Chemerinsky's Inverted Federalism

John McGinnis reviews Erwin Chemerinsky's new book, Enhancing Government: Federalism for the 21st Century, and finds a blueprint for unchaining government power at all levels.

In "Enhancing Government," Erwin Chemerinsky provides a kind of holograph of what federalism — as the federal-state relation is confusingly called — would resemble if the U.S. were to enter a period of liberal ascendancy. . . . Mr. Chemerinsky sketches a vision of federalism that would empower government at all levels and delight civil plaintiffs and criminal defense lawyers of every description. . . .

Mr. Chemerinsky argues that no constitutional principle prevents the federal government from regulating any matter. Accordingly, he sharply criticizes the decision in United States v. Lopez, where the Rehnquist Court held that the federal government lacked the authority to prohibit carrying guns near a school. Second, he solves one of the great federalism controversies — whether state or federal courts are more competent to adjudicate federal legal claims — by allowing civil plaintiffs and criminal defendants to choose whichever court that they prefer: presumably the one that, in their view, will most likely vindicate their rights. Finally, he argues that state law should yield only to an express federal directive contradicting it. Thus, in his view, the Supreme Court was wrong to hold that the Food and Drug Administration's approval of a medical device precluded state tort suits impugning the device's safety.