Jones v. United States (99-5739)
178 F.3d 479, reversed and remanded.
Syllabus | Ginsburg, opinion | Thomas, concurring | Commentary, Roland
Stevens, J., concurring
Supreme Court of the United States
DEWEY J. JONES, PETITIONER v. UNITED STATES
ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SEVENTH
[May 22, 2000]
Justice Stevens, with whom Justice Thomas joins,
Part II of the Court’s opinion convincingly
explains why its construction of
18 U.S.C. §
844 (i) better fits the text and context of the provision than the
Government’s expansive reading. It also seems appropriate, however, to
emphasize the kinship between our well-established presumption against federal
pre-emption of state law, see Ray v. Atlantic Richfield Co., 435 U.S.
151 , 157 (1978), and our reluctance to “believe Congress intended to
authorize federal intervention in local law enforcement in a marginal case such
as this.” United States v. Altobella , 442 F.2d 310, 316 (CA7
1971). The fact that petitioner received a sentence of 35 years in prison when
the maximum penalty for the comparable state offense was only 10 years, Ind.
Code §§35-43-1-1, 35-50-2-5 (1993), illustrates how a criminal law
like this may effectively displace a policy choice made by the State. Even when
Congress has undoubted power to pre-empt local law, we have wisely decided that
“unless Congress conveys its purpose clearly, it will not be deemed to
have significantly changed the federal-state balance.” United
States v. Bass ,
336 , 349 (1971). For this reason, I reiterate my firm belief that we should
interpret narrowly federal criminal laws that overlap with state authority
unless congressional intention to assert its jurisdiction is plain. *
1. * See Landreth Timber Co. v.
681, 700, n. 2 (1985) (Stevens, J., dissenting); Bennett v. New
632, 654-655, n. 16 (1985) (Stevens, J., dissenting); Garcia v.
70, 89-90 (1984) (Stevens, J., dissenting); Bell v. United
356, 363 (1983) (Stevens, J., dissenting); McElroy v. United
642, 675 (1982) (Stevens, J., dissenting).