States Dealt a Freer Hand

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WASHINGTON, D.C: A U.S Supreme Court ruling on the $6 billion-a-year American Indian gambling industry may become a powerful vehicle for the states' rights movement. In a 5-4 vote along liberal-conservative lines Wednesday, the Court effectively decided that Congress cannot force lawsuits against the states. "The decision will have some impact on negotiations over Indian gambling, but the implications could go well beyond the specific gambling issue," says TIME law correspondent Adam Cohen. The case involved a federal law that allowed Indian tribes to sue if states do not negotiate gambling permits for reservations in good faith. TIME's Cohen says the decision fits within broader agendas of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who have voted in several cases to expand states' rights. Justice John Paul Stevens, who opposed them, warned that Wednesday's action "prevents Congress from providing a federal forum for a broad range of actions against states, from . . . copyright and patent law to . . . bankruptcy, environmental law and the regulation of our vast national economy." The ruling rejuvenated the 11th Amendment, which restricts judicial powers given to the legislative branch. It also ended Congress' exclusive power in making laws affecting Native Americans.