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Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority

Four Justices Dissent

In the dissenting opinion written by Justice Powell, grave reservations were voiced about the consequences of overturning National League of Cities. Most important, the four dissenting justices did not feel that the case presented in Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority was strong enough to overturn all of the prior decisions based on National League of Cities. This argument was bolstered by the fact that the five justices forming the majority opinion in Garcia voted to affirm National League of Cities in 1976. In the minority opinion, by refusing to define what constitutes a "traditional governmental function" the Court abdicated its responsibility. The dissenting opinion pointed out that nebulous definitions come before the Court all the time and its express purpose is to strike a balance that would allow the definition to be applied in the future. Furthermore, if the Court does not define traditional state functions, the interpretation will be left up to Congress--exactly what the overturning of National League of Cities permits. This clearly contradicts the Tenth Amendment, which was written into the Constitution at the behest of anti-Federalists to protect states' rights. Forcing SAMTA to respect regulations set forth in the FLSA according to the Commerce Clause disabled checks and balances designed by the framers to protect state sovereignty. Citing one of the most famous cases in history, Blackmun stated:

At least since Marbury v. Madison, it has been the province of the federal judiciary "to say what the law is" with respect to the constitutionality of Acts of Congress.

The dissenting justices had additional concers about the effect of overturning National League of Cities. With the Commerce Department dictating wage requirements to the states, the latter might base future policy decisions on those federal requirements. State policies that could be affected included municipal budgets, city planning, and tax assessment. However, both Justices O'Connor and Rehnquist predicted in their dissent that the Supreme Court had not heard the last of the National League of Cities and Tenth Amendment States' rights issue. In their opinion, the decision reached in Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority. would eventually be reversed.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1981 to 1988Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority - Background To Dispute, Case Goes To The U.s. Supreme Court, Four Justices Dissent