Sabri v. United States

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In Sabri v. United States, 541 U.S. 600, 613 (2004), the U.S. Supreme Court held that 18 U.S.C. § 666(a)(2) [18 USCS § 666(a)(2)], proscribing bribery of state, local, and tribal officials of entities that receive at least $10,000 in federal funds, is a valid exercise of congressional authority under Article I of the Constitution even though it licensed federal prosecution in an area historically of state concern. The statute was upheld under the Necessary and Proper Clause.

This was a facial challenge to the constitutionality of the statute. Justice David Souter, writing for the Court, emphasized that:

Facial challenges of this sort are especially to be discouraged. Not only do they invite judgments on fact-poor records, but they entail a further departure from the norms of adjudication in federal courts: overbreadth challenges call for relaxing familiar requirements of standing, to allow a determination that the law would be unconstitutionally applied to different parties and different circumstances from those at hand. See, e.g., City of Chicago v. Morales, 527 U.S. 41, 55-56, n. 22, 144 L. Ed. 2d 67, 119 S. Ct. 1849 (1999) (plurality opinion). Accordingly, we have recognized the validity of facial attacks alleging overbreadth (though not necessarily using that term) in relatively few settings, and, generally, on the strength of specific reasons weighty enough to overcome our well-founded reticence. See, e.g., Broadrick v. Oklahoma, 413 U.S. 601, 37 L. Ed. 2d 830, 93 S. Ct. 2908 (1973) (free speech); Aptheker v. Secretary of State, 378 U.S. 500, 12 L. Ed. 2d 992, 84 S. Ct. 1659 (1964) (right to travel); Stenberg v. Carhart, 530 U.S. 914, 938-946, 147 L. Ed. 2d 743, 120 S. Ct. 2597 (2000) (abortion); City of Boerne v. Flores, 521 U.S. 507, 532-535, 138 L. Ed. 2d 624, 117 S. Ct. 2157 (1997) (legislation under § 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment). See generally Fallon, As-Applied and Facial Challenges and Third-Party Standing, 113 Harv. L. Rev. 1321, 1351 (2000) (emphasizing role of various doctrinal tests in determining viability of facial attack); Monaghan, Overbreadth, 1981 S. Ct. Rev. 1, 24 (observing that overbreadth is a function of substantive First Amendment law). Outside these limited settings, and absent a good reason, we do not extend an invitation to bring overbreadth claims.

Justice Clarence Thomas concurred, writing that for a law to be within the Necessary and Proper Clause it must bear an "obvious, simple, and direct relation" to an exercise of Congress' enumerated powers. He would have upheld the statute under the Commerce Clause.

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