Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly


Patrick Hoopes


This Note discusses the extent to which federal tort reform measures would be constitutionally valid in light of the Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Lopez, which invalidated a federal statute criminalizing guns in schools. The Lopez Court, recognizing that the federal government was one of enumerated powers, held that the Commerce Clause granted Congress the power to regulate only those activities which had a substantial effect on interstate commerce. Specifically, this Note examines the constitutionality of a current proposal to limit punitive damage awards in nearly all tort actions. The heavy financial burden runaway juries impose on the economy-at-large is more than substantial enough to justify federal pre-emption. This Note surmises that the present Court would permit federal regulation of all but the most local tort lawsuits. Contrary to the expectations of many, Lopez does not signal a revolution in Commerce Clause jurisprudence.