Bench Memos

Re: Madison, Jefferson, and Roy Moore?

More on Alabama chief justice Roy Moore’s resistance: For those inclined to believe that state officials are always obligated to comply with federal court rulings, it might be useful to test that principle in a less congenial context.

Consider this hypothetical: In the immediate aftermath of the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott ruling, a federal district court, applying the principle of Dred Scott, enjoins a northern state from enforcing a law providing that a slave who is voluntarily taken by his master into the state thereby becomes free. Must state officials comply with the injunction?

If your answer to the question is no (or maybe not), then you agree (or might agree) with Moore that state officials have a right to resist federal orders they regard as constitutionally unsound (even as you of course might disagree about his application of that principle).

Now assume that the Supreme Court affirms the lower court’s order. Must state officials then comply with the injunction?

If your answer to the question is no or maybe not, then you’ve gone further than Moore has yet gone.

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