When I was working as a lawyer in the Clinton administration, first in the Department of Justice (DOJ), and then as Deputy General Counsel in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), I was involved in the debate about the merits of what I call the federalization movement of the 1990s. I arrived to work in the administration just before the passage of the Violent Crime Control and Enforcement Act of 1994, which included a plethora of new federal crimes and enhanced penalties for existing crimes. Among the additions were the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. Earlier the Congress had enacted the Child Support Recovery Act of 1992 and the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990.
These expansions of federal jurisdiction into areas of criminal-law enforcement traditionally within the purview of the states spawned energetic criticism. Federal judges expressed concern that these legislative enactments expanded the reach of federal jurisdiction and that the resulting effects on federal court dockets would cause an erosion of the traditional mission of the federal courts. In their view, constitutional and policy considerations indicated the wisdom of a limited role for the federal courts in these areas, and continued expansion of the role of federal courts would threaten quality and competence. . . .