of Civil Rights Enforcement,
The determination of the federal government's civil rights enforcement policy, to a large extent, lay with the federal courts. The Justice Department would have been powerless to protect civil rights if federal judges simply had held civil rights legislation unconstitutional. At the same time, the administrative and political problems peculiar to the administration of criminal justice by the federal courts complicated the judicial resolution of these novel constitutional issues. Judges, too, had to change their understanding of their role as officers of the federal government. They not only bore the responsibility of deciding whether constitutional law permitted the United States to assume these powers and functions, but they also carried the additional burden of providing the legal theories that either justified or precluded the national protection of civil rights.
Judicial interpretations of the authority of the federal government to enforce civil rights supported the vigorous efforts of Justice Department officers to secure civil rights. The legal theories justifying the exercise of sweeping authority over civil rights by the national government was analyzed in Chapter 1. That analysis focused on judicial interpretations of national citizenship, the nationally enforceable rights of American citizens, and the scope of national authority to enforce the rights of American citizens. Federal judges and most state appellate judges equated United States citizenship under the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments with the status of freemen; they equated the nationally enforceable rights of American citizens under these amendments to the natural rights of freemen; and they interpreted these amendments as giving Congress the necessary authority to secure these natural rights. The assumption on which these interpretations were predicated, an assumption that was sometimes judicially expressed but was often implied, was that the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments revolutionized citizenship in the federal Union by making national citizenship primary and state citizenship derivative of, and secondary to, national citizenship. Judges understood these amendments as giving Congress and the federal courts primary authority over citizens and citizens' rights.