Constitutional Law

Railway Express Agency v. New York (1949)

Facts: New York regulation prohibited advertising on vehicles (specifically trucks), but allowed owners of the vehicles to advertise their own businesses on the trucks used for their business.

Holding: Rationally related to the government interest: (1) Preventing distractions; (2) Promoting traffic safety. Court said that it was rational for the government to conclude that advertisement trucks are more of a traffic problem because of the nature of their advertisement, whereas people who own the trucks themselves and the business advertised would self-limit the advertising.

Principle: It’s only necessary that there be a conceivable government interest. Not the court’s role to evaluate the wisdom of the law. “Local authorities may have concluded” that this particular type of advertising was presented a more dangerous distraction.

Contra: Statute is (1) underinclusive because it does not prevent all ads and (2) overinclusive in that it may prevent ads that are not actually a distraction (or as much of a distraction as permitted advertisements). Therefore, it’s hard to say that this law actually addresses the distraction “purpose.”

Jackson’s Concurrence: The court is much more likely to find arbitrariness in the regulation of the few than in the regulation of the many. Jackson is concerned about the “Discrete and Insular Minority.” Jackson presents another justification or argument (note clear if he believes this or not): People who advertise for hire are potentially more likely to act more obnoxiously in their advertising efforts than those who advertise their own businesses.

Marbury v. Madison (U.S. 1803)

Facts: Thomas Jefferson defeated John Adams in the 1800 presidential election. Before Jefferson took office on March 4, 1801, Adams and Congress passed the Judiciary Act of 1801, which created new courts, added judges, and gave the president more control over appointment of judges. The Act was essentially an attempt by Adams and his party to frustrate his successor, as he used the act to appoint 16 new circuit judges and 42 new justices of the peace. The appointees were approved by the Senate, but they would not be valid until their commissions were delivered by the Secretary of State (Madison).

Marbury was appointed to be Justice of the Peace for Washington D.C., and his commission was approved by the senate, signed and sealed, but his commission was not delivered to the Secretary of State before Jefferson took office. Jefferson considered the appointment a nullity since it had not been delivered. Marbury petitioned the Supreme Court through a writ of mandamus to compel Madison to deliver the documents.

Issue(s): Does the Supreme Court have original jurisdiction over Marbury’s claim?

Rule: The Supreme Court does not have the authority to decide political questions.

Holding: The Supreme Court is granted “original jurisdiction” only in cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those cases in which a state is a party. While Marbury had a legal right to enforce his commission, the Supreme Court lacked the authority to compel the Secretary of State to sign the commission through mandamus procedure.

Discussion: There were three sub-questions addressed by the Court in reaching its conclusion:

  1. Does Marbury have the right to the commission and has the right been violated? Yes
  2. Do the laws of the United States afford Marbury a remedy? Yes
  3. Does the Supreme Court of the United States have the power to grant that remedy? No, the Supreme Court only has appellate jurisdiction in this case.

The Supreme Court only had appellate jurisdiction in this case, but, because Marbury did not proceed through the appellate courts, the Supreme Court did not have the authority to compel Madison to deliver the documents. This case established the concept of judicial review, and the Court held the Judiciary Act was inconsistent with the Constitution because, through its enactment, Congress granted additional powers to the Supreme Court that the Constitution did not enumerate. In essence, Congress can take away some of the jurisdiction conferred to the Court by the Constitution, but it cannot expand the Court’s powers beyond those conferred by the Constitution.

Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee, 14 U.S. 304

Facts: A Virginia state law allowed its citizens to seize the property of individuals loyal to the British Crown during the American Revolution. After the war ended, a British subject brought an ejectment action against the current owners of the land in an effort to re-establish property rights and remove the tenants. A federal treaty conflicted with the Virginia law, and the Supreme Court reversed the state court, holding that in the event of a conflict, federal law was supreme to state law. Upon rehearing, the Virginia court affirmed its initial ruling, and further held the Supreme Court did not have the authority enforce the treaty in state court.

Issue(s): Does state or federal law control when they are in conflict?

Rule: The United States Supreme Court has the authority to review the decisions of the state courts when those courts interpret federal law or the United States Constitution.

Holding: The Supreme Court the authority to review the decisions of state courts. Article II, Sec. II (Supremacy Clause) of the United States Constitution establishes that federal interpretations of federal law supersede state interpretations of federal law.

Discussion: The constitution recognizes that state biases exist, and the Supremacy Clause exists to accomplish: (1) uniformity in the application of the laws, (2) prevent state prejudice against litigants. Thus, states are bound by US treaties.

McCulloch v. Maryland

Facts: Maryland passed a law that taxed the Bank of the United States and the local bank officer (McCulloch) sued. Maryland sought to enforce a state statute that imposed a tax on banks operating within the state, but not chartered by the state. The Bank of the United States refused to pay the tax and penalties that were imposed.

Issue(s): Does Congress have the Power to incorporate a national bank?

Rule: Congress can choose any means not prohibited by the Constitution that reasonably carries out its authority.

Holding: Congress has the power to choose and enact the means to perform the duties imposed on it. This authority is implied through the Necessary and Proper Clause of the Constitution.

Discussion: Not all congressional authority is expressly permissible, but there are implied powers derived from the Necessary and Proper Clause of the Constitution. Justice Marshall stated that the framers of the constitution were careful to leave the language “expressly” out of the Constitution so that document could act as a flexible outline to endure over time. The Constitution is not a strict legal code.

United States v. Comstock (U.S. 2010)

Facts: Convicted sex offenders moved to dismiss petitions requesting their indefinite civil commitment under the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act. A North Carolina federal district court dismissed the petitions. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed. It held that the Protection and Safety Act exceeded the scope of Congress’ authority when it enacted a law that could confine a person solely because of “sexual dangerousness,” and the government need not even allege that this “dangerousness” violated any federal law.

Issue(s): Did Congress have the constitutional authority to enact the Adam Walsh Protection and Safety Act?

Rule: Reaffirming the principle established in McCulloch, the Supreme Court held he Necessary and Proper Clause grants Congress broad authority to enact legislation.

Holding: Yes, the Court held that the NP clause granted authority to Congress to enact a statute allowing federal district courts to order the civil commitment of mentally ill, sexually dangerous federal prisoners beyond the dates they would otherwise be released.

Discussion: The N&P Clause can be interpreted broadly to allow legislation dealing with the imprisonment of dangerous sexual predators. In reaching its decision, the Court enumerated five considerations. The N&P Clause grants Congress broad authority to enact federal legislation that is “convenient or useful” or “conducive to the authority’s beneficial exercise. The civil commitment statute constitutes a modest addition to a set of federal prison-related mental health statutes that have existed since 1855. Congress reasonably extended its long-standing civil commitment system. The statute properly accounts for state interests. Links between the statute and enumerated Article I power are not too attenuated.

Powell v. McCormack (U.S. 1969)

Facts: The House of Representatives refused to “seat” Powell, who had been elected to the House. Powell argued that he met the qualifications for election under Article II, Section II, Clause Ii. Powell was a controversial figure, and McCormack (Speaker of the House) argued that Article I            , Section V, Clause I granted the House authority to “be the judge of the qualifications of its own members.”      

Issue(s): Can the House of Representatives refuse to seat a member who had been duly elected if he meets the requirements enumerated election under Article II, Section II, Clause 2?

Rule: No. Article I, Section V does not give the House the power to deny an elected member his seat.  

Holding: The House of Representatives exceeded its authority when it refused to seat a duly elected official who met the established qualifications under Article II, Section II, Clause II.

Discussion: Article II, Section II, Clause II established the qualifications for the House of Representative. Those requirements are 1) age, 2) citizenship, and 3) residency. Powell met those requirements, and McCormack’s act to deny Powell his seat on any other basis constituted created an improper additional set of qualifications not enumerated in the Constitution.

U.S. Term Limits, Inc. V. Thornton (U.S. 1995)

Facts: Arkansas voted to amend its constitution to impose term limits on its representatives to the United States House of Representatives. When the amendment was challenged, Arkansas argued that it had the power to do so under the 10th Amendment of state constitution.

Issue(s): Can a state impose term limits on its members of the United States House of Representatives?

Rule: The Constitution is the only standard for membership in Congress and that power is not reserved to the states.

Holding: No.

Discussion: The 10th amendment did not exist at the time the Constitution was drafted. As such, that power could not have been reserved to the states. The framers intended the Constitution to be an exclusive source of qualifications for members of congress. Therefore, the framers divested the states of any power to add qualifications.

Justice Thomas dissented from the majority, arguing that because the Constitution did not prohibit the states from place restrictions on federal candidates, the authority to limit terms must be reserved to them. 

Gibbons v. Ogden (U.S. 1824)

Facts: NY legislature grants Ogden a monopoly to operate steamboats between NJ and NYC. Congress granted Gibbons a license under federal statute as a “vessel in the coasting trade.” Ogden tries to keep Gibbons out, and get an injunction from the NY courts against Gibbons. State court upholds NY monopoly, and grants Gibbons injunction.

Issue(s): Does Congress have authority under the Commerce Clause to enact legislation regulating interstate commerce?

Rule: Yes, if a state law conflicts with a congressional act regulating commerce, the congressional act preempts the state law and controls.

Holding: Gibbons wins because he is operating under the authority of a federal law. Federal law preempts when it is inconsistent with state law under the Supremacy Clause.

Discussion: Congress may regulate activities that are “among the states.” Among the states is not merely limited to a border patrol; Congress may regulate activities originating from the interior of a state as long as that activity concerns another state. Intrastate commerce is still reserved for the states, but Congress can regulate intrastate commerce if it impacts interstate activities.

Justice Marshall broadly defined commerce to include something more than merely navigation or traffic between the states.

US v. E.C. Knight (U.S. 1895)

Facts: Not long after the Sherman Act was passed, American Sugar bought out four other sugar refineries, increasing its control over national sugar production to 98%. In response, the U.S. government sought to invalidate American Sugar’s purchase in a lower federal court on the grounds that it violated the Sherman Act.

Issue(s): Could the Sherman Antitrust Act be used to stop a monopoly in the sugar refining industry?

Rule: Congress can only regulate DIRECT effects; indirect effects NOT regulatable by Congress.

Holding: No, Court dismisses this case because “manufacturing” and “production” (refining in this case) are different forms of “commerce.” Court said manufacturing is just the transformation of raw materials, and it is something that happens BEFORE commerce.  Commerce is when goods manufactured and produced are actually SOLD. because the constitution did not allow Congress to regulate manufacturing.

Discussion: Enumerated the direct v. indirect effect test. There is a distinction between regulating commerce and regulating manufacturing, i.e. production versus buying/selling/transporting.

Shreveport Rate Case (U.S. 1914)

Facts:  The government brought suit against railway companies in Texas, who were maintaining vastly different rate structures for shipments from Shreveport than from similar points within Texas. The Interstate Commerce Commission brought suit, alleging that the rate differences negatively impacted interstate commerce.

Issue(s): Can the Interstate Commerce Commission regulate intrastate railroad rates?

Rule: Congress may affect intrastate commerce, where the transactions of intrastate and interstate commerce are so related that the preservation of interstate commerce must involve intrastate instrumentalities as well.

Holding: Yes, Court sustained congressional authority to regulate intrastate rail rates that discriminated against interstate railroad traffic. The Court CAN regulate intrastate rates because although NOT interstate commerce, it has a substantial economic effect on interstate commerce.

Discussion: Court moves away from the direct/indirect inquiry in EC Knight. Instead, Court enumerates the “substantial effects” which focuses on the practical physical or economic effects of the regulated intrastate activities on interstate commerce.

Swift v. United States (U.S. 1905)

Facts: Meatpacking companies in Chicago formed a trust and conspired in a price-fixing scheme.

Issue(s): Does Congress have the authority to prohibit local business practices as a means to regulate interstate commerce?  

Rule: Congress can regulate a business practice if the effect of the regulation is felt in the “stream of commerce.”

Holding: Congress can regulate local business practices because those practices, when combined, were within the “stream of commerce” between the states.

Discussion: Because the meat products ran from the local farm produces to stores across state lines, Congress had the authority to regulate the goods because they entered a stream of commerce through multiple states.

Champion v. Ames (Lotttery Case) (U.S. 1903)

Facts: Court upheld the Federal Lottery Act which prohibited importing mailing, or interstate transporting of lottery tickets against constitutional challenge by a man indicted for shipping a box of Paraguayan lottery tickets from TX to CA

Issue(s): Does selling lottery tickets across state lines fall within the power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce?

Rule: Congress has the authority to regulate items that are “subjects of traffic.”

Holding: Yes, lottery tickets are “subjects of traffic” and therefore “subjects of commerce.”

Discussion: It is within Congress’s Commerce Clause power to stop lottery tickets from being a part of interstate commerce. The Federal Lottery Act was trying to control lottery ticket sales between state lines. This is called a “commerce prohibiting technique” (it sets up a barrier and says certain good cannot cross state lines. This was formalistic reasoning used to uphold a moral provision). The suppression of nuisances injurious to public health or morality is among the most important duties of Government.

Hoke v. United States (U.S. 1913)

Facts: The Mann Act forbade transporting women across state lines for immoral purposes (prostitution).

Issue(s): Is the Mann Act a Constitutional exercise of Congressional Authority?

Rule: Congress can regulate transportation among the states and that power is complete in-and-of-itself.

Holding: Yes.

Discussion: This case demonstrated that Congress could use the Commerce Clause to prohibit cross-border transportation of virtually anything it chose to target. Congress relied on its authority to police power and morality. Incidental to Congress’s power over transportation among the states is that it may adopt the means necessary to effectuate that power, and those means adopted by Congress may have the quality of police regulations.

Hamer v. Dagenhart (U.S. 1918)

Facts: The Child Labor Act of 1916 was enacted to deal with the social issues of industry and the monstrous conditions that workers were forced to endure. The Act prohibited the interstate shipment of goods produced in factories that employed children aged 14-16 to work at night or any child under the age of 14.

Issue(s): Does the Commerce Clause authorize the regulation of the manner in which a good is produced?

Rule: No, the methods of producing goods and the mining of coal are NOT commerce, even if afterwards shipped or used in interstate commerce. 

Holding: Congress cannot use the Commerce Clause to justify regulation of working conditions, i.e. how goods are produced. That is an issue within the purview of the states. The Commerce Clause regulates goods.


The previous commerce decisions all dealt with goods that were inherently harmful; but here the goods themselves are not actually harmful, it’s the manufacture of those goods that congress has a problem with.Upholding the law would have the practical effect of improperly bringing in all manufacture intended for interstate shipment under federal control to the exclusion of the authority of the states.

In a famous dissent, Justice Holmes thought that it was irrational to suggest that congress could regulate destructive goods but could not implement regulation to prevent ruined lives.

It doesn’t matter when the interstate commerce occurs. If the intent is to shop goods over state lines, then Congress can regulate those goods. This case was later overruled and is no longer good law.

Schechter Poultry v. United States (U.S. 1935)

Facts: Under the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1935, the President was authorized to promulgate codes for trade and industry. In this case, a code was implemented in New York City and people were convicted for violating the wage, hour, and trade practice provisions. Schechter bought poultry from out of state, but then sold the chickens to businesses in Brooklyn. Thus, its offending conduct was confined to New York State. (The offending conduct pertained to violation of the wage and hour provisions of a federal New Deal law)

Issue(s): Did Congress unconstitutionally delegate its power to regulate commerce to the President?

Holding: Yes, the Act unconstitutionally delegated legislative power and the application of the Act to intrastate activities exceeded the commerce power; therefore, the wages and hours of employees at Schechter’s slaughterhouse, which sold only to local poultry retailers, were NOT subject to federal control. 

Discussion: This only indirectly affects state Commerce. Federal government can only regulate when there is a direct effect on interstate commerce. The Court rejected a stream of commerce argument because this is NOT dealing with interstate commerce. The theory cannot be extended this far. Stream of commerce already ended by the time the products reached slaughterhouse/ defendants were engaged in transactions; purely local activity now.

NLRB v. Jones and Laughlin Steel Corp. (U.S. 1937)

Facts: Jones and Laughlin Steel Corp. was charged with violation of the National Labor Relations Act. The Corp. argued that the law was unconstitutional because it attempted to regulate intrastate production.

Issue(s): Is the National Labor Relations Act Constitutional?

Rule: Yes, under the Commerce Clause, Congress has the power to regulate any activity, even INTRASTATE production, if the activity has an appreciable effect, either direct or indirect, on interstate commerce.

Holding: Court eliminates the “Production-Commerce” distinction and the “Direct-Indirect” test.

Discussion: After NLRB, anything that “Substantially Affects” commerce can be regulated. If the business/production has such a close and substantial relation to interstate commerce, then their control is essential or appropriate to protect that commerce from burdens and obstructions and congress cannot be denied the power to exercise control under the commerce clause.The Act was challenged here in its entirety as an attempt to regulate all industry, thus invading reserved powers of States over local concerns. Production is no longer merely “pre-commerce.” Labor relations involving production have a substantial effect on interstate commerce; therefore, Congress may regulate it under the Commerce Clause.

United States v. Darby (U.S. 1941)

Facts: Darby is a Georgia lumber manufacturer challenging an indictment charging him with violating the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. The Act prohibited the shipment in interstate commerce of goods made by employees who were paid less than prescribed minimum wage. Darby argued that his intrastate activity was not subject to federal regulation.

Issue(s): Does Congress have the authority to regulate the hours and wages of workers who are engaged in the production of goods? Can Congress prohibit the shipment of goods into interstate commerce of those who are in violation of the FSLA?

Rule: Congress has the power to regulate the hours and wages of workers who are engaged in the production of goods destined for interstate commerce and can prohibit the shipment in interstate commerce of goods manufactured in violation of the wage and hour provisions.

Holding: Darby is subject to the FSLA. Congress can regulate hours and wages because those elements have a substantial effect on interstate commerce.

Discussion: Court says that regardless of whether manufacturing is itself a part of interstate commerce, goods manufactured that are destined for interstate commerce can be regulated. And congress has plenary power over anything in interstate commerce. By upholding the Act, the Court overruled its prior decision in Hamer v. Dagenhart.

Wikard v. Filburn (U.S. 1942)

Facts: Farmers not getting paid enough for wheat (economic problems). Act created quotas for how much you could produce to sell; dairy farmer in Ohio produced wheat above federal quotas, but he had made it for his own consumption, not for resale.

Issue(s): Farmer challenges statute as exceeding power under Commerce Clause.

Rule: Court adopts the “substantial economic effect” on interstate commerce test, which says that if something has that effect, then it can be regulated, regardless of actual interstate ties

Holding: Even if activity is local and though it may not be regarded as commerce, it may still, whatever its nature, be reached by Congress if it exerts a substantial economic effect on interstate commerce (regardless of whether this effect was earlier deemed “direct” or “indirect.”)

Discussion: Even though the farmer does not sell wheat in commerce, his production has a cumulative affect on commerce because he would have to buy that wheat in the market. Court says if you are looking at effect on interstate commerce, you do not look at the person in isolation, but at the aggregate of the activities.

Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States (U.S. 1964)

Facts: The Heart of Atlanta Motel refused to rent room to African Americans.

Issue(s): Did Congress exceed its authority when it passed Title II of the Civil Rights Act and used the Commerce Clause and 14th Amendment as a justification to prevent private discrimination?

Rule: The test is whether the commerce involves more than one state and has a “real and substantial relation” to the national interest.

Holding: The refusal to rent rooms to African Americans affected commerce because a large number of registered guests at the motel came from out of state. A motel that serves interstate travelers and discriminates based on race could deter people from traveling and thus have a substantial effect on the commerce of other states.

Discussion: Congress can act under the Commerce Clause, even if trying to achieve moral rather than economic ends. The motive of Congress in this regard does not matter as long as the activity sought to be regulated is commerce which concerns more states than one and has a real and substantial relation to the national interest.

Katzenbach v. McClung (U.S. 1964)

Facts: Ollie’s BBQ refused to serve African Americans. Court said that this violated Title II of the Civil Rights Act because the goods bought and sold through Ollie’s BBQ crossed through state lines and congress was therefore able to regulate under the commerce clause.

Issue(s): Can the Civil Rights Act prohibit a local business from discriminating against African Americans?

Rule: Congress only needs a rational basis to support legislation that regulates interstate commerce.

Holding: Yes, even if interstate commerce has already ended (as it had when the food was being served), Congress can still regulate products that were previously within the stream of commerce. 

Discussion: The Court looked into the congressional hearings dealing with the passing of the act.The record was replete with testimony of the burdens paced on interstate commerce by racial discrimination in restaurants.This obviously discourages travel and obstructs interstate commerce for one can hardly travel without eating.

United States v. Lopez (U.S. 1995)

Facts: Case involved the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 – Congress made it a federal offense for any individual knowingly to possess a firearm at a place that the individual knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, to be a school zone.

Issue(s): Is the Act Constitutional under the Commerce Clause?

Rule: A law passed under the Commerce Clause must relate to: (1) a channel of interstate commerce; (2) an instrumentality of interstate commerce; or (3) an activity having a substantial effect on interstate commerce.

Holding: This Act exceeds the authority of Congress under Commerce power. People being protected here are not in interstate commerce.

Discussion: In order to regulate, there must be a sufficient nexus with commerce.

Justice Rhenquist stated that the proper test requires an analysis of whether the regulated activity “substantially affects” interstate commerce.

United States v. Morrison (U.S. 2000)

Facts: Case involves the Violence Against Women Act of 1994, passed using the Commerce Clause and 14th Amendment Equal Protection Clause. Woman brought a rape claim against two men at her college under the VAWA statute. The statute said that all persons within the U.S. “shall have the right to be free from crimes of violence motivated by gender.”

Issue(s): May Congress regulate non-economic, violent criminal conduct based solely on that conduct’s aggregate effect on interstate commerce?

Rule: Congress cannot regulate non-economic activity by finding that the cumulative impact creates a substantial effect Commerce Clause regulation of intrastate activity may only be upheld where the regulated activity is economic in nature.

Holding: Unconstitutional – congress here was trying to regulate non-economic activity (sexual assault)

Discussion: Even if there is unequal protection, it’s the job of the state and not the federal government, as this involves a police power.

Gonzales v. Raich (U.S. 2005)

Facts: California voters passed Proposition 215, which created an exemption from criminal prosecution for physicians, as well as for patients and primary caregivers who possess or cultivate marijuana for medicinal purposes with the recommendation or approval of a physician under the Compassionate Use Act of 1996. The respondents are residents suffering from conditions and are bringing injunctive and declaratory relief prohibiting the enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act. Monson was growing weed in her home, only 6 plants.

Issue(s): Does the Controlled Substances Act exceed Congress’s authority under the Commerce Clause when applied to intrastate marijuana production and consumption?

Holding: Congress constitutionally could prohibit the cultivation and possession of small amounts of weed for personal medicinal use because weed, like wheat in Wickard, is bought and sold in interstate commerce.

Discussion: The Commerce Clause permits Congress to criminalize local cultivation and medicinal use of marijuana, even if those uses otherwise conflict with state laws because of the Supremacy Clause.

Coyle v. Oklahoma (U.S. 1911)

Facts: As a condition of Oklahoma’s admission to the Union, Congress tried to dictate where its capital must be located.

Issue(s): Can Congress dictate where a state may locate its capitol?

Holding: Unconstitutional – the power to locate its own seat of government is essentially state power beyond the control of Congress. Supported by the 10th amendment.

Discussion: There must be some outer limits on federal power to interfere with the core functions implicit in state sovereignty.

New York v. United States (U.S. 1946)

Facts: State of NY was taxed for the sale of bottled mineral water from state-owned springs. State claimed it was immune from the application of a federal tax because the springs were state-owned.

Issue(s): Can Congress tax revenue from an entity owned by a state government?

Rule: As long as congress generally taps a source of revenue that is not uniquely capable of being earned only by a state (i.e. a business that the state happens to run), the constitution does not forbid the tax simply because its incidence falls on the state.

Holding: Yes, Congress is taxing springs that happened to be owned by the state; Congress is not taxing the state directly.

Discussion: Court’s reasoning is essentially based on a market-participant exception. There are state activities that the federal government cannot tax, but Congress can still regulate those activities.

National League of Cities v. Usery (U.S. 1976)

Facts: Case involves the Fair Labor Standards Act, which regulated minimum wage of state employees. FLSA extended minimum wage and maximum hour provisions to employees of state and local governments.

Issue(s): Can Congress regulate labor practices using its authority under the Commerce Clause?

Rule: Congress cannot displace states’ freedom to structure integral operations re: traditional state functions.

Holding: Unconstitutional – Rehnquist says that this application would impermissibly interfere with the ability of the state to structure such employment relationships which are “activities typical of those performed by state and local governments.”

Discussion: The Court focused on “Traditional State Functions” (Traditional and Integral Test). Minimum and maximum wage laws impermissibly interfered with the integral state government functions. Slippery Slope Argument: If congress can regulate states’ ability to make employment decisions, then there is little that Congress cannot regulate.

Garcia v. San Antonio Metro Transit Authority (U.S. 1985)

Facts: Under the FLSA, Congress wanted to regulate wage, etc for the municipal transit authority. The transit authority asserted that it was exempt from FSLA because it was performing a traditional government function.

Issue(s): Is an entity that performs a traditional government function properly subjected to the wage and overtime requirements of the FSLA?

Rule: Political process of the Federal system provides adequate protections to ensure that laws unduly burdening states are not promulgated.

Holding: Yes, the Court held that the municipal transit authority is properly subjected to the minimum wage and overtime requirements of the FLSA.

Discussion: Justice Powell dissented, concluding that it was incorrect to think that the federal government should be the sole judge of the limits of its own power. Powell stressed the importance of state and local autonomy.

In principle, the court is saying that it should only interfere with congress’s regulatory power and restrain that power when there has been a failing in the national political process.

South Carolina v. Baker (U.S. 1988)

Facts: In order to raise debt capital. Congress passed the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act. The Act removed the federal income tax exemption for interest earned from public bonds issued by state and local governments. South Carolina argued the bonds issued by state and local governments were not subject to interest.

Issue(s): Is the Act Constitutional?

Rule: Court will only strike down a law if there was a procedural breakdown, not just a substantive breakdown involving a poor choice by congress.

Holding: The Court refused to find a political process flaw in this case. 

Discussion: South Carolina relied on a prior court cases in support of its argument. The Supreme Court found that the 10th Amendment was not implicated because, under the national political process of electing officials, to represent the people in Congress. The Court found that the law did not discriminate against the states because it applied equally to the Federal Government.

New York v. United States (U.S. 1992)

Facts: Congress passed the Federal Radioactive Nuclear Waste Act requiring states to enact laws to facilitate waste cleanup. The Act required states to provide for the disposal of waste generated in borders and gave 3 incentives to comply: (1) Monetary incentives, which allowed states with disposal sites to impose a surcharge on waste received from other states; (2) Access incentives, which allowed states to increase the cost of access to their sites and then deny access altogether to waste generated in states that did not meet federal deadlines’, and (3) A take title sanction, providing that a state that failed to provide for the disposal of all internally generated waste by a particular date (1996) must take title to the waste and become liable for all damages suffered by the waste’s generator or owner. NY sought declaratory judgment, saying this is against Congress’ power and violates the 10th Amendment.

Rule: The allocation of power contained in the Clause authorizes Congress to regulate interstate commerce directly; it does not authorize Congress to regulate state governments’ regulation of commerce.

Holding: Court said that this was unconstitutional because Congress was conscripting the states and forcing the states to enact laws and regulations.

Discussion: The Court found that Congress could provide monetary and access incentives to encourage the states to meet their deadlines and comply with the Act. However, the provision of the Act authorizing a “take title” sanction was an unconstitutional. Congress does not have the authority to commandeer the legislative processes of the States by directly compelling them to enact and enforce a regulatory program.

Printz v. United States (U.S. 1997)

Facts: Congress enacted the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act which includes provisions that required state and local law officials to perform background checks before giving firearm permits.

Issue(s): Can Congress regulate gun purchases under the Necessary and Proper Clause?

Rule: Just as Congress may not commandeer state legislatures, Congress also cannot commandeer state executive branches.

Holding: The Court deemed the Act unconstitutional because it forced state and local governments to enforce acts

Discussion: The government argued that Congress had previously been able to impose duties on state courts. The majority found that judges and the judiciary as a whole were different from state officials and legislatures.

Justice Stevens dissented, noting that historical materials indicated that the Framers of the Constitution intended to enact their authority through local officials.

Justice Souter also dissented. Relying on the Federalist Paper No. 27, which asserted the national government has the authority, when exercising a legitimate power, to require state officials to take appropriate action.

Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Florida (U.S. 1996)

Facts: The Seminole Tribe sued the State of Florida for violating a provision of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which authorized casino gambling activities only in conformance with a valid compact between the tribe and the state in which the gaming activities are located.

Issue(s): Whether the State of Florida was protected from suit under sovereign immunity theory?

Rule: Congress cannot legislate away a state’s constitutionally protected immunity (without the state’s consent) even if doing so would be valid under the commerce clause.

Holding:  Yes. The Court held that Congress could not abrogate sovereign immunity simply because the subject of the suit is in an area under the exclusive control of the federal government.  

Discussion: In reaching its decision, the Court overruled Penn v. Union Gas, which held that Congress could override the 11th amendment pursuant to any of its constitutional powers so long as the law was explicit in its text in authorizing suits against state government. Congress, when acting under its Art. I, § 8 commerce power, may not abrogate a state’s sovereign immunity without the state’s consent.

Alden v. Maine (U.S. 1999)

Facts: State probation officers sued seeking damages for the state’s failure to pay them overtime compensation required by the federal FLSA.

Issue(s): Does Congress have the authority to abrogate a state’s sovereign immunity from private suits in state court?

Rule: Court extended the state sovereign immunity privilege to cover lawsuits against states in state court as well.

Holding:  No. The Court held that state sovereignty is a fundamental idea, not grounded in the language of the 11th Amendment, but rather in the structure of the Constitution. Sovereign immunity is not limited by language of 11th Amendment.

Discussion: Justice Kennedy focused on the Constitution’s structure and history. The federal system established preserves the sovereign status of the States. He also took pains to show that FLSA remained binding on the states, even if not enforceable through private lawsuits.

Central Virginia Community College v. Katz (U.S. 2006)

Facts: Katz was a supervisor of a book store that declared bankruptcy. Katz sued to collect debts that were owed to the book store by Central Virginia Community College, which was operated by the Commonwealth of Virginia. Katz filed an action in federal bankruptcy court to bar the College from filing claims to collect money from the store.

Issue(s): Does state sovereign immunity extend to a bankruptcy proceeding in federal court?

Rule: Congress can subordinate a state entity to other creditors in a federal bankruptcy proceeding under Article 1, Section 8, Clause 4.

Holding: No. Congress can abrogate sovereign immunity when it is acting under Section 5 of the 14th amendment.

Discussion: Congress is significantly limited in its ability to abrogate sovereign immunity.

Bailey v. Drexel Furniture Co. (U.S. 1922)

Facts: Congress passed the Child Labor Act, which provided that any company employing children in violation of the Act shall pay a tax equal to 10% of the company’s net profits.

Issue(s): Was the Child Labor Act Constitutional where it was enacted with the underlying purpose to curb the use of child labor?

Rule: Congress may not accomplish objectives not within its congressional power by passing a law under the pretext of executing its powers.

Holding: The Act is unconstitutional. The Act was a response to the Court’s ruling in Dagenhart, where the Court held a law banned the transportation of goods into interstate commerce if a the goods were a product of child labor.

Discussion: A tax can have an incidental regulatory effect, but is unconstiuutional when it loses such character and becomes a penalty.

Taxing has motive to raise revenue; incidental motive of conduct. Distinction is one of degree cased on Congress’ motives. A penalty is an attempt to regulate conduct by means of requiring a payment. In determining constitutionality, the Court must ask: what is the primary motive? Is it to raise revenue (tax) or regulate conduct (penalty)?

United States v. Kahriger (U.S. 1953)

Facts: Congress imposed a federal occupational tax on gambling. Gamblers were required to register with the IRS so that a tax could be levied against their earnings.

Rule: A federal excise tax does not cease to be valid merely because it discourages or deters the activities taxed. The courts are without authority to strike down a tax unless the purpose of the tax is to be a penalty and not to raise revenue.

Holding: The tax is constitutional.

Discussion: The tax was upheld, in part, because it was going to raise substantial revenue, whereas the penalty in Drexel was not going to raise substantial revenue. Additionally, the tax was enforced by the IRS,whose purpose is to collect taxes. In Drexel, the penalty was collected by the Department of Labor, whose purpose is not to collect taxes.

Steward Machine Co. V. Davis (IRS) (U.S. 1937)

Facts: Involved the unemployment compensation provisions of the Social Security Act, and allowed employers with eight or more employees to obtain a credit of up to 90% of the federal tax for any contributions to a state unemployment fund certified by a federal agency as meeting the requirements of the act. Used to encourage states to comply with the federal law.

Issue(s): Was the Act an arbitrary exercise of Congressional authority meant to coerce the state’s into establishing an approved unemployment compensation plan?

Rule: There is a difference between inducement and duress, and the federal funds here are not sufficient to coerce a state to comply in violation of the 10th amendment (but Cardozo does not fix the outermost line as to what is appropriate and what is not)

Holding:  No. At a time when unemployment was high and the economy was performing poorly, the Court held that the tax would benefit the general welfare of the public, as well as state and federal governments.

Discussion: Justice Cardozo articulated four factors considered by the Court in reaching its conclusion:

  1. The proceeds were not earmarked for a special group
  2. The law which is a condition of the credit has had the approval of the state and could not be a law without that
  3. The condition is not linked to an irrevocable agreement
  4. The condition is not directed to the attainment of an unlawful end.

South Dakota v. Dole (U.S. 1987)

Facts: The case arose from a challenge to a federal law that sought to create a 21 year old drinking age by withholding a portion of federal highway funds from any state government that failed to impose such a drinking age (5% denied to any state that didn’t create a 21 year old age). State sought a declaratory judgment that this policy violated the 21st Amendment and the limits on Congressional spending power.

Issue(s): Does Congress have the authority to withhold federal funds from a state government that fails to enact legislation creating a minimum legal drinking age of 21 years.

Rule: Congress may withhold federal funds, but not without limitation.

Holding: The Court upheld the law, reasoning that Congress was only indirectly encouraging uniformity in drinking age through conditional grants of highway funds. The Act was a constitutional expression of congressional authority because Congress was not directly regulating.

Discussion: Justice Rehnquist articulated four limitations on the spending power as a test of constitutionality:

  • Is the exercise of the spending power in pursuit of “the general welfare”?
    • Rational basis
  • Is the condition presented unambiguously, enabling the states to exercise their choice knowing the consequences of that choice, noting that States should be able to make an informed decision?
  • Is the condition related to a federal interest in a particular national project or program?
  • Are there any other constitutional provisions that provide an independent bar to the conditional grant of federal funds?

Woods v. Cloyd W. Miller, Co. (U.S. 1949)

Facts: Title II Rent Control Legislation enacted by Congress, whereby Congress relied upon the “war power.” There is a housing deficit because nothing was built during the war, troops were coming home and materials had been diverted to the war effort. There was no question about whether Congress could control rents in the middle of a war

Issue(s): Does Congress have authority under its war power to continue to control rent 2 years after the cessation of hostilities?

Rule: Congress has the power pursuant to its War Power to attempt to remedy situations caused by a war and continuing to exist after hostilities have ceased.

Holding: Court decides that the use of war powers is valid. Congress can use War Power with the effects of war, even if hostilities have ceased. War power includes power to clean up mess/consequences after the war.

Discussion: The “war power” is not an actual specific power. Under Art. I, § 8, Congress can declare war, grant letter, capture rules, raise and support armies…it is a series of powers.

Justice Douglas noted that the effects of war do not necessarily end right after the cessation of hostilities. As such, congress can continue to handle post-war issues.

Justice Jackson concurred, though he was not willing to hold that the war powers last as long as the effects and consequences of war (he says they are permanent) – but concurred because he believed the war was still continuing.

Cooley v. Board of Wardens (U.S. 1851)

Facts: City of Philadelphia passed a local registration that ships receive a local pilot while entering or leaving the Port of Philadelphia. Those who did not comply with the law were required to pay a fee.

Issue(s): Does the local registration violate the Commerce Clause?

Rule: States may regulate those areas of interstate commerce that are local in nature and do NOT demand one national system of regulation by Congress.

Holding: No. Regulating boats in Philly harbor is not national in nature; it’s a local activity because the conditions of the port are unique and require specialized knowledge and experience. As long as a regulation is local in nature, and is not preempted by Congressional Act, the states may regulate the activity.

Discussion: The Court drew a distinction between the nature of the commerce power. National (affecting several states– want to have uniform regulatory scheme) versus Local (safety—important to allow local considerations to shape, etc.) This was the first case where the Court recognized the dormant Commerce Clause principle. The Court applied the “subject matter test” to determine that the state regulation was sufficiently local to be valid.

Philadelphia v. New Jersey (U.S. 1978)

Facts: New Jersey prohibited the importation of waste originating in another state on the basis of state police powers (“health concerns”). The ban was challenged by operators of private landfills in NJ and by several cities in other states that had agreement with these operators. New Jersey said this statute was designed to protect health, safety and environment. Philly said this is economic, trying to protect NJ citizens (in state citizens who generate waste are being protected from competition from out of state. Fewer people trying to dispose of waste in NJ landfills—demand for landfill space will go down, cost of landfill use in NJ cheaper).

Issue(s): Was the New Jersey law an unconstitutional burden on interstate commerce?

Rule: State laws that are protectionist in nature unduly burden interstate commerce and are unconstitutional.

Holding: Court held that even if the purpose is state police powers, NJ cannot employ the police powers in a way that discriminates against other articles of commerce based solely on their geographic origin.

Discussion: In finding the law unconstitutional, the Court did not have to decide whether ultimate purpose was competitive or protecting the environment b/c it is facially discriminatory against interstate commerce. If NJ was concerned about landfills filling up, they could have taken other nondiscriminatory measures to reduce flow of waste into all landfills.

Justice Rehnquist dissented, believing the 10th amendment should prevail and allow NJ to control their own waste by not taking on the waste of others.

Maine v. Taylor (U.S. 1986)

Facts: The State of Maine banned the importation of baitfish in order to protect local fisheries from the non-native species.

Issue(s): Is the Maine law an unconstitutional limit on interstate commerce?

Rule: A facially discriminatory law can only be upheld if: (1) the law serves a legitimate local purpose, and (2) that purpose could not reasonably be achieved by other available alternatives.

Holding: The Court upheld a complete ban of out of state baitfish because of the uncertainty of the ecological effects of foreign species on Maine’s environment.

Discussion: The Court found the law had a legitimate purpose of environmental concern about parasites, noting the delicate ecological balance in streams/rivers. Other fish disturb that, and there was no other less restrictive means to prevent that from happening.

Oregon Waste Systems Inc. v. Department of Environmental Quality (U.S. 1994)

Facts: State imposed higher taxes on out-of-state waste than on in-state waste.

Issue(s): Does a surcharge placed on out-of-state waste violate the Commerce Clause when the out-of-state waste is identical to the -in-state waste?

Rule: A regulation that “taxes a transaction or incident more heavily when it crosses state lines” is facially discriminatory.

Holding: The surcharge is unconstitutional. 

Discussion: The Court said that interstate commerce “may be made to pay its way. A facially discriminatory tax that imposes on interstate commerce the rough equivalent of an identifiable and substantially similar tax on intrastate commerce does not offend the dormant commerce clause”

In this case, the out-of-state tax was three times that of the in-state tax. It was therefore not compensatory but was punitive in nature.

Baldwin v. G.A.F. Seelig, Inc. (U.S. 1935)

Facts: New York passed law that prohibited New York Sales of out-of-state milk if the milk had been purchased below the price for similar purchases within new york. New York statute established minimum producer-to-dealer prices on milk and prohibited the sale in New York of milk purchased out of state at lower than the minimum price for a similar in-state purchase.

Issue(s): Is the NY law valid?

Rule: One state in its dealings with another may not place itself in a position of economic isolation. It is a violation of the Commerce Clause for a state to regulate intrastate prices by prohibiting the importation of less expensive goods in interstate commerce.

Holding:  No. The NY law violates the dormant commerce clause due its protectionist nature.

Discussion: The court thought that the law operated like a protective tariff in that it deprived efficient out-of-state sellers of the opportunity to undersell in-state competitors.

Justice Cardozo said neither power to tax or police power may be used by the state of destination with the aim and effect of establishing an economic barrier against competition with the products of another state or the labor of its residents.

H.P. Hood & Sons v. Du Mond (U.S. 1949)

Facts: Boston milk distributor was denied a license to establish a receiving depot in New York on the basis of a New York law which makes a condition of the issuance of a license that such issuance will not tend to be destructive of competition in a market already “adequately served.”

Issue(s): Is the New York law a constitutional burden on commerce?

Rule: A state may not constitutionally enact restrictions with the purpose and effect of curtailing the volume of interstate commerce for the benefit of local economic interests.

Holding: No, the Court held it to be an unconstitutional violation of the dormant commerce clause due to its burden on commerce because it prohibits new businesses from entering the market and interferes with free competition.

Discussion: The court consistently rebuffs attempts of states to advance their own commercial interests by curtailing the movement of articles of commerce, either into or out of the state, while generally supporting their right to impose even burdensome regulations in the interest of local health concerns.

Justice Black dissented, noting that because the law is not facially discriminatory, he would defer economic judgment to the state. Says that the law applies to both in state and out of state distributors (this is equality).

Hunt v. Washington State Apple Advertising Comm’n (U.S. 1977)

Facts: NC law requiring that closed containers of apples offered for sale or shipped into the state bear no grade other than the applicable US grade or standard.  This applied to both in and out of state apples, so we can’t just say that it discriminates on its face.

Issue(s): Does the North Carolina law violate the Commerce Clause by placing a burden on the importation of out-of-state apples?

Rule: Even if a “protectionist measure” has a pure intent of safety, the law may still be overturned if it has a discriminatory effect.

Holding: Yes, the Court unanimously invalidated the law requiring that closed containers of apples offered for sale or shipped into the State bear “no grade other than the applicable U.S. grade or standard.” Washington had adopted strict inspection programs and required all apples to be of a certain quality. The Washington grades were equivalent or superior to U.S. grades. The Court noted that the law imposed a heavy burden on interstate commerce because it increases the cost for Washington Apple growers because they are going to have to ship apples to North Carolina in entirely different packages than it would otherwise have to in order to sell in North Carolina.

Discussion: The Court says there is no discriminatory purpose here, but there is a discriminatory effect. Court probably based this in part on the fact that there were reasonable alternatives that North Carolina could have employed.

Bacchus Imports, Ltd. v. Dias (U.S. 1984)

Facts: Hawaii statute exempted a local liquor and fruit wine from the state 20% wholesale liquor tax. Evidence indicates that it was enacted to promote the local pineapple-wine industry (the exempted wine is only made in Hawaii).

Issue(s): Is the Hawaii law unconstitutional?

Rule: Law is unconstitutional where it has both the purpose and effect of discriminating in favor of local products.

Holding: Court held the tax unconstitutional because it had both the purpose and effect of discriminating in favor of local products. The Court did not allow an exception for a struggling local industry

Discussion: The law is not facially discriminatory because it does not matter where the wine is produced, but there was a protectionist motive here because the law exempted alcohol made with fruits that were indigenous to Hawaii. Thus, the intent of the law was obviously designed to favor a local industry.

Exxon Corp. v. Governor of Maryland (U.S. 1978)

Facts: Maryland passed law preventing producers or refiners of petroleum from operating retail service stations in the state. No gas was produced or refined in Maryland, all of its gas was imported from out-of-state refineries. (Those refineries didn’t sell to Maryland’s mom and pop gas stations during the gas shortage – revenge law).

Issue(s): Does the Maryland law violate the Commerce Clause and offend Due Process considerations?

Rule: A law that places a burden (albeit not a substantial burden) on interstate commerce but does not discriminate against out-of-state commerce or favor in-state commerce, at least in this case, does not violate the Dormant Commerce Clause.

Holding: The law is constitutional.

Discussion: The Court held there was no disparate treatment between interstate and local commerce and there was no barrier created against interstate commerce. Notably, the law did not favor an in-state producer as there were none in the State of Maryland.

Minnesota v. Clover Leaf Creamery Co. (U.S. 1981)

Facts: Minnesota law banned retail sale of milk products in plastic nonreturnable containers but permitted sales in nonreturnable containers made of pulpwood.Most of the acceptable containers were of pulpwood, which is produced in Minnesota.

Issue(s): Is the Minnesota law unconstitutional due to the burden it places on interstate commerce?

Rule: A nondiscriminatory regulation serving substantial state purposes is not invalid simply because it causes some business to shift from a predominantly out-of-state industry to a predominantly in-state industry.

Holding:  The Court upheld the law, finding that the state had a legitimate interest and the law “regulates evenhandedly” by prohibiting all milk retailers from selling their products in such a container.

Discussion: The Court held that only when the burden on interstate commerce clearly outweighs the State’s legitimate purposes does such a regulation violate the commerce clause. Waste management was a legitimate state objective.

Pike v. Bruce Church, Inc. (U.S. 1970)

Facts: Arizona statute required that Arizona-grown cantaloupe advertise their State of origin on each package. Compliance with this order for Pike would have cost a lot of money ($200,000).

Issue(s): Is the Arizona packaging law constitutional?

Rule: Where the statute regulates even-handedly 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.

Holding: Court held the law unconstitutional: said it wasn’t for safety but to protect and enhance the reputation of growers within the State.

Discussion: The Court’s holding became known as the “Pike Balancing Test.” The Court will balance the following factors: Legitimate Local public interest; Effects on interstate commerce are only incidental; Burden imposed on interstate commerce is not clearly excessive relative to the putative local benefits.

Justice Scalia dissented, noting that the balancing test was within the authority of Congress, not the judiciary.

Kassel v. Consolidated Freightways Corp. (U.S. 1981)

Facts: Iowa transportation regulation limited on the length of trucks (single truck 55 feet, double 60 feet). Consolidated Freightways sued because heir double trucks are 65 feet long and don’t meet requirement. Consolidated did not want to drive around Iowa due to it’s central location and I-80 access to the west coast. Consolidated would have to switch trailers at border, which would add costs. Iowa argued the law would promote safety.

Issue(s): Is the Iowa regulation constitutional?

Rule: A state safety regulation will be unconstitutional if its asserted safety purpose is outweighed by its degree of interference with interstate commerce.

Holding: Court held that the Iowa statute banning 65 foot trucks within the state was unconstitutional.

Discussion: There was no imperical evidence to support Iowa’s claim that a 60 foot long truck was safer than a 65 foot long truck. The law had a substantial effect on interstate commerce and created an unnecessary burden to states around Iowa. Transportation is a unique industry requires special consideration for safety interests – if the safety interest is legitimate, then the court should defer to the states.

Justice Brennan concurred, writing separately, he stated “the decision of Iowa’s lawmakers to promote Iowa’s safety and other interests at the direct expense of the safety and other interests of neighboring states merits no deference. No special judicial acuity is demanded to perceive that this sort of parochial legislation violates the Commerce Clause.”

South Carolina State Highway Department v. Barnwell Bros. (U.S. 1938)

Facts: South Carolina law banned trucks over 90 inches wide weighing more than 20,000 pounds from traveling on state highways. Barnwell was an interstate trucking company that sued, alleging the South Carolina law was an unconstitutional impediment to interstate commerce.

Issue(s): Is the law an unconstitutional burden on interstate commerce?

Rule: If the state action does not discriminate against only out-of-state entities, the burden is one which the Constitution permits because it is an inseparable incident of the exercise of a legislative authority, which, under the Constitution has been left to the states

Holding: Court upholds a South Carolina law that prohibits use of trucks on highways that are over 90 inches wide or have a gross weight of 20,000lbs (this encompasses about 80-90% of trucks)

Discussion: State highways are different from interstate highways in that they are regulated by state legislatures. The South Carolina law is equally burdensome on both in-state and out-of-state entities.

Southern Pacific Co. v. Arizona (U.S. 1945)

Facts: Arizona passed a law that prohibited railroad trains of more than 14 passenger cars or 70 freight cars.

Issue(s): Is a facially neutral law unconstitutional if it has a disproportionate effect on interstate commerce?

Rule: A facially neutral law with a disproportionate effect on interstate commerce may be invalidated if its burden on interstate commerce is excessive.

Holding: Yes. The Court held the law unconstitutional because the benefits were only slight and insufficient to outweigh its detriment to interstate commerce.

Discussion: Justice Stone said that the determining factor in these transportation cases is the nature and extent of the burden which the state regulation places on interstate commerce. In the unique context of trains, their operation is such a standard practice among the railroads of the United States that their movement cannot be regulated but by the United States Congress. The state regulation in this case was determined to impede the flow of interstate commerce to such an extent that only the United States Congress could regulate it in such a way.

Bibb v. Navajo Freight Lines, Inc. (U.S. 1959)

Facts: Illinois law that mandated specific types of mudguards on all trucks that travelled in the state. Illinois argued that a curved mudguard was safer than a straight-edged mudguard.

Issue(s): Is the Illinois mudguard requirement unconstitutional?

Rule: Even if a law is facially neutral but has discriminatory effect on interstate commerce, it will be deemed unconstitutional.

Holding:  The Illinois law is unconstitutional because the mudguards required in Illinois were different from the mudguards required by 45 other sates.

Discussion: Where a state law regulations that run afoul of the policy of free trade reflected in the commerce clause, the law will be unconstitutional. Here, the Court has indicated that even in trucking cases, it would invalidate a facially neutral law with a disproportionate effect on interstate commerce.

Dean Milk Co. v. Madison (U.S. 1951)

Facts: Madison, WI ordinance made it unlawful to sell any milk as pasteurized unless it had been processed and bottled at an approved pasteurization plant located within five miles of the city. There were only five processing plants within the five mile radius at the time of the lawsuit.

Issue(s): Does the Madison ordinance unconstitutionally interfere with interstate commerce?

Rule: A locality may not discriminate against interstate commerce, even to protect the health and safety of its people, if there are reasonable alternatives that do not discriminate and are adequate to conserve legitimate local interests.

Holding: Court held that the local governments may not use their regulatory power to favor local businesses by prohibiting patronage of out-of-state competitors.

Discussion: There were reasonable alternatives in this case that could achieve health and safety goals (the purpose of the law) without impeding interstate commerce to such a large extent.

C&A Carbone, Inc. v. Clarkstown (U.S. 1994)

Facts: In order to fund the waste management facility, Clarkstown required via ordinance that all nonhazardous solid waste within the town be deposited at the transfer station in the town.

Issue(s): Is a law that designates only one facility as the deposity for all of the solid waste within a town constitutional?

Rule: Discrimination against interstate commerce in favor of local businesses is per se invalid unless the municipality can demonstrate under rigorous scrutiny that it has no other means to advance a legitimate local interest.

Holding: No, the Court held the law was unconstitutional.

Discussion: By preventing everyone except the favored local operator from performing the initial processing of the solid waste, the ordinance deprived out of state businesses from access to the local market.The town’s purpose is revenue generation – this is not a valid purpose that can justify discrimination against interstate commerce.

United Haulers Ass’n v. Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Management Authority (U.S. 2007)

Facts: The county’s “flow control” ordinance required haulers of trash to deliver the trash to facilities owned and operated by a state-created public benefit corporation.

Issue(s): Is the county flow control ordinance unconstitutional because it requires the trash to be delivered to a state-created public benefit corporation?

Rule: An ordinance requiring that trash be delivered to a state-created public benefit corporation does not violate the Dormant Commerce Clause.

Holding: The ordinance was constitutional. Chief Justice Roberts distinguished between public and private institutions. Explains that it is constitutionally significant because laws benefiting local government may serve several legitimate purposes instead of economic protectionism. To apply the Dormant Commerce Clause to public facilities would interfere with many government functions.

Discussion: Justice Alito dissented, stating the ordinance is no different than the ordinance in C&A Carbone. The majority found says that this is just not analogous to Carbone because the laws at issue in United Haulers required haulers to bring waste to facilities owned and operated by a state-created public benefit corporation. This is a basic government function. Treating public and private entities the same under the dormant commerce clause would lead to unprecedented and unbounded interference by the courts with state and local government. The court treated Oneida differently because the ordinance was not intended to be protectionist in nature, but was instead intended to promote a goal that was beneficial to the public.

South Central Timber Development, Inc. v. Wunnicke (U.S. 1984)

Facts: Alaska offered to sell large amounts of state-owned timber to buyers so long as the buyer agreed to process the timber within the state. South Central wants to buy timber and ship it to Japan for processing. SC challenges; Alaska makes a Market Participant exception argument.

Issue(s): Does the Alaska statute violate the Commerce Clause?

Rule: If a state imposes conditions on commerce within a market in which it is a participant, but those conditions establish substantial regulatory burdens outside the market in which the state is participating, the conditions are per se invalid.

Holding: Yes, the Court holds this processing condition unconditional.

Discussion: Court says state can participate with whomever they want, but here, regulation does not occur at market participant exception participation level. Alaska is trying to regulate what happens to the timber after it is sold. The Court was concerned about the downstream effects, i.e. that the market participant exception could become so far reaching that it would swallow the Dormant Commerce Clause. Therefore, the Court established limits.

United Buildings & Construction Trade Council v. Mayor and Council of Camden (U.S. 1984)

Facts: City of Camden enacted an ordinance requiring that contractors and subcontractors working on city construction projects employ a workforce of 40 percent Camden residents.

Issue(s): Is the ordinance an unconstitutional violation of the Privileges and Immunities Clause?

Rule: The Privileges and Immunities Clause applies to municipal ordinances that discriminate on the basis of municipal residents.

Holding: Yes, the Court remanded to determine whether this violated the Privileges & Immunities Clause because, although in-state residents could have voted in elections to have this done away with since the municipality’s power came from the state, out-of-state residents had no way to rectify this and deserve equal livelihood.

Discussion: Justice Blackmun dissented, noting the P&I Clause is already settled in that, absent some substantial non-invidious justification, a state cannot discriminate between its own residents and those of other states on the basis of state citizenship. He says this Court has now said that it applies to residents among the same state as well.

Supreme Court of New Hampshire v. Piper (1985)

Facts: New Hampshire limited bar admission in the state to in-state residents.

Issue(s): Does the New Hampshire law barring admission to the bar of that state to in-state residents violate the P&I Clause?

Rule: The Clause does not preclude discrimination against nonresidents where there is a substantial reason for the difference in treatment and the discrimination practiced against non-residents bears a substantial relationship to the State’s objective.

Holding: Yes, the Court held this violated the Privileges & Immunities Clause because the privilege of practicing law is important to our national economy, and none of the asserted justifications of the state were valid.

Discussion: The State of New Hampshire argued that non-residents were less likely to know local rules and procedures, act in an ethical manner, and be available for court proceedings and were less likely to do pro bono work in the State. The Court found there was no reason to believe in-state residents were more likely to know the law or act ethically.

United States v. New Mexico (U.S. 1982)

Facts: The Los Alamos lab in New Mexico used a specific account containing federal funds for the payment of contractors used by the Federal Government. The State of New Mexico taxed out-of-state goods and services, which included the federal contractors at Los Alamos. 

Issue(s): Are the contractors subject to the tax?

Rule: A state may not, consistent with the Supremacy Clause, lay a tax directly upon the United States.

Holding: Yes, the contractors are subject to the tax because of their independent nature. The contractors are not part a part of the Federal Government. However, the Court treated the contractors as an exception and reiterated that a state may not directly tax the United States government.

Discussion: Tax immunity is appropriate in only one circumstance: when the levy falls on the United States itself or on an agency or instrumentality so closely connected to the government that the two cannot realistically be viewed as separate entities.

Pacific Gas & Elec. Co. v. State Energy Resources Conservation & Development Comm’n (U.S. 1983)

Facts: California issued a state moratorium on the licensing of new nuclear power plants in the state until Federal officials developed a way to safely dispose of nuclear waste. PG&E argued the could not pass the law because Congress wanted to promote nuclear power generation under the Atomic Energy Act.

Issue(s): Does the Atomic Energy Act preempt the state law?

Rule: Laws that do not regulate areas that are either expressly or impliedly occupied by federal law do not preempt the states from regulating in that field.

Holding: No, the Federal Act does not expressly preempt the state statute because the state law was meant to regulate economic effects.

Discussion: The purpose of the atomic energy act was to promote nuclear power, but not at all costs; law left to decide if economic costs were too great.

Rice v. Santa Fe Elevator Corp. (U.S. 1947) (Field Preemption Case)

Facts: The State of Illinois sued numerous grain warehousing companies over compliance with state grain regulations. The warehousing companies argued the Federal regulations on grain practices preempt the state regulations.

Issue(s): Do Federal grain regulations preempt state grain regulations?

Rule: If congress evidences a clear intent to preempt state and local laws, then they are preempted even if the statute is silent on preemption

Holding: Yes, in this case. Discussing the concept of field preemption, the Court held that, although states have traditionally occupied the area of grain warehousing practices, the state laws were superseded by Federal law if Congress had enumerated a clear and manifest purpose to regulate the practice.

Discussion: Factors that suggest a finding of field preemption include: (1) the pervasiveness of regulation (have they regulated exhaustively to an extent that there is no room for addition reg by state government and (2) is the Federal interest so dominant as to limit the states?

Florida Lime & Avocado Growers, Inc. v. Paul (U.S. 1963)

Facts: Case concerned avocados that met the federal standard for maturity but fell short of the California standard.

Issue(s): Is the California law preempted by the federal standard for avocado maturity?

Rule: Where both federal and state compliance is a physical impossibility, there is conflict preemption and the state law is accordingly preempted.

Holding: In this case, there was no physical impossibility of complying with both standards. The maturity of avocados seems to be an inherently unlikely candidate for exclusive federal regulation. Congress described conflict preemption as “a situation where compliance with both federal and state regulation is a physical impossibility.”

Wyeth Pharmaceuticals v. Levine (U.S. 2009)

Facts: A musician took anti-nausea drug intravenously and had to have her arm amputated. State, through its tort law, tried to impose additional standards for labeling requirements in addition to requirements already required by the FDA.

Issue(s): Is the State law requiring more extensive warnings preempted by the FDA regulation?

Rule: In a personal injury action, the maker of the drug always bears the responsibility for the content of its labels.

Holding: No, the state tort law was allowed to impose additional requirements.

Discussion: Impossibility of preemption is a demanding standard to prove. Wyeth failed to show that it was impossible to comply with both the state and federal standards. Moreover, allowing tort liability would further the federal regulatory goal: informing doctors and patients of dangers of prescription drugs.

Crosby v. National Foreign Trade Council (U.S. 2000)

Facts: Massachusetts tried to impose a stricter trade embargo on Burma. Already a federal law imposing a less strict trade barrier with Burma.

Issue(s): Is the Massachusetts law unconstitutional under the Supremacy Clause?

Rule: State laws that frustrate federal statutory objectives are preempted under the Supremacy Clause.

Holding: Yes, the Court ruled that the state law WAS preempted b/c state statute would conflict with the President’s role in foreign matters. The Federal government had its own diplomatic goals with Burma and the state law was interfering with those goals.

Discussion: This is probably conflict preemption – State statute is an obstacle to the accomplishments and execution of the full purposes and objectives of the act.

Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer (U.S. 1952) (The Steel Seizure Case)

Facts: Faced with an imminent steel strike during the Korean War, President Truman ordered Sawyer, the Secretary of Commerce, to take over the steel mills during Korean war. President enacted an executive order that seized steel mills because of threat of strike when U.S. needed steel to fulfill its defense contracts.

Issue(s): Was the president’s executive order a constitutional exercise of his authority?

Rule: The president, relying on a concept of inherent powers, and in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief, may not make an order that usurps the lawmaking authority of Congress on the basis of a compelling need to protect the national security.

Holding: No, the Court held the law was unconstitutional and not within the president’s power because it was not an execution of a law but the creation of a law.

Discussion: Troops were fighting, but there was no actual declaration of war. Thus, the seizure was not coming from a constitutional power held by the president and the seizure was not authorized by Congress, and under Taft Hartley, Congress rejected an emergency seizure amendment.

United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corp. (U.S. 1936)

Facts: Congress authorized the President to prohibit the sale of arms and munitions to Bolivia and Paraguay (both were in armed conflict). Curtiss-Wright was selling fighter planes and bombers to Bolivia. Curtiss-Wright challenged it as an unconstitutional grant of legislative power to the president.

Issue(s): Was Congress’s delegation of legislative power to the President unconstitutional?

Rule: “The President alone has the power to speak or listen as a representative of the nation.”

Holding: No, the Court stated that this agency operation was an acceptable delegation of power by the legislature as long as the legislature provides an overarching principle and guidelines for the use of that power.

Discussion: In 1936, when this case is decided, it is not clear how clear the intelligible guidelines have to be. Affirmed that the “non-delegation doctrine” is very weak in the domestic sphere and is even weaker with regard to foreign affairs

Johnson v. Eisentrager (U.S. 1950)

Facts: German civilians were captured in Germany and tried in military tribunals in Germany. The German civilians had never been within the territory of the United States that would be subject to the jurisdiction of United States courts. They want U.S. courts to issue a writ of Habeus Corpus.

Issue(s): Do the United States’ courts have jurisdiction over the German citizens?

Rule: Federal courts have no jurisdiction over enemy aliens held outside the United States.

Holding: No. The Court ruled that German civilians captured in the Pacific theater of war and accused of being enemy aliens did not have jurisdiction because they were never in a place where the U.S. was sovereign.  

Discussion: Court employed a six prong analysis:

  1. Enemy alien;
  2. Never been or resided in the United States;
  3. Was captured outside of our territory and there held in military custody as a prisoner of war;
  4. Was tried and convicted by a military commission sitting outside the United States;
  5. For offenses against laws of war committed outside the United States; and
  6. Is at all times imprisoned outside the United States.

Rasul v. Bush (U.S. 2004)

Facts: Detainees of Guantanamo Bay Prison were captured in Pakistan and Afghanistan during the War on Terror. U.S. government transported the captives to Guantanamo Bay Prison and held them indefinitely. Families of the detainees filed habeas corpus petitions claiming they were being denied Due Process due to lack of representation and indefinite holding. U.S. government argued the petitions could not be heard because U.S. courts did not have jurisdiction because the detainees were not held on American soil and were not American citizens.

Issue(s): Do U.S. courts have jurisdiction of the detainees’ habeas claims?

Holding: Federal Habeas Statute authorizing the district courts within their respective jurisdictions to entertain habeas applications by persons claiming to be held in custody in violation of the laws of the US applies to Guantanamo bay prisoners.

Discussion: Court (Stevens) allows habeas for detainee in Guantanamo, where US technically doesn’t have ultimate sovereignty, but does have “plenary and exclusive jurisdiction.” Justice Scalia dissented. In his opinion, Rasule overruled the Court in Eisentrager.

Hamdi v. Rumsfeld (U.S. 2004)

Facts: US citizen is captured in an active combat zone and held within the US. Court held that the military has the power to hold citizen enemy combatant for duration of the conflict, however, his classification as an enemy combatant must include due process.

Issue(s): Does Due Process require that a citizen held as an enemy combatant in the U.S. be given an opportunity to contest the detention?

Rule: Due process requires that a citizen held in the US as an Enemy Combatant be given a meaningful opportunity to contest the factual basis for that detention before a neutral decision maker.

Holding: Yes, Due Process required the opportunity to go before a neutral arbiter.

Discussion: Although the court requires that this be done by an Article 3 judge in this case, a neutral military court marshal would probably be sufficient.

Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (U.S. 2006)

Facts: A Yemeni national was detained by U.S. military forces at Guatanamo Bay and was charged with conspiracy “to commit offenses triable by military commission” President authorizes special military tribunal (instead of trying via traditional court martial) to try non-US citizens and simultaneously prevents civilian courts from hearing habeas petitions by non-citizens. Substantive and Procedural problems with military tribunal.

Issue(s): Can the Geneva Convention be enforced in Federal courts?

Rule: A military commission does NOT have jurisdiction to hear a case if the commission’s structures and procedures violate the UCMJ and the Geneva Conventions. The Geneva Convention can be enforced in Federal courts, but neither Congress nor the President had the authority to authorize the special military tribunals.

Holding: The Court held that the Bush administration’s military commissions had violated the U.S. Military Code of Justice and the Geneva Conventions in specific and dramatic ways.

Discussion: Conspiracy generally isn’t tried by a military commission because it’s not understood as a violation of the laws of war.

Boumediene v. Bush (U.S. 2008)

Facts: Enemy combatant who is part of al Qaida has been detained in Guantanamo Bay for 6 years.

Issue(s): Does the Constitution protect non-citizens overseas?

Rule: Non-Citizens designated as enemy combatants have the constitutional privilege of habeas corpus, and Congress’s procedural “equivalents” do not represent an adequate and effective substitute.

Holding: Court held that freedom from unlawful restraint is a fundamental precept of liberty, and writ of habeas corpus is a means to secure that freedom.

Discussion: Three factors to consider: (1) The citizenship and status of the detainee and the adequacy of the process through which that status determination was made; (2) The nature of the sites where apprehension and then detention took place; (3) The practical obstacles inherent in resolving the prisoner’s entitlement to the writ.

Roberts and Scalia Dissent: Statutory scheme provides combatants more procedural protections than ever before, and generally understanding is that the writ has never applied outside our sovereign territory.

Dames & Moore v. Regan (U.S. 1981)

Facts: During hostage crisis in Iran, President Carter acted under the IEEPA and froze Iranian assets in the U.S. When the crisis subsided, the administration ended all legal proceedings against the Iranian government and created and Independent Claims Tribunal.

Issue(s): Does the President have the authority transfer foreign funds to settle claims?

Rule: The President lacks the plenary power to settle claims against foreign governments through an Executive Agreement. But where Congress at least acquiesces in the President’s actions, the President can settle such claims.

Holding: Court found that this was not beyond the presidential power, specifically since there was some indication of authorization by congress (Probably falls into Jackson’s category 2 since there is evidence that congress was on board with this because they haven’t taken any action to cancel claims in spite of opposition).

Discussion: 1.Three parts of the agreement: (1) Cancelling attachments of Iranian property; (2)Transferring of Iranian assets; (3) Cancelling lawsuits against Iran. The IEEPA indicated congress’s willingness that president have broad discretion when responding to hostile acts of foreign sovereigns. § 203 of the IEEPA: The president may nullify, direct and compel, void, prevent or prohibit any acquisition, holding, withholding, use transfer, withdrawal…any property in which any foreign country or a national has any interest.

Buckley v. Valeo (U.S. 1976)

Facts:Majority of members of the Federal Election Committee are appointed by the President Pro Tempore and the Speaker of the House. FEC was given direct and wide-ranging enforcement power and extensive rule-making and adjudicative powers.

Issue(s): Are the appointments to the FEC constitutional?

Holding: Court held that the appointments must be made in accordance with the appointments clause: An agency with a majority of congressionally named personnel could only exercise those powers that the Congress might delegate to one it its own committees (e.g., investigatory and informative powers) and the powers of the FEC were executive in nature.

Discussion: Congress gets to decide framework, but does not get to pick, i.e., Congress cannot appoint inferior officers, but they can decide who appoints inferior officers.

Bowsher v. Synar (U.S. 1986)

Facts: Congress assigned budget duties (execution of the laws) to the Comptroller General (officer of the legislature) from CBO and OMB, and then CG makes recommendations to the President, by which President is bound.

Issue(s): Did the duties assigned by Congress violate doctrine of separation of powers?

Rule: The assignment of executive powers to an agent or officer of the legislative branch violates the doctrine of the separation of powers.

Holding: Yes. The Court held Graham-Hollings Act Unconstitutional because the Comptroller General can be removed by congress. Congress cannot delegate execution of the laws to those individuals they have the power to remove. 

Discussion: This is an unconstitutional usurpation of executive power by Congress because the law empowered Congress to terminate the Comptroller General for “inefficiency, neglect of duty or malfeasance.” The Act here was supposed to control spending by giving a certain amount that the budget had to be. If cap exceeded, automatic budget cuts proposed by Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The CG’s job is to hear.

Myers v. United States (U.S. 1926)

Facts: Legislative provision that certain groups of postmasters could not be removed by the President without the consent of the Senate. President Wilson removed a postmaster without Congressional consent.

Issue(s): Can Congress prevent the President from removing executive officials without its consent?

Rule: Congress can’t interfere with the President’s power to remove executive officials.

Holding: Unconstitutional – expansive reading of the executive powers under Article 2. This amounted to unconstitutional interference with the President’s control over executive personnel.

Discussion: It is an implicit power of the Presidency to faithfully execute laws is the power to remove executives who do not faithfully do so.

Humphrey’s Executor v. United States (U.S. 1935)

Facts: Federal Trade Commission Act specified the causes for removal of Commissioners. FTC promulgates rules and resolves disputes regarding whether firms have broken their rules.

Issue(s): Can Congress interfere with the president’s power to remove executive officials?

Rule: Congress can’t interfere with the president’s power to remove purely executive officials but potentially can if they are somehow involved in another branch.

Holding: Court found FTC’s duties quasi-legislative and quasi-judicial and completely free from executive branch. Accordingly, legislative removal was constitutional here.

Discussion: The Court limits its prior holding in Myers. This case allows congress to create independent agencies in the executive branch. Independence is achieved by limiting the president’s ability to remove. If member of an independent regulatory agency is performing quasi-legislative or quasi-judicial functions, the President cannot remove the member in defiance of restrictions in the statutory framework.

Morrison v. Olson (U.S. 1988)

Facts: Challenge to independent counsel provisions in Ethics in Government Act. Required the Attorney General to investigate official violations of federal criminal law and then report to a Special Division of the US ct. of Apps (DC) if there are reasonable grounds to believe there should be further investigation. Special Division in DC appoints independent counsel and defines his jurisdiction. Attorney General cannot remove independent cousel without good cause.


  1. Whether the provision of the act restricting the AG’s power to remove the independent counsel to only those instances in which he can show good cause taken by itself impermissibly interferes with the presidents exercise of his constitutionally appointed functions.
  2. Whether the act violates the separation of powers by reducing the president’s ability to control the prosecutorial powers wielded by the independent counsel?

Rule: Congress’s creation of independent counsel was NOT an unconstitutional usurpation of power.

Holding: The act does not limit the president to such an extent that it sufficiently deprives him of the control over the independent counsel to interfere impermissibly with his constitutional obligation to ensure the faithful execution of the laws.

The act does not impermissibly undermine the powers of the executive branch or disrupt the proper balance between the coordinate branches by preventing the exec branch from accomplishing its constitutionally assigned functions.

Discussion: TheTest now for whether a restriction on Presidential removal is permissible is whether the removal restrictions are of such a nature that they impede the President’s ability to perform his Constitutional duty to “take care that the laws are faithfully executed Here, this removal provision does not impede the President’s ability to perform his duty because the AG, who is subject to at-will removal of the president, CAN remove the IC for good cause (i.e. NOT faithfully executing the laws) Court says limiting removal power is okay. Court is no longer thinking the way it did in Humphrey’s Executor.

Mistretta v. United States (U.S. 1989)

Facts: For federal crime, there is a set of sentencing guidelines created by Commission due to concerns about lack of uniformity in sentencing.  There were 7 voting members of the Commission, at least 3 of which must be selected from a list of 6 recommendations to the President by judicial conference.  

Issue: Does the act violate the nondelegation doctrine?

Holding: Court finds Act valid because although Congress cannot generally delegate legislative power to another Branch, non-delegation does not prevent Congress from obtaining help from other branches.

Discussion: Non-delegation is not a problem because Congress gave intelligible guidelines. The Court found this to be proper because it was not an excessive delegation.

Free Enterprise Fund v. Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (U.S. 2010)

Facts: The Public company accounting oversight board is comprised of five members appointed by the SEC, which is required to be bipartisan. The SEC may remove Board members for good cause, but the President may only remove SEC Commissioners only for: (1) Inefficiency, (2) Neglect of Duty, and (3) Malfeasance in Office.

Issue: Does the Act violate the separation of powers doctrine?

Rule: The removal power in a law delegating power to the President must be crafted as to still give the President authority over the execution of the laws.

Holding: Court held that this Board is different because it is not accountable to the President and the President is not responsible for the Board because of the SEC Commissioner intermediary.

Discussion: Breyer, Stevens, Ginsburg, and Sotomayor dissenting, beieving that the Board members were inferior officers and the Act unconstitutionally interfered with executive power.

INS v. Chadha (U.S. 1983)

Facts: Congress passed the Immigration and Nationality Act giving the Attorney General power to decide whether to suspend an individual’s deportation, subject to some standards. The law stated that one house can vote to overrule the a Attorney General’s decision (no bicameral decision required, no presentment to the president required). Attorney General decides to let Chadha stay in the US, and the House votes to override the decision.

Issue: Does the one-house veto over presidential executive action violate separation of powers?

Rule: The constitution does not permit Congress to statutorily authorize a one-house veto of a decision the Attorney General makes, pursuant to the authority delegated to him by congress, to allow a particular deportable alien to remain in the United States.

Holding: The Court held that one house legislative veto was unconstitutional because it did not meet the requirements of presentment and bicameralism.

Justice Powell Concurrence: believed the Court could have decided on narrower grounds. i.e. Congress is making judicial determination about the attorney general’s decision and this violates the separation of powers

Justice White Dissents: rejects majority’s argument because the original bill when through both houses (bicameralism) and presentment to the president. This is an effective, convenient, and useful procedure.

Clinton v. New York (U.S. 1998)

Facts: President Clinton decides to veto specific line items within the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 (exercising his congressionally appointed authority to do so). Cancels a line item that would have permitted New York City to keep certain funding without having to repay the federal government under the Medicaid program.

Issue: Does Clinton’s line-item veto violate the Presentment Clause?

Rule: The cancellation of provisions authorized by the Line Item Veto are not constitutional. Law gives the president the power to veto individual lines of legislation while passing the remainder of the spending legislation – this is lawmaking power which the president doesn’t have.

Holding: Yes. The Court held that legislation that passed both houses of Congress must be approved in their entirety or rejected in their entirety.

Discussion: The dissent executive power rather than legislative because president is simply executing the power the legislature has given him in the line item veto act; it is the same as declining to spend money they appropriate.

Nixon v. Fitzgerald (U.S. 1982)

Facts: Fitzgerald was an official fired for his whistleblowing actions. He sued multiple people including Nixon.

Issue: Is the President immune from civil suit?

Rule: President has absolute immunity from monetary damages arising from Presidential duties.

Holding: The Court held that executive officials can be sued for monetary damages, but the President cannot, so long as the cause of action arises out of events performed while carrying out the office of the Presidency.

Discussion: The Court is concerned about opening the floodgates for suits against the president and says that there are sufficient alternative checks on the president’s misconduct, such as: Impeachment, Constant scrutiny by the press, Vigilant oversight by congress, Desire to earn reelection, Maintain prestige and influence, Concern for historical stature

Justice White Dissent: This places the President above the law.

Clinton v. Jones (U.S. 1997)

Facts: Sexual harassment that allegedly occurred while Clinton was Governor

Issue: Is the President immune from civil suits arising from conduct that occurred prior to taking office?

Rule:Presidential immunity does not apply to civil damages from litigation arising out of unofficial events occurring prior to the assumption of office.

Holding: Court said that Clinton was not immune for acts that occurred prior to taking office

Discussion: In Nixon, the Court mentioned civil litigation distorting the President’s decision-making, i.e., President not making certain decisions out of fear of being sued civilly; not an issue here. Though the Court noted that this civil litigation might take up some of the President’s time, Justice Breyer noted that the trial court should take that into consideration.

U.S. v. Nixon (U.S. 1974)

Facts: After individuals involved in Watergate scandal were indicted, special prosecutor subpoenad Nixon’s White House tapes. Nixon invoked Presidential privilege.

Issue: Is the Presidential privilege, when invoked, entirely immune from judicial review?

Rule: Absent a claim of need to protect military, diplomatic, or sensitive national security secrets, an absolute, unqualified privilege of immunity from judicial process under all circumstances does not exist.

Holding: No. The Court says that the privilege is not absolute.

Discussion: There is a balance between interest in fair administration of justice with executive privilege.

Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife (U.S. 1992)

Facts: Involved a rule promulgated by the Secretary of the Interior interpreting § 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in such fashion as to render it applicable only to actions within the United States or on the high seas. It used to apply worldwide. Plaintiffs challenged this re-interpretation, claiming that the change in regulation will accelerate harm caused to endangered species in other countries.

Issue: Does the Plaintiff have standing to challenge the Act?

Rule: To establish standing, a plaintiff must show injury-in-fact, causation, and redressability, and Congress may NOT create a right of standing based on a generalized grievance against government.

Holding: The desire to see an animal is sufficient to constitute an injury under the Standing Doctrine. But here there is no standing injury. This is only a generalized grievance.

Discussion:The standing problem here is that there is no actual/imminent injury. Plaintiffs had planned no trips overseas. Court said that “planning” was too speculative, remote, and not concrete enough to satisfy the injury element of standing.

Massachusetts v. EPA (U.S. 2007)

Facts: Like Lujan, challenging a failure to regulate) MA brings action against the EPA to enforce the EPA to regulate certain carbon emissions by new cars. EPA had not been regulating greenhouse gases. MA says they are losing coastal lands because of auto emissions. Gov’t says greenhouse gases come from lots of different places. EPA also says no redressability because there is still going to be a problem with global warming.

Issue: Does Massachusetts have standing to bring the action against the EPA?

Rule: A plaintiff has standing if he demonstrates a concrete injury that is both fairly traceable to the D and redressable by judicial relief.

Holding: Massachusetts has standing to sue the EPA for not enforcing the Clean Air Act.

Discussion: Typically, the injury of green-house gases would be too tenuous for an individual to claim as a direct injury. But, because this is a state, it has interest in the land on the coast, and it has proven that there is a risk of losing coastal property as the water rises. The dissent reasoned that Parens Patriae doesn’t work because judicial precedent has characterized state ownership of land as a non-sovereign interest—thus insufficient to create standing—because it is likely to have the same interests as other similarly situated proprietors.

Warth v. Seldin

Facts: Action against the town of Penfield Zoning Board – Alleged that the zoning ordinances intentionally and wrongly excluded persons of low income from living in Penfield.

Issue: Can the Court hear the generalized grievances of third parties who do not have standing?

Rule: Plaintiffs must allege specific facts demonstrating they have been specifically harmed by the discriminatory practice. 

Holding: Court said that the plaintiffs failed to allege specific concrete facts demonstrating that the challenged practices harmed him and that he personally would benefit in a tangible way from the courts’ intervention.

Discussion: Here, the Court found there was insufficient evidence of causation. Justice Powell stated that the plaintiffs’ meager financial situations and subsequent inability to live in Penfield were the consequence of the economics and housing market in the area rather than any wrongdoing by the defendants.

Allen v. Wright (U.S. 1984)

Facts: Parents of black public school students brought class action against IRS saying that IRS had not adopted sufficient standards and procedures to fulfill its obligations to deny tax-exempt status to racially discriminatory private schools.

Issue: Did the IRS policies encourage racial discrimination in private schools?

Rule: An assertion that the government is not acting within the bounds of the law is insufficient to establish standing to sue in federal court.

Holding: Court held that there was no standing from a claim deriving from parents of black children who said their injury was the diminished quality of their education due to the IRS failing to fulfill its obligation to deny tax-exempt status to racially discriminatory or unbalanced private schools in their district.

Discussion: The Court believedhe problem was causation: there are too many intervening issues to prove that the tax break was the cause of the injury. The links in the chain of causation between the challenged government conduct and the asserted injury are far too weak for the chain as a whole to sustain respondents’ standing.

United Public Workers v. Mitchell (U.S. 1947)

Facts: Federal workerschallenged the Hatch Act of 1940 which made it illegal for federal executive branch employees to take active part in political management or in political campaigns. Only one worker was facing discipline under the Act.

Issue: Can the United Public Workers sue?

Rule: The Court cannot rule on a hypothetical denial of rights. Only the individual worker who had been disciplined under the Act had standing to sue.

Holding: Court held the issue was not ripe for decision because most of the challengers stated that the desired to act contrary to the law but that they had not actually violated the law with their actions.

Discussion: In reaching its decision, the Court noted that Congress had traditionally been authorized to limit the political activities of its employees in the interest of promoting workplace efficiency.

Laird v. Tatum (U.S. 1972)

Facts: Challengers filed lawsuit seeking redress against allegedly unlawful surveillance of lawful citizen political activity by the US army. Challengers alleged the unlawful surveillance had a chilling effect on First Amendment rights.

Issue: Does military’s act of surveilling individual civilians and civilian groups have a chilling effect on the First Amendment?

Holding: Not Ripe. Court found the Challenger’s alleged injury rested mainly on the challengers’ fear of future punitive action—Feared that the army would use this information in the future in a way that would harm the challengers

Discussion: The Court found the claims made by the challengers were too speculative because they were based on the future harm that might be caused with the information gleaned from the surveillance.

Goldwater v. Carter (U.S. 1979)

Facts: President Carter wanted to set aside a treaty with Taiwan without the advice/consent of the Senate. President argues: authority to do this because he has the power to enter into treaties. Senator Goldwater would say that once the president has negotiated, his job is over and congress has the right to ratify treaty by 2/3 and President cannot change the law. Idea of supremacy—a treaty properly ratified can’t be unilaterally removed by the president.

Issue: Does the President have the authority to terminate the treaty unilaterally?

Rule: The President has the power to make treaties, thus there is implicit power to terminate.

Holding: Court dismissed the case as a challenge to the president’s conduct in foreign policy finding that matter was not justiciable.

Discussion: Rehnquist (Majority) said that senate should have to rescind the treaty just like it had to approve the making of the treaty. Powell (Concurring): Says that the case is not ripe, but does think it’s justiciable.

Nixon v. United States (U.S. 1993)

Facts: A federal judge, was impeached due to allegations of bribery. Hearings on the charges were held by the Senate committee, which then presented its findings to the full Senate. The full Senate then voted to impeach Nixon by more than a 2/3 vote. Judge challenges the trial by Senate committee, rather than full Senate.  Senate Rule IX allows a special committee to hear impeachment evidence and Nixon says that rule is unconstitutional because the case was NOT heard by ALL of Senate.

Issue: Is Nixon’s claim justiciable?

Holding: Court held that the case was not justiciable on textual and prudential grounds.

Discussion: Court held against Nixon – Challenges to the impeachment and removal doctrine are not justiciable.

Bush v. Gore (U.S. 2000)

Facts: Florida Supreme Court ordered Leon County to perform a hand recount of the votes. The Court also ordered a recount of all “under-votes” (ballots that did not cast a vote for president) because there were enough contested balance to put the election outcome into doubt.

Issue: Did the Florida Supreme Court violate the Constitution by creating a new election law and ordering the recount?

Holding: Court held that Florida recounts, because conducted under nonuniform standards, were unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, but that there was no remedy for these violations because of a safe harbor provision which prevented a remedy after December 12 (same day of the decision).

Discussion: It’s too late – the recount mechanisms implemented in response to the decisions of the Florida supreme court do not satisfy the minimum requirement for non-arbitrary treatment of voters necessary to secure the fundamental right.

Barron v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore (U.S. 1833)

Facts: Baltimore Harbor Wharf owner sues the city because it diverts streams in a way that made the water around his pier too shallow so that now the wharf owner can’t service boats. He sues and bases his claim on violation of the 5th amendment (takings clause).

Issue: Does the Fifth Amendment prevent the states, as well as the national government, the right to take property without just compensation to the owner?

Rule: State legislation is not subject to the limitations imposed by the amendments to the United States Constitution.

Holding: Constitutional (Bill of Rights doesn’t apply to the states).

Discussion: The first word of the Bill of Rights is “Congress.” The word Congress does not appear in the Fifth Amendment. The Bill of Rights was to protect rights, regardless of who is violating them.

Saenz v. Roe (U.S. 1999)

Facts: California treated state citizens who had resided in the state for less than one year differently in the allocation of welfare benefits.

Issue: Does a state statute authority temporary assistance for needy families to pay the same amount of benefit as another state to first-year residents violate the Fourth Amendment?

Rule: Durational residency requirements violate the fundamental right to travel by denying a newly arrived citizen the same privileges and immunities enjoyed by other citizens in the same state.

Holding: Court held that this was unconstitutional discrimination because it discourages poor people from moving into the state and violates their freedom of travel.

Discussion: The Court found that paying first-year residents the same benefit from their prior state treated them differently than those who had resided in the state more than one year.

Calder v. Bull (U.S. 1798)

Facts: The Connecticut legislature passed a law requiring a new hearing on the validity of a will which has already been the subject of a judgment in the Connecticut state court.

Issue: Does the Connecticut law violate Art. I of the Constitution prohibiting ex post facto laws?

Holding: Court holds that there is not violation of the prohibition on ex post facto laws because it’s a a civil and not a criminal case.

Discussion: This results in a famous exchange between J. Chase and J. Iredell about the nature of the judicial role and whether the constitution protects unenumerated rights that are a part of the social compact.

Duncan v. Louisiana (U.S. 1968)

Facts: The Louisiana constitution granted jury trials only in cases in which capital punishment or imprisonment at hard labor may be granted. Defendant was charged with simple battery and denied a jury trial

Issue: Has the court incorporated the jury trial differently?

Rule: The 14th Amendment guarantees a right of jury trial in all criminal cases that would, were they to be tried in a federal court, come within the 6th Amendment’s guarantee.

Holding: Court granted a jury trial, saying that it is important for the judicial system to be consistently applied and upheld.

Discussion: Harlan Dissent: Due Process Clause only requires that the state procedures be fair; there was no indication that the defendant’s trial was not fair.

McDonald v. City of Chicago (U.S. 2010)

Facts: Municipal handgun registration ordinance effectively banned almost all private handgun possession by residents in Chicago & Oak Park, IL.

Issue: Does the 2nd Amendment apply to state and local government laws and ordinances?

Rule: 2nd amendment right is incorporated and applies to state and local governments

Holding: Court held that the due process clause of the 14th Amendment incorporates the 2nd Amendment to the states (J. Thomas concurred but used the PIC instead).

Discussion: Alito (Majority) says that the right to keep and bear arms is fundamental to our scheme of liberty and is deeply rooted in this nation’s history and tradition.Stevens Dissent: Says that this is a substantive due process case and says that he agrees that petitioner may have a right but he is not ok with the broad holding which would also grant a “liberty interest” to someone like an elderly woman with no idea how to use a handgun.

Lochner v. New York (U.S. 1905)

Facts: Lochner (a baker) is fined for breaking the state’s maximum hours law (max 60 hour work week, max 10 hours in one day).

Issue: Does the state law unconstitutionally burden his right of contracting with employees in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause?

Rule: Where the law regulates private business that is not dangerous to morals or health in any substantial degree, the freedom of master and employee to contract with each other in relation to their employment cannot be prohibited or interfered with, without violating the constitution.

Holding: This NY State Law violates the constitution. The law was invalidated because there was no rational basis between the law and regulating the bakers because the profession was not particularly dangerous and working long hours did not harm the health of the employees.

Discussion: The right to purchase or sell labor is part of the liberty protected by the 14th amendment unless there are circumstances that exclude that right.

Adair v. US (U.S. 1908)

Facts: Federal Law: Interstate RR companies cannot require their employees not to join unions.

Issue: Does the law violate the right of employees and employers to contract with each other?

Rule: Employers and employees have equality of right, and any legislation that disturbs that equality is an arbitrary interference with the liberty of contract.

Holding: Court says that this is unconstitutional – RR companies can prevent their employees from joining unions if they want.

Discussion: “The right of a person to sell his labor upon such terms as he deems proper is, in essence, the same as the right of the purchaser of labor to prescribe the conditions upon which he will accept such labor from the person offering to sell it.”

Coppage v. Kansas (U.S. 1915)

Facts: Kansas law banned employers from being able to require employees not to join unions as a condition of employment.

Issue: Does the law violate the right of employees and employers to contract with each other?

Rule: Employers and employees have equality of right, and any legislation that disturbs that equality is an arbitrary interference with the liberty of contract.

Holding: Invalidated Kansas law Court stated the state couldn’t prevent employers from determining the conditions of employment – forbidding union participation was one of those conditions.

Discussion: Pitney (Majority): There are inequalities in bargaining – but it is from the nature of things impossible to uphold the freedom of contract and the right of private property without also recognizing the legitimacy and necessity of those inequalities.

Muller v. Oregon (U.S. 1908)

Facts: Oregon law that provided that “no female” shall be employed in any factory or laundry for “more than ten hours during any one day”

Issue: Does the Oregon law limiting the daily hours a female can work violate the constitution?

Rule: The law was rationally related to the purpose of maintaining a woman’s physical well-being.

Holding: Court found the law was constitutional.

Discussion: J. Brewer: Obvious that a woman’s physical structure placed her at a disadvantage in the struggle for subsistence and that as healthy mothers are essential to vigorous offspring, the “physical well-being of women becomes an object of public interest.” The Court distinguished the child-bearing nature of a female and social role of women provided a strong state interest in reducing the number of hours females could work in a day.

Nebbia v. New York (U.S. 1934)

Facts: NY set minimum ($0.09 / Gallon) and maximum retail prices for milk. Nebbia was convicted for selling milk for less than the minimum retail price.

Issue: Does the constitution prohibit a state from fixing the selling price of milk?

Rule: DPC demands only that the law not be unreasonable, arbitrary, or capricious and that the means selected shall have a real and substantial relation to the object sought to be attained.

Holding: The state is free to adopt whatever economic policy that may reasonably be deemed to promote the public welfare, and to enforce that policy by legislation adapted to its purpose.

Discussion: The economic climate was bad and had made the situation of the families of dairy producers desperate and called for state aid similar to that afforded the unemployed. Milk is an essential item of the diet and it is essential that producers receive a reasonable return or else the state’s milk supply might become contaminated. McReynolds (Dissent): says that there is no substantial relationship between the law and the objective sought. Says that the price control on retailers has no reasonable relation to aiding producers. It doesn’t make sense to control the consumer-grocer relationship in order to protect the farmer.

Maher v. Roe (U.S. 1977)

Facts: Connecticut issued a regulation limiting Medicaid funds for abortions only to those that were medically necessary in the first trimester of pregnancy. Roe was an indigent woman who challenged the regulation.

Issue: Is the Connecticut abortion regulation unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause?

Holding: No.Connecticut regulation granting Medicaid benefits for childbirth but not for medically unnecessary abortions was not unconstitutional

Discussion: The majority reasoned the regulation placed no obstacles in the pregnant woman’s path to an abortion. While the regulation may have made childbirth a more attractive alternative to abortion, it did not impose a restriction on access abortions that was no already there.

Harris v. McRae (U.S. 1980)

Facts: Congress created a Medicaid program to reimburse state governments for certain medical costs for indigent persons. The Hyde Amendment limited the use of federal funds used towards the reimbursement of abortion costs.

Issue: Were the Hyde Amendments constitutional?

Rule: Although the government may not place obstacles in the path of a woman’s exercise of her freedom of choice, it need not remove those not of its own creation. Indigence falls in the latter category

Holding: Yes. The Court upheld the constitutionality of the Hyde amendment which barred payments even for most medically necessary abortions.

Discussion: If the state had a monopoly on healthcare, then this case would likely be different.

Loving v. Virginia (U.S. 1967)

Facts: Plaintiffs were an interracial couple challenging Virginia state law forbidding interracial marriage after the were married in the District of Columbia, but were arrested upon their return to Virginia.

Issue: Does the Virginia law violate the Equal Protection Clause?

Rule: The Equal Protection Clause prohibits the restriction of marriage between persons of different races.

Holding: TheCourt struck down Virginia’s law banning interracial marriage.

Discussion: In a unanimous decision, the Court held the freedom to marry is a fundamental right and is essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness.

Zablocki v. Redhail (U.S. 1978)

Facts: Redhail couldn’t obtain marriage license in Wisconsin because he had not been paying court-ordered support for an illegitimate daughter – child had been receiving benefits from the state since birth.

Issue: Does the Wisconsin state violate the Equal Protection Clause?

Rule: Where a law interfered directly and substantially with the right to marry, it cannot be upheld unless it is supported by sufficiently important state interests and is closely tailored to effectuate only those interest.

Holding: The Court struck down law prohibiting marriage (without approval from the state) of a person who has failed to pay past child support (ie delinquent on paying child support or the child is likely to become a public charge) – law is unconstitutional

Discussion: Marriage is a fundamental right. The law here significantly interferes with the exercise of that right, court employed “critical examination” of the state interest advanced. Even if this protected an important state interest, there were less restrictive means of effectuating policy.

Michael H. v. Gerald D. (U.S. 1989)

Facts: CA law presumes that a child is legitimately the child of the marriage (doesn’t care about the fact that the child is a love child of an adulterous father). Mother’s lover is actually the father and seeks visitation rights more than two years after the birth of the child. Court upheld California’s judgment that rejected actual father’s claim of paternity.

Issue: Does the California law violate Due Process Clause because it denies the biological father the opportunity to establish his parentage after two years pass?

Rule: There is no common law tradition protecting a father’s rights when a woman is married to another.

Holding: No. Looking to the historic practices of family, the Court says there are no precise guidelines provided by general traditions. Judges may dictate rather than discern views of society.If the common law tradition is to be a guide, what is the appropriate level of generality in defining the relevant tradition for substantive due process purposes?

Discussion: Justice Brennan Dissent: With DNA, the presumption no longer makes sense. There are good reasons for limiting the role of tradition in interpreting the Constitution; Constitution exists in a living society.

Moore v. City of East Cleveland (U.S. 1977)

Facts: Limited the number of unrelated people living under the same roof. Grandma and grandsons were not included as family under the ordinance

Issue: Did the Cleveland housing ordinance violate the Due Process Clause?

Rule: Laws intruding on the right of families to live together is unconstitutional when not supported by a legitimate state interest.

Holding: The Court held there is a fundamental right to keep the family together, limited only by the fact that the persons must be related to one another.

Discussion: The sanctity of family is deeply rooted in the nation’s history. Nuclear family is not the only tradition we recognize.

Village of Belle Terre v. Boraas (U.S. 1974)

Facts: Ordinance regulated the living arrangements of unrelated cohabitants (college students wanted to live together).

Issue: Does an ordinance preventing unrelated individuals from residing together violate the Equal Protection Clause?

Rule: Ordinance that does not arbitrarily or unreasonably apply to a class of individuals is not unconstituonal when it is reasonably related to a rational state objective.

Holding: No. The Court held the law preventing unrelated groups of people from living together was constitutional.

Discussion: JusticeMarshall dissented, finding the choice of household companions falls within the ambit of the right to privacy and thus deserves strict scrutiny.

Troxel v. Granville (U.S. 2000)

Facts: State could not grant the paternal grandparents of child born to unwed parents visitation rights where the mother objected and the mother was a fit, custodial mother. Paternal grandparents sued for visitation/custody.

Issue: Does the law violate the Due Process Clause?

Rule: Fundamental right of parents to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children. If parent adequately cares for child, state cannot inject itself in the private realm of the family.

Holding: Court held the law was a violation of mother’s due process rights.

Discussion: Dissent – Stevens: Says that the state has an interest in the child. DPC and 14th amendment leaves room for states to consider the impact on a child of possibly arbitrary parental decisions. Dissent – Kennedy: Family courts in the 50 states are best suited to sort out the factual variations of these cases.

Bowers v. Hardwick (U.S. 1986)

Facts: Facial challenge to a Georgia law that defined sodomy as “committing or submitting to any sexual act involving the sex organs of one person and the mouth or anus of another” – felony punishable by up to 20 years.

Issue: Do homosexuals have a fundamental right to engage in consensual sodomy?

Rule: There is no constitutional right to engage in sodomy.

Holding: Justice White upheld the law as applied to homosexual sodomy, finding that homosexuals did not have a fundamental right to engage in sodomy.

Discussion: Dissent – Blackmun, Brennan, Marshall, Stevens said that the case was decided too narrowly. People have a right to be let alone and sexual intimacy is a sensitive and key relationship of human existence. Dissent – Stevens stated the law applied to all people but was only enforced against heterosexuals. If the law can’t be enforced as written, it must be examined under heightened scrutiny.

Lawrence v. Texas (U.S. 2003)

Facts: Police in Texas entered a private residence and found two men engaged in consensual sodomy. The men were arrested and convicted of devious sexual conduct.

Issue: Is a Texas statute criminalizing intimate sexual conduct between two members of the same sex constitutional? The issue is whether the majority (Judeo-Christian Morality) may use the power of the state to enforce these views on the whole society through operation of the criminal law.

Rule: Liberty protected by the constitution allows homosexual persons to make choices as to their intimate sexual relationships.

Holding: The Court held the law violated the Due Process Clause because liberty gives substantial protection to persons in deciding how to conduct their private lives in matters pertaining to sex. There is no legitimate state interest to justify intrusion into the personal and private life of the individual.

Discussion: Dissent – Scalia agrees that the Texas law imposes constraints on liberty – But says that laws prohibiting prostitution, recreational use of heroin, and working more than 60 hours per week in a bakery do to. Due process only prohibits states from infringing on fundamental liberty interests unless that infringement is narrowly tailored. Only rights which are deeply rooted in this nation’s history and tradition are fundamental rights which qualify for strict scrutiny. Homosexual sodomy is not a right deeply rooted in our nation’s history and tradition.