Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England
In Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, U.S. 126 S.Ct. 961, 163 L.Ed.2d 812 (2006), the Supreme Court considered the appropriate judicial response where the enforcement of a statute would render an unconstitutional result.
It held that "invalidating a statute entirely is not always necessary or justified" where courts are "able to render narrower declaratory and injunctive relief." Id. at 964.
The Court explained:
Generally speaking, when confronting a constitutional flaw in a statute, we try to limit the solution to the problem. We prefer, for example to enjoin only the unconstitutional applications of a statute while leaving the other applications in force, see United States v. Raines, 362 U.S. 17, 20-22, 80 S.Ct. 519, 4 L.Ed.2d 524 (1960), or to sever its problematic portions while leaving the remainder in tact, United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220, 227-29, 125 S.Ct. 738, 160 L.Ed.2d 621 (2005). (Id. at 967.)
The Ayotte Court set forth several guiding principles to "inform our approach to remedies." Id. It explained that the courts should not engage in "quintessentially legislative work," and accordingly, cautioned that we should not endeavor to draw lines where doing so would be "inherently complex." Id. at 968.
The Court also instructed us to consider the intent of the legislature: In other words, we must ask whether the legislature would "have preferred what is left of its statute or no statute at all." Id. Finally, in selecting a remedy, we must "try not to nullify more of a legislature's work than is necessary. . . ." Id. at 967.