and the verdict on this case opened up other cases that challenged the tenth amendment which challenged the federalism of the United States.

In New York v. United State case the court also displayed the revolution of the judicial sector or branch of government as the court overturned an amendment. In the case of New York v. United State, the court overturned the 1985 amendment of the Low-Level Hazardous Waste Policy by the federal government. The court declared that the federal government is not at liberty to compel a state to enact a regulatory program of the federal government. The basis of this case was that Congress wanted to ensure effective control of hazardous or radioactive material in the country and it came up with the Low-Level Hazardous Waste Policy. The policy or amendment claimed that states should assume the cost and responsibility of the low-level waste generated in their area if it had not established a proper disposal site. The state of New York objected to the police and sued the government in 1996 and the court found that the attempt of the congress in forcing states to enact federal regulations was unconstitutional.

In the Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Florida the Supreme Court overturned the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act which gave the Indian tribes that owned gaming facilities to sue the State government in federal courts. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act allowed the Indian tribes to negotiate in good faith with the state on matters of Indian gambling and if the state failed to come into agreeable terms with the tribe then they would sue the State. The court declared that Congress did not have power under the Indian Commerce clause to revoke the states’ sovereign immunity which is protected under the eleventh amendment of the constitution. The eleventh amendment forbids Congress from making the state of Florida capable of being sued in a federal court of law which should apply to all states. Although the decision was overturned again in 1999 in Alden v. Maine, Florida v. College Savings Bank, and College Savings Bank v. Florida. Alden v. Maine case.

The federalism system of governance in America has seen changes which have been as a result of the transition of the judicial branch of the government. From the examples of the cases mentioned it is clear that the expansive translation of the constitution by the court affected the initial perspective of federalism. The court through the translation of the constitution overturned some decisions that were made by the federal and state or local government in the pre-New Deal era which transformed federalism.


Beer, Samuel H. 1973. “The Modernization Of American Federalism.” Publius: The Journal of Federalism 3 (2): 49–95. doi:10.1093/oxfordjournals.pubjof.a038281.

Boyd, Steven R. 1987. “The Contract Clause and the Evolution of American Federalism, 1789-1815.” The William and Mary Quarterly 44 (3): 529. doi:10.2307/1939769.

Campbell, Ballard C. 1992. “Federalism, State Action, and ‘Critical Episodes’ in the Growth of American Government.” Social Science History 16 (4): 561. doi:10.2307/1171311.

Conlan, T. J., & Chantal, F. V. D. 2001. The Rehnquist Court and Contemporary American Federalism. Political Science Quarterly, 116(2), 253–275.

Elazar, Daniel J. 1987.   Exploring Federalism.  Tuscaloosa, AL: The University of Alabama Press. ISBN: 9780817305758. The University provides you this text.

O’Toole Jr., Laurence J., and Robert K. Christensen (eds). 2013. American Intergovernmental Relations: Foundations, Perspectives, and Issues. 5th ed.  Thousand Oaks, CA: CQ Press.  ISBN: 9781452226293. You have to purchase this text.

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