First Regular Session

Sixty-second General Assembly

LLS NO. R99­0792.01 Jeff Conway





WHEREAS, Chief Justice Rehnquist, in his annual report dated January 1, 1999, cited the growing caseload in the federal judiciary resulting from the continued expansion of federal jurisdiction as one of the three greatest problems confronting the federal judiciary; and

WHEREAS, In that report, Chief Justice Rehnquist also wrote: "The trend to federalize crimes that traditionally have been handled in state courts not only is taxing the Judiciary's resources and affecting its budget needs, but it also threatens to change entirely the nature of our federal system."; and

WHEREAS, In that report, Chief Justice Rehnquist also wrote: "While there certainly are areas in criminal law in which the federal government must act, the vast majority of localized criminal cases should be decided in the state courts which are equipped for such matters."; and

WHEREAS, The Commission on Structural Alternatives for the Federal Courts of Appeals, chaired by Retired Justice Byron R. White, recently wrote in its final report about the importance of "restraint in conferring new jurisdiction on the federal courts, particularly in areas traditionally covered by state law and served by state courts."; and

WHEREAS, The Judicial Conference of the United States issued its Proposed Long­Range Plan for the Federal Courts in 1995 and included as one of its recommendations: "Congress should commit itself to conserving the federal courts as a distinctive judicial forum of limited jurisdiction in our system of federalism. Civil and criminal jurisdiction should be assigned to the federal courts only to further clearly defined and justified national interests, leaving to the state courts the responsibility for adjudicating all other matters."; and

WHEREAS, Such Long­Range Plan recommends that federal courts should only have criminal jurisdiction in five types of cases:

(1)  Offenses against the federal government or its inherent interests;

(2)  Criminal activity with substantial multi­state or international aspects;

(3)  Criminal activity involving complex commercial or institutional enterprises most effectively prosecuted using federal resources or expertise;

(4)  Serious high level or widespread state or local government corruption; and

(5)  Criminal cases raising highly sensitive local issues; and

WHEREAS, The principles of federalism as set forth in the U. S. Constitution, the Tenth Amendment, and the Federalist Papers underscore the need to reserve to the states the authority to prosecute and try the bulk of all criminal cases; and

Be It Resolved by the House of Representatives of the Sixty­second General Assembly of the State of Colorado, the Senate concurring herein:

(1)  That the General Assembly requests the United States Congress to respect the federal structure of our judiciary and to resist attempts to unduly expand the criminal jurisdiction of federal courts.

(2)  That the General Assembly requests the United States Congress to respect the nature and expertise of the state judiciary and its long­standing ability to competently adjudicate criminal matters.

(3)  That the General Assembly requests the United States Congress to retain the unique characteristics of the federal judiciary as courts of limited jurisdiction and as accessible and efficient instruments of justice.

Be It Further Resolved, That copies of this Joint Resolution be sent to the President of the United States and to all members of the Colorado congressional delegation.