Supreme Court rejects part of Brady Law

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: The Supreme Court's devolution of power from the federal government to the states continued today when justices struck down the portion of the Brady Law requiring local police to perform background checks. Writing for the majority in the 5-4 vote, Justice Antonin Scalia argued that the federal government cannot command state officials to enforce federal regulatory programs: "Such commands are fundamentally incompatible with our constitutional system of dual sovereignty." While the ruling sets an important precedent in the Court's continued shifting of power to the states, it's likely to have little impact on the Brady law itself. Some 27 states have Brady laws of their own, and the court let stand the federal law's five-day waiting period. Further, all local police departments should be able to voluntarily perform instant checks using a nationwide computerized system set to go online in 1998. But a deeply divided court disagreed over whether the law placed a too-great burden on local governments. Although lower courts have ruled Brady unconstitutional because it compels localities to adopt national standards, the court's minority believed performing the background checks was not too much to ask. Justice John Paul Stevens compared the requirement to ordering local police officers to report the identity of missing children to the federal government. "If Congress believes that such a statute will benefit the people of the nation ... we should respect both its policy judgment and its appraisal of its constitutional power," he wrote.