Legislation Article

Federalism and the Generality Problem in Constitutional Interpretation

Vol. 122 No. 8 In recent years, the Supreme Court has embraced a freestanding federalism that is not tied to any particular clause of the Constitution. Rather, because multiple clauses assume the continued existence of states and set up a government of limited and enumerated powers, the Court has inferred that such provisions collectively convey a purpose to establish federalism and to preserve a significant degree of state sovereignty. The Court has treated that general background purpose as a warrant to derive specific but unenumerated limitations on federal power – in particular, a federalism clear statement rule, an anticommandeering principle, and broad state sovereign immunity from suit in state courts.