Blawgletter has heard, and sometimes says, that such and such beats a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. The phrase applies to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling yesterday on state power over national banks.
The 5-4 decision pivoted on what "visitorial powers" means. The U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency sued to stop the attorney general of the Empire State from asking national banks to hand over info on their compliance with New York banking law. The Comptroller cited a statute that barred states from flexing "visitorial" muscles.
The Court (per Justice Scalia) held that visitorial powers enable an overseeing authority — such as a board of trustees or a state that breathes life into legal fictions like corporations — to pry and fuss and vex the visitee even if the subject of the visiting has done nothing unlawful. But powers visitorial differ from run of the mill law enforcement. The statute keeps states from using their inherent authority to pry but not from suing to enforce their laws. Cuomo v. Clearing House Assn., L.L.C., No. 08-453 (U.S. June 29, 2009).
The liberals joined Justice Scalia. The other conservatives – plus Justice Kennedy — not so much.
Bonus: The Minnesota Supreme Court poked Norm Coleman in the eye with a sharp stick. Unanimously.