Cohens v. Virginia
19 U.S. 264 (1821)

  • Cohens lived in DC, which had a lottery. He tried to sell tickets in Virginia and got arrested, since lotteries were illegal in Virginia.
  • At Trial, Cohens argued that the Federal government had found that selling lottery tickets was not illegal, and they trumped Virginia State law.
    • Since DC was ruled by Congress, the DC lottery had the weight of Federal Law.
  • Virginia convicted Cohens. He appealed to the US Supreme Court.
  • The Supreme Court upheld the conviction.
    • The US Supreme Court found that the DC lottery was not authorized in Virginia, so Cohens could still be convicted for violating Viriginia law.
    • Virginia had argued that, under the 11th Amendment their decisions were unreviewable. Supreme Court disagreed, and basically affirmed the decision in Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee (14 U.S. (1 Wheat.) 304 (1816)), which held that the US Supreme Court does have the authority to overturn the decisions of State Courts.