Constitution of the United States/Art. I/Sec. 8/Clause 3 Commerce
Article I Legislative Branch
Section 8 Enumerated Powers
Clause 3 Commerce
|To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;|
Overview of Commerce Clause[edit | edit source]
The Commerce Clause gives Congress broad power to regulate interstate commerce and restricts states from impairing interstate commerce. Early Supreme Court cases primarily viewed the Commerce Clause as limiting state power rather than as a source of federal power. Of the approximately 1,400 Commerce Clause cases that the Supreme Court heard before 1900, most stemmed from state legislation. As a consequence, the Supreme Court's early interpretations of the Commerce Clause focused on the meaning of "commerce" while paying less attention to the meaning of "regulate." During the 1930s, however, the Supreme Court increasingly heard cases on Congress's power to regulate commerce, with the result that its interstate Commerce Clause jurisprudence evolved markedly during the twentieth century.
Meaning of Commerce[edit | edit source]
While the etymology of the word "commerce" suggests that "merchandise," or goods for sale, was integral to its original meaning, Chief Justice John Marshall in Gibbons v. Ogden interpreted the Commerce Clause broadly. Gibbons concerned whether the New York legislature could grant a monopoly to Aaron Ogden to operate steamships on New York waters and thereby prevent Thomas Gibbons from operating a steamship between New York and New Jersey pursuant to a license granted by Congress. In defending his New York-granted steamship monopoly, Ogden argued that transporting passengers did not constitute "commerce" under the Commerce Clause. Finding New York's grant of a steamship monopoly violated the Commerce Clause, Chief Justice Marshall reasoned that commerce encompassed not only buying and selling but also, more generally, intercourse and consequently navigation. The Chief Justice wrote:
The subject to be regulated is commerce. The counsel for the appellee would limit it to traffic, to buying and selling, or the interchange of commodities, and do not admit that it comprehends navigation. This would restrict a general term, applicable to many objects, to one of its significations. Commerce, undoubtedly, is traffic, but it is something more--it is intercourse. Gibbons v. Ogden, 22 U.S. (9 Wheat.) 1, 189 (1824).
Marshall further noted the general understanding of the meaning of commerce, the Article I, Section 9 prohibition against Congress granting any preference "by any regulation of commerce or revenue, to the ports of one State over those of another," and Congress's power to impose embargoes.
In Gibbons, Marshall qualified the word "intercourse" with the word "commercial," thus retaining the element of monetary transactions. Initially, the Court viewed activities covered by Congress's interstate commerce clause power narrowly. Thus, the Court held the Commerce Clause did not reach mining or manufacturing regardless of whether the product moved in interstate commerce; insurance transactions crossing state lines; and baseball exhibitions between professional teams traveling from state to state. Similarly, the Court held that the Commerce Clause did not apply to contracts to insert advertisements in periodicals in another state or to render personal services in another state.
Later decisions treated the Commerce Clause more expansively. In 1945, the Court held in Associated Press v. United States that a press association gathering and transmitting news to client newspapers to be interstate commerce. Likewise, in 1943, the Court held in American Medical Association v. United States that activities of Group Health Association, Inc., which serve only its own members, are "trade" and capable of becoming interstate commerce. The Court also held insurance transactions between an insurer and insured in different states to be interstate commerce. Most importantly, the Court held that manufacturing, mining, business transactions, and the like, which occur antecedent or subsequent to a move across state lines, are part of an integrated commercial whole and covered by the Commerce Clause. As such, Supreme Court case law on the meaning of "commerce" in "interstate commerce" covers movements of persons and things, whether for profit or not, across state lines; communications; transmissions of intelligence, whether for commercial purposes or otherwise; and commercial negotiations that involve transportation of persons or things, or flows of services or power, across state lines.
Meaning of Among the Several States in the Commerce Clause[edit | edit source]
The Supreme Court has interpreted the phrase "among the several states" to exclude transactions that occur wholly within a state. In Gibbons v. Ogden, Chief Justice John Marshall observed that the phrase "among the several States" was "not one which would probably have been selected to indicate the completely interior traffic of a state." He noted that although the phrase "may very properly be restricted to that commerce which concerns more states than one," "[c]ommerce among the states, cannot stop at the external boundary line of each state, but may be introduced into the interior." Identifying transactions covered by the Commerce Clause, he stated:
The genius and character of the whole government seem to be, that its action is to be applied to all the external concerns of the nation, and to those internal concerns which affect the states generally; but not to those which are completely within a particular state, which do not affect other states, and with which it is not necessary to interfere, for the purpose of executing some of the general powers of the government. 22 U.S. (9 Wheat.) 1, 194-195 (1824).
Subsequent to Gibbons, the Court held in a number of cases that Congress's Commerce Clause power did not extend to commerce that was "exclusively internal" to a state. In these nineteenth and early twentieth century cases, the Court seemingly tied Congress's interstate commerce power to cross-border transactions notwithstanding Marshall's Gibbons reasoning that Congress's Commerce Clause power could extend to intrastate commerce that affects other states or implicates congressional power. In its 1905 Swift & Co. v. United States decision, the Court revisited Marshall's expansive reading of the Commerce Clause to reason that, in a current of commerce, each element was within Congress's Commerce Clause power. Looking at the interrelationship of industrial production to interstate commerce, the Court noted that the cumulative impact of minor transactions can impact interstate commerce.
Meaning of Regulate in the Commerce Clause[edit | edit source]
The Court has interpreted "regulate" in the Commerce Clause as Congress's power to prescribe conditions and rules for commercial transactions, keep channels of commerce open, and regulate prices and terms of sale. In Gibbons v. Ogden, Chief Justice John Marshall discussed Congress's authority to "regulate," stating:
It is the power to regulate; that is, to prescribe the rule by which commerce is to be governed. This power, like all others vested in congress, is complete in itself, may be exercised to its utmost extent, and acknowledges no limitations, other than are prescribed in the constitution . . . If, as has always been understood, the sovereignty of congress, though limited to specified objects, is plenary as to those objects, the power over commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, is vested in Congress as absolutely as it would be in a single government, having in its constitution the same restrictions on the exercise of the power as are found in the constitution of the United States.Gibbons v. Ogden, 22 U.S. (9 Wheat.) 1, 196-97 (1824).
Similarly, in Brooks v. United States, the Court explained "regulate," observing:
Congress can certainly regulate interstate commerce to the extent of forbidding and punishing the use of such commerce as an agency to promote immorality, dishonesty, or the spread of any evil or harm to the people of other states from the state of origin. In doing this, it is merely exercising the police power, for the benefit of the public, within the field of interstate commerce.Brooks v. United States, 267 U.S. 432, 436-37 (1925).
In upholding a federal statute prohibiting shipping goods made with child labor in interstate commerce in order to extirpate child labor rather than bar intrinsically harmful goods, the Court said: "It is no objection to the assertion of the power to regulate commerce that its exercise is attended by the same incidents which attend the exercise of the police power of the states." Congress has also used its Commerce Clause power to enforce moral codes, to ban racial discrimination in public accommodations, and to protect the public from danger. Consequently, Congress's power to regulate interstate commerce is among its most potent Article I, Section 8 powers.
Historical Background[edit | edit source]
Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 and Sugar Trust Case[edit | edit source]
To curb the growth of industrial combinations, Congress passed the Sherman Antitrust Act (Sherman Act) in 1890. Under the Sherman Act, Congress sought to regulate commerce as "traffic." The Sherman Act prohibited "every contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise," or "conspiracy in restraint of trade and commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations" and made it a misdemeanor to "monopolize or attempt to monopolize any part of such commerce."
In 1895, the Court considered the Sherman Act in United States v. E. C. Knight Co. (Sugar Trust C) in which the government asked the Court to cancel certain agreements whereby the American Sugar Refining Company had acquired "nearly complete control of the manufacture of refined sugar in the United States." The Court rejected the government's claim on the grounds that the activities of the Sugar Trust had only an indirect effect on commerce, which Congress's Commerce Clause powers did not reach. Although the Court did not directly rule on the Sherman Act's constitutional validity, it analyzed the scope of Congress's commerce power when considering what activities the Sherman Act barred. Explaining the federal government's role in mitigating commercial power, Chief Justice Melville Fuller stated:
[T]he independence of the commercial power and of the police power, and the delimitation between them, however sometimes perplexing, should always be recognized and observed, for, while the one furnishes the strongest bond of union, the other is essential to the preservation of the autonomy of the States as required by our dual form of government; and acknowledged evils, however grave and urgent they may appear to be, had better be borne, than the risk be run, in the effort to suppress them, of more serious consequences by resort to expedients of even doubtful constitutionality.Id. at 13.
The E. C. Knight Court reasoned that a hard and fast line should exist between commercial and police powers based on (1) production being local and subject to state oversight; (2) commerce among the states does not begin until goods "commence their final movement from their State of origin to their destination;" (3) a product's sale is merely an incident of its production and, while capable of "bringing the operation of commerce into play," affects it only incidentally; (4) such restraint as would reach commerce, as just defined, in consequence of combinations to control production "in all its forms," would be "indirect, however inevitable and whatever its extent," and as such beyond the purview of the Act. Applying this reasoning, the E. C. Knight Court stated:
The object [of the combination] was manifestly private gain in the manufacture of the commodity, but not through the control of interstate or foreign commerce. It is true that the bill alleged that the products of these refineries were sold and distributed among the several States, and that all the companies were engaged in trade or commerce with the several States and with foreign nations; but this was no more than to say that trade and commerce served manufacture to fulfill its function.Id. at 17.. . . [I]t does not follow that an attempt to monopolize, or the actual monopoly of, the manufacture was an attempt, whether executory or consummated, to monopolize commerce, even though, in order to dispose of the product, the instrumentality of commerce was necessarily invoked. There was nothing in the proofs to indicate any intention to put a restraint upon trade or commerce, and the fact, as we have seen, that trade or commerce might be indirectly affected was not enough to entitle complainants to a decree.Id. at 17. The doctrine of the case boiled down to the proposition that commerce was transportation only, a doctrine Justice John Marshall Harlan undertook to refute in his dissenting opinion. Justice Harlan stated: "Interstate commerce does not, therefore, consist in transportation simply. It includes the purchase and sale of articles that are intended to be transported from one State to another--every species of commercial intercourse among the States and with foreign nations." 156 U.S. at 22. Justice Harlan further stated:
Any combination, therefore, that disturbs or unreasonably obstructs freedom in buying and selling articles manufactured to be sold to persons in other States or to be carried to other States--a freedom that cannot exist if the right to buy and sell is fettered by unlawful restraints that crush out competition--affects, not incidentally, but directly, the people of all the States; and the remedy for such an evil is found only in the exercise of powers confided to a government which, this court has said, was the government of all, exercising powers delegated by all, representing all, acting for all.
156 U.S. at 33 (citing McCulloch v. Maryland, 17 U.S. (4 Wheat.) 316, 405 (1819)).
Four years later, in Addyston Pipe and Steel Co. v. United States, the Court applied the Sherman Act to hold an industrial combination unlawful. The defendants in Addyston were manufacturing concerns that had effected a division of territory among them, which the Court held to be a "direct" restraint on the distribution and transportation of the products of the contracting firms. In reaching its holding, however, the Court did not question E. C. Knight, which remained substantially undisturbed until the Court's 1905 Swift decision.
Current of Commerce Concept and 1905 Swift Case[edit | edit source]
In Swift & Co. v. United States, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes referred to a "current of commerce" in providing a more expansive interpretation of the Commerce Clause. Swift concerned some thirty firms that bought livestock at stockyards, processed it into fresh meat, and then sold and shipped the fresh meat to purchasers in other states. The government alleged that the defendants had agreed, among other things, not to bid against each other in local markets, to fix prices, and to restrict meat shipments. On appeal to the Supreme Court, the defendants contended that some of the acts they were charged with were not acts in interstate commerce and consequently not covered by the Sherman Act. The Court ruled in favor of the government on the ground that the Sherman Act covered the "scheme as a whole" and that the local activities alleged were part of this general scheme. Explaining why Congress's Commerce Clause power extended to acts that occurred within a single state, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes reasoned:
Commerce among the States is not a technical legal conception, but a practical one, drawn from the course of business. When cattle are sent for sale from a place in one State, with the expectation that they will end their transit, after purchase, in another, and when in effect they do so, with only the interruption necessary to find a purchaser at the stockyards, and when this is a typical, constantly recurring course, the current thus existing is a current of commerce among the States, and the purchase of the cattle is a part and incident of such commerce.Id. at 398-99.
Likewise, the Court held that, even if title passed at the slaughterhouses, the sales were to persons in other states and shipments to such states were part of the transaction. Thus, in Swift, the Court deemed sales to be part of the stream of interstate commerce if they enabled the manufacturer "to fulfill its function" although ten years earlier the Court had held in United States v. E. C. Knight Co (Sugar Trust Case) that such sales were immaterial.
Thus, in Swift, the Court appeared to return to Chief Justice John Marshall's concept of commerce as traffic, which he had explored in Gibbons v. Ogden. As a result, activities that indirectly affected interstate trade could be deemed interstate commerce. The Swift Court stated: "But we do not mean to imply that the rule which marks the point at which state taxation or regulation becomes permissible necessarily is beyond the scope of interference by Congress in cases where such interference is deemed necessary for the protection of commerce among the States." The Court also held that combinations of employees who engaged in intrastate activities such as manufacturing, mining, building, construction, and distributing poultry could be subject to the Sherman Act because of the effect, or intended effect, of these activities on interstate commerce.
Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921 and Grain Futures Act of 1922[edit | edit source]
In 1921, Congress passed the Packers and Stockyards Act, which brought the livestock industry in the country's chief stockyards under federal supervision. In 1922, Congress passed the Grain Futures Act to regulate grain futures exchanges. In sustaining these laws, the Court relied on Swift & Co. v. United States. For example, in Stafford v. Wallace, which involved the Packers and Stockyards Act, Chief Justice William Taft stated:
The object to be secured by the act is the free and unburdened flow of livestock from the ranges and farms of the West and Southwest through the great stockyards and slaughtering centers on the borders of that region, and thence in the form of meat products to the consuming cities of the country in the Middle West and East, or, still as livestock, to the feeding places and fattening farms in the Middle West or East for further preparation for the market.Id. at 514.
The Stafford Court reasoned the stockyards were "not a place of rest or final destination." Instead, they were "but a throat through which the current flows," and the sales there were not "merely local transactions. [T]hey do not stop the flow . . . but, on the contrary, [are] indispensable to its continuity."
[Swift] was a milestone in the interpretation of the commerce clause of the Constitution. It recognized the great changes and development in the business of this vast country and drew again the dividing line between interstate and intrastate commerce where the Constitution intended it to be. It refused to permit local incidents of a great interstate movement, which taken alone are intrastate, to characterize the movement as such.Id. at 35.
In Olsen, the Court examined how futures sales relate to cash sales and impact the interstate grain trade. Writing for the Court, Chief Justice Taft stated: "The question of price dominates trade between the States. Sales of an article which affect the country-wide price of the article directly affect the country-wide commerce in it." Thus, a practice that demonstrably affects prices would affect interstate trade "directly" and, even though local in itself, would be subject to Congress's regulatory power under the Commerce Clause. In Olsen, Chief Justice Taft also stressed the importance of congressional deference. He stated:
Whatever amounts to more or less constant practice, and threatens to obstruct or unduly to burden the freedom of interstate commerce is within the regulatory power of Congress under the commerce clause, and it is primarily for Congress to consider and decide the fact of the danger to meet it. This court will certainly not substitute its judgment for that of Congress in such a matter unless the relation of the subject to interstate commerce and its effect upon it are clearly nonexistent.Id. at 37, quoting Stafford v. Wallace, 258 U.S. 495, 521 (1922).
New Deal Legislation Generally[edit | edit source]
Several days after President Franklin D. Roosevelt's first inauguration, Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes described a problem the new Administration faced, stating: "When industry is grievously hurt, when producing concerns fail, when unemployment mounts and communities dependent upon profitable production are prostrated, the wells of commerce go dry." Congress's legislative response to the Great Depression marked a significant expansion of federal economic regulation. Congress did not limit itself to regulating traffic among the states and the instrumentalities thereof. It also attempted to govern production and industrial relations in the field of production, areas over which states had historically exercised legislative power. Confronted with this expansive exercise of congressional power, the Court reexamined Congress's interstate commerce power.
National Industrial Recovery and Agricultural Adjustment Acts of 1933[edit | edit source]
Passed on June 16, 1933, the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) marked Congress's initial effort to address the Great Depression. NIRA recognized the existence of "a national emergency productive of widespread unemployment and disorganization of industry" that burdened "interstate and foreign commerce," affected "the public welfare," and undermined "the standards of living of the American people." To alleviate these conditions, NIRA authorized the President to approve "codes of fair competition" if industrial or trade groups applied for such codes, or to prescribe such codes if there were no applications. Among other things, NIRA required the codes to provide certain guarantees respecting hours, wages, and collective bargaining.
In A.L.A. Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States, the Supreme Court held the Live Poultry Code to be unconstitutional. Although practically all poultry Schechter handled came from outside the state, and hence via interstate commerce, the Court held that once the chickens arrived in Schechter's wholesale market, interstate commerce in them ceased. Although NIRA purported to govern business activities that "affected" interstate commerce, Chief Justice Charles Hughes interpreted "affected" to mean "directly" affect commerce. He stated:
[T]he distinction between direct and indirect effects of intrastate transactions upon interstate commerce must be recognized as a fundamental one, essential to the maintenance of our constitutional system. Otherwise, . . . there would be virtually no limit to the federal power and for all practical purposes we should have a completely centralized government.Id. at 548. See also id. at 546.
Congress next attempted to address the Depression through the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933 (AAA). The Court, however, set the AAA aside in United States v. Butler on the grounds that Congress had attempted to regulate production in violation of the Tenth Amendment.
Railroad Retirement and Securities Exchange Acts of 1934[edit | edit source]
To assist commerce and labor, Congress passed the Railroad Retirement Act (RRA) in 1934, which ordered compulsory retirement for superannuated employees of interstate carriers and provided they receive pensions from a fund comprised of the compulsory contributions from the carriers and the carriers' present and future employees. In Railroad Retirement Board v. Alton Railroad, however, a closely divided Court held the RRA to exceed Congress's Commerce Clause power and to violate the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Writing for the majority, Justice Owen Roberts stated:
We feel bound to hold that a pension plan thus imposed is in no proper sense a regulation of the activity of interstate transportation. It is an attempt for social ends to impose by sheer fiat noncontractual incidents upon the relation of employer and employee, not as a rule or regulation of commerce and transportation between the States, but as a means of assuring a particular class of employees against old age dependency. This is neither a necessary nor an appropriate rule or regulation affecting the due fulfillment of the railroads' duty to serve the public in interstate transportation.Id. at 374.
In dissent, Chief Justice Charles Hughes contended that "the morale of the employees [had] an important bearing upon the efficiency of the transportation service." He added:
The fundamental consideration which supports this type of legislation is that industry should take care of its human wastage, whether that is due to accident or age. That view cannot be dismissed as arbitrary or capricious. It is a reasoned conviction based upon abundant experience. The expression of that conviction in law is regulation. When expressed in the government of interstate carriers, with respect to their employees likewise engaged in interstate commerce, it is a regulation of that commerce. As such, so far as the subject matter is concerned, the commerce clause should be held applicable.Id. at 384.
In subsequent legislation, Congress levied an excise on interstate carriers and their employees, while by separate but parallel legislation, it created a fund in the Treasury from which pensions would be paid along the lines of the original plan. The Court did not appear to question the constitutionality of this scheme in Railroad Retirement Board v. Duquesne Warehouse Co.
New Deal legislation did not necessarily require expansive interpretations of congressional power. The Securities Exchange Act of 1934 created the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), authorized the Commission to promulgate regulations to keep dealings in securities honest, and closed the channels of interstate commerce and the mails to dealers refusing to register under the Act.
Public Utility Holding Company and Bituminous Coal Conservation Acts of 1935[edit | edit source]
In 1935, Congress passed the Public Utility Holding Company Act ("Wheeler-Rayburn Act") and the Bituminous Coal Conservation Act. The Wheeler-Rayburn Act required covered companies to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission and report on their business, organization, and financial structure or be prohibited from using mails and other interstate commerce facilities. Under Section 11, the so-called "death sentence" clause, the Wheeler-Rayburn Act closed channels of interstate communication after a certain date to certain types of public utility holding companies whose operations, Congress found, were calculated chiefly to exploit the investing and consuming public. In a series of decisions, the Court sustained these provisions, relying principally on Gibbons v. Ogden.
The Court, however, disallowed the Guffey-Snyder Bituminous Coal Conservation Act (BCCA) of 1935, which regulated the price of soft coal that was sold both in interstate commerce and "locally," and the hours of labor and wages in the mines. The BCCA declared these provisions to be separable, so that the invalidity of one set would not affect the validity of the other. However, a majority of the Court, in an opinion written by Justice George Sutherland, held that (1) these provisions were not separable because the BCCA constituted one connected scheme of regulation, and (2) the BCCA was unconstitutional because it invaded the reserved powers of the states over conditions of employment in productive industry. Taking Chief Justice Charles Hughes' assertion in A.L.A. Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States of the "fundamental" distinction between "direct" and "indirect" effects, which, in turn, drew upon the Sugar Trust, Justice Sutherland stated:
Much stress is put upon the evils which come from the struggle between employers and employees over the matter of wages, working conditions, the right of collective bargaining, etc., and the resulting strikes, curtailment and irregularity of production and effect on prices; and it is insisted that interstate commerce is greatly affected thereby. But . . . the conclusive answer is that the evils are all local evils over which the Federal Government has no legislative control. . . . Such effect as they may have upon commerce, however extensive it may be, is secondary and indirect. An increase in the greatness of the effect adds to its importance. It does not alter its character.Id. at 308-09.
National Labor Relations Act of 1935[edit | edit source]
In NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation, the Court reduced the distinction between "direct" and "indirect" effects, thereby enabling Congress to regulate productive industry and labor relations. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) of 1935 granted workers a right to organize, forbade unlawful employer interference with this right, established procedures for workers to select representatives with whom employers were required to bargain, and created a board to oversee these processes.
In an opinion by Chief Justice Charles Hughes, the Court upheld the NLRA, stating: "The close and intimate effect, which brings the subject within the reach of federal power may be due to activities in relation to productive industry although the industry when separately viewed is local." Considering defendant's "far-flung activities," the Court expressed concern about strife between the industry and its employees, stating:
We are asked to shut our eyes to the plainest facts of our national life and to deal with the question of direct and indirect effects in an intellectual vacuum. When industries organize themselves on a national scale, making their relation to interstate commerce the dominant factor in their activities, how can it be maintained that their industrial labor relations constitute a forbidden field into which Congress may not enter when it is necessary to protect interstate commerce from the paralyzing consequences of industrial war? We have often said that interstate commerce itself is a practical conception. It is equally true that interferences with that commerce must be appraised by a judgment that does not ignore actual experience.Id. at 41-42.
The Court held the NLRA to be within Congress's constitutional powers because a strike that interrupted business "might be catastrophic." The Court also held that the NLRA applied to (1) two minor concerns, (2) a local retail auto dealer on the ground that he was an integral part of a manufacturer's national distribution system, (3) a labor dispute arising during alteration of a county courthouse because one-half of the cost was attributable to materials shipped from out-of-state, and (4) a dispute involving a local retail distributor of fuel oil that it obtained from a wholesaler who imported it from another state. The Court stated: "This Court has consistently declared that in passing the National Labor Relations Act, Congress intended to and did vest in the Board the fullest jurisdictional breadth constitutionally permissible under the Commerce Clause." Thus, the Court implicitly approved the National Labor Relations Board's jurisdictional standards, which assumed a prescribed dollar volume of business had a requisite effect on interstate commerce.
Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937[edit | edit source]
By passing the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act (AMAA) on June 3, 1937, Congress sought to bolster agriculture by authorizing the Secretary of Agriculture to fix the minimum prices of certain agricultural products, when the handling of such products occurs "in the current of interstate or foreign commerce or . . . directly burdens, obstructs or affects interstate or foreign commerce in such commodity or product thereof." In United States v. Wrightwood Dairy Co., the Court sustained an order of the Secretary of Agriculture that fixed the minimum prices to be paid to producers of milk in the Chicago "marketing area." The dairy company demurred to the regulation on the ground it applied to milk produced and sold intrastate. Sustaining the order, the Court said:
Congress plainly has power to regulate the price of milk distributed through the medium of interstate commerce . . . and it possesses every power needed to make that regulation effective. The commerce power is not confined in its exercise to the regulation of commerce among the States. It extends to those activities intrastate which so affect interstate commerce, or the exertion of the power of Congress over it, as to make regulation of them appropriate means to the attainment of a legitimate end, the effective execution of the granted power to regulate interstate commerce. The power of Congress over interstate commerce is plenary and complete in itself, may be exercised to its utmost extent, and acknowledges no limitations other than are prescribed in the Constitution. It follows that no form of State activity can constitutionally thwart the regulatory power granted by the commerce clause to Congress. Hence the reach of that power extends to those intrastate activities which in a substantial way interfere with or obstruct the exercise of the granted power.315 U.S. at 118-19.
In Wickard v. Filburn, the Court sustained even greater Congressional regulation over production. The Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) of 1938, as amended in 1941, regulated production even when it was not intended for commerce but wholly for consumption on the producer's farm. Sustaining the AAA amendment, the Court noted that it supported the market, stating:
It can hardly be denied that a factor of such volume and variability as home-consumed wheat would have a substantial influence on price and market conditions. . . . But if we assume that it is never marketed, it supplies a need of the man who grew it which would otherwise be reflected by purchases in the open market. Home-grown wheat in this sense competes with wheat in commerce. The stimulation of commerce is a use of the regulatory function quite as definitely as prohibitions or restrictions thereon. This record leaves us in no doubt that Congress may properly have considered that wheat consumed on the farm grown, if wholly outside the scheme of regulation, would have a substantial effect in defeating and obstructing its purpose to stimulate trade therein at increased prices.317 U.S. at 128-29.
The Court also stated:
[Q]uestions of the power of Congress are not to be decided by reference to any formula which would give controlling force to nomenclature such as 'production' and 'indirect' and foreclose consideration of the actual effects of the activity in question upon interstate commerce. The Court's recognition of the relevance of the economic effects in the application of the Commerce Clause . . . has made the mechanical application of legal formulas no longer feasible.Id. at 120, 123-24. In United States v. Rock Royal Co-operative, Inc., 307 U.S. 533 (1939), the Court sustained an order under the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937, 50 Stat. 246, regulating the price of milk in certain instances. Writing for the Court, Justice Stanley Reed stated:The challenge is to the regulation 'of the price to be paid upon the sale by a dairy farmer who delivers his milk to some country plant.' It is urged that the sale, a local transaction, is fully completed before any interstate commerce begins and that the attempt to fix the price or other elements of that incident violates the Tenth Amendment. But where commodities are bought for use beyond state lines, the sale is a part of interstate commerce. We have likewise held that where sales for interstate transportation were commingled with intrastate transactions, the existence of the local activity did not interfere with the federal power to regulate inspection of the whole. Activities conducted within state lines do not by this fact alone escape the sweep of the Commerce Clause. Interstate commerce may be dependent upon them. Power to establish quotas for interstate marketing gives power to name quotas for that which is to be left within the state of production. Where local and foreign milk alike are drawn into a general plan for protecting the interstate commerce in the commodity from the interferences, burdens and obstructions, arising from excessive surplus and the social and sanitary evils of low values, the power of the Congress extends also to the local sales.Id. at 568-69.
Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938[edit | edit source]
In 1938, Congress enacted the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which prohibited shipping goods in interstate commerce that were manufactured by workmen whose employment did not comply with prescribed wages and hours. The FLSA defined interstate commerce to mean "trade, commerce, transportation, transmission, or communication among the several States or from any State to any place outside thereof." The FLSA further provided that "for the purposes of this act an employee shall be deemed to have been engaged in the production of goods [for interstate commerce] if such employee was employed . . . in any process or occupation directly essential to the production thereof in any State." Sustaining an indictment under the FLSA, Chief Justice Harlan Stone, writing for a unanimous Court, stated:
The motive and purpose of the present regulation are plainly to make effective the congressional conception of public policy that interstate commerce should not be made the instrument of competition in the distribution of goods produced under substandard labor conditions, which competition is injurious to the commerce and to the States from and to which the commerce flows.United States v. Darby, 312 U.S. 100, 115 (1941).
In support of the decision, the Court invoked Chief Justice John Marshall's interpretations of the Necessary and Proper Clause in McCulloch v. Maryland and the Commerce Clause in Gibbons v. Ogden. The Court rejected objections purporting to be based on the Tenth Amendment, stating:
Our conclusion is unaffected by the Tenth Amendment which provides: 'The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.' The amendment states but a truism that all is retained which has not been surrendered. There is nothing in the history of its adoption to suggest that it was more than declaratory of the relationship between the national and State governments as it had been established by the Constitution before the amendment or that its purpose was other than to allay fears that the new National Government might seek to exercise powers not granted, and that the States might not be able to exercise fully their reserved powers.Id. at 123-24.
Subsequent decisions of the Court took a broad view of which employees should be covered by the FSLA, and in 1949, Congress narrowed the permissible range of coverage and disapproved some of the Court's decisions. But, in 1961, with extensions in 1966, Congress expanded the FSLA's coverage by several million persons, introducing the "enterprise" concept by which all employees in a business producing anything in commerce or affecting commerce were covered by the minimum wage-maximum hours standards. Sustaining the "enterprise concept" in Maryland v. Wirtz, Justice John Harlan, writing for a unanimous Court, held the FSLA's expanded coverage legal based on two theories: (1) all of a business's significant labor costs, not just those costs attributable to employees engaged in production in interstate commerce, contribute to the business's competitive position in commerce; and (2) ending substandard labor conditions that affect all employees, not just those actually engaged in interstate commerce, facilitates labor peace, and smooth functioning of interstate commerce.
Dual Federalism and Commerce Clause[edit | edit source]
Prior to the 1930s, the Court had effectively followed a doctrine of "dual federalism," under which Congress's power to regulate activity largely depended on whether the activity had a "direct" rather than an "indirect" effect on interstate commerce. When the Court adopted a less restrictive interpretation of the Commerce Clause during and after the New Deal, the question of how concerns over federalism might impact congressional regulation of private activities became moot. However, in a number of instances, the states themselves engaged in commercial activities, which would have been subject to federal legislation if a privately owned enterprise had engaged in the activity. Consequently, the Court sustained applying federal law to these state proprietary activities. As Congress began to extend regulation to state governmental activities, the judicial response was inconsistent. Although the Court may revisit constraining federal power on federalism grounds, Congress lacks authority under the Commerce Clause to regulate states when federal statutory provisions would "commandeer" a state's legislative or executive authority to implement a federal regulatory program.
Modern Doctrine[edit | edit source]
United States v. Lopez and Interstate Commerce Clause[edit | edit source]
Construing modern interstate Commerce Clause doctrine in its 1995 decision of United States v. Lopez, the Court identified three general categories of commerce that were subject to Congress's Commerce Clause powers. These are (1) "channels of interstate commerce"; (2) "instrumentalities of interstate commerce, or persons or things in interstate commerce"; and (3) "activities having a substantial relation to interstate commerce." In general, Congress's authority under the interstate Commerce Clause has expanded since the 1930s because of the volume of interstate commerce and Congress's ability to regulate intrastate activities that sufficiently affect interstate commerce. In New York v. United States, the Court noted:
[T]he volume of interstate commerce and the range of commonly accepted objects of government regulation have expanded considerably in the last 200 years, and the regulatory authority of Congress has expanded along with them. As interstate commerce has become ubiquitous, activities once considered purely local have come to have effects on the national economy, and have accordingly come within the scope of Congress's commerce power.New York v. United States, 505 U.S. 144, 158 (1992).
In addition, the Court has from time-to-time expressly noted that Congress's exercise of power under the Commerce Clause is akin to the police power exercised by the states.
Channels of Interstate Commerce[edit | edit source]
In United States v. Lopez, the Court identified "channels of interstate commerce" as being subject to Congress's Commerce Clause power. Channels of interstate commerce encompasses physical conduits of interstate commerce such as highways, waterways, railroads, airspace, and telecommunication networks, as well as the use of such interstate channels for ends Congress wishes to prohibit. As early as 1849, the Court had noted that whether "the transportation of passengers is a part of commerce is not now an open question." In Hoke v. United States, the Court expanded its description of interstate commerce to include "the transportation of persons and property." When the Court decided Caminetti v. United States in 1917, the Court observed that it was long settled that not only "the transportation of passengers in interstate commerce" but also the use of such authority to keep those channels "free from immoral and injurious uses" falls within Congress's regulatory power under the Commerce Clause.
Courts have upheld various acts of Congress as falling within its authority to regulate channels of interstate commerce. For example, in United States v. Morrison, the Court noted that federal courts have uniformly upheld a federal prohibition on traveling across state lines to commit intimate-partner abuse, reasoning that the prohibition regulates "the use of channels of interstate commerce--i.e., the use of the interstate transportation routes through which persons and goods move."
In Pierce County v. Guillen, the Court considered the constitutionality of a law that prohibited using certain highway data identifying hazardous highway locations, which the Highway Safety Act (HSA) of 1966 required states to collect, in discovery or as evidence in state or federal court proceedings. The Court observed that the provision had been adopted in response to states being reluctant to comply with the HSA's requirements due to concerns about potential liability for accidents that occurred in those hazardous locations before they could be addressed. The Court concluded that the data collection requirement was adopted to help state and local governments "in reducing hazardous conditions in the Nation's channels of commerce," and that "Congress could reasonably believe that adopting a measure eliminating an unforeseen side effect of the information-gathering requirement . . . would result in more diligent efforts [by states] to collect the relevant information." Accordingly, the Court held that the provision preventing use of the data in state and federal court proceedings--not just the data collection itself--was within the scope of Congress's Commerce Clause power.
Persons or Things in and Instrumentalities of Interstate Commerce[edit | edit source]
In United States v. Lopez, the Court identified "instrumentalities of interstate commerce, or persons or things in interstate commerce" as being subject to Congress's Commerce Clause power. Consequently, Congress has authority to regulate persons or objects in interstate commerce and the instrumentalities of interstate commerce. Regulation under this category is not limited to persons or objects crossing state lines but may extend to objects or persons that have or will cross state lines. Thus, for example, the Court has upheld federal laws that penalized convicted felons for possessing or receiving firearms that had been previously transported in interstate commerce, independent of any activity by the felons, with no other connection between the felons' conduct and interstate commerce.
In United States v. Sullivan, the Court sustained a conviction for misbranding under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. Sullivan, a pharmacist in Columbus, Georgia, had bought a properly labeled 1,000-tablet bottle of sulfathiazole from an Atlanta wholesaler. The bottle had been shipped to the Atlanta wholesaler by a Chicago supplier six months earlier. Three months after Sullivan received the bottle, he made two retail sales of 12 tablets each, placing the tablets in boxes not labeled in strict accordance with the law. Upholding the conviction, the Court concluded that there was no question of "the constitutional power of Congress under the Commerce Clause to regulate the branding of articles that have completed an interstate shipment and are being held for future sales in purely local or intrastate commerce."
Intrastate Activities Having a Substantial Relation to Interstate Commerce[edit | edit source]
In United States v. Lopez, the Court identified "activities having a substantial relation to interstate commerce" as being subject to Congress's Commerce Clause power. Consequently, Congress's power extends beyond transactions or actions that involve crossing state or national boundaries to activities that, though local in nature, sufficiently "affect" commerce. The Court has stated that, "even activity that is purely intrastate in character may be regulated by Congress, where the activity, combined with like conduct by others similarly situated, affects commerce among the States or with foreign nations." This power derives from the Commerce Clause supplemented by the Necessary and Proper Clause.
The seminal case on Congress's authority to regulate certain intrastate commerce is Wickard v. Filburn, which sustained federal regulation of a wheat crop that was grown on a family farm and intended solely for home consumption. The Court reasoned that even if the locally-grown and consumed wheat were never marketed, it supplied a need for the family that otherwise would have been satisfied through the market and therefore competes with wheat in commerce. The Court also posited that if prices rose, the family might be induced to introduce the wheat onto the market. Accordingly, the Court concluded, wheat grown on a farm for personal consumption could "have a substantial effect in defeating and obstructing [Congress's] purpose" in enacting the legislation if omitted from the regulatory scheme.
Subsequent cases have applied a rational basis test to determine whether Congress may reasonably conclude that an activity affects interstate commerce, resulting in a broad application of the "affects" standard. In Hodel v. Indiana, the Court addressed provisions of the Surface Mining and Reclamation Control Act of 1977 designed to preserve "prime farmland." The trial court had relied on an interagency report that determined that the amount of such land disturbed annually by surface mining amounted to 0.006% of the total prime farmland acreage nationwide, concluding that the impact on commerce was "infinitesimal" or "trivial." Disagreeing, the Court said: "A court may invalidate legislation enacted under the Commerce Clause only if it is clear that there is no rational basis for a congressional finding that the regulated activity affects interstate commerce, or that there is no reasonable connection between the regulatory means selected and the asserted ends." Moreover, "[t]he pertinent inquiry therefore is not how much commerce is involved but whether Congress could rationally conclude that the regulated activity affects interstate commerce."
In a companion case, Hodel v. Virginia Surface Mining & Reclamation Ass'n, the Court reiterated that "[t]he denomination of an activity as a 'local' or 'intrastate' activity does not resolve the question whether Congress may regulate it under the Commerce Clause." Rather, the Court stated, "the commerce power 'extends to those activities intrastate which so affect interstate commerce, or the exertion of the power of Congress over it, as to make regulation of them appropriate means to the attainment of a legitimate end, the effective execution of the granted power to regulate interstate commerce.'" Judicial review is narrow. A court must defer to Congress's determination of an "effect" if it is rational, and Congress must have acted reasonably in choosing the means.
The expansion of the class-of-activities standard in the "affecting" cases has been a potent engine of regulation. In Perez v. United States, the Court sustained the application of a federal "loan-sharking" law to a local culprit. The Court held that, although individual loan-sharking activities might be intrastate in nature, Congress possessed the power to determine that the activity was within a class of activities that affected interstate commerce, thus affording Congress an opportunity to regulate the entire class. Although the Court and the congressional findings emphasized that loan-sharking was generally part of organized crime operating on a national scale and that loan-sharking was commonly used to finance organized crime's national operations, subsequent cases do not depend upon a defensible assumption of relatedness in the class.
The Court applied the federal arson statute to the attempted "torching" of a defendant's two-unit apartment building. The Court merely pointed to the fact that the rental of real estate "unquestionably" affects interstate commerce and that "the local rental of an apartment unit is merely an element of a much broader commercial market in real estate." The apparent test of whether aggregation of local activity can be said to affect commerce was made clear next in an antitrust context.
In a case allowing continuation of an antitrust suit challenging a hospital's exclusion of a surgeon from practice in the hospital, the Court observed that in order to establish the required jurisdictional nexus with commerce, the appropriate focus is not on the actual effects of the conspiracy but instead on the possible consequences for the affected market if the conspiracy is successful. The required nexus in this case was sufficient because competitive significance is measured by a general evaluation of the impact of the restraint on other participants and potential participants in the market from which the surgeon was excluded.
Limits on Federal Regulation of Intrastate Activity[edit | edit source]
In United States v. Lopez the Court, for the first time in almost sixty years, invalidated a federal law as exceeding Congress's authority under the Commerce Clause. The statute made it a federal offense to possess a firearm within 1,000 feet of a school. The Court reviewed the doctrinal development of the Commerce Clause, especially the effects and aggregation tests, and reaffirmed that it is the Court's responsibility to decide whether a rational basis exists for concluding that a regulated activity sufficiently affects interstate commerce when a law is challenged. As noted previously, the Court's evaluation started with a consideration of whether the legislation fell within the three broad categories of activity that Congress may regulate or protect under its commerce power: (1) the use of the channels of interstate commerce; (2) the use of instrumentalities of interstate commerce; or (3) activities that substantially affect interstate commerce.
The Court reasoned that the criminalized activity did not implicate the first two categories. As for the third, the Court found an insufficient connection. First, a wide variety of regulations of "intrastate economic activity" has been sustained where an activity substantially affects interstate commerce. But the statute being challenged, the Court continued, was a criminal law that had nothing to do with "commerce" or with "any sort of economic enterprise." Therefore, it could not be sustained under precedents "upholding regulations of activities that arise out of or are connected with a commercial transaction, which viewed in the aggregate, substantially affects interstate commerce." The provision did not contain a "jurisdictional element which would ensure, through case-by-case inquiry, that the firearm possession in question affects interstate commerce." The existence of such a section, the Court implied, would have saved the constitutionality of the provision by requiring a showing of some connection to commerce in each particular case.
Finally, the Court rejected arguments of the government and dissent that there was a sufficient connection between the offense and interstate commerce. At base, the Court's concern was that accepting the attenuated connection arguments presented would eviscerate federalism. The Court stated:
Under the theories that the government presents . . . it is difficult to perceive any limitation on federal power, even in areas such as criminal law enforcement or education where States historically have been sovereign. Thus, if we were to accept the Government's arguments, we are hard pressed to posit any activity by an individual that Congress is without power to regulate.Id. at 564.
Whether Lopez indicated a determination by the Court to police more closely Congress's exercise of its commerce power, so that it would be a noteworthy case, or whether it was rather a "warning shot" across the bow of Congress, urging more restraint in the exercise of power or more care in the drafting of laws, was not immediately clear. The Court's decision five years later in United States v. Morrison, however, suggests that stricter scrutiny of Congress's exercise of its commerce power is the chosen path, at least for legislation that falls outside the realm of economic regulation. The Court will no longer defer, via rational basis review, to every congressional finding of substantial effects on interstate commerce, but instead will examine the nature of the asserted nexus to commerce, and will also consider whether a holding of constitutionality is consistent with its view of the commerce power as being a limited power that cannot be allowed to displace all exercise of state police powers.
In Morrison the Court applied Lopez principles to invalidate a provision of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that created a federal cause of action for victims of gender-motivated violence. Gender-motivated crimes of violence "are not, in any sense of the phrase, economic activity," the Court explained, and there was allegedly no precedent for upholding commerce-power regulation of intrastate activity that was not economic in nature. The provision, like the invalidated provision of the Gun-Free School Zones Act, contained no jurisdictional element tying the regulated violence to interstate commerce. Unlike the Gun-Free School Zones Act, the VAWA did contain "numerous" congressional findings about the serious effects of gender-motivated crimes, but the Court rejected reliance on these findings. "The existence of congressional findings is not sufficient, by itself, to sustain the constitutionality of Commerce Clause legislation. [The issue of constitutionality] is ultimately a judicial rather than a legislative question, and can be settled finally only by this Court."
The problem with the VAWA findings was that they "relied heavily" on the reasoning rejected in Lopez--the "but-for causal chain from the initial occurrence of crime . . . to every attenuated effect upon interstate commerce." As the Court had explained in Lopez, acceptance of this reasoning would eliminate the distinction between what is truly national and what is truly local, and would allow Congress to regulate virtually any activity and basically any crime. Accordingly, the Court "reject[ed] the argument that Congress may regulate noneconomic, violent criminal conduct based solely on that conduct's aggregate effect on interstate commerce." Resurrecting the dual federalism dichotomy, the Court could find "no better example of the police power, which the Founders denied the national government and reposed in the States, than the suppression of violent crime and vindication of its victims."
Yet, the ultimate impact of these cases on Congress's power over commerce may be limited. In Gonzales v. Raich, the Court reaffirmed an expansive application of Wickard v. Filburn, and signaled that its jurisprudence is unlikely to threaten the enforcement of broad regulatory schemes based on the Commerce Clause. In Raich, the Court considered whether the cultivation, distribution, or possession of marijuana for personal medical purposes pursuant to the California Compassionate Use Act of 1996 could be prosecuted under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA). The respondents argued that this class of activities should be considered as separate and distinct from the drug-trafficking that was the focus of the CSA, and that regulation of this limited non-commercial use of marijuana should be evaluated separately.
In Raich, the Court declined the invitation to apply Lopez and Morrison to select applications of a statute, holding that the Court would defer to Congress if there was a rational basis to believe that regulation of home-consumed marijuana would affect the market for marijuana generally. The Court found that there was a "rational basis" to believe that diversion of medicinal marijuana into the illegal market would depress the price on the latter market. The Court also had little trouble finding that, even in application to medicinal marijuana, the CSA was an economic regulation. Noting that the definition of "economics" includes "the production, distribution, and consumption of commodities," the Court found that prohibiting the intrastate possession or manufacture of an article of commerce is a rational and commonly used means of regulating commerce in that product.
The Court's decision also contained an intertwined but potentially separate argument that Congress had ample authority under the Necessary and Proper Clause to regulate the intrastate manufacture and possession of controlled substances, because failure to regulate these activities would undercut the ability of the government to enforce the CSA generally. The Court quoted language from Lopez that appears to authorize the regulation of such activities on the basis that they are an essential part of a regulatory scheme. Justice Antonin Scalia, in concurrence, suggested that this latter category of activities could be regulated under the Necessary and Proper Clause regardless of whether the activity in question was economic or whether it substantially affected interstate commerce.
Regulation of Activity Versus Inactivity[edit | edit source]
While the Supreme Court has interpreted Congress's Commerce Clause authority to reach a wide range of activity, it has concluded that the Commerce Clause does not authorize Congress to regulate inactivity. In National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) v. Sebelius, the Court held that Congress does not have the authority under the Commerce Clause to impose a requirement compelling certain individuals to maintain a minimum level of health insurance. The "individual mandate" provisions of the Affordable Care Act generally subject individuals who failed to purchase health insurance to a monetary penalty, administered through the tax code.
Chief Justice John Roberts's controlling opinion suggested that Congress's authority to regulate interstate commerce presupposes the existence of a commercial activity to regulate. Further, his opinion noted that the commerce power had been uniformly described in previous cases as involving the regulation of an "activity." The individual mandate, on the other hand, compels an individual to become active in commerce on the theory that the individual's inactivity affects interstate commerce. Justice Roberts suggested that regulation of individuals because they are doing nothing would result in an unprecedented expansion of congressional authority with few discernable limitations. While recognizing that most people are likely to seek health care at some point in their lives, Justice Roberts noted that there was no precedent for the argument that individuals who might engage in a commercial activity in the future could, on that basis, be regulated today.
Regulation of Interstate Commerce to Achieve Policy Goals[edit | edit source]
Congress has, at times, used its interstate Commerce Clause authority to pursue policy goals tangential or unrelated to the commercial nature of the activity being regulated. The Court has several times expressly noted that Congress's exercise of power under the Commerce Clause is akin to the police power exercised by the states. Many of the 1964 public accommodations law applications have been premised on the point that large and small establishments alike may serve interstate travelers, making it permissible for Congress to regulate them under the Commerce Clause so as to prevent or deter racial discrimination. For example, in Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States, the Court upheld a provision of Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibited certain categories of business establishments that served interstate travelers from discriminating or segregating on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin. In that same case, the Court observed that Congress had used its authority over and interest in protecting interstate commerce to regulate gambling, criminal enterprises, deceptive sales practices, fraudulent security transactions, misbranding drugs, labor practices such as wages and hours, labor union membership, crop control, discrimination against shippers, injurious price cutting that affected small businesses, resale price maintenance, professional football, and racial discrimination in bus terminal restaurants.
Civil Rights and Commerce Clause[edit | edit source]
It has been generally established that Congress has power under the Commerce Clause to prohibit racial discrimination in the use of channels of commerce. The Court firmly and unanimously sustained the power under the clause to forbid discrimination within the states when Congress in 1964 enacted a comprehensive measure outlawing discrimination because of race or color in access to public accommodations with a requisite connection to interstate commerce. Hotels and motels were declared covered--that is, declared to "affect commerce"--if they provided lodging to transient guests; restaurants, cafeterias, and the like, were covered only if they served or offered to serve interstate travelers or if a substantial portion of the food which they served had moved in commerce. The Court sustained the Act as applied to a downtown Atlanta motel that did serve interstate travelers, to an out-of-the-way restaurant in Birmingham that catered to a local clientele but that had spent 46 percent of its previous year's out-go on meat from a local supplier who had procured it from out-of-state, and to a rural amusement area operating a snack bar and other facilities, which advertised in a manner likely to attract an interstate clientele and that served food a substantial portion of which came from outside the state.
Writing for the Court in Heart of Atlanta Motel and McClung, Justice Tom Clark denied that Congress was disabled from regulating the operations of motels or restaurants because those operations may be, or may appear to be, "local" in character. He wrote: "[T]he power of Congress to promote interstate commerce also includes the power to regulate the local incidents thereof, including local activities in both the States of origin and destination, which might have a substantial and harmful effect upon that commerce."
Although Congress was regulating on the basis of moral judgments and not to facilitate commercial intercourse, the Court still considered Congress's actions to be covered by the Commerce Clause. The Heart of Atlanta Court stated:
That Congress [may legislate] . . . against moral wrongs . . . rendered its enactments no less valid. In framing Title II of this Act Congress was also dealing with what it considered a moral problem. But that fact does not detract from the overwhelming evidence of the disruptive effect that racial discrimination has had on commercial intercourse. It was this burden which empowered Congress to enact appropriate legislation, and, given this basis for the exercise of its power, Congress was not restricted by the fact that the particular obstruction to interstate commerce with which it was dealing was also deemed a moral and social wrong.Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc., 379 U.S. at 257.
The Court held that evidence supported Congress's conclusion that racial discrimination impeded interstate travel by more than 20 million Black citizens, which was an impairment Congress could legislate to remove.
The Commerce Clause basis for civil rights legislation prohibiting private discrimination was important because early cases had interpreted Congress's power under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments as limited to official discrimination. The Court's subsequent determination that Congress has broader powers under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments reduced the importance of the Commerce Clause in this area.
Criminal Law and Commerce Clause[edit | edit source]
Federal criminal jurisdiction based on the commerce or postal power has historically been an auxiliary criminal jurisdiction. That is, Congress has made federal crimes of acts that would usually constitute state crimes but for some contact, however tangential, with a matter subject to congressional regulation even though the federal interest in the acts may be minimal. Early examples of this type of federal criminal statute include the Mann Act of 1910, which outlawed transporting a woman or girl across state lines for purposes of prostitution, debauchery, or other immoral acts, the Dyer Act of 1919, which criminalized interstate transportation of stolen automobiles, and the Lindbergh Law of 1932, which made transporting a kidnapped person across state lines a federal crime. Congress subsequently expanded federal criminal law beyond prohibiting use of interstate facilities in the commission of a crime. Typical of this expansion is a statute making it a federal offense to "in any way or degree obstruct . . . delay . . . or affect . . . commerce . . . by robbery or extortion." But Congress's authority to make crimes federal offenses is not unlimited. In its 1821 Cohens v. Virginia decision, the Court held that "Congress cannot punish felonies generally" and may enact only those criminal laws that are connected to one of its constitutionally enumerated powers, such as the commerce power. As a consequence, most federal offenses include a jurisdictional element that ties the underlying offense to one of Congress's constitutional powers.
Dormant Commerce Clause[edit | edit source]
Overview of Dormant Commerce Clause[edit | edit source]
Even as the Commerce Clause empowers Congress to pass federal laws, it has also come to limit state authority to regulate commerce. In contrast to the doctrine of preemption, which generally applies in areas where Congress has acted, the so-called "Dormant" Commerce Clause may bar state or local regulations even where there is no relevant congressional legislation. Although the Commerce Clause "is framed as a positive grant of power to Congress" and not an explicit limit on states' authority, the Supreme Court has also interpreted the Clause to prohibit state laws that unduly restrict interstate commerce even in the absence of congressional legislation--i.e., where Congress is "dormant." This "negative" or "dormant" interpretation of the Commerce Clause "prevents the States from adopting protectionist measures and thus preserves a national market for goods and services."
The Supreme Court has identified two principles that animate its modern Dormant Commerce Clause analysis. First, subject to certain exceptions, states may not discriminate against interstate commerce. Second, states may not take actions that are facially neutral but unduly burden interstate commerce.
On May 11, 2023, the Supreme Court issued an opinion in National Pork Producers Council v. Ross affirming a lower court decision dismissing a lawsuit that California's Proposition 12, which forbids selling pork from certain pigs that are "confined in a cruel manner," violates the Dormant Commerce Clause. In reaching its decision, the Court rejected an argument that Proposition 12 violated an "extraterritoriality doctrine" that would "forbid enforcement of state laws that have the 'practical effect of controlling commerce outside the State,' even when those laws do not purposely discriminate against out-of-state economic interests." The Court also rejected an argument that Proposition 12 violated the Dormant Commerce Clause under the Pike v. Bruce Church Inc. line of cases, which the petitioners had argued provides that courts should "assess 'the burden imposed on interstate commerce' by a state law and prevent its enforcement if the law's burdens are 'clearly excessive in relation to the putative local benefits.'"
Historical Background on Dormant Commerce Clause[edit | edit source]
The Supreme Court has long rooted its Dormant Commerce Clause jurisprudence in historical circumstances, characterizing the doctrine as a response to the state barriers to trade that served as an impetus for developing a new Constitution. Under the Articles of Confederation, Congress lacked the authority to regulate interstate and foreign commerce. The Annapolis Convention of 1786 was convened out of a desire to remove the protectionist barriers to trade that some states had imposed. At the Philadelphia Convention in 1787, the Framers discussed Congress's authority to regulate interstate commerce in the context of that goal.
In the Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison discussed the benefits of a free national market, such as improving the circulation of commodities for export to foreign markets, increasing the diversity and scope of production, facilitating aid between the states, and providing for more advantageous terms of foreign trade. They also warned that protectionism could lead to interstate conflicts.
Despite these concerns, the Framers did not adopt a constitutional provision expressly addressing state and local regulations affecting interstate commerce. The Import-Export Clause provides that "[n]o State shall, without the Consent of the Congress, lay any Imposts or Duties on Imports or Exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing its inspection laws." That clause has not been held to apply to trade among the states, however. Similarly, in the Federalist No. 32, Hamilton asserted that the states' taxing authority "remains undiminished" save for imposts or duties on imports or exports. He did not specify, however, whether Congress and the states also enjoyed concurrent power over interstate and foreign commerce. Instead, the Supreme Court has developed its Dormant Commerce Clause jurisprudence to serve as a limitation on some state regulations and taxes, and has linked that jurisprudence with the concerns and goals expressed by the various Framers.
Early Dormant Commerce Clause Jurisprudence[edit | edit source]
The Supreme Court first described the principles that would become the dormant Commerce Clause doctrine in 1824. In Gibbons v. Ogden, the Court struck down New York's grant of a monopoly on steamboat traffic in New York waters. The Court decided the case on Supremacy Clause grounds, ruling that the Federal Coastal Act of 1793 preempted the state law. Accordingly, the Court did not decide whether the Commerce Clause barred states from regulating interstate commerce. Chief Justice John Marshall recognized, however, the "great force" of Daniel Webster's argument that the state law violated the Commerce Clause because that clause conferred upon Congress an exclusive power to regulate national commerce. In dicta, Chief Justice Marshall suggested that the power to regulate commerce between the states might be exclusively federal. At the same time, he also recognized that any national power to regulate commerce coexisted with state regulatory authority over matters that could affect commerce, such as laws governing inspection, quarantine, and health, as well as "laws for regulating the internal commerce of a State."
Chief Justice Marshall again addressed the nascent Dormant Commerce Clause doctrine in Willson v. Black-Bird Creek Marsh Co. In that case, a sloop owner whose vessel ran into a dam across a navigable creek challenged a state law authorizing the construction of the dam, arguing that the law conflicted with the federal power to regulate interstate commerce. The Supreme Court rejected this argument, concluding that the state law could not "be considered as repugnant to the [federal] power to regulate commerce in its dormant state . . . ." The Court did not explain the basis for its holding, however, or attempt to square it with the ruling in Gibbons.
Over time, the Court came to add more nuance than was present in its earliest dicta. In Cooley v. Board of Wardens, the Court enunciated a doctrine of partial federal exclusivity that inquired into the subject of a regulation. The Court distinguished between subjects of interstate commerce that "imperatively demand a single uniform rule" nationwide, and subjects of commerce that do not demand such uniformity and which may require "that diversity, which alone can meet the local necessities." While the Court held that Congress's power over the former category was exclusive, it also held that Congress and the states could concurrently regulate the latter category. Concluding that the regulation of pilotage was "incapable of uniformity throughout all the states," the Court upheld a Pennsylvania state law that required ships to hire a local pilot when entering or leaving the Port of Philadelphia.
The Court first struck down a state law solely on Commerce Clause grounds more than two decades later. In the State Freight Tax Case, the Court held unconstitutional a statute that required every company transporting freight within the state, with certain exceptions, to pay a tax at specified rates on each ton of freight carried. Two years later, in Welton v. Missouri, the Court held unconstitutional a state law that required a peddler's license for merchants selling goods that came from other states. In doing so, it identified two separate goals that the dormant Commerce Clause might serve. First, it adopted Cooley's consideration of the goal of uniformity of commercial regulation. It then provided the additional justification that Congress had not enacted specific legislation governing interstate commerce, which was "equivalent to a declaration that inter-State commerce shall be free and untrammelled." In other words, Congress's silence on the subject was an indication that states could not regulate it.
Prior to 1945, the Court considered whether state regulations imposed unreasonable or undue burdens on interstate commerce, but did not generally weigh a regulation's burdens against its benefits. Instead, the Court distinguished between instances where a state regulated interstate commerce and thus imposed a "direct" and impermissible burden on interstate commerce, and those where it imposed an "indirect" burden or merely "affected" interstate commerce, such as in the course of exercising its police powers. The Court indicated that "a state enactment [that] imposes a direct burden upon interstate commerce . . . must fall regardless of federal legislation," indicating that such laws would be invalid even if they were not actually discriminatory.
The distinction between direct and indirect burdens was not always clear, however. Then-Justice (and later Chief Justice) Harlan Stone criticized the direct-or-indirect framework "too mechanical, too uncertain in its application, and too remote from actualities, to be of value," and argued that the Court was "doing little more than using labels to describe a result rather than any trustworthy formula by which it is reached." The same Justice later articulated the modern balancing test for review of state regulations of or affecting interstate commerce.
Many early Dormant Commerce Clause cases addressed regulation of interstate transportation, including trains and motor vehicles. For example, in the Minnesota Rate Cases, the Supreme Court applied the direct/indirect burden test to invalidate Minnesota's adoption of maximum charges for freight and passenger transportation. Other transportation-related cases did not yield a uniform application of the doctrine. In one case, the Court held that states could not set charges for the transportation of persons and freight because such regulation must be uniform. In another case, the Court struck down a Louisiana law requiring that all businesses engaged in interstate transportation of passengers provide equal treatment to all passengers regardless of race or color when transiting through Louisiana. In other cases, the Court upheld a variety of state regulations of trains that had been justified on public safety grounds.
Similarly, the Court recognized that states may enact and enforce comprehensive schemes for licensing and regulation of motor vehicles, though it did not uphold all such schemes. As with regulation of trains, the Court was particularly deferential towards laws that were rooted in safety concerns. The Court also upheld state regulations related to navigation on the basis that the activities were local and did not require nationally uniform rules. By contrast, the Court tended to invalidate facially neutral laws that had an impermissibly protectionist purpose or effect, such as the protection of local producers or industries. For example, in Minnesota v. Barber, the Court invalidated a law requiring fresh meat sold in Minnesota to have been inspected in the state within 24 hours of slaughter, effectively excluding meat slaughtered in other states from the Minnesota market.
Finally, the Supreme Court's early Dormant Commerce Clause jurisprudence also shows an effort to grapple with what constituted "commerce." In some cases, the Court found that a state action had not violated the Dormant Commerce Clause because interstate commerce had not yet begun. For example, the Court upheld a municipal tax that covered cut logs that floated in a river until the spring thaw permitted them to be floated to another state, reasoning that interstate commerce did not begin until the logs were committed to a common carrier for transportation or transport actually began. In a case regarding limitations on the manufacture and sale of "intoxicating liquors," the Court distinguished between the purchase, sale, and incidental transportation of manufactured goods including alcohol, which constituted commerce; and the manufacture of alcohol, which was "the fashioning of raw materials into a change of form for use" and did not constitute commerce.
Modern Dormant Commerce Clause Jurisprudence Generally[edit | edit source]
In its modern Dormant Commerce Clause jurisprudence, the Supreme Court has applied two primary principles. First, subject to certain exceptions, state and local laws that "discriminate[ ] against out-of-state goods or nonresident economic actors" are considered per se invalid and are generally struck down absent a showing that they are narrowly tailored to advance a legitimate local purpose. Second, for laws that regulate "evenhandedly" and are not facially discriminatory, the Court applies a balancing test and upholds laws that serve a "legitimate local purpose" unless the burden on interstate commerce clearly exceeds the local benefits. While the Court has acknowledged Congress's primacy in regulating interstate commerce, it has also asserted its own role in interpreting the scope of that authority.
The application of these two principles in modern Dormant Commerce Clause jurisprudence has been highly fact-specific. While the Court has articulated a basic framework for reviewing state regulations, it has not successfully defined clear rules that can be consistently applied, resulting in holdings that sometimes appear unpredictable. In particular, some Justices have criticized the balancing test, arguing that facially nondiscriminatory laws should be upheld without the need for balancing.
General Prohibition on Facial Discrimination[edit | edit source]
Subject to limited exceptions, the Supreme Court has struck down state laws that discriminate against out-of-state goods or nonresident economic actors, allowing such laws only when the regulatory entity meets the burden of showing that it is "narrowly tailored to advance a legitimate local purpose" and that there is no reasonable, nondiscriminatory regulatory alternative. A law that "clearly discriminates against interstate commerce [ ] will be struck down . . . unless the discrimination is demonstrably justified by a valid factor unrelated to economic protectionism." Put another way, the Court applies a "virtually per se rule of invalidity" to state laws that evince economic protectionism.
Applying this rule, the Court has struck down as discriminatory some regulations that expressly treat out-of-state or interstate interests less favorably, or that expressly grant advantages to in-state businesses. For example, the Court invalidated an Oklahoma law that required coal-fired electric utilities in the state, producing power for sale in the state, to burn a mixture containing at least 10% Oklahoma-mined coal. Similarly, the Court invalidated a state law that permitted a state public utility commission to restrict the export of hydroelectric power to neighboring states when the commission determined that the energy was required for use within the state.
Since the advent of the modern framework for evaluating Dormant Commerce Clause challenges, the Court has also continued to strike down state laws that purport to be facially neutral, but which have either the purpose or the effect of depriving out-of-state businesses of a competitive advantage. In Hunt v. Washington State Apple Advertising Commission, the Court invalidated a North Carolina regulation requiring apples shipped in closed containers to display no grade other than the applicable federal grade. Washington State mandated that all apples produced and shipped in interstate commerce pass a much more rigorous inspection than that mandated by the United States. The Court held that the inability to display the recognized state grade in North Carolina had the practical effect of discriminating against interstate commerce, could not be defended as a consumer protection measure, and therefore was unconstitutional.
In some cases, the Supreme Court has emphasized the availability of less discriminatory alternatives for achieving a regulatory goal. In Dean Milk Co. v. Madison, an Illinois-based dairy processor challenged a local ordinance in Madison, Wisconsin that required all milk sold in the city to be pasteurized at an approved plant within five miles of the city. The Court concluded that the ordinance "plainly discriminates against interstate commerce," and noted that it was "immaterial" that the ordinance discriminated against Wisconsin milk from outside the Madison area as well as out-of-state milk. The Court also reasoned that "reasonable nondiscriminatory alternatives" were available for the inspection of milk or implementation of safety standards, and that the ordinance could not "be justified in view of the character of the local interests and the available methods of protecting them."
The Court has rejected some claims that state regulations are facially discriminatory. In Minnesota v. Clover Leaf Creamery Co., the Court upheld a state law banning the retail sale of milk products in plastic, nonreturnable containers but permitting sales in other nonreturnable, nonrefillable containers, such as paperboard cartons. The Court found no discrimination against interstate commerce, despite a state-court finding that the measure was intended to benefit the local pulpwood industry, because both in-state and out-of-state interests could not use plastic containers. In Exxon Corp. v. Governor of Maryland, the Court upheld a statute that prohibited producers or refiners of petroleum products from operating retail service stations in Maryland. The statute did not on its face discriminate against out-of-state companies, but as there were no producers or refiners in Maryland, "the burden of the divestiture requirements" fell solely on such companies. The Court held, however, that "this fact does not lead, either logically or as a practical matter, to a conclusion that the State is discriminating against interstate commerce at the retail level," as the statute does not "distinguish between in-state and out-of-state companies in the retail market."
State Proprietary Activity (Market Participant) Exception[edit | edit source]
The Supreme Court has recognized limited exceptions to the per se invalidity of discriminatory state laws under the Dormant Commerce Clause. Under the market participant exception, states that "themselves 'participat[e] in the market'" may "'exercis[e] the right to favor [their] own citizens over others.'" For example, a state does not unconstitutionally discriminate against out-of-state businesses when it chooses to buy or sell goods or services with its own residents or businesses
In Hughes v. Alexandria Scrap Corp., the Court upheld a Maryland bounty scheme by which the state paid scrap processors for each "hulk" automobile destroyed, and which substantially disadvantaged out-of-state processors. Reasoning that the scheme was a means of participating in the market to bid up the price of hulks rather than a regulation of the market, the Court held that "entry by the State itself into the market itself as a purchaser, in effect, of a potential article of interstate commerce [does not] create[ ] a burden upon that commerce if the State restricts its trade to its own citizens or businesses within the State." In Reeves, Inc. v. Stake, the Court held that South Dakota could limit the sale of cement from a government-operated plant to in-state residents in times of shortage. The Court noted that "[t]here is no indication of a constitutional plan to limit the ability of States themselves to operate freely in the free market."
Despite these decisions, the scope of the market participant exception has not been carefully defined, particularly with respect to whether a state acts as a market participant in "downstream regulation."
Congressional Authorization of Otherwise Impermissible State Action[edit | edit source]
In general, the Court has recognized that Congress's plenary authority over interstate commerce enables Congress to "keep the way open, confine it broadly or closely, or close it entirely, subject only to the restrictions placed upon its authority by other constitutional provisions and the requirement that it shall not invade the domains of action reserved exclusively for the states." Because the Dormant Commerce Clause protects this legislative domain, Congress may authorize state laws that otherwise would be considered discriminatory. For example, in 1852, the Supreme Court held that the Wheeling Bridge unlawfully obstructed the free navigation of the Ohio River. Soon thereafter, Congress enacted legislation declaring the bridge to be a "lawful structure[ ]." In a subsequent opinion, the Court acknowledged that the act of Congress superseded its earlier ruling. Some Justices, however, have questioned whether Congress may in fact override the dormant Commerce Clause.
Congress's intent to permit otherwise impermissible state actions must "be unmistakably clear," however. The Court has struck down various state regulations where it held that there was no federal law expressing a sufficiently clear intent to authorize a particular burden on interstate commerce.
One line of cases has addressed states' authority to regulate and tax the insurance business. In United States v. South-Eastern Underwriters Association, the Court held that insurance transactions across state lines constituted interstate commerce and thus could not be subjected to discriminatory state taxation. Less than a year later, Congress passed the McCarran-Ferguson Act, which provided that "the continued regulation and taxation by the several States of the business of insurance is in the public interest, and that silence on the part of the Congress shall not be construed to impose any barrier to the regulation or taxation of such business by the several States." Following the enactment of that law, the Court upheld a South Carolina statute that taxed the premiums of business done in that state by foreign insurance companies.
In a series of cases relating to state prohibition laws enacted in the 1890s, the Court emphasized that states could prohibit the manufacture and sale of alcohol within their boundaries, but could not prevent the importation or sale of alcohol in its original package from another state so long as Congress remained silent on the issue. Congress then enacted the Wilson Act, which empowered states to regulate imported liquor on the same terms as domestic liquor. But the Court interpreted the Wilson Act narrowly to authorize states to regulate the resale of imported liquor, and not direct shipment to consumers for personal use. Congress then responded in 1913 by enacting the Webb-Kenyon Act, which authorized states to limit direct shipments of liquor for personal use.
Following the repeal of Prohibition, the Supreme Court has repeatedly considered the relationship between the Twenty-First Amendment and the Dormant Commerce Clause as they govern state alcohol laws. Section 2 of the Amendment prohibited the "transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof." In its recent case law, the Court has emphasized that "the aim of § 2 was not to give States a free hand to restrict the importation of alcohol for purely protectionist purposes." The Court has thus invalidated various state alcohol laws that discriminated in favor of in-state businesses where it has determined that a challenged requirement "[cannot] be justified as a public health or safety measure or on some other legitimate nonprotectionist ground."
Facially Neutral Laws and Dormant Commerce Clause[edit | edit source]
For laws that are neither facially discriminatory nor protectionist in purpose or effect, the Supreme Court now applies a balancing approach to determine if they impermissibly burden interstate commerce. The Court first articulated the modern balancing test in 1945, in Southern Pacific Co. v. Arizona. In that case, the Court held that an Arizona train-length law imposed an unconstitutional burden on interstate commerce. Writing for the majority, Justice Harlan Stone explained that courts would generally uphold regulations as within state authority "[w]hen the regulation of matters of local concern is local in character and effect, and its impact on the national commerce does not seriously interfere with its operation, and the consequent incentive to deal with them nationally is slight."
According to the Court, determining whether a state or local regulation was valid required a "reconciliation of the conflicting claims of state and national power," which "is to be attained only by some appraisal and accommodation of the competing demands of the state and national interests involved." To weigh those conflicting claims, the Court would consider "the nature and extent of the burden which the state regulation . . . imposes on interstate commerce, and whether the relative weights of the state and national interests involved are such as to make inapplicable the rule, generally observed, that the free flow of interstate commerce and its freedom from local restraints in matters requiring uniformity of regulation are interests safeguarded by the commerce clause from state interference." Applying that balancing test to the Arizona law under review, the Court concluded that it was "obstructive to interstate train operation," would have "a seriously adverse effect on transportation efficiency and economy," and "passes beyond what is plainly essential for safety."
Where the statute regulates evenhandedly to effectuate a legitimate local public interest, and its effects on interstate commerce are only incidental, it will be upheld unless the burden imposed on such commerce is clearly excessive in relation to the putative local benefits. If a legitimate local purpose is found, then the question becomes one of degree. And the extent of the burden that will be tolerated will, of course, depend on the nature of the local interest involved, and on whether it could be promoted as well with a lesser impact on interstate activities.Id. at 142 (citation omitted).
Since the adoption of the balancing test for evaluating facially neutral laws under the Dormant Commerce Clause, the Court has issued divergent rulings on state regulations. It has not expressly identified what constitutes an intolerable burden on interstate commerce, though it has held that a state law does not necessarily impose an undue burden on interstate commerce merely because it increases compliance costs or causes some entities to stop doing business in that state. Likewise, the Court has not articulated a definition of "legitimate local purpose," though it has identified categories of interests that could be considered legitimate or illegitimate. In Pike, for example, the Court indicated that states had a legitimate interest in addressing safety (particularly in the context of long-standing local regulation), protecting in-state consumers, protecting or promoting in-state businesses, and maxmimizing the financial return to in-state industries. Under the Court's balancing approach, however, the existence of a legitimate local interest is not alone a sufficient basis to uphold a law that burdens interstate commerce. The Court has also explained that "[s]hielding in-state industries from out-of-state competition is almost never a legitimate local purpose."
Cases that have arisen in the context of financial regulation illustrate the fact-specific nature of the balancing test. In Lewis v. BT Investment Managers, Inc., the Court struck down a state law prohibiting ownership of local advisory businesses by out-of-state banks, holding companies, and trust companies. It acknowledged that "banking and related financial activities are of profound local concern" and that "[d]iscouraging economic concentration and protecting the citizenry against fraud are undoubtedly legitimate state interests." The Court nevertheless held that "disparate treatment of out-of-state bank holding companies cannot be justified as an incidental burden necessitated by legitimate local concerns," in part because "some intermediate form of regulation" could accomplish the same goals. Likewise, in CTS Corp. v. Dynamics Corp. of America, the Court recognized the state's legitimate interest in regulating its corporations and resident shareholders. In that case, it upheld the state law, finding that the state's interest outweighed any burden on interstate commerce from the effects of the law. By contrast, in Edgar v. MITE Corp., the Court reasoned that states did not have a legitimate interest in protecting nonresident shareholders.
At times, the Court has applied an extraterritoriality principle in its Dormant Commerce Clause analysis, holding that certain facially neutral state laws are unconstitutional because they attempt to regulate beyond a state's borders. The Court has recognized that this principle "protects against inconsistent legislation arising from the projection of one state regulatory regime into the jurisdiction of another State" and "precludes the application of a state statute to commerce that takes place wholly outside of the State's borders, whether or not the commerce has effects within the [regulating] State." The Court has not articulated a general rule for when it will consider a state's law to have the practical effect of regulating extraterritorial commerce.
For both discriminatory and facially neutral laws, the Court's "critical consideration" is a law's "overall effect . . . on both local and interstate activity." Yet determining whether a law is discriminatory and per se invalid, or facially netural and subject to the balancing test, is not straightforward. While the Court has cautioned that "no clear line" separates these two categories of regulations, it has identified some categories of laws that are generally discriminatory: laws that aim to create "barriers to allegedly ruinous outside competition," "to create jobs by keeping industry within the State," "to preserve the State's financial resources from depletion by fencing out indigent immigrants," and to "accord [a state's] own inhabitants a preferred right of access over consumers in other States to natural resources located within its borders" would all be invalidated.
Local Laws and Traditional Government Functions[edit | edit source]
At times, the Supreme Court has taken a more lenient approach under the Dormant Commerce Clause toward local laws that relate to government actions it identifies as traditional government functions, and which "may be directed toward any number of legitimate goals unrelated to protectionism." In such cases, the Court has held that "a government function is not susceptible to standard Dormant Commerce Clause scrutiny owing to its likely motivation by legitimate objectives distinct from the simple economic protectionism the Clause abhors."
The Court has not identified an exhaustive list of traditional government functions or a test for identifying them, but one paradigmatic example is the govenrment's role in waste collection. In United Haulers Association, Inc. v. Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Management Authority, the Court upheld a law requiring trash haulers to bring waste to a processing plant owned by a state-created public benefit corporation. The Court explained that it would be "particularly hesitant to interfere . . . under the guise of the Commerce Clause" where a local government engaged in a traditional government function. United Haulers contrasted with earlier rulings that addressed garbarge transport and disposal laws without discussing whether those laws related to a traditional government function. For example, in C & A Carbone, Inc. v. Clarkstown, the Court invalidated a local "flow control" ordinance requiring that all solid waste within the town be processed at a designated transfer station before leaving the town. Underlying the restriction was the town's desire to guarantee a minimum waste flow to the private contractor that constructed a solid waste transfer station. The Court declined to apply Carbone in United Haulers because the ordinance at issue in the latter case required haulers to bring waste to facilities owned and operated by a state-created public benefit corporation, as opposed to a private processing facility. The Court found this difference constitutionally significant because "[d]isposing of trash has been a traditional government activity for years, and laws that favor the government in such areas--but treat every private business, whether in-state or out-of-state, exactly the same--do not discriminate against interstate commerce for purposes of the Commerce Clause."
The Court has applied a traditional governmental function lens in other contexts. In Department of Revenue of Kentucky v. Davis, the Court upheld Kentucky's exemption of interest on its municipal bonds from state income taxes while imposing income taxes on bond interest from other states, after concluding that the issuance of debt securities to pay for public projects is a "quintessentially public function." Curiously, the Court declined to apply the Pike v. Bruce Church, Inc. balancing analysis, holding that "the current record and scholarly material convince us that the Judicial Branch is not institutionally suited to draw reliable conclusions of the kind that would be necessary . . . to satisfy a Pike burden in this particular case."
Foreign Commerce and State Powers[edit | edit source]
State taxation and regulation of commerce from abroad are also subject to negative commerce clause constraints. In the seminal case of Brown v. Maryland, in the course of striking down a state statute requiring "all importers of foreign articles or commodities," preparatory to selling the goods, to take out a license, Chief Justice John Marshall developed a lengthy exegesis explaining why the law was void under both the Import-Export Clause and the Commerce Clause. According to the Chief Justice, an inseparable part of the right to import was the right to sell, and a tax on the sale of an article is a tax on the article itself. Thus, the taxing power of the states did not extend in any form to imports from abroad so long as they remain "the property of the importer, in his warehouse, in the original form or package" in which they were imported. This is the famous "original package" doctrine. Only when the importer parts with his importations, mixes them into his general property by breaking up the packages, may the state treat them as taxable property.
Obviously, to the extent that the Import-Export Clause was construed to impose a complete ban on taxation of imports so long as they were in their original packages, there was little occasion to develop a Commerce Clause analysis that would have reached only discriminatory taxes or taxes upon goods in transit. In other respects, however, the Court has applied the foreign commerce aspect of the clause more stringently against state taxation.
Thus, in Japan Line, Ltd. v. County of Los Angeles, the Court held that, in addition to satisfying the four requirements that govern the permissibility of state taxation of interstate commerce, "When a State seeks to tax the instrumentalities of foreign commerce, two additional considerations . . . come into play. The first is the enhanced risk of multiple taxation. . . . Second, a state tax on the instrumentalities of foreign commerce may impair federal uniformity in an area where federal uniformity is essential." Multiple taxation is to be avoided with respect to interstate commerce by apportionment so that no jurisdiction may tax all the property of a multistate business, and the rule of apportionment is enforced by the Supreme Court with jurisdiction over all the states. However, the Court is unable to enforce such a rule against another country, and the country of the domicile of the business may impose a tax on full value. Uniformity could be frustrated by disputes over multiple taxation, and trade disputes could result.
Applying both these concerns, the Court invalidated a state tax, a nondiscriminatory, ad valorem property tax, on foreign-owned instrumentalities, i.e., cargo containers, of international commerce. The containers were used exclusively in international commerce and were based in Japan, which did in fact tax them on full value. Thus, there was the actuality, not only the risk, of multiple taxation. National uniformity was endangered, because, although California taxed the Japanese containers, Japan did not tax American containers, and disputes resulted.
On the other hand, the Court has upheld a state tax on all aviation fuel sold within the state as applied to a foreign airline operating charters to and from the United States. The Court found the Complete Auto standards met, and it similarly decided that the two standards specifically raised in foreign commerce cases were not violated. First, there was no danger of double taxation because the tax was imposed upon a discrete transaction--the sale of fuel--that occurred within only one jurisdiction. Second, the one-voice standard was satisfied, because the United States had never entered into any compact with a foreign nation precluding such state taxation, having only signed agreements with others, which had no force of law, aspiring to eliminate taxation that constituted impediments to air travel. Also, a state unitary-tax scheme that used a worldwide-combined reporting formula was upheld as applied to the taxing of the income of a domestic-based corporate group with extensive foreign operations.
Extending Container Corp., the Court in Barclays Bank v. Franchise Tax Bd. of California upheld the state's worldwide-combined reporting method of determining the corporate franchise tax owed by unitary multinational corporations, as applied to a foreign corporation. The Court determined that the tax easily satisfied three of the four-part Complete Auto test--nexus, apportionment, and relation to state's services--and concluded that the nondiscrimination principle--perhaps violated by the letter of the law--could be met by the discretion accorded state officials. As for the two additional factors, as outlined in Japan Lines, the Court pronounced itself satisfied. Multiple taxation was not the inevitable result of the tax, and that risk would not be avoided by the use of any reasonable alternative. The tax, it was found, did not impair federal uniformity or prevent the Federal Government from speaking with one voice in international trade, in view of the fact that Congress had rejected proposals that would have preempted California's practice. The result of the case, perhaps intended, is that foreign corporations have less protection under the negative Commerce Clause.
The power to regulate foreign commerce was always broader than the states' power to tax it, an exercise of the "police power" recognized by Chief Justice John Marshall in Brown v. Maryland. That this power was constrained by notions of the national interest and preemption principles was evidenced in the cases striking down state efforts to curb and regulate the actions of shippers bringing persons into their ports. On the other hand, quarantine legislation to protect the states' residents from disease and other hazards was commonly upheld though it regulated international commerce. A state game-season law applied to criminalize the possession of a dead grouse imported from Russia was upheld because of the practical necessities of enforcement of domestic law.
Nowadays, state regulation of foreign commerce is likely to be judged by the extra factors set out in Japan Line. Thus, the application of a state civil rights law to a corporation transporting passengers outside the state to an island in a foreign province was sustained in an opinion emphasizing that, because of the particularistic geographic situation the foreign commerce involved was more conceptual than actual, there was only a remote hazard of conflict between state law and the law of the other country and little if any prospect of burdening foreign commerce.
State Taxation[edit | edit source]
Overview of State Taxation and Dormant Commerce Clause[edit | edit source]
In 1959, the Supreme Court acknowledged that, with respect to the taxing power of the states in light of the negative (or "dormant") Commerce Clause, "some three hundred full-dress opinions" as of that year had not resulted in "consistent or reconcilable" doctrine but rather in something more resembling a "quagmire." Although many of the principles still applicable in constitutional law may be found in the older cases, the Court has worked to drain that quagmire, though at different times for taxation and for regulation.
The task of drawing the line between state power and the commercial interest has proved a comparatively simple one in the field of foreign commerce, the two things being in great part territorially distinct. With "commerce among the States," affairs are very different. Interstate commerce is conducted by persons and corporations that are ordinarily engaged also in local business, often through activities that comprise the most ordinary subject matter of state power. In this field, the Court consequently has been unable to rely upon sweeping solutions. To the contrary, its judgments have often been fact-bound and difficult to reconcile, and this is particularly the case with respect to the infringement of interstate commerce by the state taxing power.
Early Dormant Commerce Clause Jurisprudence and State Taxation[edit | edit source]
The Supreme Court's Dormant Commerce Clause jurisprudence dealing with how state taxing power relates to interstate commerce developed gradually with the Court first striking down a state tax as violating the Commerce Clause in 1873 in the State Freight Tax Case. In the State Freight Tax Case, the Court considered the validity of a Pennsylvania statute that required every company transporting freight within the state, with certain exceptions, to pay a tax at specified rates on each ton of freight carried by it. The Court's reasoning was forthright: Transportation of freight constitutes commerce. A tax upon freight transported from one state to another effects a regulation of interstate commerce. Hence, a state law imposing a tax upon freight, taken up within the state and transported out of it or taken up outside the state and transported into it, violates the Commerce Clause.
[W]henever the subjects over which a power to regulate commerce is asserted are in their nature national or admit of one uniform system or plan of regulation, they may justly be said to be of such a nature as to require exclusive legislation by Congress. Surely transportation of passengers or merchandise through a State, or from one state to another, is of this nature. It is of national importance that over that subject there should be but one regulating power, for if one State can directly tax persons or property passing through it, or tax them indirectly by levying a tax upon their transportation, every other may, and thus commercial intercourse between States remote from each other may be destroyed. . . . It was to guard against the possibility of such commercial embarrassments, no doubt, that the power of regulating commerce among the States was conferred upon the Federal government.Case of the State Freight Tax, 82 U.S. at 279-80.
The principle thus established in the State Freight Tax Case--that a state may not tax interstate commerce--confronted the principle that a state may tax all purely domestic business within its borders and all property "within its jurisdiction." The task before the Court was to determine where to draw the line between the immunity claimed by interstate business, on the one hand, and the prerogatives claimed by local power on the other. In the State Tax on Railway Gross Receipts Case, decided the same day as the State Freight Tax Case, the Supreme Court considered the constitutionality of a state tax upon gross receipts of all railroads chartered by the state, when part of the receipts had been derived from interstate transportation of the same freight that had been held immune from tax pursuant to the State Freight Tax Case. If the latter tax--the state tax upon gross receipts of all railroads chartered by the state--was regarded as a tax on interstate commerce, it too would violate the Constitution. But to the Court, the tax on gross receipts of an interstate transportation company was not a tax on commerce. The Court stated: "[I]t is not everything that affects commerce that amounts to a regulation of it, within the meaning of the Constitution." The Court reasoned that a gross receipts tax upon a railroad company, which concededly affected commerce, did not directly regulate commerce. The Court explained: "Very manifestly it is a tax upon the railroad company. . . . That its ultimate effect may be to increase the cost of transportation must be admitted. . . . Still it is not a tax upon transportation, or upon commerce. . . ."
The Court differentiated these two cases in part on the basis of Cooley, reasoning that some subjects embraced within the meaning of commerce demand uniform, national regulation, whereas other similar subjects permit of diversity of treatment, until Congress acts; and in part on the basis of a concept of a "direct" tax on interstate commerce, which was impermissible, and an "indirect" tax, which was permissible until Congress acted. Those two concepts were sometimes conflated and sometimes treated separately. In any event, the Court itself was clear that interstate commerce could not be taxed at all, even if the tax was a nondiscriminatory levy applied alike to local commerce. In the Minnesota Rate Cases, the Court stated: "Thus, the States cannot tax interstate commerce, either by laying the tax upon the business which constitutes such commerce or the privilege of engaging in it, or upon the receipts, as such, derived from it . . . ; or upon persons or property in transit in interstate commerce." However, the Court sustained taxes that imposed only an "indirect" burden on interstate commerce. For instance, the Court sustained property taxes and taxes in lieu of property taxes applied to all businesses, including instrumentalities of interstate commerce. Generally, courts sustained taxes that were imposed on some local, rather than interstate, activity or if the tax was exacted before interstate movement had begun or after it had ended.
An independent basis for invalidation was that the tax was discriminatory--that its impact was intentionally or unintentionally felt by interstate commerce and not by local commerce--perhaps in pursuit of parochial interests. Many early cases actually involving discriminatory taxation were decided on the basis of the impermissibility of taxing interstate commerce at all, but the category was soon clearly delineated as a separate ground for invalidation.
Following the Great Depression and under the leadership of Justice, and later Chief Justice, Harlan Stone, the Court attempted to move away from the principle that interstate commerce may not be taxed and the use of the direct-indirect distinction. Instead, a state or local tax would be voided only if, in the opinion of the Court, it created a risk of multiple taxation for interstate commerce not felt by local commerce. It became much more important to the validity of a tax that it be apportioned to an interstate company's activities within the taxing state, so as to reduce the risk of multiple taxation. But in some cases, the Court continued to suggest that interstate commerce may not be taxed at all, even by a properly apportioned levy, and reasserted the direct-indirect tax distinction. Following a series of cases that suggested difficulty in applying the Court's precedents, the Court adopted the modern standard which is discussed in the essay Modern Dormant Commerce Clause Jurisprudence on State Taxation Generally.
Modern Dormant Commerce Clause Jurisprudence and State Taxation[edit | edit source]
In the area of taxation, the transition from the earliest formulations to the modern standard was gradual. Both taxation and regulation now, however, are evaluated under a judicial balancing formula comparing the burden on interstate commerce with the importance of the state interest, save for discriminatory state action that cannot be justified at all.
During the 1940s and 1950s, there was conflict within the Court between the view that interstate commerce could not be taxed at all, at least "directly," and the view that the Dormant Commerce Clause protected against the risk of double taxation. In Northwestern States Portland Cement Co. v. Minnesota, the Court reasserted the principle expressed in Western Live Stock--that the Framers did not intend to immunize interstate commerce from its just share of the state tax burden even though it increased the cost of doing business. In Northwestern States, the Court held that a state could constitutionally impose a nondiscriminatory, fairly apportioned net income tax on an out-of-state corporation engaged exclusively in interstate commerce in the taxing state. The Court stated: "For the first time outside the context of property taxation, the Court explicitly recognized that an exclusively interstate business could be subjected to the states' taxing powers." Thus, in Northwestern States, foreign corporations that maintained a sales office and employed sales staff in the taxing state for solicitation of orders for their merchandise that, upon acceptance of the orders at their home office in another jurisdiction, were shipped to customers in the taxing state, were held liable to pay the latter's income tax on that portion of the net income of their interstate business as was attributable to such solicitation.
Subsequent years, however, saw inconsistent rulings that turned almost completely upon the use of or failure to use "magic words" by legislative drafters. That is, it was constitutional for states to tax a corporation's net income, properly apportioned to the taxing state, as in Northwestern States, but no state could levy a tax on a foreign corporation for the privilege of doing business in the state, notwithstanding the similarity of the taxes.
In Complete Auto Transit, Inc. v. Brady, the Court overruled the cases embodying the distinction and articulated a standard that has governed subsequent cases. A tax on interstate commerce will be sustained "when the tax is applied to an activity with a substantial nexus with the taxing State, is fairly apportioned, does not discriminate against interstate commerce, and is fairly related to the services provided by the State."
Nexus Prong of Complete Auto Test for Taxes on Interstate Commerce[edit | edit source]
In Complete Auto Transit, Inc. v. Brady, the Court held that a state tax on interstate commerce will be sustained "when the tax is applied to an activity with a substantial nexus with the taxing State, is fairly apportioned, does not discriminate against interstate commerce, and is fairly related to the services provided by the State." The first prong of the Complete Auto test, which this essay concerns, asks whether the tax applies to an activity with a "substantial nexus" with the taxing state, which requires the taxpayer to "avail[ ] itself of the substantial privilege of carrying on business in that jurisdiction." This requirement runs parallel to the "minimum contacts" requirement under the Due Process Clause that a state must meet to exercise control over a person, that person's property, or a transaction involving the person. Specifically, under the due process requirement, there must be "some definite link, some minimum connection between a state and the person, property, or transaction it seeks to tax." The "broad inquiry" under "both constitutional requirements" is "whether the taxing power exerted by the state bears fiscal relation to protection, opportunities and benefits given by the state--" i.e., "whether the state has given anything for which it can ask return."
Until the Court's 2018 decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair, the Court imposed a relatively narrow interpretation of the minimum contacts test in two cases, which involved a state's ability to require an out-of-state seller to collect and remit tax from a sale to a consumer within that state. First, in the 1967 case of National Bellas Hess, Inc. v. Department of Revenue, the Court held that unless a retailer maintained a physical presence with the state, the state lacked the power to require that retailer to collect a local use tax. A quarter of a century later, the Court reaffirmed Bellas Hess's physical presence rule under the Commerce Clause in Quill v. North Dakota.
In South Dakota v. Wayfair, however, the Court overruled both cases, rejecting the rule that a retailer must have a physical presence within a state before the state may require the retailer to collect a local use tax. Several reasons undergirded the Wayfair Court's rejection of the physical presence rule. First, the Court noted that the rule did not comport with modern Dormant Commerce Clause jurisprudence, which viewed the substantial nexus test as "closely related" to and having "significant parallels" with the due process minimum contacts analysis. Second, Justice Anthony Kennedy viewed the Quill rule as unmoored from the underlying purpose of the Commerce Clause: to prevent states from engaging in economic discrimination. Contrary to this purpose, the Quill rule created artificial market distortions that placed businesses with a physical presence in a state at a competitive disadvantage relative to remote sellers. Third, the Wayfair Court viewed the physical presence rule, in contrast with modern Commerce Clause jurisprudence, as overly formalistic. More broadly, the majority opinion criticized the Quill rule as ignoring the realities of modern e-commerce wherein a retailer may have "substantial virtual connections" to a state without having a physical presence.
As the Court in Wayfair noted, the substantial nexus inquiry has tended to reject formal rules in favor of a more flexible inquiry. Thus, maintenance of one full-time employee within the state (plus occasional visits by non-resident engineers) to make possible the realization and continuance of contractual relations seemed to the Court to make almost frivolous a claim of lack of sufficient nexus. The application of a state business-and-occupation tax on the gross receipts from a large wholesale volume of pipe and drainage products in the state was sustained, even though the company maintained no office, owned no property, and had no employees in the state, its marketing activities being carried out by an in-state independent contractor. The Court also upheld a state's application of a use tax to aviation fuel stored temporarily in the state prior to loading on aircraft for consumption in interstate flights.
Providing guidance on what states may tax, the Court's unitary business principle looks at whether the taxpayer's intrastate and extra-state activities form a "single unitary business" or if the extra-state activities are unrelated to the instrastate activities and instead form a discrete business. In MeadWestvaco Corp. v. Illinois Department of Revenue, the Supreme Court stated:
When there is no dispute that the taxpayer has done some business in the taxing State, the inquiry shifts from whether the State may tax to what it may tax. To answer that question, [the Court has] developed the unitary business principle. Under that principle, a State need not isolate the intrastate income-producing activities from the rest of the business but may tax an apportioned sum of the corporation's multistate business if the business is unitary. The court must determine whether intrastate and extrastate activities formed part of a single unitary business, or whether the out-of-state values that the State seeks to tax derive[d] from unrelated business activity which constitutes a discrete business enterprise. . . . If the value the State wishe[s] to tax derive[s] from a 'unitary business' operated within and without the State, the State [may] tax an apportioned share of the value of that business instead of isolating the value attributable to the operation of the business within the State. Conversely, if the value the State wished to tax derived from a discrete business enterprise, then the State could not tax even an apportioned share of that value.Id. (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). The holding of this case was that the concept of "operational function," which the Court had introduced in prior cases, was "not intended to modify the unitary business principle by adding a new ground for apportionment." Id. at 1507-08. In other words, the Court declined to adopt a basis upon which a state could tax a non-unitary business.
However, notwithstanding the existence of a unitary business, a "minimal connection" or "nexus" must still exist between the state and the taxpayer's interstate activities to meet constitutional standards as well as a "rational relationship" between the amount taxed and the taxpayer's intrastate activities. As the Court explained in Container Corp. v. Franchise Tax Board:
The Due Process and Commerce Clauses of the Constitution do not allow a State to tax income arising out of interstate activities--even on a proportional basis--unless there is a 'minimal connection' or 'nexus' between the interstate activities and the taxing State and 'a rational relationship between the income attributed to the State and the intrastate values of the enterprise.'Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). See also ASARCO Inc. v. Idaho State Tax Comm'n, 458 U.S. 307, 316-17 (1982); Hunt-Wesson, Inc. v. Franchise Tax Bd., 528 U.S. 458 (2000) (interest deduction not properly apportioned between unitary and non-unitary business).
Apportionment Prong of Complete Auto Test for Taxes on Interstate Commerce[edit | edit source]
In Complete Auto Transit, Inc. v. Brady, the Court held that a state tax on interstate commerce will be sustained "when the tax is applied to an activity with a substantial nexus with the taxing State, is fairly apportioned, does not discriminate against interstate commerce, and is fairly related to the services provided by the State." The second prong of the Complete Auto test, which this essay concerns, is the apportionment of the tax. This requirement is of long standing, but its importance has broadened as the scope of the states' taxing powers has enlarged. When a business carries on a single integrated enterprise both within and without the state, the state may not exact from interstate commerce more than the state's fair share. Avoidance of multiple taxation, or the risk of multiple taxation, is the test of an apportionment formula. Generally speaking, this factor has been seen as both a Commerce Clause and a due process requisite, although, as one recent Court decision notes, some tax measures that are permissible under the Due Process Clause nonetheless could run afoul of the Commerce Clause. The Court has declined to impose any particular formula on the states, reasoning that to do so would be to require the Court to engage in"extensive judicial lawmaking," for which it was ill-suited and for which Congress had ample power and ability to legislate.
In Goldberg v. Sweet, the Court articulated an "internally consistent test" and an "externally consistent test" when it upheld as properly apportioned a state tax on the gross charge of any telephone call originated or terminated in the state and charged to an in-state service address, regardless of where the telephone call was billed or paid. Explaining its "internally consistent test" and its "externally consistent test" for determining whether a tax has been fairly apportioned, the Goldberg Court wrote:
We determine whether a tax is fairly apportioned by examining whether it is internally and externally consistent. To be internally consistent, a tax must be structured so that if every State were to impose an identical tax, no multiple taxation would result. Thus, the internal consistency test focuses on the text of the challenged statute and hypothesizes a situation where other States have passed an identical statute. The external consistency test asks whether the State has taxed only that portion of the revenues from the interstate activity which reasonably reflects the in-state component of the activity being taxed.Id. at 261, 262 (citations omitted).
In American Trucking Ass'ns v. Scheiner, the Supreme Court held that a state registration tax met the internal consistency test because every state honored every other states', and a motor fuel tax similarly was sustained because it was apportioned to mileage traveled in the state, whereas lump-sum annual taxes, an axle tax and an identification marker fee, being unapportioned flat taxes imposed for the use of the state's roads, were voided under the internal consistency test, because if every state imposed them, then the burden on interstate commerce would be great. Similarly, in Comptroller of the Treasury of Maryland v. Wynne, the Court held that Maryland's personal income tax scheme--which taxed Maryland residents on their worldwide income and nonresidents on income earned in the state and did not offer Maryland residents a full credit for income taxes they paid to other states--"fails the internal consistency test." The Court did so because if every state adopted the same approach, taxpayers who "earn[ ] income interstate" would be taxed twice on a portion of that income, while those who earned income solely within their state of residence would be taxed only once.
Deference to state taxing authority was evident in Oklahoma Tax Commission v. Jefferson Lines, Inc., in which the Court sustained a state sales tax on the price of a bus ticket for travel that originated in the state but terminated in another state. The tax was unapportioned to reflect the intrastate travel and the interstate travel. The tax in Oklahoma was different from the tax upheld in Central Greyhound, the Court held, because the tax in Central Greyhound constituted a levy on gross receipts, payable by the seller, whereas the tax in Oklahoma was a sales tax, also assessed on gross receipts, but payable by the buyer. The Oklahoma tax, the Court continued, was internally consistent, because if every state imposed a tax on ticket sales within the state for travel originating there, no sale would be subject to more than one tax. The tax was also externally consistent, the Court held, because it was a tax on the sale of a service that took place in the state, not a tax on the travel.
In Fulton Corp. v. Faulkner, the Court, however, found discriminatory and thus invalid a state intangibles tax on a fraction of the value of corporate stock owned by state residents inversely proportional to the state's exposure to the state income tax.
Discrimination Prong of Complete Auto Test for Taxes on Interstate Commerce[edit | edit source]
In Complete Auto Transit, Inc. v. Brady, the Court held that a state tax on interstate commerce will be sustained "when the tax is applied to an activity with a substantial nexus with the taxing State, is fairly apportioned, does not discriminate against interstate commerce, and is fairly related to the services provided by the State." The third prong of the Complete Auto test, which this essay concerns, goes to whether the tax discriminates against interstate commerce.
The "fundamental principle" governing the discrimination factor is simple and fully consonant with the broader application of the Dormant Commerce Clause. As the Supreme Court recognized in Boston Stock Exchange v. State Tax Commission: "'No State may, consistent with the Commerce Clause, impose a tax which discriminates against interstate commerce . . . by providing a direct commercial advantage to local business.'" That is, a tax that by its terms or operation imposes greater burdens on out-of-state goods or activities than on competing in-state goods or activities will be struck down as discriminatory under the Commerce Clause. In Armco, Inc. v. Hardesty, the Court voided as discriminatory the imposition on an out-of-state wholesaler of a state tax that was levied on manufacturing and wholesaling but that relieved manufacturers subject to the manufacturing tax of liability for paying the wholesaling tax. Even though the former tax was higher than the latter, the Court found that the imposition discriminated against the interstate wholesaler. Similarly, in Bacchus Imports, Ltd. v. Dias, the Court held a state excise tax on wholesale liquor sales, which exempted sales of specified local products, to violate the Commerce Clause. The Court also held that a state statute that granted a tax credit for ethanol fuel if the ethanol was produced in the state, or if it was produced in another state that granted a similar credit to the state's ethanol fuel, to be discriminatory and in violation of the Commerce Clause in New Energy Co. of Indiana v. Limbach. The Court reached the same conclusion as to Maryland's personal income tax scheme in Comptroller of the Treasury of Maryland v. Wynne, which taxed Maryland residents on their worldwide income and nonresidents on income earned in the state and did not offer Maryland residents a full credit for income taxes they paid to other states, finding the scheme "inherently discriminatory."
Expanding, although neither unexpectedly nor exceptionally, its dormant commerce jurisprudence, the Court in Camps Newfound/Owatonna, Inc. v. Town of Harrison applied its nondiscrimination element of the doctrine to invalidate the state's charitable property tax exemption statute, which applied to nonprofit firms performing benevolent and charitable functions, but which excluded entities serving primarily out-of-state residents. As such, the tax scheme was designed to encourage entities to care for local populations and to discourage attention to out-of-state individuals and groups. Camps Newfound/Owatonna Inc., however, operated a church camp for children, most of whom resided out-of-state. In holding the tax to violate the Commerce Clause, the Court underscored that there was no reason to distinguish nonprofits from for-profit companies for Commerce Clause purposes.
For purposes of Commerce Clause analysis, any categorical distinction between the activities of profit-making enterprises and not-for-profit entities is therefore wholly illusory. Entities in both categories are major participants in interstate markets. And, although the summer camp involved in this case may have a relatively insignificant impact on the commerce of the entire Nation, the interstate commercial activities of nonprofit entities as a class are unquestionably significant.520 U.S. at 586.
Benefit Prong of Complete Auto Test for Taxes on Interstate Commerce[edit | edit source]
In Complete Auto Transit, Inc. v. Brady, the Court held that a state tax on interstate commerce will be sustained "when the tax is applied to an activity with a substantial nexus with the taxing State, is fairly apportioned, does not discriminate against interstate commerce, and is fairly related to the services provided by the State." The fourth prong of the Complete Auto test, which this essay concerns, goes to whether the tax is fairly related to the services that the State provides.
Although, in all the modern cases, the Court has stated that a necessary factor to sustain state taxes having an interstate impact is that the tax be fairly related to benefits provided by the taxing state, the Court has not addressed how to weigh the amount of the tax or the value of the benefits bestowed. The test rather is whether, as a matter of the nexus factor, the business has the requisite nexus with the state; if it does, then the tax meets the fourth factor simply because the business has enjoyed the opportunities and protections that the state has afforded it.
Foreign[edit | edit source]
Overview of Foreign Commerce Clause[edit | edit source]
There are certain dicta urging or suggesting that Congress's power to regulate interstate commerce restrictively is less than its analogous power over foreign commerce, the argument being that whereas the latter is a branch of the Nation's unlimited power over foreign relations, the former was conferred upon the National Government primarily in order to protect freedom of commerce from state interference. The four dissenting Justices in the 1903 Lottery Case endorsed this view in the following words: "[T]he power to regulate commerce with foreign nations and the power to regulate interstate commerce, are to be taken diverso intuitu, for the latter was intended to secure equality and freedom in commercial intercourse as between the States, not to permit the creation of impediments to such intercourse; while the former clothed Congress with that power over international commerce, pertaining to a sovereign nation in its intercourse with foreign nations, and subject, generally speaking, to no implied or reserved power in the States. The laws which would be necessary and proper in the one case, would not be necessary or proper in the other."
Twelve years later, Chief Justice Byron White, speaking for the Court, expressed the same view: "In the argument reference is made to decisions of this court dealing with the subject of the power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce, but the very postulate upon which the authority of Congress to absolutely prohibit foreign importations as expounded by the decisions of this court rests is the broad distinction which exists between the two powers and therefore the cases cited and many more which might be cited announcing the principles which they uphold have obviously no relation to the question in hand."
But dicta to the contrary are much more numerous and span a far longer period of time. Thus Chief Justice Roger Taney wrote in 1847: "The power to regulate commerce among the several States is granted to Congress in the same clause, and by the same words, as the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and is coextensive with it." And nearly fifty years later, Justice Stephen Field, speaking for the Court, said: "The power to regulate commerce among the several States was granted to Congress in terms as absolute as is the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations." Today it is firmly established that the power to regulate commerce, whether with foreign nations or among the several states, comprises the power to restrain or prohibit it at all times for the welfare of the public, provided only that the specific limitations imposed upon Congress's powers, as by the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, are not transgressed.
Instruments of Commerce[edit | edit source]
The applicability of Congress's power to the agents and instruments of commerce is implied in Chief Justice John Marshall's opinion in Gibbons v. Ogden, where the waters of the State of New York in their quality as highways of interstate and foreign transportation were held to be governed by the overriding power of Congress. Likewise, the same opinion recognizes that in "the progress of things," new and other instruments of commerce will make their appearance. When the Licensing Act of 1793 was passed, the only craft to which it could apply were sailing vessels, but it and the power by which it was enacted were, Marshall asserted, indifferent to the "principle" by which vessels were moved. Its provisions therefore reached steam vessels as well. A little over half a century later the principle embodied in this holding was given its classic expression in the opinion of Chief Justice Morrison Waite in the case of the Pensacola Telegraph Co. v. Western Union Telegraph Co., a case closely paralleling Gibbons v. Ogden in other respects also. "The powers thus granted are not confined to the instrumentalities of commerce, or the postal service known or in use when the Constitution was adopted, but they keep pace with the progress of the country, and adapt themselves to the new developments of times and circumstances. They extend from the horse with its rider to the stage-coach, from the sailing-vessel to the steamboat, from the coach and the steamboat to the railroad, and from the railroad to the telegraph, as these new agencies are successively brought into use to meet the demands of increasing population and wealth. They were intended for the government of the business to which they relate, at all times and under all circumstances. As they were intrusted to the general government for the good of the nation, it is not only the right, but the duty, of Congress to see to it that intercourse among the States and the transmission of intelligence are not obstructed or unnecessarily encumbered by State legislation."
The Radio Act of 1927 whereby "all forms of interstate and foreign radio transmissions within the United States, its Territories and possessions" were brought under national control, affords another illustration. Because of the doctrine thus stated, the measure met no serious constitutional challenge either on the floors of Congress or in the Courts.
Indian Tribes[edit | edit source]
Scope of Commerce Clause Authority and Indian Tribes[edit | edit source]
Jurisdiction over matters in "Indian Country" "is governed by a complex patchwork of federal, state, and tribal law." Since Worcester v. Georgia in 1832, the Supreme Court has recognized that Native American "tribes are unique aggregations possessing attributes of sovereignty over both their members and their territories." They are no longer "possessed of the full attributes of sovereignty," however, having relinquished some part of it by "[t]heir incorporation within the territory of the United States and their acceptance of its protection." Accordingly, "[t]he sovereignty that the Indian tribes retain is of a unique and limited character. It exists only at the sufferance of Congress and is subject to complete defeasance."
While previously "the subject of some confusion," the source of federal authority over tribal matters is generally recognized to "derive[ ] from federal responsibility for regulating commerce with Indian tribes and for treaty making." The Constitution's so-called "Indian Commerce Clause" explicitly authorizes Congress to regulate commerce with the tribes. Congress's authority to regulate commercial activity in "Indian Country" is plenary, exclusive, and broad, and persists even though such activity may occur within a state's territorial boundaries.
Using its Indian Commerce Clause authority, Congress may determine with whom and in what manner the tribes engage in commercial activity. Major areas where Congress has exercised its power to regulate include: tribal land; tribal gaming; hunting, fishing, and wildlife; and natural resources, such as minerals, oil and gas, and timber. Congress has also attempted to promote tribal political and economic development through legislation such as the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 and the Native American Business Development, Trade Promotion, and Tourism Act.
The Supreme Court has increasingly recognized Congress's power under the Indian Commerce Clause as a source of authority to regulate tribal rights and obligations beyond matters of mere commerce. Although the power of Congress over tribal affairs is broad, it is not limitless. While "the United States has power to control and manage the affairs of its Indian wards in good faith for their welfare, that power is subject to constitutional limitations." The Court has articulated a standard of review that defers to legislative judgment "[a]s long as the special treatment can be tied rationally to the fulfillment of Congress's unique obligation toward the Indians." A more searching review is warranted when it is alleged that the Federal Government's behavior toward a tribe contravenes its obligations, or when the government has taken property which it guaranteed to the tribe without compensating the tribe for the land's full value.
On June 15, 2023, the Supreme Court issued a decision in Haaland v. Brackeen, a case challenging the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). ICWA regulates child custody proceedings that involve Indian children by, among other things, establishing a preference for placing Indian children with Indian families or institutions ahead of unrelated non-Indians or non-Indian institutions. The Court upheld ICWA as a valid exercise of Congress's broad power to legislate with respect to Indian tribes under the Indian Commerce Clause. In ruling that ICWA permissibly preempted aspects of state family law, the Court confirmed that Congress's Indian Commerce Clause power allows it to regulate individual tribal members in addition to Indian tribes and embraces "not only trade but also Indian affairs." In other words, Congress's power under the Indian Commerce Clause is not limited to the common perception of "commerce" as meaning trade or "economic transactions."
Restrictions on State Powers, Indian Tribes, and Commerce Clause[edit | edit source]
Although in 1871, Congress forbade making further treaties with the tribes, cases disputing the application of old treaties, and especially their effects upon attempted state regulation of on-reservation activities, continue to appear on the Supreme Court's docket. Given the broad federal power to legislate on tribal affairs, the Court has generally used a preemption-like doctrine as the analytical framework with which to judge the permissibility of assertions of state jurisdiction over tribes:
[T]he traditional notions of tribal sovereignty, and the recognition and encouragement of this sovereignty in congressional Acts promoting tribal independence and economic development, inform the pre-emption analysis that governs this inquiry. As a result, ambiguities in federal law should be construed generously, and federal pre-emption is not limited to those situations where Congress has explicitly announced an intention to pre-empt state activity.Ramah Navajo Sch. Bd., Inc. v. Bureau of Revenue of N.M., 458 U.S. 832, 838 (1982). See also New Mexico v. Mescalero Apache Tribe, 462 U.S. 324 (1983).
Accordingly, state regulation of tribal activities is preempted by federal law if the state scheme is incompatible with federal and tribal interests, unless the state's interests are substantial enough to justify the assertion of its authority. If a detailed, federal regulatory framework exists and would be compromised by incompatible state regulation, the state action may be preempted by federal law. Tribal gaming, for instance, is subject to a detailed federal regulatory scheme that preempts state law for certain types of gaming on tribal land, but preserves state regulation of tribal gaming on non-tribal land. Notably, just as federal statutes are generally construed to the benefit of Native Americans, the preemption doctrine will not be applied strictly to prevent states from aiding tribes.
The Supreme Court has also clarified that "States have no authority to reduce federal reservations lying within their borders." In a leading case involving settlement of Native land claims, the Court ruled in County of Oneida v. Oneida Indian Nation that a tribe could obtain damages for wrongful possession of land conveyed in 1795 without federal approval, as required by the Nonintercourse Act. The Act reflected the accepted principle that extinguishment of title to Native American land requires the United States' consent. The Court reiterated the rule that enactments are construed liberally in favor of Native Americans; Congress may abrogate Native treaty rights or extinguish aboriginal land title only if it does so clearly and unambiguously. Consequently, federal approval of land-conveyance treaties containing references to earlier conveyances that violated the Nonintercourse Act do not constitute ratification of the invalid conveyances.
In addition to federal preemption, the impact on tribal sovereignty is a determinant of relative state and tribal regulatory authority. A tribe has the power to regulate its members and, unless so provided by Congress, a state may not regulate in a manner that would infringe upon this tribal authority. In other words, the "semi-autonomous status" of tribes is an "independent but related" barrier to the exercise of state authority over commercial activity on a reservation. If state regulation of activities on tribal lands would interfere with the tribe's sovereignty and self-governance, the state is generally divested of jurisdiction under federal law. Substantial tribal interests in on-reservation activities could outweigh the state's interests in the off-reservation effects of on-reservation activities. However,a tribe may not offer on-reservation activities to avoid state off-reservation law.
In sum, there are two independent barriers to state regulation of tribal reservations and members, either of which can independently bar the application of a state law: (1) preemption by federal law and (2) tribal sovereignty. Accordingly, the Court's preemption inquiry in this context requires an examination of applicable federal law as well as the nature of state, federal, and tribal interests to determine whether the exercise of state authority is permissible. The preemption inquiry considers traditional notions of tribal sovereignty and the federal goal of tribal self-governance, including tribal self-sufficiency and economic development.
Generally, however, Native Americans on reservations are not subject to state law unless Congress has expressly legislated otherwise, because the federal interest in encouraging tribal self-government is strongest on the reservation, while the state's regulatory interest is likely to be low. On the other hand, beyond reservation boundaries, Native Americans are subject to generally applicable state laws as long as they are not discriminatory or preempted by federal law. And when state interests outside the reservation are implicated on the reservation, such as in the context of a state's police powers, states may regulate the activities of tribe members on tribal land under certain circumstances.
With regard to regulation of on-reservation activities of non-Natives, in Montana v. United States, the Supreme Court articulated the so-called Montana Doctrine under which a tribe may not "exercise criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians" with two notable exceptions. First, "[a] tribe may regulate, through taxation, licensing, or other means, the activities of nonmembers who enter consensual relationships with the tribe or its members, through commercial dealing, contracts, leases, or other arrangements." Second, a tribe may address "the conduct of non-Indians on fee lands within its reservation when that conduct threatens or has some direct effect on the political integrity, the economic security, or the health or welfare of the tribe." Applying the Montana Doctrine's second exception, in United States v. Cooley, the Court held that a "tribal officer possesses the authority . . . to detain temporarily and to search a non-Indian on a public right-of-way that runs through an Indian reservation."
As suggested by the first exception to the Montana Doctrine, among the fundamental attributes of sovereignty a tribe possesses, unless divested by federal law, is the power to tax non-Natives entering the reservation to engage in economic activities. Over time, the Court has recognized additional inherent tribal sovereign powers.
The scope of state taxing powers--the conflict of "the plenary power of the States over residents within their borders with the semi-autonomous status of Indians living on tribal reservations"--has been frequently litigated. Absent cession of jurisdiction or other congressional consent, states possess no power to tax reservation lands or tribal income from activities carried on within a reservation's boundaries. Off-reservation Native activities require an express federal exemption to deny state taxing power. State taxation of non-Natives doing business with Natives on the reservation involves a close analysis of the federal statutory framework, although the operating premise was for many years to deny state taxation power because of its burdens upon the development of tribal self-sufficiency and interference with the tribes' ability to exercise their sovereign functions.
The Supreme Court appears to have moved away from this operating premise to some extent. For example, in Cotton Petroleum Corp. v. New Mexico, the Court upheld a state oil and gas severance tax applied to on-reservation operations by non-Natives, which were already taxed by the Tribe, finding the impairment of tribal sovereignty was "too indirect and too insubstantial" to warrant preemption. The Court found the fact that the state provided significant services to the oil and gas lessees justified state taxation, while distinguishing earlier cases in which the state "asserted no legitimate regulatory interest that might justify the tax." In a later case where the Court confronted arguments that the imposition of particular state taxes on reservation property was inconsistent with self-determination and self-governance, the Court denominated these as "policy" arguments properly presented to Congress rather than to the Court.
- E. Prentice & J. Egan, The Commerce Clause of the Federal Constitution 14 (1898).
- The Oxford English Dictionary: "com- together, with, + merx, merci- merchandise, ware."
- 22 U.S. (9 Wheat.) 1 (1824).
- Act of February 18, 1793, 1 Stat. 305, entitled "An Act for enrolling and licensing ships or vessels to be employed in the coasting trade and fisheries, and for regulating the same."
- Id. at 190-94.
- Id. at 193.
- Kidd v. Pearson, 128 U.S. 1 (1888); Oliver Iron Co. v. Lord, 262 U.S. 172 (1923); United States v. E. C. Knight Co., 156 U.S. 1 (1895); see also Carter v. Carter Coal Co., 298 U.S. 238 (1936).
- Paul v. Virginia, 75 U.S. (8 Wall.) 168 (1869); see also the cases to this effect cited in United States v. Se. Underwriters Ass'n, 322 U.S. 533, 543-545, 567-568, 578 (1944).
- Fed. Baseball League v. Nat'l League of Pro. Baseball Clubs, 259 U.S. 200 (1922). When pressed to reconsider its decision, the Court declined, noting that Congress had not seen fit to bring the business under the antitrust laws by legislation having prospective effect; that the business had developed under the understanding that it was not subject to these laws; and that reversal would have retroactive effect. Toolson v. N.Y. Yankees, 346 U.S. 356 (1953). In Flood v. Kuhn, 407 U.S. 258 (1972), the Court recognized these decisions as aberrations, but thought the doctrine was entitled to the benefits of stare decisis, as Congress was free to change it at any time. The same considerations not being present, the Court has held that businesses conducted on a multistate basis, but built around local exhibitions, are in commerce and subject to, inter alia, the antitrust laws, in the instance of professional football, Radovich v. Nat'l Football League, 352 U.S. 445 (1957), professional boxing, United States v. Int'l Boxing Club, 348 U.S. 236 (1955), and legitimate theatrical productions, United States v. Shubert, 348 U.S. 222 (1955).
- Blumenstock Bros. v. Curtis Publ'g Co., 252 U.S. 436 (1920).
- Williams v. Fears, 179 U.S. 270 (1900). See also Diamond Glue Co. v. U.S. Glue Co., 187 U.S. 611 (1903); Browning v. City of Waycross, 233 U.S. 16 (1914); General Ry. Signal Co. v. Virginia, 246 U.S. 500 (1918). But see York Mfg. Co. v. Colley, 247 U.S. 21 (1918).
- Associated Press v. United States, 326 U.S. 1 (1945).
- Am. Med. Ass'n v. United States, 317 U.S. 519 (1943). Cf. United States v. Or. Med. Society, 343 U.S. 326 (1952).
- United States v. Se. Underwriters Ass'n, 322 U.S. 533 (1944).
- NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp., 301 U.S. 1 (1937).
- Sunshine Anthracite Coal Co. v. Adkins, 310 U.S. 381 (1940). See also Hodel v. Va. Surface Mining and Reclamation Ass'n, 452 U.S. 264, 275-283 (1981); Mulford v. Smith, 307 U.S. 38 (1939) (agricultural production).
- Swift & Co. v. United States, 196 U.S. 375 (1905); Stafford v. Wallace, 258 U.S. 495 (1922); Chi. Bd. of Trade v. Olsen, 262 U.S. 1 (1923).
- In many later formulations, crossing of state lines is no longer the sine qua non; wholly intrastate transactions with substantial effects on interstate commerce may suffice.
- E.g., United States v. Simpson, 252 U.S. 465 (1920); Caminetti v. United States, 242 U.S. 470 (1917).
- The Court stated: "Not only, then, may transactions be commerce though non-commercial; they may be commerce though illegal and sporadic, and though they do not utilize common carriers or concern the flow of anything more tangible than electrons and information." United States v. Se. Underwriters Ass'n, 322 U.S. 533, 549-50 (1944).
- Gibbons v. Ogden, 22 U.S. (9 Wheat.) 1, 194 (1824).
- Id. at 194.
- New York v. Miln, 36 U.S. (11 Pet.) 102 (1837); License Cases, 46 U.S. (5 How.) 504 (1847); Passenger Cases, 48 U.S. (7 How.) 283 (1849); Patterson v. Kentucky, 97 U.S. 501 (1879); Trade-Mark Cases, 100 U.S. 82 (1879); Kidd v. Pearson, 128 U.S. 1 (1888); Ill. Cent. R.R. v. McKendree, 203 U.S. 514 (1906); Keller v. United States, 213 U.S. 138 (1909); Hammer v. Dagenhart, 247 U.S. 251 (1918); Oliver Iron Co. v. Lord, 262 U.S. 172 (1923).
- Gibbons v. Ogden, 22 U.S. (9 Wheat.) 1, 194-195 (1824). Marshall stated: "Commerce among the states must, of necessity, be commerce with[in] the states. The power of congress, then, whatever it may be, must be exercised within the territorial jurisdiction of the several states." Id. at 196. Commerce "among the several States," however, does not comprise commerce of the District of Columbia or the territories of the United States. Congress's power over their commerce is an incident of its general power over them. Stoutenburgh v. Hennick, 129 U.S. 141 (1889); Atl. Cleaners & Dyers v. United States, 286 U.S. 427 (1932); In re Bryant, 4 F. Cas. 514 (No. 2067) (D. Oreg. 1865). The Court has held transportation between two points in the same state to be interstate commerce when a part of the route is a loop outside the state. Hanley v. Kan. City S. Ry., 187 U.S. 617 (1903); W. Union Tel. Co. v. Speight, 254 U.S. 17 (1920). But such a deviation cannot be solely for the purpose of evading a tax or regulation in order to be exempt from the state's reach. Greyhound Lines v. Mealey, 334 U.S. 653, 660 (1948); Eichholz v. Pub. Serv. Comm'n, 306 U.S. 268, 274 (1939). Red cap services performed at a transfer point within the state of departure but in conjunction with an interstate trip are reachable. New York, N.H. & H. R.R. v. Nothnagle, 346 U.S. 128 (1953).
- Swift & Co. v. United States, 196 U.S. 375 (1905); Stafford v. Wallace, 258 U.S. 495 (1922); Chi. Bd. of Trade v. Olsen, 262 U.S. 1 (1923).
- NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp., 301 U.S. 1 (1937).
- United States v. Darby, 312 U.S. 100 (1941); Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States, 379 U.S. 241 (1964); Maryland v. Wirtz, 392 U.S. 183 (1968); Perez v. United States, 402 U.S. 146 (1971); Russell v. United States, 471 U.S. 858 (1985); Summit Health, Ltd. v. Pinhas, 500 U.S. 322 (1991).
- NLRB v. Fainblatt, 306 U.S. 601 (1939); Kirschbaum v. Walling, 316 U.S. 517 (1942); United States v. Wrightwood Dairy Co., 315 U.S. 110 (1942); Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111 (1942); NLRB v. Reliance Fuel Oil Co., 371 U.S. 224 (1963); Katzenbach v. McClung, 379 U.S. 294 (1964); Maryland v. Wirtz, 392 U.S. 183 (1968); McLain v. Real Estate Bd. of New Orleans, 444 U.S. 232, 241-243 (1980); Hodel v. Va. Surface Mining & Reclamation Ass'n, 452 U.S. 264 (1981).
- United States v. Darby, 312 U.S. 100, 114 (1941).
- E.g., Caminetti v. United States, 242 U.S. 470 (1917) (transportation of female across state line for noncommercial sexual purposes); Cleveland v. United States, 329 U.S. 14 (1946) (transportation of plural wives across state lines); United States v. Simpson, 252 U.S. 465 (1920) (transportation of five quarts of whiskey across state line for personal consumption).
- Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States, 379 U.S. 241 (1964); Katzenbach v. McClung, 379 U.S. 294 (1964); Daniel v. Paul, 395 U.S. 298 (1969).
- E.g., Reid v. Colorado, 187 U.S. 137 (1902) (transportation of diseased livestock across state line); Perez v. United States, 402 U.S. 146 (1971) (prohibition of all loan-sharking).
- 26 Stat. 209 (1890); 15 U.S.C. §§ 1-7.
- 156 U.S. 1 (1895).
- Id. at 9.
- Id. at 13-16.
- 175 U.S. 211 (1899).
- 196 U.S. 375 (1905). The Court applied the Sherman Act to break up combinations of interstate carriers in United States v. Trans-Mo. Freight Ass'n, 166 U.S. 290 (1897); United States v. Joint-Traffic Ass'n, 171 U.S. 505 (1898); and N. Sec. Co. v. United States, 193 U.S. 197 (1904).In Mandeville Island Farms v. Am. Crystal Sugar Co., 334 U.S. 219, 229-39 (1948), Justice Wiley Rutledge, for the Court, critically reviewed the jurisprudence of the limitations on the Act and the deconstruction of the judicial constraints. In recent years, the Court's decisions have permitted the reach of the Sherman Act to expand along with the expanding notions of congressional power. Gulf Oil Corp. v. Copp Paving Co., 419 U.S. 186 (1974); Hosp. Bldg. Co. v. Rex Hospital Trustees, 425 U.S. 738 (1976); McLain v. Real Estate Bd. of New Orleans, 444 U.S. 232 (1980); Summit Health, Ltd. v. Pinhas, 500 U.S. 322 (1991). The Court, however, does insist that plaintiffs alleging that an intrastate activity violates the Act prove the relationship to interstate commerce set forth in the Act. Gulf Oil Corp, 419 U.S. at 194-99.
- Swift & Co. v. United States, 196 U.S. 375, 396 (1905).
- Id. at 399-401.
- 156 U.S. 1 (1895).
- Swift, 196 U.S. at 400. See also Houston & Tex. Ry. v. United States (The Shreveport Rate Case), 234 U.S. 342 (1914).
- Loewe v. Lawlor (The Danbury Hatters Case), 208 U.S. 274 (1908); Duplex Printing Press Co. v. Deering, 254 U.S. 443 (1921); Coronado Co. v. United Mine Workers, 268 U.S. 295 (1925); United States v. Bruins, 272 U.S. 549 (1926); Bedford Co. v. Stone Cutters Ass'n, 274 U.S. 37 (1927); Local 167 v. United States, 291 U.S. 293 (1934); Allen Bradley Co. v. Union, 325 U.S. 797 (1945); United States v. Employing Plasterers Ass'n, 347 U.S. 186 (1954); United States v. Green, 350 U.S. 415 (1956); Callanan v. United States, 364 U.S. 587 (1961).
- 42 Stat. 159, 7 U.S.C. §§ 171-183, 191-195, 201-203.
- 42 Stat. 998 (1922), 7 U.S.C. §§ 1-9, 10a-17.
- 258 U.S. 495 (1922).
- Id. at 515-16. See also Lemke v. Farmers Grain Co., 258 U.S. 50 (1922); Minnesota v. Blasius, 290 U.S. 1 (1933).
- 262 U.S. 1 (1923).
- Id. at 40.
- Appalachian Coals, Inc. v. United States, 288 U.S. 344, 372 (1933).
- 48 Stat. 195.
- 295 U.S. 495 (1935).
- In United States v. Sullivan, 332 U.S. 689 (1948), the Court interpreted the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938 to apply to a retailer's sale of drugs purchased from his wholesaler nine months after their interstate shipment had been completed. In an opinion written by Justice Hugo Black, the Court cited United States v. Walsh, 331 U.S. 432 (1947); Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111 (1942); United States v. Wrightwood Dairy Co., 315 U.S. 110 (1942); United States v. Darby, 312 U.S. 100 (1941). Justice Felix Frankfurter dissented on the basis of FTC v. Bunte Bros., 312 U.S. 349 (1941). Subsequently, the Court repudiated the Schechter distinction between "direct" and "indirect" effects. Cf. Perez v. United States, 402 U.S. 146 (1971). See also McDermott v. Wisconsin, 228 U.S. 115 (1913), which preceded Schechter by more than two decades.The Court held, however, that NIRA suffered from several other constitutional infirmities besides its disregard, as illustrated by the Live Poultry Code, of the "fundamental" distinction between "direct" and "indirect" effects, namely, the delegation of standardless legislative power, the absence of any administrative procedural safeguards, the absence of judicial review, and the dominant role played by private groups in the general scheme of regulation.
- 48 Stat. 31.
- United States v. Butler, 297 U.S. 1, 63-64, 68 (1936).
- 48 Stat. 1283.
- 295 U.S. 330 (1935).
- Id. at 379.
- 326 U.S. 446 (1946). Indeed, in a case decided in June 1948, Justice Rutledge, speaking for a majority of the Court, listed the Alton case as one "foredoomed to reversal," though the formal reversal has never taken place. See Mandeville Island Farms v. Am. Crystal Sugar Co., 334 U.S. 219, 230 (1948). Cf. Usery v. Turner Elkhorn Mining Co., 428 U.S. 1, 19 (1976).
- 48 Stat. 881, 15 U.S.C. §§ 77b et seq.
- 49 Stat. 803, 15 U.S.C. §§ 79-79z-6.
- 49 Stat. 991.
- Elec. Bond Co. v. SEC, 303 U.S. 419 (1938); N. Am. Co. v. SEC, 327 U.S. 686 (1946); Am. Power & Light Co. v. SEC, 329 U.S. 90 (1946).
- 49 Stat. 991.
- Carter v. Carter Coal Co., 298 U.S. 238 (1936).
- 301 U.S. 1 (1937). Prior to this decision, President Roosevelt, frustrated by the Court's invalidation of much of his New Deal program, proposed a "reorganization" of the Court that would have allowed him to name one new Justice for each Justice on the Court who was more than seventy years old, in the name of "judicial efficiency." The Senate defeated the plan, which some have attributed to the Court having begun to uphold New Deal legislation in cases such as Jones & Laughlin. See William E. Leuchtenberg, The Origins of Franklin D. Roosevelt's 'Court-Packing' Plan, 1966 Sup. Ct. Rev. 347 (P. Kurland ed.); Alpheus Thomas Mason, Harlan Fiske Stone and FDR's Court Plan, 61 Yale L. J. 791 (1952); 2 Merlo J. Pusey, Charles Evans Hughes 759-765 (1951).
- 49 Stat. 449, as amended, 29 U.S.C. §§ 151 et seq.
- While Congress passed the NLRA during the Great Depression, the 1898 Erdman Act, 30 Stat. 424, concerning unionization of railroad workers and facilitating negotiations with employers through mediation provided some precedent. The Erdman Act, however, fell largely into disuse because the railroads refused to mediate. Additionally, in Adair v. United States, 208 U.S. 161 (1908), the Court struck down a provision of the Erdman Act outlawing "yellow-dog contracts" by which employers exacted promises from workers to quit or not join unions as a condition of employment. The Court held the provision did not regulate commerce on the grounds that an employee's membership in a union was not related to conducting interstate commerce. Cf. Coppage v. Kansas, 236 U.S. 1 (1915).In Wilson v. New, 243 U.S. 332 (1917), the Court upheld Congress's passage of an act to establish an eight-hour day and time-and-a-half overtime for all interstate railway employees to settle a threatened rail strike. While the Court cited the national emergency in its decision, the case implied that the power existed generally, suggesting that Congress's powers were not as limited as some judicial decisions had indicated.The Court sustained Congress's passage of the Railway Labor Act (RLA) of 1926, 44 Stat. 577, as amended, 45 U.S.C. §§ 151 et seq., recognizing a substantial connection between interstate commerce and union membership. Tex. & New Orleans R.R. v. Brotherhood of Ry. Clerks, 281 U.S. 548 (1930). In a subsequent decision, the Court sustained applying the RLA to "back shop" employees of an interstate carrier who made repairs to locomotives and cars withdrawn from service for long periods on the grounds that these employees' activities related to interstate commerce. Virginian Ry. v. System Federation No. 40, 300 U.S. 515 (1937).
- NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp., 301 U.S. 1, 38 (1937).
- Id. at 41.
- Id. at 41.
- NLRB v. Fruehauf Trailer Co., 301 U.S. 49 (1937); NLRB v. Friedman-Harry Marks Clothing Co., 301 U.S. 58 (1937). In a later case, the Court noted that the amount of affected commerce was not material. NLRB v. Fainblatt, 306 U.S. 601, 606 (1939).
- Howell Chevrolet Co. v. NLRB, 346 U.S. 482 (1953).
- Journeymen Plumbers' Union v. Cnty. of Door, 359 U.S. 354 (1959).
- NLRB v. Reliance Fuel Oil Co., 371 U.S. 224 (1963).
- Id. at 226. See also Guss v. Utah Labor Bd., 353 U.S. 1, 3 (1957); Fainblatt, 306 U.S. at 607.
- Reliance Fuel, 371 U.S. at 225 n.2; Liner v. Jafco, 375 U.S. 301, 303 n.2 (1964).
- 50 Stat. 246, 7 U.S.C. §§ 601 et seq.
- 315 U.S. 110 (1942). The Court had previously upheld other legislation that regulated agricultural production through limitations on sales in or affecting interstate commerce. Currin v. Wallace, 306 U.S. 1 (1939); Mulford v. Smith, 307 U.S. 38 (1939).
- 317 U.S. 111 (1942).
- 42 Stat. 31, 7 U.S.C. §§ 612c, 1281-82 et seq.
- The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, ch. 676, 52 Stat. 1060 et seq.
- 52 Stat. 1060, as amended, 63 Stat. 910 (1949). The 1949 amendment substituted the phrase "in any process or occupation directly essential to the production thereof in any State" for the original phrase "in any process or occupation necessary to the production thereof in any State." In Mitchell v. H.B. Zachry Co., 362 U.S. 310, 317 (1960), the Court noted that the change "manifests the view of Congress that on occasion courts . . . had found activities to be covered, which . . . [Congress now] deemed too remote from commerce or too incidental to it." The 1961 amendments to the Act, 75 Stat. 65, departed from previous practices of extending coverage to employees individually connected to interstate commerce to cover all employees of any "enterprise" engaged in commerce or production of commerce; thus, there was an expansion of employees covered but not, of course, of employers, 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et seq. See 29 U.S.C. §§ 203(r), 203(s), 206(a), 207(a).
- Id. at 113, 114, 118.
- E.g., Kirschbaum v. Walling, 316 U.S. 517 (1942) (operating and maintenance employees of building, part of which was rented to business producing goods for interstate commerce); Walton v. S. Package Corp., 320 U.S. 540 (1944) (night watchman in a plant the substantial portion of the production of which was shipped in interstate commerce); Armour & Co. v. Wantock, 323 U.S. 126 (1944) (employees on stand-by auxiliary fire-fighting service of an employer engaged in interstate commerce); Borden Co. v. Borella, 325 U.S. 679 (1945) (maintenance employees in building housing company's central offices where management was located though the production of interstate commerce was elsewhere); Martino v. Mich. Window Cleaning Co., 327 U.S. 173 (1946) (employees of a window-cleaning company the principal business of which was performed on windows of industrial plants producing goods for interstate commerce); Mitchell v. Lublin, McGaughy & Assocs., 358 U.S. 207 (1959) (nonprofessional employees of architectural firm working on plans for construction of air bases, bus terminals, and radio facilities).
- Cf. Mitchell v. H.B. Zachry Co., 362 U.S. 310, 316-18 (1960).
- 75 Stat. 65.
- 80 Stat. 830.
- 29 U.S.C. §§ 203(r), 203(s).
- 392 U.S. 183 (1968).
- The Court overruled another aspect of this case in Nat'l League of Cities v. Usery, 426 U.S. 833 (1976), which the Court also overruled in Garcia v. San Antonio Metro. Transit Auth., 469 U.S. 528 (1985).
- E.g., United States v. E. C. Knight Co., 156 U.S. 1 (1895); Hammer v. Dagenhart, 247 U.S. 251 (1918). Of course, for much of this time there existed a parallel doctrine under which federal power was not so limited. E.g., Houston & Tex. Ry. v. United States (The Shreveport Rate Case), 234 U.S. 342 (1914).
- E.g., California v. United States, 320 U.S. 577 (1944); California v. Taylor, 353 U.S. 553 (1957).
- For example, federal regulation of the wages and hours of certain state and local governmental employees has alternatively been upheld and invalidated. See Maryland v. Wirtz, 392 U.S. 183 (1968), overruled in Nat'l League of Cities v. Usery, 426 U.S. 833 (1976), overruled in Garcia v. San Antonio Metro. Transit Auth., 469 U.S. 528 (1985).
- New York v. United States, 505 U.S. 144 (1992); Printz v. United States, 521 U.S. 898 (1997). For elaboration, see the discussions under the Supremacy Clause and under the Tenth Amendment.
- United States v. Lopez, 514 U.S. 549, 558-59 (1995) (citations omitted).
- E.g., Brooks v. United States, 267 U.S. 432, 436-437 (1925); United States v. Darby, 312 U.S. 100, 114 (1941).
- United States v. Lopez, 514 U.S. 549, 558-59 (1995) (citations omitted).
- Smith v. Turner, 48 U.S. (7 How.) 283, 401 (1849).
- 227 U.S. 308, 320 (1913).
- 242 U.S. 470, 491 (1917).
- 529 U.S. 598, 613 n.5 (2000).
- 537 U.S. 129, 133-34, 146-48 (2003).
- Id. at 133-34, 147.
- Id. at 129, 147.
- Id. at 147-48.
- United States v. Lopez, 514 U.S. 549, 558-59 (1995) (citations omitted).
- Black's Law Dictionary defines instrumentality to mean "a thing used to achieve an end or purpose." For example, the Supreme Court used the example of a law prohibiting the destruction of an aircraft as a regulation of instrumentalities of interstate commerce. Perez v. United States, 402 U.S. 146, 150 (1971) (citing 18 U.S.C. § 32).
- Scarborough v. United States, 431 U.S. 563 (1977); Barrett v. United States, 423 U.S. 212 (1976). However, because such laws reach far into the traditional police powers of the states, the Court insists Congress clearly speak to its intent to cover such local activities. United States v. Bass, 404 U.S. 336 (1971). See also Rewis v. United States, 401 U.S. 808 (1971); United States v. Enmons, 410 U.S. 396 (1973). A similar tenet of construction has appeared in the Court's recent treatment of federal prosecutions of state officers for official corruption under criminal laws of general applicability. E.g., McDonnell v. United States, 579 U.S. 550, 576-77 (2016) (narrowly interpreting the term "official act" to avoid a construction of the Hobbs Act and federal honest-services fraud statute that would "raise[ ] significant federalism concerns" by intruding on a state's "prerogative to regulate the permissible scope of interactions between state officials and their constituents."); McCormick v. United States, 500 U.S. 257 (1991); McNally v. United States, 483 U.S. 350 (1987).
- 332 U.S. 689 (1948).
- Id. at 698-99.
- United States v. Lopez, 514 U.S. 549, 558-59 (1995) (citations omitted).
- Fry v. United States, 421 U.S. 542, 547 (1975).
- 317 U.S. 111 (1942).
- Id. at 128.
- Id. at 128-29.
- Hodel v. Indiana, 452 U.S. 314, 323-24 (1981).
- Id. at 324.
- 452 U.S. 264, 281 (1981).
- Id. at 281 (quoting United States v. Wrightwood Dairy Co., 315 U.S. 110, 119 (1942)).
- Id. at 276, 277. The scope of review is restated in Preseault v. ICC, 494 U.S. 1, 17 (1990). Then-Justice William Rehnquist, concurring in the two Hodel cases, objected that the Court was making it appear that no constitutional limits existed under the Commerce Clause, whereas in fact it was necessary that a regulated activity must have a substantial effect on interstate commerce, not just some effect. He thought it a close case that the statutory provisions here met those tests. Id. at 307-13.
- 402 U.S. 146 (1971).
- Russell v. United States, 471 U.S. 858, 862 (1985). In a later case the Court avoided the constitutional issue by holding the statute inapplicable to the arson of an owner-occupied private residence. Jones v. United States, 529 U.S. 848 (2000).
- Summit Health, Ltd. v. Pinhas, 500 U.S. 322 (1991).
- Id. at 330-32. The decision was 5-4, with the dissenters of the view that, although Congress could reach the activity, it had not done so.
- 514 U.S. 549 (1995). The Court was divided 5-4, with Chief Justice William Rehnquist writing the opinion of the Court, joined by Justices Sandra O'Connor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, and Clarence Thomas, with dissents by Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Stephen Breyer, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
- Carter v. Carter Coal Co., 298 U.S. 238 (1936) (striking down regulation of mining industry as outside of Commerce Clause).
- 18 U.S.C. § 922(q)(1)(A). Congress subsequently amended the section to make the offense jurisdictionally turn on possession of "a firearm that has moved in or that otherwise affects interstate or foreign commerce." Pub. L. No. 104-208, 110 Stat. 3009-370.
- 514 U.S. at 556-57, 559.
- Id. at 558-59. For an example of regulation of persons or things in interstate commerce, see Reno v. Condon, 528 U.S. 141 (2000) (information about motor vehicles and owners, regulated pursuant to the Driver's Privacy Protection Act, and sold by states and others, is an article of commerce).
- 514 U.S. at 559.
- Id. at 559-61.
- Id. at 561.
- Id. at 563-68.
- "Not every epochal case has come in epochal trappings." Id. at 615 (Souter, J., dissenting) (wondering whether the case is only a misapplication of established standards or is a veering in a new direction).
- 529 U.S. 598 (2000). Once again, the Justices split 5-4, with Chief Justice Rehnquist's opinion for the Court being joined by Justices O'Connor, Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas, and with Justices Souter, Stevens, Ginsburg, and Breyer dissenting.
- For an expansive interpretation in the area of economic regulation, decided during the same Term as Lopez, see Allied-Bruce Terminix Cos. v. Dobson, 513 U.S. 265 (1995). Lopez did not "purport to announce a new rule governing Congress's Commerce Clause power over concededly economic activity." Citizens Bank v. Alafabco, Inc., 539 U.S. 52, 58 (2003).
- Morrison, 529 U.S. at 613.
- Dissenting Justice Souter pointed to a "mountain of data" assembled by Congress to show the effects of domestic violence on interstate commerce. 529 U.S. at 628-30. The Court has evidenced a similar willingness to look behind congressional findings purporting to justify exercise of enforcement power under Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment. See discussion under "enforcement," Fourteenth Amend., Sec. 5: Overview of Enforcement Clause. In Morrison itself, the Court determined that congressional findings were insufficient to justify the VAWA as an exercise of Fourteenth Amendment power. 529 U.S. at 619-20.
- Morrison, 529 U.S. at 614.
- Id. at 615-16. Applying the principle of constitutional doubt, the Court in Jones v. United States, 529 U.S. 848 (2000), interpreted the federal arson statute as inapplicable to the arson of a private, owner-occupied residence. Were the statute interpreted to apply to such residences, the Court noted, "hardly a building in the land would fall outside [its] domain," and the statute's validity under Lopez would be squarely raised. 529 U.S. at 857.
- Morrison, 529 U.S. at 618.
- 545 U.S. 1 (2005).
- 84 Stat. 1242, 21 U.S.C. §§ 801 et seq.
- 545 U.S. at 19.
- Id. at 25, quoting Webster's Third New International Dictionary 720 (1966).
- See also Taylor v. United States, 579 U.S. 301, 307 (2016) (rejecting the argument that the government, in prosecuting a defendant under the Hobbs Act for robbing drug dealers, must prove the interstate nature of the drug activity). The Taylor Court viewed this result as following necessarily from the Court's earlier decision in Raich, because the Hobbs Act imposes criminal penalties on robberies that affect "all . . . commerce over which the United States has jurisdiction," 18 U.S.C. § 1951(b)(3) (2012), and Raich established the precedent that the market for marijuana, "including its intrastate aspects," is "commerce over which the United States has jurisdiction." Taylor, 579 U.S. at 307. Taylor was, however, expressly "limited to cases in which a defendant targets drug dealers for the purpose of stealing drugs or drug proceeds." Id. at 310. The Court did not purport to resolve what federal prosecutors must prove in Hobbs Act robbery cases "where some other type of business or victim is targeted." Id.
- 545 U.S. at 18, 22.
- Id. at 23-25.
- Id. at 34-35 (Scalia, J., concurring).
- 567 U.S. 519 (2012).
- Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), Pub. L. No. 111-148, as amended. The Act's "guaranteed-issue" and "community-rating" provisions necessitated the mandate because they prohibited insurance companies from denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions or charging unhealthy individuals higher premiums than healthy individuals. Id. at §§ 300gg, 300gg-1, 300gg-3, 300gg-4. As these requirements provide an incentive for individuals to delay purchasing health insurance until they become sick, this would impose new costs on insurers, leading them to significantly increase premiums on everyone.
- Although no other Justice joined Chief Justice Robert's opinion, four dissenting Justices reached similar conclusions regarding the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause. NFIB, 567 U.S. at 646-707 (joint opinion of Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas and Alito, JJ., dissenting).
- See, e.g., United States v. Lopez, 514 U.S. 549, 573 (1995) ("Where economic activity substantially affects interstate commerce, legislation regulating that activity will be sustained").
- NFIB, 567 U.S. at 557.
- E.g., Brooks v. United States, 267 U.S. 432, 436-437 (1925); United States v. Darby, 312 U.S. 100, 114 (1941). See Robert Eugene Cushman, The National Police Power Under the Commerce Clause, 3 Selected Essays on Constitutional Law 62 (1938).
- Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States, 379 U.S. 241 (1964); Katzenbach v. McClung, 379 U.S. 294 (1964); Daniel v. Paul, 395 U.S. 298 (1969).
- 379 U.S. 241, 245-47, 261-62 (1964).
- 379 U.S. 241, 256-57 (1964) (citing Champion v. Ames, 188 U.S. 321 (1903); Brooks v. United States, 267 U.S. 432 (1925); FTC v. Mandel Bros., Inc., 359 U.S. 385 (1959); SEC v. Ralston Purina Co., 346 U.S. 119 (1953); Weeks v. United States, 245 U.S. 618 (1918); United States v. Darby, 312 U.S. 100 (1941); NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp., 301 U.S. 1 (1937); Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111 (1942); United States v. Baltimore & Ohio R. Co., 333 U.S. 169 (1948); Moore v. Mead's Fine Bread Co., 348 U.S. 115 (1954); Hudson Distrib., Inc. v. Eli Lilly & Co., 377 U.S. 386 (1964); Schwegmann Bros. v. Calvert Distillers Corp., 341 U.S. 384 (1951); Radovich v. Nat'l Football League, 352 U.S. 445 (1957); Boynton v. Virginia, 364 U.S. 454 (1960)).
- Boynton v. Virginia, 364 U.S. 454 (1960); Henderson v. United States, 339 U.S. 816 (1950); Mitchell v. United States, 313 U.S. 80 (1941); Morgan v. Virginia, 328 U.S. 373 (1946).
- Civil Rights Act of 1964, tit. II, 78 Stat. 241, 243, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000a et seq.
- 42 U.S.C. § 2000a(b).
- Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States., 379 U.S. 241 (1964).
- Katzenbach v. McClung, 379 U.S. 294 (1964).
- Daniel v. Paul, 395 U.S. 298 (1969).
- Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc., 379 U.S. at 258; Katzenbach, 379 U.S. at 301-04.
- 379 U.S. at 252-53; Katzenbach, 379 U.S. at 299-301.
- The Civil Rights Cases, 109 U.S. 3 (1883); United States v. Reese, 92 U.S. 214 (1876); Collins v. Hardyman, 341 U.S. 651 (1951).
- The Fair Housing Act (Title VIIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968), 82 Stat. 73, 81, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq., was based on the Commerce Clause, but, in Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer Co., 392 U.S. 409 (1968), the Court held that legislation that prohibited discrimination in housing could be based on the Thirteenth Amendment and made operative against private parties. Similarly, the Court has concluded that, although section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment is judicially enforceable only against "state action," Congress is not so limited under its enforcement authorization of section 5. United States v. Guest, 383 U.S. 745, 761, 774 (1966) (concurring opinions); Griffin v. Breckenridge, 403 U.S. 88 (1971).
- E.g., Barrett v. United States, 423 U.S. 212 (1976); Scarborough v. United States, 431 U.S. 563 (1977); Lewis v. United States, 445 U.S. 55 (1980); McElroy v. United States, 455 U.S. 642 (1982).
- 18 U.S.C. § 2421.
- 18 U.S.C. § 2312.
- 18 U.S.C. § 1201.
- 18 U.S.C. § 1951. See also id. § 1952.
- See Cohens v. Virginia, 19 U.S. (6 Wheat.) 264, 428 (1821).
- See Luna Torres v. Lynch, 578 U.S. 452, 457 (2016).
- See Art. VI, Cl. 2: New Deal and Presumption Against Preemption.
- Comptroller of Treasury of Md. v. Wynne, 575 U.S. 542, 548-549 (2015).
- Tenn. Wine & Spirits Retailers Ass'n v. Thomas, 139 S. Ct. 2449, 2459 (2019); see also H. P. Hood & Sons, Inc. v. Du Mond, 336 U.S. 525, 537-38 (1949) ("This principle that our economic unit is the Nation, which alone has the gamut of powers necessary to control of the economy, including the vital power of erecting customs barriers against foreign competition, has as its corollary that the states are not separable economic units."); Baldwin v. G.A.F. Seelig, Inc., 294 U.S. 511, 527 (1935), ("What is ultimate is the principle that one state in its dealings with another may not place itself in a position of economic isolation.").
- E.g., South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc., 138 S. Ct. 2080, 2090-2091 (2018).
- No. 21-468, slip op. (U.S. May 11, 2023).
- Id. at 9.
- 397 U.S. 137 (1970); National Pork, No. 21-468, slip op. at 15.
- See Tenn. Wine & Spirits Retailers Ass'n, 139 S. Ct. 2449, 2460-2461 (2019); see also Hughes v. Oklahoma, 441 U.S. 322, 325-326 (1979) (highlighting as the "central concern of the Framers . . . the conviction that in order to succeed, the new Union would have to avoid the tendencies toward economic Balkanization that had plagued relations among the Colonies and later among the States under the Articles of Confederation"). In Guy v. Baltimore, 100 U.S. 434, 440 (1880), the Court cautioned that state protectionist measures "would ultimately bring our commerce to that 'oppressed and degraded state,' existing at the adoption of the present Constitution, when the helpless, inadequate Confederation was abandoned and a National Government instituted, with full power over the entire subject of commerce, except that wholly internal to the States composing the Union."
- The Federalist No. 42 (James Madison) (discussing "[t]he defect of power in the existing Confederacy to regulate the commerce between its several members").
- Max Farrand, The Framing of the Constitution of the United States 7-10 (1913); Brandon P. Denning, Confederation-Era Discrimination Aginst Interstate Commerce and the Legitimacy of the Dormant Commerce Clause Doctrine, 94 Ky. L.J. 37, 49-59 (2005).
- James Madison, Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787, at 14 (Ohio University Press 1966) (1840) ("The same want of a general power over Commerce, led to an exercise of the power separately, by the States, which not only proved abortive, but engendered rival, conflicting and angry regulations."); see also Albert S. Abel, The Commerce Clause in the Constitutional Convention and in Contemporary Comment, 25 Minn. L. Rev. 432, 470-471 (1941). Later in life, James Madison stated that the power had been granted to Congress mainly as "a negative and preventive provision against injustice among the states." 4 Letters and Other Writings of James Madison 14-15 (1865).
- For example, in the Federalist No. 11, Hamilton argued: "An unrestrained intercourse between the States themselves will advance the trade of each by an interchange of their respective productions, not only for the supply of reciprocal wants at home, but for exportation to foreign markets. The veins of commerce in every part will be replenished, and will acquire additional motion and vigor from a free circulation of the commodities of every part. Commercial enterprise will have much greater scope, from the diversity in the productions of different States."
- Madison wrote in the Federalist No. 42 that, if the states regulated interstate trade, "it must be foreseen that ways would be found out to load the articles of import and export, during the passage through their jurisiction, with duties which would fall on the makers of the latter and the consumers of the former."
- Art. I, Sec. 10, Clause 2 Import-Export.
- Woodruff v. Parham, 75 U.S. (8 Wall.) 123 (1869). But see Brown v. Maryland, 25 U.S. (12 Wheat.) 419, 449 (1827) (noting that "the principles laid down in this case [regarding the Import-Export Clause] . . . apply equally to importations from a sister state"); Comptroller of Treasury of Md. v. Wynne, 575 U.S. 542, 570 (2015) (noting "the close relationship between" the Export-Import Clause and the Dormant Commerce Clause).
- The Federalist No. 32 (Alexander Hamilton).
- 22 U.S. 1 (1824).
- Id. at 209.
- Id. at 17-18.
- Id. at 2.
- 27 U.S. 245, 251 (1829).
- Id. at 252.
- 53 U.S. 299 (1851).
- Id. at 319.
- Id. at 306.
- Case of the State Freight Tax, 82 U.S. 232 (1873).
- 91 U.S. 275 (1875).
- Id. at 282.
- E.g., The Minnesota Rate Cases (Simpson v. Shepard), 230 U.S. 352, 400 (1913) ("The principle which determines this classification underlies the doctrine that the states cannot, under any guise, impose direct burdens upon interstate commerce. For this is but to hold that the states are not permitted directly to regulate or restrain that which, from its nature, should be under the control of the one authority, and be free from restriction, save as it is governed in the manner that the national legislature constitutionally ordains."); Hall v. DeCuir, 95 U.S. 485, 488 (1877).
- The Minnesota Rate Cases, 230 U.S. at 396; see also W. Union Tel. Co. v. Kansas ex rel. Coleman, 216 U.S. 1, 37 (1910) (invalidating a Kansas state fee on Western Union for the benefit of in-state schools).
- See James M. McGoldrick, Jr., The Dormant Commerce Clause: The Origin Story and the "Considerable Uncertainties"--1824 to 1945, 52 Creighton L. Rev. 243, 276-284 (2019) (surveying the Court's varying approaches to the direct/indirect test).
- Di Santo v. Pennsylvania, 273 U.S. 34, 44 (1927) (Stone, J., dissenting).
- S. Pac. Co. v. Arizona, 325 U.S. 761 (1945); Art. I, Sec. 8, Cl. 3: Facially Neutral Laws and Dormant Commerce Clause.
- 230 U.S. at 396-97.
- Wabash, St. Louis & Pac. Ry. v. Illinois, 118 U.S. 557 (1886). After Wabash, the Court still upheld states' authority to set rates for passengers and freight taken up and put down within their borders. R.R. Comm'n of Wis. v. Chi., Burlington & Quincy R.R., 257 U.S. 563 (1922).
- Hall v. DeCuir, 95 U.S. 485 (1877). Some scholars have drawn a connection between Hall v. DeCuir and the Court's decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, to uphold the segregation of railroad accommodations under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Joseph William Singer, No Right to Exclude: Public Accommodations and Private Property, 90 Nw. U. L. Rev. 1283, 1396 (1996). The Court later distinguished DeCuir from Plessy by explaining that, in the latter case, the state laws requiring segregated railway cars "applied only between places in the same state." The Roanoke, 189 U.S. 185, 198 (1903).
- E.g., Smith v. Alabama, 124 U.S. 465 (1888) (upholding Alabama law requiring locomotive engineers to be examined and licensed by the state); N.Y., New Haven & Hartford R.R. v. New York, 165 U.S. 628 (1897) (upholding New York law forbidding heating of passenger cars by stoves). In some very fact-specific rulings, the Court considered regulations that imposed requirements that trains stop at designated cities and towns. Compare Gladson v. Minnesota, 166 U.S. 427 (1897), and Lake Shore & Mich. S. Ry. v. Ohio, 173 U.S. 285 (1899) (upholding such regulations), with Ill. Cent. R.R. v. Illinois, 163 U.S. 142 (1896) (invalidating such a law as an unconstitutional burden on interstate commerce). Many other challenged regulations were "full-crew laws" that regulated the number of employees required to operate a train. E.g., Chi., Rock Island & Pac. Ry. v. Arkansas, 219 U.S. 453 (1911); St. Louis, Iron Mtn. & S. Ry. v. Arkansas, 240 U.S. 518 (1916); Mo. Pac. R.R. v. Norwood, 283 U.S. 249 (1931). The connection of state train regulations to public safety was not always apparent. E.g., Terminal R.R. Ass'n of St. Louis v. Brotherhood of R.R. Trainmen, 318 U.S. 1 (1943) (upholding law requiring railroad to provide caboose cars for its employees); Hennington v. Georgia, 163 U.S. 299 (1896) (upholding law forbidding freight trains to run on Sundays). But see Seaboard Air Line Ry. v. Blackwell, 244 U.S. 310 (1917) (voiding as too onerous a law requiring trains to come to almost a complete stop at all grade crossings, which would have doubled trains' running time over a 123-mile stretch of track that contained 124 highway crossings at grade).
- E.g., Hendrick v. Maryland, 235 U.S. 610 (1915) (upholding state vehicle registration requirement); Kane v. New Jersey, 242 U.S. 160 (1916) (upholding law requiring imposition of various fees and requirements on nonresident drivers); Bradley v. Pub. Util. Comm'n, 289 U.S. 92 (1933) (holding that a state could deny an interstate firm a necessary certificate of convenience to operate as a common carrier on the basis that the route was overcrowded); H. P. Welch Co. v. New Hampshire, 306 U.S. 79 (1939) (upholding maximum hours for drivers of motor vehicles); Eichholz v. Pub. Serv. Comm'n of Mo., 306 U.S. 268 (1939) (allowing reasonable regulations of traffic).
- E.g., Mich. Pub. Util. Comm'n v. Duke, 266 U.S. 570 (1925) (holding that a state could not impose common-carrier responsibilities on a business operating between states that did not hold itself out as a carrier for the public); Buck v. Kuykendall, 267 U.S. 307 (1925) (holding that a requirement that common carriers for hire obtain a certificate of public convenience and necessity was an unconstitutional ban on competition).
- E.g., Maurer v. Hamilton, 309 U.S. 598 (1940) (upholding ban on the operation of any motor vehicle carrying any other vehicle above the operator's head); S.C. Highway Dep't v. Barnwell Bros., 303 U.S. 177 (1938) (upholding truck weight restrictions and width restrictions even though such restrictions were not in effect in most other states).
- Willamette Iron Bridge Co. v. Hatch, 125 U.S. 1 (1888); Kelly v. Washington, 302 U.S. 1 (1937).
- Best & Co. v. Maxwell, 311 U.S. 454, 457 (1940) ("The freedom of commerce . . . is not to be fettered by legislation, the actual effect of which is to discriminate in favor of interstate businesses, whatever may be the ostensible reach of the language.") (footnote omitted).
- Minnesota v. Barber, 136 U.S. 313 (1890). See also Buck, 267 U.S. at 315; see also Baldwin v. G.A.F. Seelig, 294 U.S. 511 (1935) (striking down a regulation on the price of interstate milk purchases that kept the price of milk artificially high within the state).
- Coe v. Errol, 116 U.S. 517, 525 (1886). In general, the Court did not permit states to regulate a purely interstate activity or prescribe prices of purely interstate transactions. E.g., W. Union Tel. Co. v. Foster, 247 U.S. 105 (1918); Lemke v. Farmers Grain Co., 258 U.S. 50 (1922); State Corp. Comm'n of Kan. v. Wichita Gas Co., 290 U.S. 561 (1934). But the Court sustained price and other regulations imposed prior to or subsequent to the travel in interstate commerce of goods produced for such commerce or received from such commerce. For example, decisions late in the early period of the Court's jurisprudence upheld state price-fixing schemes applied to goods intended for interstate commerce. Milk Control Bd. v. Eisenberg Co., 306 U.S. 346; Parker v. Brown, 317 U.S. 341 (1943).
- Kidd v. Pearson, 128 U.S. 1, 20 (1888).
- Tenn. Wine & Spirits Retailers Ass'n v. Thomas, 139 S. Ct. 2449, 2461 (2019); Dep't of Revenue of Ky. v. Davis, 553 U.S. 328, 338-339 (2008); Granholm v. Heald, 544 U.S. 460, 487 (2005).
- E.g., Brown-Forman Distillers Corp. v. N.Y. State Liquor Auth., 476 U.S. 573, 579 (1986) (citing Pike v. Bruce Church, Inc., 397 U.S. 137, 142 (1970)); Davis, 553 U.S. at 338-339.
- S. Pac. Co. v. Arizona, 325 U.S. 761, 769, 770 (1945) ("[T]his Court, and not the state legislature, is under the commerce clause the final arbiter of the competing demands of state and national interests. . . . [I]n general Congress has left it to the courts to formulate the rules thus interpreting the commerce clause in its application . . . .").
- See Bendix Autlolite Corp. v. Midwesco Enters., Inc., 486 U.S. 888, 896 (1988) (Scalia, J., concurring) ("[Weighing] the governmental interests of a State against the needs of interstate commerce is [a] task squarely within the responsibility of Congress."); see also Camps Newfound/Owatonna v. Harrison, 520 U.S. 564, 620, 636-637 (1997) (Thomas, J., dissenting) (describing the Court's Dormant Commerce Clause jurisprudence as "unworkable," and arguing that it should be abandoned in favor of considering state taxation laws under the Import-Export Clause); South Dakota v. Wayfair,, 138 S. Ct. 2080, 2100 (2018) (Thomas, J., concurring) (arguing that the Court's Dormant Commerce Clause precent "can no longer be rationally justified"); Tenn. Wine & Spirits Retailers Ass'n v. Thomas,, 139 S. Ct. 2449, 2477 (2019) (Gorsuch, J., dissenting) (describing the Court's dormant Commerce Clause doctrine as "peculiar").
- Tenn. Wine & Spirits Retailers Ass'n (internal quotations omitted); Dep't of Revenue of Ky. v. Davis, 553 U.S. 328, 338 (2008); Hughes v. Oklahoma, 441 U.S. 322, 336 (1979); Hunt v. Wash. State Apple Advert. Comm'n, 432 U.S. 333, 353 (1977).
- Wyoming v. Oklahoma, 502 U.S. 437, 454 (1992)
- Philadelphia v. New Jersey, 437 U.S. 617, 624 (1978).
- New England Power Co. v. New Hampshire, 455 U.S. 331 (1982); see also Hughes v. Oklahoma, 441 U.S. 322 (1979) (striking down a ban on transporting minnows caught in the state for sale outside the state); Sporhase v. Nebraska, 458 U.S. 941 (1982) (invalidating a ban on the withdrawal of groundwater from any well in the state intended for use in another state); Camps Newfound/Owatonna, Inc. v. Harrison, 520 U.S. 564 (1997) (striking down a state tax law that disfavored businesses that primarily served nonresidents).
- 432 U.S. 333 (1977).
- Id. at 351-353; see also W. Lynn Creamery, Inc. v. Healy, 512 U.S. 186, 194-195 (1994); Brown-Forman Distillers Corp. v. N.Y. State Liquor Auth., 476 U.S. 573, 580 (1986).
- 340 U.S. 349 (1951).
- Id. at 354.
- Id. at 354-356; see also Hunt v. Wash. State Apple Advert. Comm'n.
- 449 U.S. 456, 470-474 (1981).
- 437 U.S. 117 (1978).
- Id. at 125-126.
- Dep't of Revenue of Ky. v. Davis, 553 U.S. 328, 339 (2008) (quoting Hughes v. Alexandria Scrap Co., 426 U.S. 794, 810 (1976)).
- 426 U.S. 794.
- Id. at 808; see also McBurney v. Young, 569 U.S. 221, 236 (2013) (to the extent that the Virginia Freedom of Information Act created a market for public documents in Virginia, the Commonwealth was the sole manufacturer of the product, and therefore did not violate the Dormant Commerce Clause when it limited access to those documents under the Act to citizens of the Commonwealth).
- 447 U.S. 429 (1980).
- Id. at 437; see also White v. Mass. Council of Constr. Emps., 460 U.S. 204 (1983) (holding that a city may favor its own residents in construction projects paid for with city funds). The Court reached a different result in S.-Cent. Timber Dev., Inc. v. Wunnicke, 467 U.S. 82 (1984), in which it held unconstitutional a requirement that timber taken from state lands in Alaska be processed within the state. The Court distinguished Alaska's requirement from the laws at issue in other market-participant doctrine cases based on the fact that the Alaska law restricted resale, affected foreign commerce, and involved a natural resource).
- See S.-Cent. Timber Dev., Inc. (cautioning that "[u]nless the 'market' is relatively narrowly defined, the doctrine has the potential of swallowing up the rule that States may not impose substantial burdens on interstate commerce even if they act with the permissible state purpose of fostering local industry").
- Prudential Ins. Co. v. Benjamin, 328 U.S. 408, 434 (1946).
- Ne. Bancorp, Inc. v. Bd. of Governors of the Fed. Reserve Sys., 472 U.S. 159, 174 (1985) ("When Congress so chooses, state actions which it plainly authorizes are invulnerable to constitutional attack under the Commerce Clause.")
- Pennsylvania v. Wheeling & Belmont Bridge Co., 54 U.S. 518 (1852).
- Ch. 111, 10 Stat. 112, § 6.
- Pennsylvania v. Wheeling & Belmont Bridge Co., 59 U.S. 421 (1856).
- E.g., Comptroller of Treasury v. Wynne, 575 U.S. 542, 572 (2015) (Scalia, J., dissenting) ("The clearest sign that the negative Commerce Clause is a judicial fraud is the utterly illogical holding that congressional consent enables States to enact laws that would otherwise constitute impermissible burdens upon interstate commerce. . . . How could congressional consent lift a constitutional prohibition?"); Prudential Ins. Co. v. Benjamin, 328 U.S. 408, 426 (1946) ("[I]f the commerce clause 'by its own force' forbids discriminatory state taxation, or other measures, how is it that Congress by expressly consenting can give that action validity?").
- S.-Cent. Timber Dev., Inc. v. Wunnicke, 467 U.S. 82, 90, 92 (1984) (explaining that this rule ensures that there is a "collective decision" to impose a burden on interstate commerce and reduces the risk that unrepresented, out-of-state interests will be adversely affected by a state's unilateral regulations). Likewise, Congress must specify when it intends to reduce the degree of scrutiny to be applied to a state action. See Maine v. Taylor, 477 U.S. 131, 139 (1986) (holding that the Lacey Act's reinforcement of state bans on importation of fish and wildlife neither authorizes state law that otherwise would be unconstitutional, nor shifts analysis from the presumption of invalidity for discriminatory laws to the balancing test for state laws that burden commerce only incidentally).
- E.g., Hillside Dairy Inc. v. Lyons, 539 U.S. 59, 66 (2003) (holding that the Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996 addressed laws regulating the composition and labeling of fluid milk products, but did not mention pricing laws, and thus did not authorize a California program to regulate the minimum prices paid by California dairy processors to producers); S.-Cent. Timber Dev. (holding that consistency between federal and state policy was "insufficient indicium" that Congress intended to authorize the state to apply a similar policy for timber harvested from state lands).
- 322 U.S. 533 (1944).
- Act of Mar. 9, 1945, ch. 20, § 1, 59 Stat. 33, 15 U.S.C. § 1011.
- Prudential Ins. Co. v. Benjamin, 328 U.S. 408, 429 (1946) (explaining that Congress "[o]bviously [intended] to give support to the existing and future state systems for regulating and taxing the business of insurance").
- Bowman v. Chi. & Nw. Ry., 125 U.S. 465 (1888); Leisy v. Hardin, 135 U.S. 100 (1890). Relying on the distinction between manufacture and commerce, the Court applied Mugler to authorize states to prohibit the manufacture of liquor for an out-of-state market. Kidd v. Pearson, 128 U.S. 1 (1888). For a lengthier discussion of the Court's temperance-law jurisprudence, see Granholm v. Heald, 544 U.S. 460, 476-482 (2005); and Tennessee Wine & Spirits Retailers Ass'n v. Thomas, 139 S. Ct. 2449, 2464-2467 (2019).
- Ch. 728, 26 Stat. 313 (codified at 27 U.S.C. § 121).
- Rhodes v. Iowa, 170 U.S. 412 (1898); see also Scott v. Donald, 165 U.S. 58, 100 (1897) (holding that the Wilson Act did not authorize a South Carolina law requiring all liquor sales to be channeled through the state liquor commissioner); Vance v. W. A. Vandercook Co., 170 U.S. 438 (1898).
- 37 Stat. 699 (codified at 27 U.S.C. § 122). The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Webb-Kenyon Act in Clark Distilling Co. v. W. Md. Ry., 242 U.S. 311 (1917).
- See Twenty-First Amend., Sec. 2: Discrimination Against Interstate Commerce.
- Twenty-First Amend., Section 2 Importation, Transportation, and Sale of Liquor.
- Tenn. Wine & Spirits Retailers Ass'n, 139 S. Ct. at 2469 (citing Granholm, 544 U.S. at 486-487, and Bacchus Imps., Ltd. v. Dias, 468 U.S. 263, 276 (1984)).
- E.g., id. at 2474-2476 (holding that a Tennessee two-year residency requirement for retail liquor license applicants was not justified on public health and safety grounds and violated the Commerce Clause); Bacchus, 468 U.S. at 273-276 (invalidating tax exemption favoring certain in-state alcohol producers); Healy v. Beer Inst., 491 U.S. 324, 340-341 (1989) (holding unconstitutional a Connecticut law requiring out-of-state shippers of beer to affirm that their wholesale price for products sold in the state was no higher than the prices they charged to wholesalers in bordering states); Granholm (holding that discriminatory direct-shipment law that favored in-state wineries was not reasonably necessary to protect states' asserted interests in policing underage drinking and facilitating tax collection).
- 325 U.S. 761 (1945). Prior to 1945, Chief Justice Stone authored a series of opinions presaging this standard. See DiSanto v. Pennsylvania, 273 U.S. 34, 44 (1927) (Stone, J., dissenting) (advocating "consideration of all the facts and circumstances, such as the nature of the regulation, its function, the character of the business involved and the actual effect on the flow of commerce"); California v. Thompson, 313 U.S. 109 (1941) (overruling DiSanto); Parker v. Brown, 317 U.S. 341, 362-368 (1943). A notable exception to this approach was South Carolina Highway Department v. Barnwell Bros., in which Justice Stone authored an opinion upholding truck weight and width restrictions that were more limiting than almost all other states, based on a review of whether "the legislative choice is without rational basis." 303 U.S. 177, 192 (1938). Although the Court has not reversed Barnwell Bros., its application of the rational basis test to subsequent Dormant Commerce Clause challenges has been limited. See Clark v. Paul Gray, Inc., 306 U.S. 583, 594 (1939).
- S. Pac. Co., 325 U.S. at 767.
- Id. at 768-69.
- Id. at 770-71.
- Id. at 781-782.
- 397 U.S. 137 (1970).
- Several cases applying the balancing approach--both before and after Pike v. Bruce Church--have addressed regulation of the transportation industry. E.g., Bibb v. Navajo Freight Lines, 359 U.S. 520 (1959) (invalidating Illinois law requiring a particular kind of mudguards on trucks and trailers because of the burden on interstate commerce that would result from truckers shifting cargo to differently designed vehicles); Raymond Motor Transp., Inc. v. Rice, 434 U.S. 429, 447 (1978) (holding that Wisconsin truck-length limitations placed no more than "the most speculative contribution to highway safety"); Kassel v. Consolidated Freightways Corp., 450 U.S. 662 (1981) (invalidating Iowa truck-length limitations on similar grounds).
- Exxon Corp. v. Governor of Maryland, 437 U.S. 117, 127 (1978) (holding that a Maryland law prohibiting oil producers oil refiners from operating gas stations within the state did not impermissibly burden interstate commerce even where the law would cause some refiners to stop selling in Maryland, because those refiners could "be promptly replaced by other interstate refiners").
- 397 U.S. at 143.
- Maine v. Taylor, 477 U.S. 131, 148 (1986).
- 447 U.S. 27, 38, 43-44 (1980).
- Id. at 43-44.
- 481 U.S. 69, 88, 93 (1987).
- 457 U.S. 624, 644 (1982).
- Baldwin v. G.A.F. Seelig, Inc., 294 U.S. 511, 524 (1935) (striking down a law requiring milk sellers in New York to pay an out-of-state milk producer the minimum price set by New York law in order to equalize the price of milk from in-state and out-of-state producers, and explaining that "commerce between the states is burdened unduly when one state regulates by indirection the prices to be paid to producers in another"); Edgar v. MITE Corp., 457 U.S. 624, 642-643 (1982) (emphasizing the extraterritorial effect of an Illinois regulation of take-over attempts of companies that had specified business contacts with the state); Brown-Forman Distillers Corp. v. N.Y. State Liquor Auth., 476 U.S. 573, 580 (1986) (striking down a New York law requiring liquor distillers and producers selling to wholesalers within the state to affirm that the prices they charged were no higher than the lowest price at which the same product would be sold in any other state in the month covered by the affirmation); Healy v. Beer Inst., 491 U.S. 324, 332 (1989) (striking down a Connecticut price-affirmation statute for out-of-state beer shippers, and confirming that "a state law that has the 'practical effect' of regulating commerce occurring wholly outside that State's borders is invalid under the Commerce Clause").
- Healy, 491 U.S. at 336-337; Edgar.
- See Pharm. Rsch. & Mfrs. of Am. v. Walsh, 538 U.S. 644, 669 (2003) (holding that the rule applied in Baldwin and Healy "is not applicable to this case" because the challenged statute was not a price control or price affirmation statute and did not regulate the price of any out-of-state transaction).
- Brown-Forman, 476 U.S. at 579 (1986).
- Philadelphia v. New Jersey, 437 U.S. 617, 626-627 (1978) (citing cases).
- United Haulers Ass'n, Inc. v. Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Mgmt. Auth., 550 U.S. 330, 343 (2007).
- Dep't of Revenue of Ky. v. Davis, 553 U.S. 328, 341 (2008).
- 550 U.S. at 344.
- In Philadelphia v. New Jersey, the Supreme Court struck down a New Jersey statute that banned the importation of most solid or liquid wastes that originated outside the state. 437 U.S. at 629. Then, in Fort Gratiot Sanitary Landfill, Inc. v. Michigan Department of Natural Resources, 504 U.S. 353 (1992), the Court applied Philadelphia to hold unconstitutional a Michigan law prohibiting private landfill operators from accepting solid waste that originates outside the county where their facilities are located.
- 511 U.S. 383 (1994).
- United Haulers, 550 U.S. at 334.
- Id. The Court has applied United Haulers in other contexts. In Department of Revenue of Kentucky v. Davis, the Court upheld Kentucky's exemption of interest on its municipal bonds from state income taxes while imposing income taxes on bond interest from other states, after concluding that the issuance of debt securities to pay for public projects is a "quintessentially public function." 553 U.S. at 342. The Court declined to apply the Pike balancing analysis, however, holding that "the current record and scholarly material convince us that the Judicial Branch is not institutionally suited to draw reliable conclusions of the kind that would be necessary . . . to satisfy a Pike burden in this particular case."
- 553 U.S. at 342.
- Id. at 353.
- 25 U.S. (12 Wheat.) 419 (1827).
- Article I, § 10, cl. 2. This aspect of the doctrine of the case was considerably expanded in Low v. Austin, 80 U.S. (13 Wall.) 29 (1872), and subsequent cases, to bar states from levying nondiscriminatory, ad valorem property taxes upon goods that are no longer in import transit. This line of cases was overruled in Michelin Tire Corp. v. Wages, 423 U.S. 276 (1976).
- See, e.g., Halliburton Oil Well Co. v. Reily, 373 U.S. 64 (1963); Minnesota v. Blasius, 290 U.S. 1 (1933). After the holding in Michelin Tire, the two clauses are now congruent. The Court has observed that the two clauses are animated by the same policies. Japan Line, Ltd. v. County of Los Angeles, 441 U.S. 434, 449-50 n.14 (1979).
- 441 U.S. 434 (1979).
- Complete Auto Transit, Inc. v. Brady, 430 U.S. 274, 279 (1977). A state tax failed to pass the nondiscrimination standard in Kraft General Foods, Inc. v. Iowa Dept. of Revenue and Finance, 505 U.S. 71 (1992). Iowa imposed an income tax on a unitary business operating throughout the United States and in several foreign countries. It taxed the dividends that a corporation received from its foreign subsidiaries, but not the dividends it received from its domestic subsidiaries. Therefore, there was a facial distinction between foreign and domestic commerce.
- 441 U.S. at 446, 448. See also Itel Containers Int'l Corp. v. Huddleston, 507 U.S. 60 (1993) (sustaining state sales tax as applied to lease of containers delivered within the state and used in foreign commerce).
- 441 U.S. at 451-57. For income taxes, the test is more lenient, accepting not only the risk but the actuality of some double taxation as something simply inherent in accounting devices. Container Corp. of America v. Franchise Tax Board, 463 U.S. 159, 187-192 (1983).
- Wardair Canada v. Florida Dep't of Revenue, 477 U.S. 1, 10 (1986).
- Container Corp. of America v. Franchise Tax Board, 463 U.S. 159 (1983). The validity of the formula as applied to domestic corporations with foreign parents or to foreign corporations with foreign parents or foreign subsidiaries, so that some of the income earned abroad would be taxed within the taxing state, is a question of some considerable dispute.
- 512 U.S. 298 (1994).
- Reliance could not be placed on Executive statements, the Court explained, because "the Constitution expressly grants Congress, not the President, the power to 'regulate Commerce with foreign Nations.'" 512 U.S. at 329. "Executive Branch communications that express federal policy but lack the force of law cannot render unconstitutional California's otherwise valid, congressionally condoned, use of worldwide combined reporting." Id. at 330. Dissenting Justice Scalia noted that, although the Court's ruling correctly restored preemptive power to Congress, "it permits the authority to be exercised by silence. Id. at 332."
- The Supreme Court, Leading Cases, 1993 Term, 108 Harv. L. Rev. 139, 139-49 (1993).
- 25 U.S. (12 Wheat.) 419, 443-44 (1827).
- New York City v. Miln, 36 U.S. (11 Pet.) 102 (1837) (upholding reporting requirements imposed on ships' masters), overruled by Henderson v. Mayor of New York, 92 U.S. 259 (1876); Passenger Cases, 48 U.S. (7 How.) 283 (1849); Chy Lung v. Freeman, 92 U.S. 275 (1876).
- Campagnie Francaise De Navigation a Vapeur v. Louisiana State Bd. of Health, 186 U.S. 380 (1902); Louisiana v. Texas, 176 U.S. 1 (1900); Morgan v. Louisiana, 118 U.S. 455 (1886).
- New York ex rel. Silz v. Hesterberg, 211 U.S. 31 (1908).
- Japan Line, Ltd. v. County of Los Angeles, 441 U.S. 434, 456 n.20 (1979) (construing Bob-Lo Excursion Co. v. Michigan, 333 U.S. 28 (1948)).
- Nw. States Portland Cement Co. v. Minnesota, 358 U.S. 450, 457-58 (1959) (quoting Miller Bros. Co. v. Maryland, 347 U.S. 340, 344 (1954)). Justice Felix Frankfurter was similarly skeptical of definitive statements. "To attempt to harmonize all that has been said in the past would neither clarify what has gone before nor guide the future. Suffice it to say that especially in this field opinions must be read in the setting of the particular cases and as the product of preoccupation with their special facts." Freeman v. Hewit, 329 U.S. 249, 251-52 (1946).
- See J. Hellerstein & W. Hellerstein, State and Local Taxation: Cases and Materials ch. 5 (8th ed. 2005).
- In addition to the sources previously cited, see J. Hellerstein & W. Hellerstein, supra note here. For a succinct description of the history, see W. Hellerstein, State Taxation of Interstate Business: Perspectives on Two Centuries of Constitutional Adjudication, 41 Tax Law. 37 (1987).
- Case of the State Freight Tax, 82 U.S. (15 Wall.) 232 (1873).
- Id. at 275.
- Id. at 275-76, 279.
- Id. at 281-82.
- 53 U.S. (12 How.) 299 (1851). While the issue of exclusive federal power and the separate issue of the Dormant Commerce Clause was present in the License Cases, 46 U.S. (5 How.) 504 (1847) and the Passenger Cases, 48 U.S. (7 How.) 283 (1849), the Court did not establish a definitive rule. Chief Justice Roger Taney viewed the Commerce Clause only as a grant of power to Congress, containing no constraint upon the states, and the Court's role was to void state laws in contravention of federal legislation. License Cases, 46 U.S. (5 How.) 504, 573 (1847); Passenger Cases, 48 U.S. (7 How.) 283, 464 (1849).In Cooley, the Court, upholding a state law that required ships to engage a local pilot when entering or leaving the port of Philadelphia, enunciated a doctrine of partial federal exclusivity. According to Justice Benjamin Curtis's opinion, the state act was valid on the basis of a distinction between those subjects of commerce that "imperatively demand a single uniform rule" operating throughout the country and those that "as imperatively" demand "that diversity which alone can meet the local necessities of navigation," that is to say, of commerce. As to the former, the Court held Congress's power to be "exclusive"; as to the latter, it held that the states enjoyed a power of "concurrent legislation." 48 U.S. at 317-20. The Philadelphia pilotage requirement was of the latter kind. Id.
- State Tax on Railway Gross Receipts, 82 U.S. (15 Wall.) 284 (1872).
- Id. at 293.
- Id. at 294. This case was overruled 14 years later, when the Court voided substantially the same tax in Philadelphia Steamship Co. v. Pennsylvania, 122 U.S. 326 (1887).
- See The Minnesota Rate Cases (Simpson v. Shepard), 230 U.S. 352, 398-412 (1913) (reviewing and summarizing at length both taxation and regulation cases). See also Missouri ex rel. Barrett v. Kan. Nat. Gas Co., 265 U.S. 298, 307 (1924).
- Robbins v. Shelby Cnty. Taxing Dist., 120 U.S. 489, 497 (1887); Leloup v. Port of Mobile, 127 U.S. 640, 648 (1888).
- The Minnesota Rate Cases, 230 U.S. at 400-401.
- The Del. R.R. Tax, 85 U.S. (18 Wall.) 206, 232 (1873). See Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chi. & St. Louis Ry. v. Backus, 154 U.S. 439 (1894); Postal Tel. Cable Co. v. Adams, 155 U.S. 688 (1895). See cases cited in J. Hellerstein & W. Hellerstein, State and Local Taxation: Cases and Materials 195 et seq (8th ed.).
- E.g., Welton v. Missouri, 91 U.S. 275 (1876); Robbins v. Shelby Cnty. Taxing Dist., 120 U.S. 489 (1887); Darnell & Son Co. v. City of Memphis, 208 U.S. 113 (1908); Bethlehem Motors Co. v. Flynt, 256 U.S. 421 (1921).
- W. Live Stock v. Bureau of Revenue, 303 U.S. 250 (1938); McGoldrick v. Berwind-White Coal Mining Co., 309 U.S. 33 (1940); Int'l Harvester Co. v. Dep't of Treasury, 322 U.S. 340 (1944); Int'l Harvester Co. v. Evatt, 329 U.S. 416 (1947).
- E.g., Gwin, White & Prince, Inc. v. Henneford, 305 U.S. 434 (1939); Joseph v. Carter & Weekes Stevedoring Co., 330 U.S. 422 (1947); Cent. Greyhound Lines v. Mealey, 334 U.S. 653 (1948). Notice the Court's distinguishing of Cent. Greyhound in Okla. Tax Comm'n v. Jefferson Lines, Inc., 514 U.S. 175, 188-91 (1995).
- Freeman v. Hewit, 329 U.S. 249 (1946); Spector Motor Serv., Inc. v. O'Connor, 340 U.S. 602 (1951).
- For example, the states carefully phrased tax laws so as to impose on interstate companies not a license tax for doing business in the state, which was not permitted, Ry. Express Agency v. Virginia, 347 U.S. 359 (1954), but as a franchise tax on intangible property or the privilege of doing business in a corporate form, which was permissible. Ry. Express Agency v. Virginia, 358 U.S. 434 (1959); Colonial Pipeline Co. v. Traigle, 421 U.S. 100 (1975). Also, the Court increasingly found the tax to be imposed on a local activity in instances it would previously have seen to be an interstate activity. E.g., Memphis Nat. Gas Co. v. Stone, 335 U.S. 80 (1948); Gen. Motors Corp. v. Washington, 377 U.S. 436 (1964); Standard Pressed Steel Co. v. Dep't of Revenue, 419 U.S. 560 (1975).
- Art. I, Sec. 8, Cl. 3: Modern Dormant Commerce Clause Jurisprudence Generally.
- Scholars dispute just when the modern standard was firmly adopted. The conventional view is that it was articulated in Complete Auto Transit, Inc. v. Brady, but there also seems little doubt that the foundation of the present law was laid in Northwestern States Portland Cement Co. v. Minnesota.
- Compare Freeman v. Hewit, 329 U.S. 249, 252-256 (1946), with W. Live Stock v. Bureau of Revenue, 303 U.S. 250, 258, 260 (1938).
- 358 U.S. 450 (1959).
- Id. at 461-62. See W. Live Stock, 303 U.S. at 254.
- W. Hellerstein, State Taxation of Interstate Business: Perspectives on Two Centuries of Constitutional Adjudication, 41 Tax Law. 37, 54 (1987).
- Spector Motor Serv., Inc. v. O'Connor, 340 U.S. 602 (1951). The attenuated nature of the purported distinction was evidenced in Colonial Pipeline Co. v. Traigle, 421 U.S. 100 (1975), in which the Court sustained a nondiscriminatory, fairly apportioned franchise tax that was measured by the taxpayer's capital stock, imposed on a pipeline company doing an exclusively interstate business in the taxing state, on the basis that it was a tax imposed on the privilege of conducting business in the corporate form.
- 430 U.S. 274 (1977).
- Id. at 279. "In reviewing Commerce Clause challenges to state taxes, our goal has instead been to 'establish a consistent and rational method of inquiry' focusing on 'the practical effect of a challenged tax.'" Commonwealth Edison Co. v. Montana, 453 U.S. 609, 615 (1981) (quoting Mobil Oil Corp. v. Comm'r of Taxes, 445 U.S. 425, 443 (1980)).
- 430 U.S. 274 (1977).
- Id. at 279. "In reviewing Commerce Clause challenges to state taxes, our goal has instead been to 'establish a consistent and rational method of inquiry' focusing on 'the practical effect of a challenged tax.'" Commonwealth Edison Co. v. Montana, 453 U.S. 609, 615 (1981) (quoting Mobil Oil Corp. v. Comm'r of Taxes, 445 U.S. 425, 443 (1980)).
- Art. I, Sec. 8, Cl. 3: Apportionment Prong of Complete Auto Test for Taxes on Interstate Commerce; Art. I, Sec. 8, Cl. 3: Discrimination Prong of Complete Auto Test for Taxes on Interstate Commerce; Art. I, Sec. 8, Cl. 3: Benefit Prong of Complete Auto Test for Taxes on Interstate Commerce.
- See Polar Tankers, Inc. v. City of Valdez, 557 U.S. 1, 11 (2009) (internal citations and quotations omitted).
- See MeadWestvaco Corp. v. Ill. Dep't of Revenue, 553 U.S. 16, 24 (2008).
- See Miller Bros. Co. v. Maryland, 347 U.S. 340, 344-45 (1954).
- See MeadWestvaco Corp., 553 U.S. at 24 .
- See Wisconsin v. J.C. Penney Co., 311 U.S. 435, 444 (1940).
- South Dakota v. Wayfair, No. 17-494, slip op. at 22 (U.S. June 21, 2018).
- 386 U.S. 753, 758 (1967).
- See 504 U.S. 298 (1992).
- See Wayfair, slip op at 22.
- Id. at 10-12. The Court, citing Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 476 (1985), concluded that it is "settled law that a business need not have a physical presence in a State to satisfy the demands of due process." See Wayfair, slip op. at 11.
- See Wayfair (noting that the purpose of the Commerce Clause was to prevent states from engaging in economic discrimination and not to "permit the Judiciary to create market distortions.") Id.
- Id. at 12-13.
- Id. at 14-15.
- Id. at 15.
- Id. at 14.
- Standard Pressed Steel Co. v. Dep't of Revenue, 419 U.S. 560 (1975). See also Gen. Motors Corp. v. Washington, 377 U.S. 436 (1964).
- Tyler Pipe Indus. v. Dep't of Revenue, 483 U.S. 232, 249-51 (1987). The Court agreed with the state court's holding that "the crucial factor governing nexus is whether the activities performed in this state on behalf of the taxpayer are significantly associated with the taxpayer's ability to establish and maintain a market in this state for the sales." Id. at 250.
- United Air Lines v. Mahin, 410 U.S. 623 (1973).
- MeadWestvaco Corp. v. Ill. Dep't of Revenue, 128 S. Ct. 1498, 1505-06 (2008).
- Container Corp. of Am. v. Franchise Tax Bd., 463 U.S. 159, 165-66 (1983) .
- 430 U.S. 274 (1977).
- Id. at 279. "In reviewing Commerce Clause challenges to state taxes, our goal has instead been to 'establish a consistent and rational method of inquiry' focusing on 'the practical effect of a challenged tax.'" Commonwealth Edison Co. v. Montana, 453 U.S. 609, 615 (1981) (quoting Mobil Oil Corp. v. Comm'r of Taxes, 445 U.S. 425, 443 (1980)).
- Art. I, Sec. 8, Cl. 3: Nexus Prong of Complete Auto Test for Taxes on Interstate Commerce; Art. I, Sec. 8, Cl. 3: Discrimination Prong of Complete Auto Test for Taxes on Interstate Commerce; Art. I, Sec. 8, Cl. 3: Benefit Prong of Complete Auto Test for Taxes on Interstate Commerce.
- E.g., Pullman's Palace Car Co. v. Pennsylvania, 141 U.S. 18, 26 (1891); Maine v. Grand Trunk Ry., 142 U.S. 217, 278 (1891).
- See Allied-Signal, Inc. v. Dir., Div. of Taxation, 504 U.S. 768 (1992); Tyler Pipe Indus. v. Dep't of Revenue, 483 U.S. 232, 251 (1987); Container Corp. of Am. v. Franchise Tax Bd., 463 U.S. 159 (1983); F. W. Woolworth Co. v. N.M. Tax. & Revenue Dep't, 458 U.S. 354 (1982); ASARCO Inc. v. Idaho State Tax Comm'n, 458 U.S. 307 (1982); Exxon Corp. v. Wis. Dep't of Revenue, 447 U.S. 207 (1980); Mobil Oil Corp. v. Comm'r of Taxes, 445 U.S. 425 (1980); Moorman Mfg. Co. v. Bair, 437 U.S. 267 (1978). Cf. Am. Trucking Ass'ns v. Scheiner, 483 U.S. 266 (1987).
- Comptroller of the Treasury of Md. v. Wynne, No. 13-485, slip op. at 13 (U.S. May 18, 2015) ("The Due Process Clause allows a State to tax 'all the income of its residents, even income earned outside the taxing jurisdiction.' But 'while a State may, consistent with the Due Process Clause, have the authority to tax a particular taxpayer, imposition of the tax may nonetheless violate the Commerce Clause.") (internal citations omitted). The challenge in Wynne was brought by Maryland residents, whose worldwide income three dissenting Justices would have seen as subject to Maryland taxation based on their domicile in the state, even though it resulted in the double taxation of income earned in other states. Id. at 2 (Ginsburg, J., dissenting) ("For at least a century, 'domicile' has been recognized as a secure ground for taxation of residents' worldwide income."). However, the majority took a different view, holding that Maryland's taxing scheme was unconstitutional under the Dormant Commerce Clause because it did not provide a full credit for taxes paid to other states on income earned from interstate activities. Id. at 21-25 (majority opinion).
- Moorman Mfg. Co. v. Bair, 437 U.S. 267, 278-80 (1978).
- Goldberg v. Sweet, 488 U.S. 252 (1989). The tax law provided a credit for any taxpayer who was taxed by another state on the same call. Actual multiple taxation could thus be avoided, the risks of other multiple taxation was small, and it was impracticable to keep track of the taxable transactions.
- Am. Trucking Ass'ns v. Scheiner, 483 U.S. 266 (1987).
- Comptroller of the Treasury of Md. v. Wynne, No. 13-485, slip op. at 22 (U.S. May 18, 2015). The Court in Wynne expressly declined to distinguish between taxes on gross receipts and taxes on net income or between taxes on individuals and taxes on corporations. Id. at 7, 9. The Court also noted that Maryland could "cure the problem with its current system" by granting a full credit for taxes paid to other states, but the Court did "not foreclose the possibility" that Maryland could comply with the Commerce Clause in some other way. Id. at 25.
- Id. at 22-23.
- Okla. Tax Comm'n v. Jefferson Lines, Inc., 514 U.S. 175 (1995).
- Id. The Court distinguished Oklahoma Tax Comm'n v. Jefferson Lines, Inc. from Central Greyhound Lines v. Mealey, 334 U.S. 653 (1948), in which the Court struck down a state statute that failed to apportion its taxation of interstate bus ticket sales to reflect the distance traveled within the state.
- Okla. Tax Comm'n v. Jefferson Lines, Inc., 514 U.S. 175 (1995).
- Id. Indeed, the Court analogized the tax to that in Goldberg v. Sweet, 488 U.S. 252 (1989), a tax on interstate telephone services that originated in or terminated in the state and that were billed to an in-state address.
- Fulton Corp. v. Faulkner, 516 U.S. 325 (1996). The state had defended on the basis that the tax was a "compensatory" one designed to make interstate commerce bear a burden already borne by intrastate commerce. The Court recognized the legitimacy of the defense, but it found the tax to meet none of the three criteria for classification as a valid compensatory tax. Id. at 333-44. See also S. Cent. Bell Tel. Co. v. Alabama, 526 U.S. 160 (1999) (tax not justified as compensatory).
- 430 U.S. 274 (1977).
- Art. I, Sec. 8, Cl. 3: Nexus Prong of Complete Auto Test for Taxes on Interstate Commerce; Art. I, Sec. 8, Cl. 3: Apportionment Prong of Complete Auto Test for Taxes on Interstate Commerce; Art. I, Sec. 8, Cl. 3: Benefit Prong of Complete Auto Test for Taxes on Interstate Commerce.
- Boston Stock Exchange v. State Tax Comm'n, 429 U.S. 318, 329 (1977) (quoting Nw. States Portland Cement Co. v. Minnesota, 358 U.S. 450, 457 (1959)). The principle, as we have observed above, is a long-standing one under the Commerce Clause. E.g., Welton v. Missouri, 91 U.S. 275 (1876).
- Maryland v. Louisiana, 451 U.S. 725, 753-760 (1981). But see Commonwealth Edison Co. v. Montana, 453 U.S. 609, 617-619 (1981). See also Or. Waste Sys., Inc. v. Dep't of Env't Quality, 511 U.S. 93 (1994) (surcharge on in-state disposal of solid wastes that discriminates against companies disposing of waste generated in other states invalid).
- 467 U.S. 638 (1984).
- The Court applied the "internal consistency" test here too, in order to determine the existence of discrimination. 467 U.S. at 644-45. Thus, the wholesaler did not have to demonstrate it had paid a like tax to another state, only that if other states imposed like taxes it would be subject to discriminatory taxation. See also Tyler Pipe Indus. v. Wash. Dept. of Revenue, 483 U.S. 232 (1987); Am. Trucking Ass'ns v. Scheiner, 483 U.S. 266 (1987); Amerada Hess Corp. v. Dir., N.J. Tax'n Div., 490 U.S. 66 (1989); Kraft Gen. Foods v. Iowa Dep't of Revenue, 505 U.S. 71 (1992).
- Bacchus Imports, Ltd. v. Dias, 468 U.S. 263 (1984).
- New Energy Co. of Indiana v. Limbach, 486 U.S. 269 (1988). Compare Fulton Corp. v. Faulkner, 516 U.S. 325 (1996) (state intangibles tax on a fraction of the value of corporate stock owned by in-state residents inversely proportional to the corporation's exposure to the state income tax violated Dormant Commerce Clause), with Gen. Motors Corp. v. Tracy, 519 U.S. 278 (1997) (state imposition of sales and use tax on all sales of natural gas except sales by regulated public utilities, all of which were in-state companies, but covering all other sellers that were out-of-state companies did not violate Dormant Commerce Clause because regulated and unregulated companies were not similarly situated).
- Comptroller of the Treasury of Md. v. Wynne, No. 13-485, slip op. at 23 (U.S. May 18, 2015) ("[T]he internal consistency test reveals what the undisputed economic analysis shows: Maryland's tax scheme is inherently discriminatory and operates as a tariff."). In so doing, the Court noted that Maryland could "cure the problem with its current system" by granting a full credit for taxes paid to other states, but it did "not foreclose the possibility" that Maryland could comply with the Commerce Clause in some other way. Id. at 25.
- 520 U.S. 564 (1997). The decision was 5-4 with a strong dissent by Justice Antonin Scalia, id. at 595, and a philosophical departure by Justice Clarence Thomas. Id. at 609.
- 430 U.S. 274 (1977).
- Art. I, Sec. 8, Cl. 3: Nexus Prong of Complete Auto Test for Taxes on Interstate Commerce; Art. I, Sec. 8, Cl. 3: Apportionment Prong of Complete Auto Test for Taxes on Interstate Commerce; Art. I, Sec. 8, Cl. 3: Discrimination Prong of Complete Auto Test for Taxes on Interstate Commerce.
- Commonwealth Edison Co. v. Montana, 453 U.S. 609, 620-29 (1981). Two state taxes imposing flat rates on truckers, because they did not vary directly with miles traveled or with some other proxy for value obtained from the state, were found to violate this standard in American Trucking Ass'ns, Inc. v. Scheiner, 483 U.S. 266, 291 (1987). But see American Trucking Ass'ns v. Michigan Pub. Serv. Comm'n, 545 U.S. 429 (2005), upholding imposition of a flat annual fee on all trucks engaged in intrastate hauling (including trucks engaged in interstate hauling that "top off" loads with intrastate pickups and deliveries) and concluding that levying the fee on a per-truck rather than per-mile basis was permissible in view of the objectives of defraying costs of administering various size, weight, safety, and insurance requirements.
- Lottery Case (Champion v. Ames), 188 U.S. 321, 373 (1903).
- Brolan v. United States, 236 U.S. 216, 222 (1915). The most recent dicta to this effect appears in Japan Line v. County of Los Angeles, 441 U.S. 434, 448-51 (1979), a "dormant" commerce clause case involving state taxation with an impact on foreign commerce. In context, the distinction seems unexceptionable, but the language extends beyond context.
- License Cases, 46 U.S. (5 How.) 504, 578 (1847).
- Pittsburg & Southern Coal Co. v. Bates, 156 U.S. 577, 587 (1895).
- United States v. Carolene Products Co., 304 U.S. 144, 147-148 (1938).
- 22 U.S. (9 Wheat.) 1, 217, 221 (1824).
- 96 U.S. 1 (1878). See also Western Union Telegraph Co. v. Texas, 105 U.S. 460 (1882).
- 96 U.S. at 9. "Commerce embraces appliances necessarily employed in carrying on transportation by land and water." Railroad v. Fuller, 84 U.S. (17 Wall.) 560, 568 (1873).
- Act of March 28, 1927, 45 Stat. 373, superseded by the Communications Act of 1934, 48 Stat. 1064, 47 U.S.C. §§ 151 et seq.
- "No question is presented as to the power of the Congress, in its regulation of interstate commerce, to regulate radio communication." Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes speaking for the Court in Federal Radio Comm'n v. Nelson Bros. Bond & Mortgage Co., 289 U.S. 266, 279 (1933). See also Fisher's Blend Station v. Tax Comm'n, 297 U.S. 650, 654-55 (1936).
- "Indian Country" is statutorily defined in 18 U.S.C. § 1151 as: (a) "all land within the limits of any Indian reservation under the jurisdiction of the United States Government"; (b) "all dependent Indian communities within the borders of the United States"; and (c) "all Indian allotments, the Indian titles to which have not been extinguished, including rights-of-way running through the same."
- Duro v. Reina, 495 U.S. 676, 680 (1990) (citing United States v. John, 437 U.S. 634, 648-49 (1978)), superseded by statute as recognized in United States v. Lara, 541 U.S. 1931 (2004).
- 31 U.S. (6 Pet.) 515 (1832). See also Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, 30 U.S. (5 Pet.) 1 (1831). Under this doctrine, tribes possess sovereign immunity from suit in the same way as the United States and the states. Santa Clara Pueblo v. Martinez, 436 U.S. 49, 58 (1978); United States v. U.S. Fid. & Guar. Co., 309 U.S. 506, 512-13 (1940). The Supreme Court has repeatedly rejected arguments to abolish or curtail tribal sovereign immunity. See, e.g., Oklahoma Tax Comm'n v. Citizen Band Potawatomi Indian Tribe, 498 U.S. 505, 510 (1991).
- United States v. Wheeler, 435 U.S. 313, 323 (1978) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted), superseded by statute as recognized in Lara, 541 U.S. 1931.
- United States v. Kagama, 118 U.S. 375, 381 (1886) ("[T]he Indian tribes residing within the territorial limits of the United States are subject to their authority, and where the country occupied by them is not within the limits of one of the States, Congress may by law punish any offense committed there, no matter whether the offender be a white man or an Indian.").
- Wheeler, 435 U.S. at 323.
- Id. See also South Dakota v. Bourland, 508 U.S. 679 (1993) (discussing abrogation of tribal treaty rights and reduction of sovereignty). Congress may also remove restrictions on tribal sovereignty. The Supreme Court has held, however, that absent authority from federal statute or treaty, tribes possess no criminal authority over non-Natives (with some limited exceptions). Montana v. United States, 450 U.S. 544 (1981); see also Oliphant v. Suquamish Indian Tribe, 435 U.S. 191 (1978). In United States v. Cooley, No. 19-1414, slip op. at 1 (U.S. June 1, 2021), the Court applied the Montana Doctrine to hold that a "tribal officer possesses the authority . . . to detain temporarily and to search a non-Indian on a public right-of-way that runs through an Indian reservation." As to members of other tribes, the Court held in Duro v. Reina, that a tribe has no criminal jurisdiction over members of other tribes who commit crimes on the reservation. Congress, however, later enacted a statute recognizing the inherent authority of tribal governments to exercise criminal jurisdiction over non-member Natives; the Court subsequently upheld congressional authority to do so in United States v. Lara.
- McClanahan v. State Tax Comm'n of Ariz., 411 U.S. 164, 172 n.7 (1973) (citing Art. I, Sec. 8, Clause 2 Borrowing; art. II, § 2, cl. 2; Williams v. Lee, 358 U.S. 217, 219 (1959); Perrin v. United States, 232 U.S. 478 (1914). Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the Constitution gives the President the "Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur . . . ." For more on the treaty-making power, see Art. II, Sec. 2, Cl. 2: Overview of President's Treaty-Making Power.
- Art. I, Sec. 8, Clause 2 Borrowing. See also Williams v. Lee, 358 U.S. 217, 220 n.4 (1959) ("The Federal Government's power over Indians is derived from Art. I, s. 8, cl. 3, of the United States Constitution, and from the necessity of giving uniform protection to a dependent people." (citing Perrin v. United States, 232 U.S. 478 (1914))).
- Michigan v. Bay Mills Indian Cmty., 572 U.S. 782 (2014); United States v. Jicarilla Apache Nation, 564 U.S. 162 (2011).
- Montana v. Blackfeet Tribe of Indians, 471 U.S. 759 (1985); Oneida Cnty. v. Oneida Indian Nation of New York State, 470 U.S. 226 (1985); Howard v. Ingersoll, 54 U.S. 381, 410 (1851) ("Constitutionally [the United States] could alone regulate commerce with the Indian tribes.").
- United States v. Lara, 541 U.S. 193 (2004); Ramah Navajo Sch. Bd., Inc. v. Bureau of Revenue of N.M., 458 U.S. 832 (1982); White Mountain Apache Tribe v. Bracker, 448 U.S. 136 (1980).
- United States v. Jackson, 280 U.S. 183 (1930).
- Perrin v. United States, 232 U.S. 478 (1914); Tinker v. Midland Valley Mercantile Co., 231 U.S. 681 (1914).
- 25 U.S.C. §§ 1451 et seq.
- Id. §§ 461 et seq.
- Id. §§ 4301 et seq. Other examples include the Indian Revolving Loan Fund, id. §§ 1461 et seq.; 25 C.F.R. §§ 101.1 et seq., Indian Loan Guaranties and Insurance, 25 U.S.C. §§ 1481 et seq.; 25 C.F.R. §§ 103.1 et seq., and Indian Business Grants, 25 U.S.C. §§ 1521 et seq.
- In an early case, the Supreme Court rejected the Commerce Clause as a basis for congressional enactment of a system of criminal laws for Native Americans living on reservations. United States v. Kagama, 118 U.S. 375 (1886). Nonetheless, the Court sustained the laws on the grounds that the Federal Government had the obligation and thus the power to protect a "weak and diminished" people. Id. at 384. Cf. United States v. Holliday, 70 U.S. (3 Wall.) 407 (1866); United States v. Sandoval, 231 U.S. 28 (1913). A special fiduciary responsibility between the Federal Government and tribes can also be created by statute. See, e.g., United States v. Mitchell, 463 U.S. 206 (1983) ("[T[he statutes and regulations now before us clearly give the Federal Government full responsibility to manage Indian resources and land for the benefit of the Indians. They thereby establish a fiduciary relationship and define the contours of the United States' fiduciary responsibilities.").
- "The power of Congress over Indian affairs may be of a plenary nature; but it is not absolute." United States v. Alcea Bank of Tillamooks, 329 U.S. 40, 54 (1946) (plurality opinion) (quoted with approval in Del. Tribal Bus. Comm. v. Weeks, 430 U.S. 73, 84 (1977)).
- United States v. Klamath & Moadoc Tribes, 304 U.S. 119, 123 (1938).
- Morton v. Mancari, 417 U.S. 535, 555 (1974). The Court applied this standard to uphold a statutory classification that favored employment of "qualified Indians" at the Bureau of Indian Affairs. In Delaware Tribal Business Comm. v. Weeks, 430 U.S. 73 (1977), the same standard was used to sustain a classification that favored, although inadvertently, one tribe over other tribes. While tribes are unconstrained by federal or state constitutional provisions, Congress has legislated a "bill of rights" statute covering them. See Santa Clara Pueblo v. Martinez, 436 U.S. 49 (1978).
- United States v. Sioux Nation, 448 U.S. 371 (1980). See also Solem v. Bartlett, 465 U.S. 463, 472 (1984) (stating there must be "substantial and compelling evidence of congressional intention to diminish Indian lands" before the Court will hold that a statute removed land from a reservation); Nebraska v. Parker, 577 U.S. 481, 494 (2016) (noting that "only Congress can divest a reservation of its land and diminish its boundaries," but finding the statute in question did not clearly indicate Congress's intent to effect such a diminishment of the Omaha Reservation); McGirt v. Oklahoma, No. 18-9526, slip. op. at 8 (U.S. July 9, 2020) (stating that to disestablish a reservation, Congress must "clearly express its intent to do so"). In McGirt, the Court held that Congress had not expressed a sufficiently clear intent to disestablish the Creek Reservation, concluding the reservation survived allotment and other intrusions "on the Creek's promised right to self-governance." Id. at 13.
- Haaland v. Brackeen, No. 21-376 (U.S. June 15, 2023).
- 25 U.S.C. § 1915, 5.
- Id. at 11-12 (stating that Congress derives its "power to legislate with respect to the Indian tribes" from the Indian Commerce Clause, the Article II Treaty Power, "principles inherent in the Constitution's structure," and the "trust relationship between the United States and the Indian people.").
- Id. at 14-15, 16 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).
- Act of March 3, 1871, 16 Stat. 544, 566 (codified at 25 U.S.C. § 71).
- E.g., Puyallup Tribe v. Wash. Game Dep't, 433 U.S. 165 (1977); Washington v. Wash. State Com. Passenger Fishing Vessel Ass'n, 443 U.S. 658 (1979); McGirt v. Oklahoma, No. 18-9526 (U.S. July 9, 2020). With regard to tribal regulation of on-reservation activities of non-Indians, see generally Montana v. United States, 450 U.S. 544 (1981) (articulating the so-called "Montana Doctrine").
- California v. Cabazon Band of Mission Indians, 480 U.S. 202 (1987); White Mountain Apache Tribe v. Bracker, 448 U.S. 136 (1980).
- Three Affiliated Tribes of Fort Berthold Rsrv. v. Wold Eng'g, 476 U.S. 877 (1986).
- Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), Pub. L. No. 100-497, 102 Stat. 2467 (1988) (codified at 25 U.S.C. §§ 2701-2721; 18 U.S.C. §§ 1166-1168).
- Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Rsrv., v. Wold Eng'g, P.C., 467 U.S. 138 (1984) (upholding state-court jurisdiction to hear claims of Native Americans against non-Natives involving transactions that occurred in Indian Country). Attempts by states to retrocede jurisdiction favorable to tribes, however, may be held to be preempted. Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Rsrv., 476 U.S. at 877.
- McGirt v. Oklahoma, No. 18-9526, slip. op. at 7 (July 9, 2020) (emphasis added).
- Oneida Cnty. v. Oneida Indian Nation of New York State, 470 U.S. 226 (1985).
- Act of Mar. 1, 1793, Pub. L. No. 2-19, § 8, 1 Stat. 329, 330.
- Oneida Indian Nation of New York State, 470 U.S. at 246-48.
- E.g., New Mexico v. Mescalero Apache Tribe, 462 U.S. 324 (1983).
- Three Affiliated Tribes of Fort Berthold Rsrv., 476 U.S. at 877.
- White Mountain Apache Tribe v. Bracker, 448 U.S. 136, 142-43 (1980); Ramah Navajo Sch. Bd., Inc. v. Bureau of Revenue of N.M., 458 U.S. 832, 837-38 (1982). The Ramah Court stated: "The two barriers are independent because either, standing alone, can be a sufficient basis for holding state law inapplicable to activity undertaken on the reservation or by tribal members." Id. at 837 (quoting White Mountain Apache Tribe, 448 U.S. at 143).
- Iowa Mut. Ins. Co. v. LaPlante, 480 U.S. 9 (1987). Notably, this protective rule is inapplicable to state regulation of liquor because there is no tradition of tribal sovereignty with respect to that subject. Rice v. Rehner, 463 U.S. 713 (1983). Similarly, the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the Indian Commerce Clause "affords Congress the power to prohibit or regulate the sale of alcoholic beverages to tribal Indians, wherever situated, and to prohibit or regulate the introduction of alcoholic beverages into Indian country." United States v. Mazurie, 419 U.S. 544, 554 (1975) (citing United States v. Holliday, 3 Wall. 407, 417-18 (1866); United States v. Forty-Three Gallons of Whiskey, 93 U.S. 188, 194-95 (1876); Ex parte Webb, 225 U.S. 663, 683-84 (1912); Perrin v. United States, 232 U.S. 478, 482 (1914); Johnson v. Gearlds, 234 U.S. 422, 438-39 (1914); United States v. Nice, 241 U.S. 591, 597 (1916)).
- California v. Cabazon Band of Mission Indians, 480 U.S. 202 (1987).
- Washington v. Confederated Tribes of Colville Indian Rsrv., 447 U.S. 134 (1980).
- Cabazon Band of Mission Indians, 480 U.S. at 202; New Mexico v. Mescalero Apache Tribe, 462 U.S. 324 (1983); White Mountain Apache Tribe, 448 U.S. at 136.
- Three Affiliated Tribes of Fort Berthold Rsrv. v. Wold Eng'g, 476 U.S. 877 (1986).
- Cabazon Band of Mission Indians, 480 U.S. at 202.
- White Mountain Apache Tribe, 448 U.S. at 136.
- Michigan v. Bay Mills Indian Cmty., 572 U.S. 782 (2014); White Mountain Apache Tribe, 448 U.S. at 136; Mescalero Apache Tribe v. Jones, 411 U.S. 145 (1973).
- Nevada v. Hicks, 533 U.S. 353 (2001).
- 450 U.S. 544 (1981).
- Id. at 565. See also United States v. Bryant, 579 U.S. 140 (2016), as revised (July 7, 2016) ("Most States lack jurisdiction over crimes committed in Indian country against Indian victims." (citing United States v. John, 437 U.S. 634, 651 (1978))).
- Montana, 450 U.S. at 565.
- Id. at 566.
- No. 19-1414, slip op. at 1 (U.S. June 1, 2021).
- Montana, 450 U.S at 565; see also Washington v. Confederated Colville Tribes, 447 U.S. 134 (1980); United States v. Jicarilla Apache Nation, 455 U.S. 130 (2011).
- See, e.g., United States v. Wheeler, 435 U.S. 313 (1978) (recognizing Tribe's inherent sovereign power to punish tribal offenders); California v. Cabazon Band of Mission Indians, 480 U.S. 202 (1987) (finding state regulation of on-reservation bingo "would impermissibly infringe on tribal government"). But see Brendale v. Confederated Tribes & Bands of the Yakima Indian Nation, 492 U.S. 408 (1989) (holding extensive ownership of land within "open areas" of reservation by non-members of tribe precludes application of tribal zoning within such areas); Hagen v. Utah, 510 U.S. 399 (1994).
- McClanahan v. Ariz. Tax Comm'n, 411 U.S. 164, 165 (1973).
- Mescalero Apache Tribe v. Jones, 411 U.S. 145, 148 (1973); McClanahan, 411 U.S. at 164; Moe v. Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes, 425 U.S. 463 (1976); Bryan v. Itasca Cnty., 426 U.S. 373 (1976); Confederated Colville Tribes, 447 U.S. at 134; Montana v. Blackfeet Tribe, 471 U.S. 759 (1985). See also Okla. Tax Comm'n v. Citizen Band Potawatomi Indian Tribe, 498 U.S. 505 (1991). An easing of the Court's apparent reluctance to find congressional cession is reflected in more recent cases. See Cnty. of Yakima v. Confederated Tribes & Bands of the Yakima Indian Nation, 502 U.S. 251 (1992).
- Mescalero Apache Tribe, 411 U.S. at 148-49. Cf. Wagnon v. Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, 546 U.S. 95, 115 (2005) (holding that a Kansas motor fuel tax imposed on non-Indian fuel distributors who subsequently deliver the fuel to a gas station owned by and located on a reservation is "a nondiscriminatory tax imposed on an off-reservation transaction between non-Indians" and therefore "the tax is valid and poses no affront to the Nation's sovereignty").
- White Mountain Apache Tribe v. Bracker, 448 U.S. 136 (1980); Cent. Mach. Co. v. Ariz. State Tax Comm'n, 448 U.S. 160 (1980); Ramah Navajo School Board v. Bureau of Revenue of N.M., 458 U.S. 832 (1982).
- Cotton Petroleum Corp. v. New Mexico, 490 U.S. 163 (1989).
- Held permissible in Merrion v. Jicarilla Apache Tribe, 455 U.S. 130 (1982).
- Cotton Petroleum Corp. v. New Mexico, 490 U.S. 163, 185 (1989) (distinguishing White Mountain Apache Tribe, 448 U.S. at 136, and Ramah Navajo Sch. Bd., Inc., 458 U.S. at 832).
- Cnty. of Yakima v. Confederated Tribes & Bands of the Yakima Indian Nation, 502 U.S. 251, 265 (1992). For other tax controversies, see Okla. Tax Comm'n v. Sac & Fox Nation, 508 U.S. 114 (1993); Dep't of Tax'n & Fin. v. Milhelm Attea & Bros., 512 U.S. 61 (1994); Okla. Tax Comm'n v. Chickasaw Nation, 515 U.S. 450 (1995).