States’ Rights

Pryor is widely recognized as one of the nation’s most aggressive advocates for a “states’ rights” approach to the Constitution, and in recent years some of his arguments in favor of restricting Congress’ authority to pass laws protecting Americans’ rights and liberties have been accepted by a narrow 5-4 majority on the Supreme Court.

But Pryor’s views on states’ rights are so extreme that they have been rejected even by the conservative Supreme Court majority on a number of occasions. During 2002-2003 alone, the Court specifically rejected Pryor’s arguments in three important cases. In the Court’s unanimous ruling in Jinks v. Richland County, the Court rejected Pryor’s argument that counties should receive the same “sovereign immunity” from lawsuits that states do. The Court also rebuffed Pryor’s extreme states’ rights views in Nevada Dept. of Human Resources v. Hibbs, holding that states can be sued for money damages for violating the rights of their employees under the Family and Medical Leave Act, and in Lawrence v. Texas, in which Pryor had argued that state legislatures should be able to criminalize private sexual conduct between consenting adults.

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