States Suing the Federal Government: Protecting Liberty or Playing Politics?

Elbert Lin *

It has become increasingly common in recent years to scan the news and find that a state or group of states has sued the federal government. During the eight years of the Obama Administration, states led mostly by Republican attorneys general challenged federal action on matters ranging from health care to immigration to the environment to overtime pay. And during just the first year of the Trump Administration, states led by Democratic attorneys general have brought suits in many of those same areas and others, including federal student loan relief and regulation of the internet.

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* Partner, Hunton & Williams L.L.P. Solicitor General of West Virginia, 2013–2017. This article is adapted from a talk given at the University of Richmond Law Review Symposium: Defining the Constitution’s President Through Legal & Political Conflict (Oct. 27, 2017) and Elbert Lin, Opinion, A Duty to Fight for Federalism, WASH. TIMES (July 16, 2015), www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/jul/16/celebrate-liberty-month-a-duty-to-fight-for-federa/. This article presents the views of the author, which do not necessarily reflect those of Hunton & Williams L.L.P. or its clients.

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