the rule of the US law in the federal system


The Constitution specifically
forbade the states from adopting certain kinds of laws (entering into treaties with foreign
nations, coining money). Also, the Article VI Supremacy Clause barred state
laws that contradicted either the Constitution or federal law. Even so, large
parts of the legal system remained
under state control. The Constitution
had carefully specified the areas where
Congress might enact legislation

Tenth Amendment to the Constitution (1791) made explicit that state
law would control elsewhere: “The
powers not delegated to the United
States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved
to the States, respectively, or to the
There nonetheless remained considerable tension between the federal
government and the states 

— over
slavery, and ultimately over the right
of a state to leave the federal union.
The civil conflict of 1861–65 resolved
both disputes. It also produced new
restrictions on the state role within
the legal system: Under the Fourteenth Amendment (1868), “No State
shall… deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process
of law; nor deny to any person within
its jurisdiction the equal protection of
the laws.” This amendment greatly expanded the federal courts’ ability to
invalidate state laws. Brown v. Board of
Education (1954), which forbade
racial segregation in the Arkansas
state school system, relied upon this
“equal protection clause.”
Beginning in the mid-20th century, 

a number of the trends outlined above
— the rise of the administrative state,
a more forceful and expansive judicial
interpretation of due process and
equal protection, and a similar expansion of Congress’ power to regulate
commerce — combined to enhance
the federal role within the legal
system. Even so,

much of that system remains within the state domain.
While no state may deny a citizen
any right guaranteed by the federal
Constitution, many interpret their
own constitutions as bestowing even
more generous rights and privileges.
State courts applying state law continue to decide most contractual disputes. The same is true of most
criminal cases, and of civil tort actions. Family law, including such matters as marriage and divorce, is almost
exclusively a state matter. For most
Americans most of the time, the legal
system means the police officers and
courts of their own state, or of the various municipalities and other political
subdivisions within that state.
This introduction offers a mere
thumbnail sketch of the legal system.
The remainder of the volume affords
greater detail, flavor, and understanding. Chapters 1 and 2 describe respectively how the federal and state court
systems have been organized, while
Chapter 3 explains at length the complex question of jurisdiction. The
chapter necessarily

delineates of the border ders between the federal and state
courts but it also explores the question of who may sue, and of the kinds
of cases courts will hear. Chapter 4 expands the focus from the courts to the
groups who appear before them. 

practice of law in the United States is
studied, and the typical litigants described. The chapter also explains the
role played by interest groups that
press particular cases to advance their
social and political agendas. Chapter 5
details how the courts handle criminal
cases while Chapter 6 turns the focus
to civil actions. Chapter 7 describes
how federal judges are selected. The
final chapter explores how certain judicial decisions — those of higher
courts especially — can themselves
amount to a form of policymaking
and thus further entwine the judiciary
in a complex relationship with the legislative and executive branches

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