Today's Albuquerque Journal carried this story on the Tenth Circuit's decision in United States v. Hatch, which was issued on Wednesday. Hatch kidnapped a disabled Navajo man and branded a swastika into his arm, and was charged with a hate crime under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
Hatch challenged the Act as unconstitutional because, he claimed, Congress lacks the authority to criminalize such instrastate conduct. The district court disagreed, and the Tenth Circuit affirmed. In holding that the Act was constitutional, the Tenth Circuit explained that the Thirteenth Amendment gave Congress power to enact the statute:
Although the Thirteenth Amendment by its terms applies to slavery and involuntary servitude, Supreme Court precedent confirms Congress’s authority to legislate against slavery’s “badges and incidents” as well. In particular, the Supreme Court held in Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer Co., 392 U.S. 409 (1968)—a case permitting a federal private right of action against private individuals for housing discrimination—that Congress itself has power to determine those badges and incidents.
[The Act] rests on the notion that a violent attack on an individual because of his or her race is a badge or incident of slavery. Congress reached this conclusion by accounting for the meaning of “race” when the Thirteenth Amendment was adopted, the state of mind of the attacker, and the attack itself. By so doing, and under the authority of Jones, we conclude Congress rationally determined that racially motivated violence is a badge or incident of slavery against which it may legislate through its power to enforce the Thirteenth Amendment.
The court's 34-page opinion (authored by Judge Tymkovich and joined by Judges Murpy and O'Brien) is here.