Nebraska and Oklahoma have asked the Supreme Court to strike Colorado’s 2012 marijuana initiative on the grounds that the Colorado constitutional amendment has sparked crime increases in their own states. To the extent that can be shown, it’s an argument worth having.
Enter President Barack Obama through his Solicitor General, Donald Verrilli, in Verrilli’s brief to the Supreme Court, in which Obama urged the Court to reject the case:
Entertaining the type of dispute at issue here—essentially that one State’s laws make it more likely that third parties will violate federal and state law in another State—would represent a substantial and unwarranted expansion of this Court’s original jurisdiction.
Here’s what our Constitution says about the Supreme Court’s role in disputes between States, which Verilli’s brief also cites:
In all Cases…in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction.
Verrilli’s brief also cited the First Judiciary Act, a hoary old law passed by the First Congress’ first session in 1789 averring, among other things, that the Supreme Court in particular has
original and exclusive jurisdiction of all controversies between two or more States.
Notice those two cites: there is nowhere contained within either any caveat or limit. There is nothing that says, “Except when it’s inconvenient to Government,” or “Except when there’s something else,” or….
Despite that, the Solicitor General, in his brief (undoubtedly written for him by that better lawyer than his lawyers—it certainly contains Obama’s depth and style of legal thinking [/snark]), made the claim that taking the case would represent a substantial and unwarranted expansion of the Court’s role in settling a dispute between States.
Nonsense. This is a textbook example of a dispute between States, and it’s directly within the Court’s constitutionally mandated function, especially as fleshed out by Congress and a President who signed the fleshing-out into law. The Court may decide it’s a bogus beef, and that would be a useful precedent to set.
But it’s entirely a Supreme Court decision. Verrilli and his boss know this full well.