United States v. Comstock


A group of convicted sex offenders sought to dismiss petitions that attempted to indefinitely “commit” them under the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act. At trial, the federal district court dismissed the petitions. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal, holding that the Protection and Safety Act exceeded the scope of Congressional authority by enacting a law that imprisons/confines a person solely because of “sexual dangerousness,” where the prosecution does never even need to allege that the “dangerousness” violates a federal law.


Whether the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act violates the necessary and proper clause of the Constitution.


No reversed and remanded.  The necessary and proper clause is broad in its scope.   Citing McCullough v. Maryland, the Court argued that Congress may enact laws that are “convenient, or useful” or “conducive” to the enumerated power’s “beneficial exercise.” There must be a “means/ends rationality.”  The court must determine if the means used are rationally and actually calculated to achieve the Constitutionally desired end.  Congress has long passed longs affecting mental health prisoners and crimes involving mental health deficiencies, despite there being no expressly authorized power to do so.  Many of the prisoners were already committed under a similar statute.  The additions proposed by the new statute at issue are modest and affect only a few prisoners.  “The Federal Government, as custodian of its prisoners, has the constitutional power to act in order to protect nearby (and other) communities from the danger such prisoners may pose.”

“Thus, far from a ‘general police power,’ §4248 is a reasonably adapted and narrowly tailored means of pursuing the Government’s legitimate interest as a federal custodian in the responsible administration of its prison system.”

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