By: Zachary Buckheit
NCAA v. Christie will determine whether a federal statute that prevents a state legislature from repealing a previously enacted state law violates the anti-commandeering doctrine. In 2014, New Jersey passed a state law repealing state prohibitions against sports wagering in Atlantic City. Five sports leagues sued New Jersey in federal court. The leagues asserted that the new state law violated the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (“PASPA”), a federal law. New Jersey claimed PASPA violated the anti-commandeering doctrine and was accordingly unconstitutional. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals held that PASPA does not violate the anti-commandeering doctrine because it does not command states to take affirmative actions, and it does not present a coercive binary choice. New Jersey disagrees. This commentary argues that PASPA, as interpreted by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, does in fact violate the anti-commandeering doctrine established by the Supreme Court and that there is no meaningful difference between forcing a state to pass a law and forcing them to retain one. In both instances, the state’s legislative branch is being commandeered by Congress to advance Congressional policies and purposes. The Supreme Court has found such commandeering unconstitutional in the past and should do so yet again in this instance.