Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Dormant Commerce Clause (Part II)

Hunt v. Washington State Apple Company (1977): The Court struck down a North Carolina law that only allowed apple containers to be marked with a grade assigned by the USDA unconstitutional. The law probably infringed on the liberties of apple producers selling its product in North Carolina.

Philadelphia v. New Jersey (1978): The Court held that one state could not discriminate against another state’s commerce in any way. New Jersey was forced to accept waste from other states or stop its landfill waste disposal process even if it means undermining the safety of its residents. Once again the Court ruled in favor of federal power over a states right to protect the health and safety of its citizens.

Exxon v. Maryland (1978): The Court upheld a Maryland law that prohibited oil producers from operating service stations within the state claiming it did not violate the commerce clause.

Kassel v. Consolidated Freighters Corporation (1981): The Court struck down an Iowa law wanting to restrict the length of tractor trailers from 65 to 55 feet over safety concerns. The Court said “protectionism legislation is unconstitutional under the commerce clause, even if the benefits are related to safety than economics”. This essentially reversed the Supreme Court’s precedent in South Carolina Highway Department v. Barnwell in 1938 where the Court allowed weight and width requirements by South Carolina on its roads over safety concerns.

Sporhase v. Nebraska (1982): The Court ruled that a Nebraska statute forbidding the commercial exploration for water violated the commerce clause. Once again, this law was in place over safety concerns.

South-Central Timber v. Wunnicke (1984): The Court invalidated an Alaska law requiring a timber companies from processing their products in state before shipping the goods out of state.

Maine v. Taylor (1986): The Court ruled that a state law prohibiting out of state bait was constitutional. This law was an exception to the safety concerns because Maine could not properly determine if the bait contained a parasite or some other disease that would create an environmental issue. Blackmun wrote that “legitimate local purposes could not adequately be served by available nondiscriminatory alternatives.”

Quill Corporation v. North Dakota (1992): The Court ruled a North Dakota “use tax” on an out of state retailer was unconstitutional since orders were placed directly. This ruling was used by to justify charging customers no state sale taxes on internet orders.

Oregon Waste System v. Department of Environmental Quality of Oregon (1994): The Court held that Oregon’s surcharge or tax on waste violated the commerce clause because it charged out of state businesses three times what it charged in state businesses.

West Lynn Creamery v. Healy (1994): The Court held that a Massachusetts tax on milk to help local dairy farmers was unconstitutional. Scalia agreed saying the negative commerce clause can be used if it discriminates against interstate commerce or if the case is indistinguishable from a Court precedent.

Hughes v. Alexandria Scrap Corporation (1996): This case created what is known as the “market participant” exception to the dormant commerce clause. As long as a state is an active market participant and not just a market regulator then states could create laws favoring its citizens over out of state citizens.

Granholm v. Heald (2005): The Court ruled that laws in both New York and Michigan that permitted in state wineries shipping directly to customers but denied the same right to out of state wineries as unconstitutional.

United Haulers v. Solid Waste Management Authority (2007): The Court upheld a New York law that forced private waste management companies to deliver waste to a public facility did not violate the commerce clause. Scalia wrote “negative commerce clause is unjustified judicial invention” and Clarence Thomas wrote the dormant commerce clause “proved to be unworkable in practice”. Both Scalia and Thomas obviously changed from their earlier views on the dormant or negative commerce clause.

Kentucky v. Davis (2008): The Court upheld a Kentucky law which provides tax breaks to residents who buy state bonds claiming it does not violate the commerce clause.

The Supreme Court has allowed the commerce clause to be used to justify federal laws regulating industry over safety concerns. Yet, the Supreme Court has used the dormant commerce clause to strike down state laws regulating industry over safety concerns.

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