Write a 700- to 1,050-word paper in which you define the functions and role of law in business and society. Discuss the functions and role of law in your past or present job or industry(present job is Accountant in City Government). Properly cite at least two references from your reading.

Include an in-depth introduction and conclusion

Format your paper consistent with APA guidelines.

This is the book we are using in class:  

Melvin, S. P. (2011). The legal environment of business: A managerial approach: Theory to practice. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill/Irwin


Resource: Case Brief Cipollone v. Liggett Group, Inc., et al. in Ch. 2, section 2-6, “Commerce Powers,” of the text.




Congress’s broadest power is derived from the Commerce Clause whereby Congress is

given the power to “regulate Commerce among the several states.” 5 Under the modern

trend, federal courts have been largely deferential to legislative decisions under Congress’s

commerce powers. Despite some limits placed by the U.S. Supreme Court in the

relatively recent past, Congress still exercises very broad powers to pass laws where the

activity being regulated affects interstate commerce in any way.

Application of Commerce Powers

Congress exercises its commerce powers in various forms. However, the direct and broad

power to regulate all persons and products related to the flow of interstate commerce is the

fundamental source of its authority.

Interstate versus Intrastate Commercial ActivityCongress has the express constitutional

authority to regulate (1) channels of interstate commerce such as railways and highways,

(2) the instrumentalities of interstate commerce such as vehicles used in shipping, and

(3) the articles moving in interstate commerce. Even for commercial activity that is purely

intrastate (takes place within one state’s borders), Congress has the power to regulate the

activity so long as it has a substantial economic effect on interstate commerce. For example,

suppose that Congress passes the Whistleblower Act, a statute that prohibits any business

engaged in interstate commerce from firing their employees for reporting safety violations.

Steel Co., a West Virginia company, begins to engage in a pattern of firing all employees who

report safety violations. When a government agency files a civil lawsuit against Steel Co. to

enforce the Whistleblower Act, Steel Co. defends that the act is unconstitutional because the

activity of firing their employees is purely within the state of West Virginia and not related to

interstate commerce. A court would likely find that if Steel Co. had any commercial activity

at all (such as shipping, warehouses, equipment, advertising, or importing) that is outside

of West Virginia, Congress has the authority to regulate Steel Co.’s workplace policies. 6 In

the dynamics of the modern-day commercial world, a large amount of seemingly intrastate

activity has some degree of economic effect on interstate commerce.

The U.S. Supreme Court has even deferred to congressional regulation of a product

that is cultivated for noncommercial purposes solely in one state as sufficiently related to

interstate commerce. In Gonzalez v. Raich, 7 the Court ruled that Congress had the power

to criminalize the possession of marijuana even if it was noncommercially cultivated and

consumed by medical prescription all in the same state. The case involved a challenge by

two California residents to the enforcement by federal officials of the federal Controlled

Substances Act after California passed a state law via voter ballot proposition to exempt

anyone involved in the cultivating, prescribing, and consuming marijuana for medical purposes

from prosecution. The plaintiffs were each arrested by federal officials for possession

of marijuana that had been grown at home. Each had a prescription from a licensed

physician. In refusing to invalidate the Controlled Substances Act, the Court noted that

Congress could have rationally believed that the noncommercially grown marijuana would

be drawn into the interstate market and, therefore, the banning of the substance was sufficiently

related to interstate commercial activity.

Civil Rights LegislationA key use of the federal commerce power has been in the

area of civil rights legislation. Indeed, the Supreme Court’s level of deference for use of

congressional commerce powers reached its peak during and directly after the civil rights

era. In the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Congress used its commerce power to ban discrimination

in places of public accommodation such as restaurants and hotels. In two important

civil rights cases decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Court ruled that the Civil Rights

Act was a permissible application of Congress’s commerce powers. In Heart of Atlanta

Motel v. U.S., 8 the Court made clear that a federal ban on racial discrimination was a constitutionally

permitted use of congressional commerce powers because the hotel was open to interstate travelers. Additionally, the Court deferred to a congressional finding of fact

that racial discrimination in accommodations discouraged travel by limiting a substantial

portion of the black community’s ability to find suitable lodging. In a companion case, 9

Katzenbach v. McClung, 10 the Court held that a local restaurant that was located far from

any interstate highway, and with no appreciable business from interstate travelers, was

nevertheless subject to the reach of the federal statute because the restaurant purchased

some food and paper supplies from out-of-state vendors. Since these purchases were of

items that had moved in commerce, Congress could properly exercise their power to regulate

a restaurant whose business interests were primarily local.

Noncommercial ActivityIn 1995, the U.S. Supreme Court signaled that some limits

on Congress’s commerce power still exist. In cases where the activity is purely noncommercial

(such as when Congress passes a criminal statute that is seemingly unrelated to

commerce), the Court has used increased levels of scrutiny to be

sure that the activity that Congress seeks to regulate has a sufficient

nexus (connection) to some legitimate economic interest. In U.S.

  1. Lopez, 11 the Court invalidated a federal statute on the basis that

it was beyond Congress’s commerce powers. In Lopez, the Court

struck down the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990, which made

it a federal crime to possess a gun within a certain distance from

a school. The Court rejected the government’s argument that gun

possession in schools affected economic productivity (by making it more difficult for students

to obtain an education) and thus was within the purview of congressional commerce

power. The Court held that such a broad interpretation of the commerce power would mean

that congressional power was virtually unlimited, and that such an expansive authority was

directly contrary to the express limits imposed by the Constitution. The court reasoned that

the banning of firearms in local schools was a government police power and, therefore,

more appropriately handled by the state government. Five years later, in U.S. v. Morrison,

the Court invalidated another statute on the same grounds. In that case, the Court struck

down the Violence Against Women Act, which gave victims of gender-motivated violence

the right to sue their attacker for money damages in a federal court. In light of the Lopez

decision, Congress made exhaustive findings of fact that detailed the cumulative economic

affect of gender-motivated crimes. Nonetheless, the Court held that the congressional findings

were too broad to justify use of the commerce power and that virtually any local crime

could become a federal offense under a similar justification. As a general rule, the further

that Congress strays from regulating commercial activity, the more likely the Court will be


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