STATUTORY INTERPRETATION -- TRAFFICKING VICTIMS PROTECTION ACT OF 2000 -- SIXTH CIRCUIT DECLINES TO EXTEND FEDERAL FORCED LABOR STATUTE TO CONDUCT CRIMINALIZED UNDER STATE LAW, BASED IN PART ON FEDERALISM CONCERNS. -- United States v. Toviave, 761 F.3d 623 (6th Cir. 2014)
Harvard Law Review, 2015/04/01, Vol: 128, p1884
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- In recent decades, the Supreme Court has increasingly relied on federalism principles when interpreting federal statutes, 1 requiring a clear statement from Congress before it will interpret a federal statute to encroach on a traditional area of state power. 2 An area frequently cited as being within the traditional purview of the states is the enactment and enforcement of criminal law. 3 Recently, in United States v. Toviave , 4 the Sixth Circuit relied on this notion of traditional state power in holding that a forced labor provision of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 5 (TVPA) did not apply to a defendant who brought four children to the United States from Togo and used regular physical abuse to force them to do housework. Yet the assumption underlying the clear statement requirement -- that Congress does not intend to disrupt the federal-state balance -- is in direct tension with a burgeoning federal code that reaches increasingly far into criminal law matters typically cited by courts as being within the states' traditional domain. 6 And even if the federalism canon does not aim to describe congressional intent but rather to safeguard federalism values, these values may not always be served by this canon of interpretation. While perhaps not crucial to its ultimate holding, the Toviave court's reading of an implicit federalism limit into the statute unnecessarily shielded a state from a duplicative federal law that does not harm, and that may in fact benefit, the state's ...
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