Supriya Ghosh (Editor)

United States v. Comstock

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Docket nos.  08-1224
Concurrence  Kennedy
Date decided  2010
Citations  560 U.S. 126 (more)
Concurrence  Alito
United States v. Comstock wwwcatoorgsitescatoorgfilesauthorscropsba
Full case name  United States, Petitioner v. Graydon Earl Comstock, Jr., et al.
Majority  Breyer, joined by Roberts, Stevens, Ginsburg, Sotomayor
Similar  Gonzales v Raich, United States v Morrison, South Dakota v Dole, Granholm v Heald, Wickard v Filburn

United States v. Comstock, 560 U.S. 126 (2010), was a decision by the Supreme Court of the United States, which held that the federal government has authority under the Necessary and Proper Clause to require the civil commitment of individuals already in Federal custody. The practice, introduced by the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, was upheld against a challenge that it fell outside the enumerated powers granted to Congress by the Constitution. The decision did not rule on any other aspect of the law's constitutionality, because only the particular issue of Congressional authority was properly before the Court.



Six days before Graydon Earl Comstock was to have completed a 37-month sentence for receiving child pornography, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales certified that Comstock was a sexually dangerous person. The law that Attorney General Gonzales was applying was ruled unconstitutional by lower courts on the grounds it exceeded Congress’s constitutional authority. Argued in January 2010 by Solicitor General Elena Kagan, the United States' position was that the "necessary and proper" clause gave Congress the power to enact the law.

Opinion of the Court

Stephen Breyer delivered the opinion of the Court, that the "necessary and proper" clause permitted Congress to enact such a provision. John Roberts, and John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Sonia Sotomayor joined Breyer's opinion. Anthony Kennedy and Samuel Alito filed opinions concurring in the judgment. Clarence Thomas filed a dissenting opinion in which Antonin Scalia joined in all but Part III– A–1–b.

Five considerations

The Court said: "We base this conclusion on five considerations, taken together." The five considerations are as follows.

  • First, the Necessary and Proper Clause grants Congress broad power to enact laws that are "rationally related" and "reasonably adapted" to executing the other enumerated powers.
  • Second, the statute at issue "constitutes a modest addition" to related statutes that have existed for many decades.
  • Third, the statute in question reasonably extends longstanding policy.
  • Fourth, the statute properly accounts for state interests, by ending the federal government's role "with respect to an individual covered by the statute" whenever a state requests.
  • Fifth, the statute is narrowly tailored to only address the legitimate federal interest.
  • References

    United States v. Comstock Wikipedia