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Sauce and Mozzarella Not Ingredients of a Federal Crime

November 19, 2014

The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit recently held that the robbery of an Ohio pizza shack was a federal crime. The shack made pizza from California sauce, Minnesota flour, and Wisconsin mozzarella. So, based on Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce, the Sixth Circuit ruled the robbery constitutionally was prosecuted as a federal crime.

There’s only one problem with this reasoning. The federal government has no power to police local crimes. In 2000, the Supreme Court ruled that there is “no better example of the police power . . . than the suppression of violent crime and vindication of its victims.” And it is precisely this power “which the Founders denied the National Government and reposed in the States.” The Sixth Circuit disregarded this binding precedent.

Given our interconnected national economy, this decision means any local crime could be federalized. The decision runs the danger of giving the federal government absolute police power.

Our system of federalism-dual sovereignty between the states and federal government-was meant to preserve liberty by preventing corrupting concentrations of power. But for federalism to work, states need a large measure of independence from the federal government. In this instance, states must be left alone to police local crimes.

That’s why the Goldwater Institute recently joined a legal brief urging the Supreme Court to take an appeal challenging the Sixth Circuit’s decision. The source of sauce and mozzarella should not federalize a local crime.

Nick Dranias is director of the Center for Constitutional Government at the Goldwater Institute.

Learn more:

Goldwater Institute:The First Line of Defense

U.S. Supreme Court: U.S. v. Morrison



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