POWER TO REGULATE COMMERCE
Purposes Served by the Grant
The Commerce Clause serves a two-fold purpose: it is the direct source of the most important powers that the Federal Government exercises in peacetime, and, except for the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, it is the most important limitation imposed by the Constitution on the exercise of state power. The latter, restrictive operation of the clause was long the more important one from the point of view of the constitutional lawyer. Of the approximately 1400 cases that reached the Supreme Court under the clause prior to 1900, the overwhelming proportion stemmed from state legislation.663 The result was that, generally, the guiding lines in construction of the clause were initially laid down in the context of curbing state power rather than in that of its operation as a source of national power. The consequence of this historical progression was that the word “commerce” came to dominate the clause while the word “regulate” remained in the background. The so-called “constitutional revolution” of the 1930s, however, brought the latter word to its present prominence.
Definition of Terms
The etymology of the word “commerce” 664 carries the primary meaning of traffic, of transporting goods across state lines for sale. This possibly narrow constitutional conception was rejected by Chief Justice Marshall in Gibbons v. Ogden,665 which remains one of the seminal cases dealing with the Constitution. The case arose because of a monopoly granted by the New York legislature on the operation of steam-propelled vessels on its waters, a monopoly challenged by Gibbons, who transported passengers from New Jersey to New York pursuant to privileges granted by an act of Congress.666 The New York monopoly was not in conflict with the congressional regulation of commerce, argued the monopolists, because the vessels carried only passengers between the two states and were thus not engaged in traffic, in “commerce” in the constitutional sense.
“The subject to be regulated is commerce,” the Chief Justice wrote. “The counsel for the appellee would limit it to traffic, to buying and selling, or the interchange of commodities, and do not admit that it comprehends navigation. This would restrict a general term, applicable to many objects, to one of its significations. Commerce, undoubtedly, is traffic, but it is something more—it is intercourse.”667 The term, therefore, included navigation, a conclusion that Marshall also supported by appeal to general understanding, to the prohibition in Article I, § 9, against any preference being given “by any regulation of commerce or revenue, to the ports of one State over those of another,” and to the admitted and demonstrated power of Congress to impose embargoes.668
Marshall qualified the word “intercourse” with the word “commercial,” thus retaining the element of monetary transactions.669 But, today, “commerce” in the constitutional sense, and hence “interstate commerce,” covers every species of movement of persons and things, whether for profit or not, across state lines,670 every species of communication, every species of transmission of intelligence, whether for commercial purposes or otherwise,671 every species of commercial negotiation that will involve sooner or later an act of transportation of persons or things, or the flow of services or power, across state lines.672
There was a long period in the Court’s history when a majority of the Justices, seeking to curb the regulatory powers of the Federal Government by various means, held that certain things were not encompassed by the Commerce Clause because they were neither interstate commerce nor bore a sufficient nexus to interstate commerce. Thus, at one time, the Court held that mining or manufacturing, even when the product would move in interstate commerce, was not reachable under the Commerce Clause;673 it held insurance transactions carried on across state lines not to be commerce,674 and that exhibitions of baseball between professional teams that travel from state to state were not in commerce.675 Similarly, it held that the Commerce Clause was not applicable to the making of contracts for the insertion of advertisements in periodicals in another state676 or to the making of contracts for personal services to be rendered in another state.677
Later decisions either have overturned or have undermined all of these holdings. The gathering of news by a press association and its transmission to client newspapers are interstate commerce.678 The activities of Group Health Association, Inc., which serves only its own members, are “trade” and capable of becoming interstate commerce;679 the business of insurance when transacted between an insurer and an insured in different states is interstate commerce.680 But most important of all there was the development of, or more accurately the return to,681 the rationales by which manufacturing,682 mining,683 business transactions,684 and the like, which are antecedent to or subsequent to a move across state lines, are conceived to be part of an integrated commercial whole and therefore subject to the reach of the commerce power.
Among the Several States.
Continuing in Gibbons v. Ogden, Chief Justice Marshall observed that the phrase “among the several States” was “not one which would probably have been selected to indicate the completely interior traffic of a state.” It must therefore have been selected to exclude “the exclusively internal commerce of a state.” Although, of course, the phrase “may very properly be restricted to that commerce which concerns more states than one,” it is obvious that “[c]ommerce among the states, cannot stop at the external boundary line of each state, but may be introduced into the interior.” The Chief Justice then succinctly stated the rule, which, though restricted in some periods, continues to govern the interpretation of the clause. “The genius and character of the whole government seem to be, that its action is to be applied to all the external concerns of the nation, and to those internal concerns which affect the states generally; but not to those which are completely within a particular state, which do not affect other states, and with which it is not necessary to interfere, for the purpose of executing some of the general powers of the government.”685
Recognition of an “exclusively internal” commerce of a state, or “intrastate commerce” in today’s terms, was regarded as setting out an area of state concern that Congress was precluded from reaching.686 Although these cases seemingly visualized Congress’s power arising only when there was an actual crossing of state boundaries, this view ignored Marshall’s equation of intrastate commerce that affects other states or with which it is necessary to interfere in order to effectuate congressional power with those actions which are purely interstate. This equation came back into its own, both with the Court’s stress on the “current of commerce” bringing each element in the current within Congress’s regulatory power,687 with the emphasis on the interrelationships of industrial production to interstate commerce688 but especially with the emphasis that even minor transactions have an effect on interstate commerce689 and that the cumulative effect of many minor transactions with no separate effect on interstate commerce, when they are viewed as a class, may be sufficient to merit congressional regulation.690 “Commerce among the states must, of necessity, be commerce with[in] the states. . . . The power of congress, then, whatever it may be, must be exercised within the territorial jurisdiction of the several states.”691
“We are now arrived at the inquiry—what is this power?” continued the Chief Justice. “It is the power to regulate; that is, to prescribe the rule by which commerce is to be governed. This power, like all others vested in congress, is complete in itself, may be exercised to its utmost extent, and acknowledges no limitations, other than are prescribed in the constitution . . . If, as has always been understood, the sovereignty of congress, though limited to specified objects, is plenary as to those objects, the power over commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, is vested in Congress as absolutely as it would be in a single government, having in its constitution the same restrictions on the exercise of the power as are found in the constitution of the United States.”692
Of course, the power to regulate commerce is the power to prescribe conditions and rules for the carrying-on of commercial transactions, the keeping-free of channels of commerce, the regulating of prices and terms of sale. Even if the clause granted only this power, the scope would be wide, but it extends to include many more purposes than these. “Congress can certainly regulate interstate commerce to the extent of forbidding and punishing the use of such commerce as an agency to promote immorality, dishonesty, or the spread of any evil or harm to the people of other states from the state of origin. In doing this, it is merely exercising the police power, for the benefit of the public, within the field of interstate commerce.”693 Thus, in upholding a federal statute prohibiting the shipment in interstate commerce of goods made with child labor, not because the goods were intrinsically harmful but in order to extirpate child labor, the Court said: “It is no objection to the assertion of the power to regulate commerce that its exercise is attended by the same incidents which attend the exercise of the police power of the states.”694
The power has been exercised to enforce majority conceptions of morality,695 to ban racial discrimination in public accommodations,696 and to protect the public against evils both natural and contrived by people.697 The power to regulate interstate commerce is, therefore, rightly regarded as the most potent grant of authority in section 8.
Necessary and Proper Clause.
All grants of power to Con- gress in § 8, as elsewhere, must be read in conjunction with the Necessary and Proper Clause, § 8, cl. 18, which authorizes Congress “[t]o make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing powers.” Chief Justice Marshall alluded to the power thus enhanced by this clause when he said that the regulatory power did not extend “to those internal concerns [of a state] . . . with which it is not necessary to interfere, for the purpose of executing some of the general powers of the government.”698 There are numerous cases permitting Congress to reach “purely” intrastate activities on the theory, combined with the previously mentioned emphasis on the cumulative effect of minor transactions, that it is necessary to regulate them in order that the regulation of interstate activities might be fully effectuated.699 In other cases, the clause may not have been directly cited, but the dictates of Chief Justice Marshall have been used to justify more expansive applications of the commerce power.700
Federalism Limits on Exercise of Commerce Power.
As is recounted below, prior to reconsideration of the federal commerce power in the 1930s, the Court in effect followed a doctrine of “dual federalism,” under which Congress’s power to regulate much activity depended on whether it had a “direct” rather than an “indirect” effect on interstate commerce.701 When the restrictive interpretation was swept away during and after the New Deal, the question of federalism limits respecting congressional regulation of private activities became moot. However, in a number of instances the states engaged in commercial activities that would be regulated by federal legislation if the enterprise were privately owned, and the Court easily sustained application of federal law to these state proprietary activities.702 However, as Congress began to extend regulation to state governmental activities, the judicial response was inconsistent and wavering.703 Although the Court may shift again to constrain federal power on federalism grounds, at the present time the rule is that Congress lacks authority under the Commerce Clause to regulate the states as states in some circumstances, namely, when the federal statutory provisions “commandeer” a state’s legislative or executive authority in order to implement a regulatory program.704
That Congress’s protective power over interstate commerce reaches all kinds of obstructions and impediments was made clear in United States v. Ferger.705 The defendants had been indicted for issuing a false bill of lading to cover a fictitious shipment in interstate commerce. Before the Court they argued that, because there could be no commerce in a fraudulent bill of lading, Congress had no power to exercise criminal jurisdiction over them. Chief Justice White wrote: “But this mistakenly assumes that the power of Congress is to be necessarily tested by the intrinsic existence of commerce in the particular subject dealt with, instead of by the relation of that subject to commerce and its effect upon it. We say mistakenly assumes, because we think it clear that if the proposition were sustained it would destroy the power of Congress to regulate, as obviously that power, if it is to exist, must include the authority to deal with obstructions to interstate commerce . . . and with a host of other acts which, because of their relation to and influence upon interstate commerce, come within the power of Congress to regulate, although they are not interstate commerce in and of themselves.”706 Much of Congress’s criminal legislation is based simply on the crossing of a state line as creating federal jurisdiction.707
Interstate Versus Foreign Commerce
There are certain dicta urging or suggesting that Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce restrictively is less than its analogous power over foreign commerce, the argument being that whereas the latter is a branch of the Nation’s unlimited power over foreign relations, the former was conferred upon the National Government primarily in order to protect freedom of commerce from state interference. The four dissenting Justices in the Lottery Case endorsed this view in the following words: “[T]he power to regulate commerce with foreign nations and the power to regulate interstate commerce, are to be taken diverso intuitu, for the latter was intended to secure equality and freedom in commercial intercourse as between the States, not to permit the creation of impediments to such intercourse; while the former clothed Congress with that power over international commerce, pertaining to a sovereign nation in its intercourse with foreign nations, and subject, generally speaking, to no implied or reserved power in the States. The laws which would be necessary and proper in the one case, would not be necessary or proper in the other.”708
Twelve years later, Chief Justice White, speaking for the Court, expressed the same view: “In the argument reference is made to decisions of this court dealing with the subject of the power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce, but the very postulate upon which the authority of Congress to absolutely prohibit foreign importations as expounded by the decisions of this court rests is the broad distinction which exists between the two powers and therefore the cases cited and many more which might be cited announcing the principles which they uphold have obviously no relation to the question in hand.”709
But dicta to the contrary are much more numerous and span a far longer period of time. Thus Chief Justice Taney wrote in 1847: “The power to regulate commerce among the several States is granted to Congress in the same clause, and by the same words, as the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and is coextensive with it.”710 And nearly fifty years later, Justice Field, speaking for the Court, said: “The power to regulate commerce among the several States was granted to Congress in terms as absolute as is the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations.”711 Today it is firmly established that the power to regulate commerce, whether with foreign nations or among the several states, comprises the power to restrain or prohibit it at all times for the welfare of the public, provided only that the specific limitations imposed upon Congress’s powers, as by the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, are not transgressed.712
Instruments of Commerce
The applicability of Congress’s power to the agents and instruments of commerce is implied in Marshall’s opinion in Gibbons v. Ogden,713 where the waters of the State of New York in their quality as highways of interstate and foreign transportation were held to be governed by the overriding power of Congress. Likewise, the same opinion recognizes that in “the progress of things,” new and other instruments of commerce will make their appearance. When the Licensing Act of 1793 was passed, the only craft to which it could apply were sailing vessels, but it and the power by which it was enacted were, Marshall asserted, indifferent to the “principle” by which vessels were moved. Its provisions therefore reached steam vessels as well. A little over half a century later the principle embodied in this holding was given its classic expression in the opinion of Chief Justice Waite in the case of the Pensacola Telegraph Co. v. Western Union Telegraph Co.,714 a case closely paralleling Gibbons v. Ogden in other respects also. “The powers thus granted are not confined to the instrumentalities of commerce, or the postal service known or in use when the Constitution was adopted, but they keep pace with the progress of the country, and adapt themselves to the new developments of times and circumstances. They extend from the horse with its rider to the stage-coach, from the sailing-vessel to the steamboat, from the coach and the steamboat to the railroad, and from the railroad to the telegraph, as these new agencies are successively brought into use to meet the demands of increasing population and wealth. They were intended for the government of the business to which they relate, at all times and under all circumstances. As they were intrusted to the general government for the good of the nation, it is not only the right, but the duty, of Congress to see to it that intercourse among the States and the transmission of intelligence are not obstructed or unnecessarily encumbered by State legislation.”715
The Radio Act of 1927716 whereby “all forms of interstate and foreign radio transmissions within the United States, its Territories and possessions” were brought under national control, affords another illustration. Because of the doctrine thus stated, the measure met no serious constitutional challenge either on the floors of Congress or in the Courts.717
Congressional Regulation of Waterways
In Pennsylvania v. Wheeling & Belmont Bridge Co.,718 the Court granted an injunction requiring that a bridge erected over the Ohio River under a charter from the State of Virginia either be altered so as to admit of free navigation of the river or else be entirely abated. The decision was justified on the basis both of the Commerce Clause and of a compact between Virginia and Kentucky, under which both these states had agreed to keep the Ohio River “free and common to the citizens of the United States.” The injunction was promptly rendered inoperative by an act of Congress declaring the bridge to be “a lawful structure” and requiring all vessels navigating the Ohio to be so regulated as not to interfere with it.719 This act the Court sustained as within Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause, saying: “So far . . . as this bridge created an obstruction to the free navigation of the river, in view of the previous acts of Congress, they are to be regarded as modified by this subsequent legislation; and, although it still may be an obstruction in fact, [it] is not so in the contemplation of law. . . . [Congress] having in the exercise of this power, regulated the navigation consistent with its preservation and continuation, the authority to maintain it would seem to be complete. That authority combines the concurrent powers of both governments, State and federal, which, if not sufficient, certainly none can be found in our system of government.”720 In short, it is Congress, and not the Court, which is authorized by the Constitution to regulate commerce.721
The law and doctrine of the earlier cases with respect to the fostering and protection of navigation are well summed up in a frequently cited passage from the Court’s opinion in Gilman v. Philadelphia.722 “Commerce includes navigation. The power to regulate commerce comprehends the control for that purpose, and to the extent necessary, of all the navigable waters of the United States which are accessible from a State other than those in which they lie. For this purpose they are the public property of the nation, and subject to all requisite legislation by Congress. This necessarily includes the power to keep them open and free from any obstruction to their navigation, interposed by the States or otherwise; to remove such obstructions when they exist; and to provide, by such sanctions as they may deem proper, against the occurrence of the evil and for the punishment of offenders. For these purposes, Congress possesses all the powers which existed in the States before the adoption of the national Constitution, and which have always existed in the Parliament in England.”723
Thus, Congress was within its powers in vesting the Secretary of War with power to determine whether a structure of any nature in or over a navigable stream is an obstruction to navigation and to order its abatement if he so finds.724 Nor is the United States required to compensate the owners of such structures for their loss, since they were always subject to the servitude represented by Congress’s powers over commerce, and the same is true of the property of riparian owners that is damaged.725 And while it was formerly held that lands adjoining nonnavigable streams were not subject to the above mentioned servitude,726 this rule has been impaired by recent decisions;727 and at any rate it would not apply as to a stream rendered navigable by improvements.728
In exercising its power to foster and protect navigation, Congress legislates primarily on things external to the act of navigation. But that act itself and the instruments by which it is accomplished are also subject to Congress’s power if and when they enter into or form a part of “commerce among the several States.” When does this happen? Words quoted above from the Court’s opinion in the Gilman case answered this question to some extent; but the decisive answer to it was returned five years later in the case of The Daniel Ball.729 Here the question at issue was whether an act of Congress, passed in 1838 and amended in 1852, which required that steam vessels engaged in transporting passengers or merchandise upon the “bays, lakes, rivers, or other navigable waters of the United States,” applied to the case of a vessel that navigated only the waters of the Grand River, a stream lying entirely in the State of Michigan. The Court ruled: “In this case it is admitted that the steamer was engaged in shipping and transporting down Grand River, goods destined and marked for other States than Michigan, and in receiving and transporting up the river goods brought within the State from without its limits; . . . So far as she was employed in transporting goods destined for other States, or goods brought from without the limits of Michigan and destined to places within that State, she was engaged in commerce between the States, and however limited that commerce may have been, she was, so far as it went, subject to the legislation of Congress. She was employed as an instrument of that commerce; for whenever a commodity has begun to move as an article of trade from one State to another, commerce in that commodity between the States has commenced.”730
Counsel had suggested that if the vessel was in commerce because it was part of a stream of commerce then all transportation within a State was commerce. Turning to this point, the Court added: “We answer that the present case relates to transportation on the navigable waters of the United States, and we are not called upon to express an opinion upon the power of Congress over interstate commerce when carried on by land transportation. And we answer further, that we are unable to draw any clear and distinct line between the authority of Congress to regulate an agency employed in commerce between the States, when the agency extends through two or more States, and when it is confined in its action entirely within the limits of a single State. If its authority does not extend to an agency in such commerce, when that agency is confined within the limits of a State, its entire authority over interstate commerce may be defeated. Several agencies combining, each taking up the commodity transported at the boundary line at one end of a State, and leaving it at the boundary line at the other end, the Federal jurisdiction would be entirely ousted, and the constitutional provision would become a dead letter.”731 In short, it was admitted, inferentially, that the principle of the decision would apply to land transportation, but the actual demonstration of the fact still awaited some years.732
Hydroelectric Power; Flood Control.
As a consequence, in part, of its power to forbid or remove obstructions to navigation in the navigable waters of the United States, Congress has acquired the right to develop hydroelectric power and the ancillary right to sell it to all takers. By a long-standing doctrine of constitutional law, the states possess dominion over the beds of all navigable streams within their borders,733 but because of the servitude that Congress’s power to regulate commerce imposes upon such streams, the states, without the assent of Congress, practically are unable to use their prerogative for power-development purposes. Sensing no doubt that controlling power to this end must be attributed to some government in the United States and that “in such matters there can be no divided empire,”734 the Court held in United States v. Chandler-Dunbar Co.,735 that in constructing works for the improvement of the navigability of a stream, Congress was entitled, as part of a general plan, to authorize the lease or sale of such excess water power as might result from the conservation of the flow of the stream. “If the primary purpose is legitimate,” it said, “we can see no sound objection to leasing any excess of power over the needs of the Government. The practice is not unusual in respect to similar public works constructed by State governments.”736
Since the Chandler-Dunbar case, the Court has come, in effect, to hold that it will sustain any act of Congress that purports to be for the improvement of navigation whatever other purposes it may also embody, nor does the stream involved have to be one “navigable in its natural state.” Such, at least, seems to be the sum of its holdings in Arizona v. California,737 and United States v. Appalachian Power Co.738 In the former, the Court, speaking through Justice Brandeis, said that it was not free to inquire into the motives “which induced members of Congress to enact the Boulder Canyon Project Act,” adding: “As the river is navigable and the means which the Act provides are not unrelated to the control of navigation . . . the erection and maintenance of such dam and reservoir are clearly within the powers conferred upon Congress. Whether the particular structures proposed are reasonably necessary, is not for this Court to determine. . . . And the fact that purposes other than navigation will also be served could not invalidate the exercise of the authority conferred, even if those other purposes would not alone have justified an exercise of congressional power.”739
And, in the Appalachian Power case, the Court, abandoning previous holdings laying down the doctrine that to be subject to Congress’s power to regulate commerce a stream must be “navigable in fact,” said: “A waterway, otherwise suitable for navigation, is not barred from that classification merely because artificial aids must make the highway suitable for use before commercial navigation may be undertaken,” provided there must be a “balance between cost and need at a time when the improvement would be useful. . . . Nor is it necessary that the improvements should be actually completed or even authorized. The power of Congress over commerce is not to be hampered because of the necessity for reasonable improvements to make an interstate waterway available for traffic. . . . Nor is it necessary for navigability that the use should be continuous. . . . Even absence of use over long periods of years, because of changed conditions, . . . does not affect the navigability of rivers in the constitutional sense.”740
Furthermore, the Court defined the purposes for which Congress may regulate navigation in the broadest terms. “It cannot properly be said that the constitutional power of the United States over its waters is limited to control for navigation. . . . That authority is as broad as the needs of commerce. . . . Flood protection, watershed development, recovery of the cost of improvements through utilization of power are likewise parts of commerce control.”741 These views the Court has since reiterated.742 Nor is it by virtue of Congress’s power over navigation alone that the National Government may develop water power. Its war powers and powers of expenditure in furtherance of the common defense and the general welfare supplement its powers over commerce in this respect.743
Congressional Regulation of Land Transportation
Federal Stimulation of Land Transportation.
The settle- ment of the interior of the country led Congress to seek to facilitate access by first encouraging the construction of highways. In successive acts, it authorized construction of the Cumberland and the National Road from the Potomac across the Alleghenies to the Ohio, reserving certain public lands and revenues from land sales for construction of public roads to new states granted statehood.744 Acquisition and settlement of California stimulated interest in railway lines to the west, but it was not until the Civil War that Congress voted aid in the construction of a line from the Missouri River to the Pacific; four years later, it chartered the Union Pacific Company.745
The litigation growing out of these and subsequent activities settled several propositions. First, Congress may provide highways and railways for interstate transportation;746 second, it may charter private corporations for that purpose; third, it may vest such corporations with the power of eminent domain in the states; and fourth, it may exempt their franchises from state taxation.747
Federal Regulation of Land Transportation.
Congressio- nal regulation of railroads may be said to have begun in 1866. By the Garfield Act, Congress authorized all railroad companies operating by steam to interconnect with each other “so as to form continuous lines for the transportation of passengers, freight, troops, governmental supplies, and mails, to their destination.”748 An act of the same year provided federal chartering and protection from conflicting state regulations to companies formed to construct and operate telegraph lines.749 Another act regulated the transportation by railroad of livestock so as to preserve the health and safety of the animals.750
Congress’s entry into the rate regulation field was preceded by state attempts to curb the abuses of the rail lines in the Middle West, which culminated in the “Granger Movement.” Because the businesses were locally owned, the Court at first upheld state laws as not constituting a burden on interstate commerce;751 but after the various business panics of the 1870s and 1880s drove numerous small companies into bankruptcy and led to consolidation, there emerged great interstate systems. Thus in 1886, the Court held that a state may not set charges for carriage even within its own boundaries of goods brought from without the state or destined to points outside it; that power was exclusively with Congress.752 In the following year, Congress passed the original Interstate Commerce Act.753 A Commission was authorized to pass upon the “reasonableness” of all rates by railroads for the transportation of goods or persons in interstate commerce and to order the discontinuance of all charges found to be “unreasonable.” In ICC v. Brimson,754 the Court upheld the Act as “necessary and proper” for the enforcement of the Commerce Clause and also sustained the Commission’s power to go to court to secure compliance with its orders. Later decisions circumscribed somewhat the ICC’s power.755
Expansion of the Commission’s authority came in the Hepburn Act of 1906756 and the Mann-Elkins Act of 1910.757 By the former, the Commission was explicitly empowered, after a full hearing on a complaint, “to determine and prescribe just and reasonable” maximum rates; by the latter, it was authorized to set rates on its own initiative and empowered to suspend any increase in rates by a carrier until it reviewed the change. At the same time, the Commission’s jurisdiction was extended to telegraphs, telephones, and cables.758 By the Motor Carrier Act of 1935,759 the ICC was authorized to regulate the transportation of persons and property by motor vehicle common carriers.
The modern powers of the Commission were largely defined by the Transportation Acts of 1920760 and 1940.761 The jurisdiction of the Commission covers not only the characteristics of the rail, motor, and water carriers in commerce among the states but also the issuance of securities by them and all consolidations of existing companies or lines.762 Further, the Commission was charged with regulating so as to foster and promote the meeting of the transportation needs of the country. Thus, from a regulatory exercise originally begun as a method of restraint there has emerged a policy of encouraging a consistent national transportation policy.763
Federal Regulation of Intrastate Rates (The Shreveport Doctrine).
Although its statutory jurisdiction did not apply to intra- state rate systems, the Commission early asserted the right to pass on rates, which, though in effect on intrastate lines, gave these lines competitive advantages over interstate lines the rates of which the Commission had set. This power the Supreme Court upheld in a case involving a line operating wholly intrastate in Texas but which paralleled within Texas an interstate line operating between Louisiana and Texas; the Texas rate body had fixed the rates of the intrastate line substantially lower than the rate fixed by the ICC on the interstate line. “Wherever the interstate and intrastate transactions of carriers are so related that the government of the one involves the control of the other, it is Congress, and not the State, that is entitled to prescribe the final and dominant rule, for otherwise Congress would be denied the exercise of its constitutional authority and the States and not the Nation, would be supreme in the national field.”764
The same holding was applied in a subsequent case in which the Court upheld the Commission’s action in annulling intrastate passenger rates it found to be unduly low in comparison with the rates the Commission had established for interstate travel, thus tending to thwart, in deference to a local interest, the general purpose of the act to maintain an efficient transportation service for the benefit of the country at large.765
Federal Protection of Labor in Interstate Rail Transportation.
Federal entry into the field of protective labor legislation and the protection of organization efforts of workers began in connection with the railroads. The Safety Appliance Act of 1893,766 applying only to cars and locomotives engaged in moving interstate traffic, was amended in 1903 so as to embrace much of the intrastate rail systems on which there was any connection with interstate commerce.767 The Court sustained this extension in language much like that it would use in the Shreveport case three years later.768 These laws were followed by the Hours of Service Act of 1907,769 which prescribed maximum hours of employment for rail workers in interstate or foreign commerce. The Court sustained the regulation as a reasonable means of protecting workers and the public from the hazards which could develop from long, tiring hours of labor.770
Most far-reaching of these regulatory measures were the Federal Employers Liability Acts of 1906771 and 1908.772 These laws were intended to modify the common-law rules with regard to the liability of employers for injuries suffered by their employees in the course of their employment and under which employers were generally not liable. Rejecting the argument that regulation of such relationships between employers and employees was a reserved state power, the Court adopted the argument of the United States that Congress was empowered to do anything it might deem appropriate to save interstate commerce from interruption or burdening. Inasmuch as the labor of employees was necessary for the function of commerce, Congress could certainly act to ameliorate conditions that made labor less efficient, less economical, and less reliable. Assurance of compensation for injuries growing out of negligence in the course of employment was such a permissible regulation.773
Legislation and litigation dealing with the organizational rights of rail employees are dealt with elsewhere.774
Regulation of Other Agents of Carriage and Communications.
In 1914, the Court affirmed the power of Congress to regu- late the transportation of oil and gas in pipelines from one State to another and held that this power applied to the transportation even though the oil or gas was the property of the lines.775 Subsequently, the Court struck down state regulation of rates of electric current generated within that state and sold to a distributor in another State as a burden on interstate commerce.776 Proceeding on the assumption that the ruling meant the Federal Government had the power, Congress in the Federal Power Act of 1935 conferred on the Federal Power Commission authority to regulate the wholesale distribution of electricity in interstate commerce777 and three years later vested the FPC with like authority over natural gas moving in interstate commerce.778 Thereafter, the Court sustained the power of the Commission to set the prices at which gas originating in one state and transported into another should be sold to distributors wholesale in the latter state.779 “The sale of natural gas originating in the State and its transportation and delivery to distributors in any other State constitutes interstate commerce, which is subject to regulation by Congress . . . . The authority of Congress to regulate the prices of commodities in interstate commerce is at least as great under the Fifth Amendment as is that of the States under the Fourteenth to regulate the prices of commodities in intrastate commerce.”780
Other acts regulating commerce and communication originating in this period have evoked no basic constitutional challenge. These include the Federal Communications Act of 1934, providing for the regulation of interstate and foreign communication by wire and radio,781 and the Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938, providing for the regulation of all phases of airborne commerce, foreign and interstate.782
Congressional Regulation of Commerce as Traffic
The Sherman Act: Sugar Trust Case.
Congress’s chief ef- fort to regulate commerce in the primary sense of “traffic” is embodied in the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, the opening section of which declares “every contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise,” or “conspiracy in restraint of trade and commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations” to be “illegal,” while the second section makes it a misdemeanor for anybody to “monopolize or attempt to monopolize any part of such commerce.”783 The act was passed to curb the growing tendency to form industrial combinations, and the first case to reach the Court under it was the famous Sugar Trust Case, United States v. E. C. Knight Co.784 Here the government asked for the cancellation of certain agreements, whereby the American Sugar Refining Company, had “acquired,” it was conceded, “nearly complete control of the manufacture of refined sugar in the United States.”
The question of the validity of the Act was not expressly discussed by the Court but was subordinated to that of its proper construction. The Court, in pursuance of doctrines of constitutional law then dominant with it, turned the Act from its intended purpose and destroyed its effectiveness for several years, as that of the Interstate Commerce Act was being contemporaneously impaired. The following passage early in Chief Justice Fuller’s opinion for the Court sets forth the conception of the federal system that controlled the decision: “It is vital that the independence of the commercial power and of the police power, and the delimination between them, however sometimes perplexing, should always be recognized and observed, for while the one furnishes the strongest bond of union, the other is essential to the preservation of the autonomy of the States as required by our dual form of government; and acknowledged evils, however grave and urgent they may appear to be, had better be borne, than the risk be run, in the effort to suppress them, of more serious consequences by resort to expedients of even doubtful constitutionality.”785
In short, what was needed, the Court felt, was a hard and fast line between the two spheres of power, and, in a series of propositions, it endeavored to lay down such a line: (1) production is always local, and under the exclusive domain of the states; (2) commerce among the states does not begin until goods “commence their final movement from their State of origin to that of their destination;” (3) the sale of a product is merely an incident of its production and, while capable of “bringing the operation of commerce into play,” affects it only incidentally; (4) such restraint as would reach commerce, as above defined, in consequence of combinations to control production “in all its forms,” would be “indirect, however inevitable and whatever its extent,” and as such beyond the purview of the Act.786 Applying this reasoning to the case before it, the Court proceeded: “The object [of the combination] was manifestly private gain in the manufacture of the commodity, but not through the control of interstate or foreign commerce. It is true that the bill alleged that the products of these refineries were sold and distributed among the several States, and that all the companies were engaged in trade or commerce with the several States and with foreign nations; but this was no more than to say that trade and commerce served manufacture to fulfill its function.”
“Sugar was refined for sale, and sales were probably made at Philadelphia for consumption, and undoubtedly for resale by the first purchasers throughout Pennsylvania and other States, and refined sugar was also forwarded by the companies to other States for sale. Nevertheless it does not follow that an attempt to monopolize, or the actual monopoly of, the manufacture was an attempt, whether executory or consummated, to monopolize commerce, even though, in order to dispose of the product, the instrumentality of commerce was necessarily invoked. There was nothing in the proofs to indicate any intention to put a restraint upon trade or commerce, and the fact, as we have seen, that trade or commerce might be indirectly affected was not enough to entitle complainants to a decree.”787
Sherman Act Revived.
Four years later came Addyston Pipe and Steel Co. v. United States,788 in which the Antitrust Act was successfully applied to an industrial combination for the first time. The agreements in the case, the parties to which were manufacturing concerns, effected a division of territory among them, and so involved, it was held, a “direct” restraint on the distribution and hence of the transportation of the products of the contracting firms. The holding, however, did not question the doctrine of the earlier case, which in fact continued substantially undisturbed until 1905, when Swift & Co. v. United States789 was decided.
The “Current of Commerce” Concept: The Swift Case.
Defendants in Swift were some thirty firms engaged in Chicago and other cities in the business of buying livestock in their stockyards, in converting it at their packing houses into fresh meat, and in the sale and shipment of such fresh meat to purchasers in other states. The charge against them was that they had entered into a combination to refrain from bidding against each other in the local markets, to fix the prices at which they would sell, to restrict shipments of meat, and to do other forbidden acts. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court on defendants’ contention that certain of the acts complained of were not acts of interstate commerce and so did not fall within a valid reading of the Sherman Act. The Court, however, sustained the government on the ground that the “scheme as a whole” came within the act, and that the local activities alleged were simply part and parcel of this general scheme.790
Referring to the purchase of livestock at the stockyards, the Court, speaking by Justice Holmes, said: “Commerce among the States is not a technical legal conception, but a practical one, drawn from the course of business. When cattle are sent for sale from a place in one State, with the expectation that they will end their transit, after purchase, in another, and when in effect they do so, with only the interruption necessary to find a purchaser at the stockyards, and when this is a typical, constantly recurring course, the current thus existing is a current of commerce among the States, and the purchase of the cattle is a part and incident of such commerce.”791 Likewise the sales alleged of fresh meat at the slaughtering places fell within the general design. Even if they imported a technical passing of title at the slaughtering places, they also imported that the sales were to persons in other states, and that shipments to such states were part of the transaction.792 Thus, sales of the type that in the Sugar Trust case were thrust to one side as immaterial from the point of view of the law, because they enabled the manufacturer “to fulfill its function,” were here treated as merged in an interstate commerce stream.
Thus, the concept of commerce as trade, that is, as traffic, again entered the constitutional law picture, with the result that conditions directly affecting interstate trade could not be dismissed on the ground that they affected interstate commerce, in the sense of interstate transportation, only “indirectly.” Lastly, the Court added these significant words: “But we do not mean to imply that the rule which marks the point at which state taxation or regulation becomes permissible necessarily is beyond the scope of interference by Congress in cases where such interference is deemed necessary for the protection of commerce among the States.”793 That is to say, the line that confines state power from one side does not always confine national power from the other. Even though the line accurately divides the subject matter of the complementary spheres, national power is always entitled to take on the additional extension that is requisite to guarantee its effective exercise and is furthermore supreme.
The Danbury Hatters Case.
In this respect, the Swift case only states what the Shreveport case was later to declare more explicitly, and the same may be said of an ensuing series of cases in which combinations of employees engaged in such intrastate activities as manufacturing, mining, building, construction, and the distribution of poultry were subjected to the penalties of the Sherman Act because of the effect or intended effect of their activities on interstate commerce.794
Stockyards and Grain Futures Acts.
In 1921, Congress passed the Packers and Stockyards Act,795 whereby the business of commission men and livestock dealers in the chief stockyards of the country was brought under national supervision, and in the year following it passed the Grain Futures Act,796 whereby exchanges dealing in grain futures were subjected to control. The decisions of the Court sustaining these measures both built directly upon the Swift case.
In Stafford v. Wallace,797 which involved the former act, Chief Justice Taft, speaking for the Court, said: “The object to be secured by the act is the free and unburdened flow of livestock from the ranges and farms of the West and Southwest through the great stockyards and slaughtering centers on the borders of that region, and thence in the form of meat products to the consuming cities of the country in the Middle West and East, or, still as livestock, to the feeding places and fattening farms in the Middle West or East for further preparation for the market.”798 The stockyards, therefore, were “not a place of rest or final destination.” They were “but a throat through which the current flows,” and the sales there were not “merely local transactions. . . . [T]hey do not stop the flow . . . but, on the contrary, [are] indispensable to its continuity.”799
In Chicago Board of Trade v. Olsen,800 involving the Grain Futures Act, the same course of reasoning was repeated. Speaking of Swift, Chief Justice Taft remarked: “That case was a milestone in the interpretation of the commerce clause of the Constitution. It recognized the great changes and development in the business of this vast country and drew again the dividing line between interstate and intrastate commerce where the Constitution intended it to be. It refused to permit local incidents of a great interstate movement, which taken alone are intrastate, to characterize the movement as such.”801
Of special significance, however, is the part of the opinion devoted to showing the relation between future sales and cash sales, and hence the effect of the former upon the interstate grain trade. The test, said the Chief Justice, was furnished by the question of price. “The question of price dominates trade between the States. Sales of an article which affect the country-wide price of the article directly affect the country-wide commerce in it.”802 Thus, a practice that demonstrably affects prices would also affect interstate trade “directly,” and so, even though local in itself, would fall within the regulatory power of Congress. In the following passage, indeed, Chief Justice Taft whittled down, in both cases, the “direct-indirect” formula to the vanishing point: “Whatever amounts to more or less constant practice, and threatens to obstruct or unduly to burden the freedom of interstate commerce is within the regulatory power of Congress under the commerce clause, and it is primarily for Congress to consider and decide the fact of the danger to meet it. This court will certainly not substitute its judgment for that of Congress in such a matter unless the relation of the subject to interstate commerce and its effect upon it are clearly nonexistent.”803
It was in reliance on the doctrine of these cases that Congress first set to work to combat the Depression in 1933 and the years immediately following. But, in fact, much of its legislation at this time marked a wide advance upon the measures just passed in review. They did not stop with regulating traffic among the states and the instrumentalities thereof; they also attempted to govern production and industrial relations in the field of production. Confronted with this expansive exercise of Congress’s power, the Court again deemed itself called upon to define a limit to the commerce power that would save to the states their historical sphere, and especially their customary monopoly of legislative power in relation to industry and labor management.
Securities and Exchange Commission.
Not all antidepres- sion legislation, however, was of this new approach. The Securities Exchange Act of 1934804 and the Public Utility Company Act (“Wheeler-Rayburn Act”) of 1935805 were not. The former created the Securities and Exchange Commission and authorized it to lay down regulations designed to keep dealing in securities honest and aboveboard and closed the channels of interstate commerce and the mails to dealers refusing to register under the act. The latter required the companies governed by it to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission and to inform it concerning their business, organization, and financial structure, all on pain of being prohibited use of the facilities of interstate commerce and the mails; while, by § 11, the so-called “death sentence” clause, the same act closed the channels of interstate communication after a certain date to certain types of public utility companies whose operations, Congress found, were calculated chiefly to exploit the investing and consuming public. All these provisions have been sustained,806 with the Court relying principally on Gibbons v. Ogden.
Congressional Regulation of Production and Industrial Relations: Antidepression Legislation
In the words of Chief Justice Hughes, spoken in a case decided a few days after President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first inauguration, the problem then confronting the new Administration was clearly set forth. “When industry is grievously hurt, when producing concerns fail, when unemployment mounts and communities dependent upon profitable production are prostrated, the wells of commerce go dry.”807
National Industrial Recovery Act.
The initial effort of Con- gress to deal with this situation was embodied in the National Industrial Recovery Act of June 16, 1933.808 The opening section of the Act asserted the existence of “a national emergency productive of widespread unemployment and disorganization of industry which” burdened “interstate and foreign commerce,” affected “the public welfare,” and undermined “the standards of living of the American people.” To affect the removal of these conditions the President was authorized, upon the application of industrial or trade groups, to approve “codes of fair competition,” or to prescribe the same in cases where such applications were not duly forthcoming. Among other things such codes, of which eventually more than 700 were promulgated, were required to lay down rules of fair dealing with customers and to furnish labor certain guarantees respecting hours, wages and collective bargaining. For the time being, business and industry were to be cartelized on a national scale.
In A. L. A. Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States,809 one of these codes, the Live Poultry Code, was pronounced unconstitutional. Although it was conceded that practically all poultry handled by the Schechters came from outside the State, and hence via interstate commerce, the Court held, nevertheless, that once the chickens came to rest in the Schechter’s wholesale market, interstate commerce in them ceased. The act, however, also purported to govern business activities which “affected” interstate commerce. This, Chief Justice Hughes held, must be taken to mean “directly” affect such commerce: “the distinction between direct and indirect effects of intrastate transactions upon interstate commerce must be recognized as a fundamental one, essential to the maintenance of our constitutional system. Otherwise, . . . there would be virtually no limit to the federal power and for all practical purposes we should have a completely centralized government.”810 In short, the case was governed by the ideology of the Sugar Trust case, which was not mentioned in the Court’s opinion.811
Agricultural Adjustment Act.
Congress’s second attempt to combat the Depression was the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933.812 As is pointed out elsewhere, the measure was set aside as an attempt to regulate production, a subject held to be “prohibited” to the United States by the Tenth Amendment.813
Bituminous Coal Conservation Act.
The third measure to be disallowed was the Guffey-Snyder Bituminous Coal Conservation Act of 1935.814 The statute created machinery for the regulation of the price of soft coal, both that sold in interstate commerce and that sold “locally,” and other machinery for the regulation of hours of labor and wages in the mines. The clauses of the act dealing with these two different matters were declared by the act itself to be separable so that the invalidity of the one set would not affect the validity of the other, but this strategy was ineffectual. A majority of the Court, speaking by Justice Sutherland, held that the act constituted one connected scheme of regulation, which, because it invaded the reserved powers of the states over conditions of employment in productive industry, violated the Constitution.815 Justice Sutherland’s opinion set out from Chief Justice Hughes’ assertion in the Schechter case of the “fundamental” character of the distinction between “direct” and “indirect” effects, that is to say, from the doctrine of the Sugar Trust case. It then proceeded: “Much stress is put upon the evils which come from the struggle between employers and employees over the matter of wages, working conditions, the right of collective bargaining, etc., and the resulting strikes, curtailment and irregularity of production and effect on prices; and it is insisted that interstate commerce is greatly affected thereby. But . . . the conclusive answer is that the evils are all local evils over which the Federal Government has no legislative control. The relation of employer and employee is a local relation. At common law, it is one of the domestic relations. The wages are paid for the doing of local work. Working conditions are obviously local conditions. The employees are not engaged in or about commerce, but exclusively in producing a commodity. And the controversies and evils, which it is the object of the act to regulate and minimize, are local controversies and evils affecting local work undertaken to accomplish that local result. Such effect as they may have upon commerce, however extensive it may be, is secondary and indirect. An increase in the greatness of the effect adds to its importance. It does not alter its character.”816
Railroad Retirement Act.
Still pursuing the idea of protect- ing commerce and the labor engaged in it concurrently, Congress, by the Railroad Retirement Act of June 27, 1934,817 ordered the compulsory retirement of superannuated employees of interstate carriers, and provided that they be paid pensions out of a fund comprising compulsory contributions from the carriers and their present and future employees. In Railroad Retirement Bd. v. Alton R.R.,818 however, a closely divided Court held this legislation to be in excess of Congress’s power to regulate commerce and contrary to the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Justice Roberts wrote for the majority: “We feel bound to hold that a pension plan thus imposed is in no proper sense a regulation of the activity of interstate transportation. It is an attempt for social ends to impose by sheer fiat noncontractual incidents upon the relation of employer and employee, not as a rule or regulation of commerce and transportation between the States, but as a means of assuring a particular class of employees against old age dependency. This is neither a necessary nor an appropriate rule or regulation affecting the due fulfillment of the railroads’ duty to serve the public in interstate transportation.”819
Chief Justice Hughes, speaking for the dissenters, contended, on the contrary, that “the morale of the employees [had] an important bearing upon the efficiency of the transportation service.” He added: “The fundamental consideration which supports this type of legislation is that industry should take care of its human wastage, whether that is due to accident or age. That view cannot be dismissed as arbitrary or capricious. It is a reasoned conviction based upon abundant experience. The expression of that conviction in law is regulation. When expressed in the government of interstate carriers, with respect to their employees likewise engaged in interstate commerce, it is a regulation of that commerce. As such, so far as the subject matter is concerned, the commerce clause should be held applicable.”820 Under subsequent legislation, an excise is levied on interstate carriers and their employees, while by separate but parallel legislation a fund is created in the Treasury out of which pensions are paid along the lines of the original plan. The constitutionality of this scheme appears to be taken for granted in Railroad Retirement Board v. Duquesne Warehouse Co.821
National Labor Relations Act.
The case in which the Court reduced the distinction between “direct” and “indirect” effects to the vanishing point and thereby placed Congress in the position to regulate productive industry and labor relations in these industries was NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation.822 Here the statute involved was the National Labor Relations Act of 1935,823 which declared the right of workers to organize, forbade unlawful employer interference with this right, established procedures by which workers could choose exclusive bargaining representatives with which employers were required to bargain, and created a board to oversee all these processes.824
The Court, speaking through Chief Justice Hughes, upheld the Act and found the corporation to be subject to the Act. “The close and intimate effect,” he said, “which brings the subject within the reach of federal power may be due to activities in relation to productive industry although the industry when separately viewed is local.” Nor will it do to say that such effect is “indirect.” Considering defendant’s “far-flung activities,” the effect of strife between it and its employees “would be immediate and [it] might be catastrophic. We are asked to shut our eyes to the plainest facts of our national life and to deal with the question of direct and indirect effects in an intellectual vacuum. . . . When industries organize themselves on a national scale, making their relation to interstate commerce the dominant factor in their activities, how can it be maintained that their industrial labor relations constitute a forbidden field into which Congress may not enter when it is necessary to protect interstate commerce from the paralyzing consequences of industrial war? We have often said that interstate commerce itself is a practical conception. It is equally true that interferences with that commerce must be appraised by a judgment that does not ignore actual experience.”825
While the Act was thus held to be within the constitutional powers of Congress in relation to a productive concern because the interruption of its business by strike “might be catastrophic,” the decision was forthwith held to apply also to two minor concerns,826 and in a later case the Court stated specifically that the smallness of the volume of commerce affected in any particular case is not a material consideration.827 Subsequently, the act was declared to be applicable to a local retail auto dealer on the ground that he was an integral part of the manufacturer’s national distribution system,828 to a labor dispute arising during alteration of a county courthouse because one-half of the cost—$225,000—was attributable to materials shipped from out-of-state,829 and to a dispute involving a retail distributor of fuel oil, all of whose sales were local, but who obtained the oil from a wholesaler who imported it from another state.830
Indeed, “[t]his Court has consistently declared that in passing the National Labor Relations Act, Congress intended to and did vest in the Board the fullest jurisdictional breadth constitutionally permissible under the Commerce Clause.”831 Thus, the Board has formulated jurisdictional standards which assume the requisite effect on interstate commerce from a prescribed dollar volume of business and these standards have been implicitly approved by the Court.832
Fair Labor Standards Act.
In 1938, Congress enacted the Fair Labor Standards Act. The measure prohibited not only the shipment in interstate commerce of goods manufactured by employees whose wages are less than the prescribed maximum but also the employment of workmen in the production of goods for such commerce at other than the prescribed wages and hours. Interstate commerce was defined by the act to mean “trade, commerce, transportation, transmission, or communication among the several States or from any State to any place outside thereof.”
It was further provided that “for the purposes of this act an employee shall be deemed to have been engaged in the production of goods [that is, for interstate commerce] if such employee was employed . . . in any process or occupation directly essential to the production thereof in any State.”833 Sustaining an indictment under the act, a unanimous Court, speaking through Chief Justice Stone, said: “The motive and purpose of the present regulation are plainly to make effective the congressional conception of public policy that interstate commerce should not be made the instrument of competition in the distribution of goods produced under substandard labor conditions, which competition is injurious to the commerce and to the States from and to which the commerce flows.”834 In support of the decision, the Court invoked Chief Justice Marshall’s reading of the Necessary and Proper Clause in McCulloch v. Maryland and his reading of the Commerce Clause in Gibbons v. Ogden.835 Objections purporting to be based on the Tenth Amendment were met from the same point of view: “Our conclusion is unaffected by the Tenth Amendment which provides: ‘The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.’ The amendment states but a truism that all is retained which has not been surrendered. There is nothing in the history of its adoption to suggest that it was more than declaratory of the relationship between the national and State governments as it had been established by the Constitution before the amendment or that its purpose was other than to allay fears that the new National Government might seek to exercise powers not granted, and that the States might not be able to exercise fully their reserved powers.”836
Subsequent decisions of the Court took a very broad view of which employees should be covered by the Act,837 and in 1949 Congress to some degree narrowed the permissible range of coverage and disapproved some of the Court’s decisions.838 But, in 1961,839 with extensions in 1966,840 Congress itself expanded by several million persons the coverage of the Act, introducing the “enterprise” concept by which all employees in a business producing anything in commerce or affecting commerce were brought within the protection of the minimum wage-maximum hours standards.841 The “enterprise concept” was sustained by the Court in Maryland v. Wirtz.842 Justice Harlan for a unanimous Court on this issue found the extension entirely proper on the basis of two theories: one, a business’ competitive position in commerce is determined in part by all its significant labor costs, and not just those costs attributable to its employees engaged in production in interstate commerce, and, two, labor peace and thus smooth functioning of interstate commerce was facilitated by the termination of substandard labor conditions affecting all employees and not just those actually engaged in interstate commerce.843
Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act.
After its initial frus- trations, Congress returned to the task of bolstering agriculture by passing the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of June 3, 1937,844 authorizing the Secretary of Agriculture to fix the minimum prices of certain agricultural products, when the handling of such products occurs “in the current of interstate or foreign commerce or . . . directly burdens, obstructs or affects interstate or foreign commerce in such commodity or product thereof.” In United States v. Wrightwood Dairy Co.,845 the Court sustained an order of the Secretary of Agriculture fixing the minimum prices to be paid to producers of milk in the Chicago “marketing area.” The dairy company demurred to the regulation on the ground it applied to milk produced and sold intrastate. Sustaining the order, the Court said: “Congress plainly has power to regulate the price of milk distributed through the medium of interstate commerce . . . and it possesses every power needed to make that regulation effective. The commerce power is not confined in its exercise to the regulation of commerce among the States. It extends to those activities intrastate which so affect interstate commerce, or the exertion of the power of Congress over it, as to make regulation of them appropriate means to the attainment of a legitimate end, the effective execution of the granted power to regulate interstate commerce. The power of Congress over interstate commerce is plenary and complete in itself, may be exercised to its utmost extent, and acknowledges no limitations other than are prescribed in the Constitution. . . . It follows that no form of State activity can constitutionally thwart the regulatory power granted by the commerce clause to Congress. Hence the reach of that power extends to those intrastate activities which in a substantial way interfere with or obstruct the exercise of the granted power.”846
In Wickard v. Filburn,847 the Court sustained a still deeper penetration by Congress into the field of production. As amended by the act of 1941, the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938848 regulated production even when not intended for commerce but wholly for consumption on the producer’s farm. Sustaining this extension of the act, the Court pointed out that the effect of the statute was to support the market. “It can hardly be denied that a factor of such volume and variability as home-consumed wheat would have a substantial influence on price and market conditions. This may arise because being in marketable condition such wheat overhangs the market and, if induced by rising prices, tends to flow into the market and check price increases. But if we assume that it is never marketed, it supplies a need of the man who grew it which would otherwise be reflected by purchases in the open market. Home-grown wheat in this sense competes with wheat in commerce. The stimulation of commerce is a use of the regulatory function quite as definitely as prohibitions or restrictions thereon. This record leaves us in no doubt that Congress may properly have considered that wheat consumed on the farm grown, if wholly outside the scheme of regulation, would have a substantial effect in defeating and obstructing its purpose to stimulate trade therein at increased prices.”849 And, it elsewhere stated “that questions of the power of Congress are not to be decided by reference to any formula which would give controlling force to nomenclature such as ‘production’ and ‘indirect’ and foreclose consideration of the actual effects of the activity in question upon interstate commerce. . . . The Court’s recognition of the relevance of the economic effects in the application of the Commerce Clause . . . has made the mechanical application of legal formulas no longer feasible.”850
Acts of Congress Prohibiting Commerce
Foreign Commerce: Jefferson’s Embargo.
“Jefferson’s Em- bargo” of 1807–1808, which cut all trade with Europe, was attacked on the ground that the power to regulate commerce was the power to preserve it, not the power to destroy it. This argument was rejected by Judge Davis of the United States District Court for Massachusetts in the following words: “A national sovereignty is created [by the Constitution]. Not an unlimited sovereignty, but a sovereignty, as to the objects surrendered and specified, limited only by the qualification and restrictions, expressed in the Constitution. Commerce is one of those objects. The care, protection, management and control, of this great national concern, is, in my opinion, vested by the Constitution, in the Congress of the United States; and their power is sovereign, relative to commercial intercourse, qualified by the limitations and restrictions, expressed in that instrument, and by the treaty making power of the President and Senate. . . . Power to regulate, it is said, cannot be understood to give a power to annihilate. To this it may be replied, that the acts under consideration, though of very ample extent, do not operate as a prohibition of all foreign commerce. It will be admitted that partial prohibitions are authorized by the expression; and how shall the degree, or extent, of the prohibition be adjusted, but by the discretion of the National Government, to whom the subject appears to be committed? . . . The term does not necessarily include shipping or navigation; much less does it include the fisheries. Yet it never has contended, that they are not the proper objects of national regulation; and several acts of Congress have been made respecting them. . . . [Furthermore] if it be admitted that national regulations relative to commerce, may apply it as an instrument, and are not necessarily confined to its direct aid and advancement, the sphere of legislative discretion is, of course, more widely extended; and, in time of war, or of great impending peril, it must take a still more expanded range.”
“Congress has power to declare war. It, of course, has power to prepare for war; and the time, the manner, and the measure, in the application of constitutional means, seem to be left to its wisdom and discretion. . . . Under the Confederation, . . . we find an express reservation to the State legislatures of the power to pass prohibitory commercial laws, and, as respects exportations, without any limitations. Some of them exercised this power. . . . Unless Congress, by the Constitution, possess the power in question, it still exists in the State legislatures—but this has never been claimed or pretended, since the adoption of the Federal Constitution; and the exercise of such a power by the States, would be manifestly inconsistent with the power, vested by the people in Congress, ‘to regulate commerce.’ Hence I infer, that the power, reserved to the States by the articles of Confederation, is surrendered to Congress, by the Constitution; unless we suppose, that, by some strange process, it has been merged or extinguished, and now exists no where.”851
Foreign Commerce: Protective Tariffs.
Tariff laws have cus- tomarily contained prohibitory provisions, and such provisions have been sustained by the Court under Congress’s revenue powers and under its power to regulate foreign commerce. For the Court in Board of Trustees v. United States,852 in 1933, Chief Justice Hughes said: “The Congress may determine what articles may be imported into this country and the terms upon which importation is permitted. No one can be said to have a vested right to carry on foreign commerce with the United States. . . . It is true that the taxing power is a distinct power; that it is distinct from the power to regulate commerce. . . . It is also true that the taxing power embraces the power to lay duties. Art. I, § 8, par. 1. But because the taxing power is a distinct power and embraces the power to lay duties, it does not follow that duties may not be imposed in the exercise of the power to regulate commerce. The contrary is well established. Gibbons v. Ogden, supra, p. 202. ‘Under the power to regulate foreign commerce Congress impose duties on importations, give drawbacks, pass embargo and non-intercourse laws, and make all other regulations necessary to navigation, to the safety of passengers, and the protection of property.’ Groves v. Slaughter, 15 Pet. 449, 505. The laying of duties is ‘a common means of executing the power.’ 2 Story on the Constitution, 1088.”853
Foreign Commerce: Banned Articles.
The forerunners of more recent acts excluding objectionable commodities from interstate commerce are the laws forbidding the importation of like commodities from abroad. Congress has exercised this power since 1842, when it forbade the importation of obscene literature or pictures from abroad.854 Six years, later it passed an act “to prevent the importation of spurious and adulterated drugs” and to provide a system of inspection to make the prohibition effective.855 Such legislation guarding against the importation of noxiously adulterated foods, drugs, or liquor has been on the statute books ever since. In 1887, the importation by Chinese nationals of opium was prohibited,856 and subsequent statutes passed in 1909 and 1914 made it unlawful for anyone to import it.857 In 1897, Congress forbade the importation of any tea “inferior in purity, quality, and fitness for consumption” as compared with a legal standard.858 The Act was sustained in 1904, in Buttfield v. Stranahan.859 In “The Abby Dodge” an act excluding sponges taken by means of diving or diving apparatus from the waters of the Gulf of Mexico or Straits of Florida was sustained but construed as not applying to sponges taken from the territorial water of a state.860
In Weber v. Freed,861 the Court upheld an act prohibiting the importation and interstate transportation of prize-fight films or of pictorial representation of prize fights. Chief Justice White grounded his opinion for a unanimous Court on the complete and total control over foreign commerce possessed by Congress, in contrast implicitly to its lesser power over interstate commerce.862 And, in Brolan v. United States,863 the Court rejected as wholly inappropriate citation of cases dealing with interstate commerce on the question of Congress’s power to prohibit foreign commerce. It has been earlier noted, however, that the purported distinction is one that the Court both previously to and subsequent to these opinions has rejected.
Interstate Commerce: Power to Prohibit Questioned.
The question whether Congress’s power to regulate commerce “among the several States” embraced the power to prohibit it furnished the topic of one of the most protracted debates in the entire history of the Constitution’s interpretation, a debate the final resolution of which in favor of congressional power is an event of first importance for the future of American federalism. The issue was as early as 1841 brought forward by Henry Clay, in an argument before the Court in which he raised the specter of an act of Congress forbidding the interstate slave trade.864 The debate was concluded ninety-nine years later by the decision in United States v. Darby,865 which sustained the Fair Labor Standards Act.866
Interstate Commerce: National Prohibitions and State Police Power.
The earliest acts prohibiting commerce were in the nature of quarantine regulations and usually dealt solely with interstate transportation. In 1884, the exportation or shipment in interstate commerce of livestock having any infectious disease was forbidden.867 In 1903, power was conferred upon the Secretary of Agriculture to establish regulations to prevent the spread of such diseases through foreign or interstate commerce.868 In 1905, the same official was authorized to lay an absolute embargo or quarantine upon all shipments of cattle from one state to another when the public necessity might demand it.869 A statute passed in 1905 forbade the transportation in foreign and interstate commerce and the mails of certain varieties of moths, plant lice, and other insect pests injurious to plant crops, trees, and other vegetation.870 In 1912, a similar exclusion of diseased nursery stock was decreed,871 while by the same act and again by an act of 1917,872 the Secretary of Agriculture was invested with powers of quarantine on interstate commerce for the protection of plant life from disease similar to those above described for the prevention of the spread of animal disease. Although the Supreme Court originally held federal quarantine regulations of this sort to be constitutionally inapplicable to intrastate shipments of livestock, on the ground that federal authority extends only to foreign and interstate commerce,873 this view has today been abandoned.
The Lottery Case.
The first case to come before the Court in which the issues discussed above were canvassed at all thoroughly was Champion v. Ames,874 involving the act of 1895 “for the suppression of lotteries.”875 An earlier act excluding lottery tickets from the mails had been upheld in the case In re Rapier,876 on the proposition that Congress clearly had the power to see that the very facilities furnished by it were not put to bad use. But in the case of commerce, the facilities are not ordinarily furnished by the National Government, and the right to engage in foreign and interstate commerce comes from the Constitution itself or is anterior to it.
How difficult the Court found the question produced by the act of 1895, forbidding any person to bring within the United States or to cause to be “carried from one State to another” any lottery ticket, or an equivalent thereof, “for the purpose of disposing of the same,” was shown by the fact that the case was argued three times before the Court and the fact that the Court’s decision finally sustaining the act was a five-to-four decision. The opinion of the Court, on the other hand, prepared by Justice Harlan, marked an almost unqualified triumph at the time for the view that Congress’s power to regulate commerce among the States included the power to prohibit it, especially to supplement and support state legislation enacted under the police power. Early in the opinion, extensive quotation is made from Chief Justice Marshall’s opinion in Gibbons v. Ogden,877 with special stress upon the definition there given of the phrase “to regulate.” Justice Johnson’s assertion on the same occasion is also given: “The power of a sovereign State over commerce, . . . amounts to nothing more than a power to limit and restrain it at pleasure.” Further along is quoted with evident approval Justice Bradley’s statement in Brown v. Houston,878 that “[t]he power to regulate commerce among the several States is granted to Congress in terms as absolute as is the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations.”
Following the wake of the Lottery Case, Congress repeatedly brought its prohibitory powers over interstate commerce and communications to the support of certain local policies of the states in the exercise of their reserved powers, thereby aiding them in the repression of a variety of acts and deeds objectionable to public morality. The conception of the Federal System on which the Court based its validation of this legislation was stated by it in 1913 in sustaining the Mann “White Slave” Act in the following words: “Our dual form of government has its perplexities, State and Nation having different spheres of jurisdiction . . . but it must be kept in mind that we are one people; and the powers reserved to the States and those conferred on the Nation are adapted to be exercised, whether independently or concurrently, to promote the general welfare, material, and moral.”879 At the same time, the Court made it plain that in prohibiting commerce among the states, Congress was equally free to support state legislative policy or to devise a policy of its own. “Congress,” it said, “may exercise this authority in aid of the policy of the State, if it sees fit to do so. It is equally clear that the policy of Congress acting independently of the States may induce legislation without reference to the particular policy or law of any given State. Acting within the authority conferred by the Constitution it is for Congress to determine what legislation will attain its purpose. The control of Congress over interstate commerce is not to be limited by State laws.”880
In Brooks v. United States,881 the Court sustained the National Motor Vehicle Theft Act882 as a measure protective of owners of automobiles; that is, of interests in “the State of origin.” The statute was designed to repress automobile motor thefts, notwithstanding that such thefts antedate the interstate transportation of the article stolen. Speaking for the Court, Chief Justice Taft, at the outset, stated the general proposition that “Congress can certainly regulate interstate commerce to the extent of forbidding and punishing the use of such commerce as an agency to promote immorality, dishonesty, or the spread of any evil or harm to the people of other States from the State of origin.” Noting “the radical change in transportation” brought about by the automobile, and the rise of “[e]laborately organized conspiracies for the theft of automobiles . . . and their sale or other disposition” in another jurisdiction from the owner’s, the Court concluded that such activity “is a gross misuse of interstate commerce. Congress may properly punish such interstate transportation by anyone with knowledge of the theft, because of its harmful result and its defeat of the property rights of those whose machines against their will are taken into other jurisdictions.” The fact that stolen vehicles were “harmless” and did not spread harm to persons in other states on this occasion was not deemed to present any obstacle to the exercise of the regulatory power of Congress.883
The Darby Case.
In sustaining the Fair Labor Standards Act 884 in 1941,885 the Court expressly overruled Hammer v. Dagenhart.886 “The distinction on which the [latter case] . . . was rested that Congressional power to prohibit interstate commerce is limited to articles which in themselves have some harmful or deleterious property—a distinction which was novel when made and unsupported by any provision of the Constitution—has long since been abandoned. . . . The thesis of the opinion that the motive of the prohibition or its effect to control in some measure the use or production within the States of the article thus excluded from the commerce can operate to deprive the regulation of its constitutional authority has long since ceased to have force. . . . The conclusion is inescapable that Hammer v. Dagenhart, was a departure from the principles which have prevailed in the interpretation of the Commerce Clause both before and since the decision and that such vitality, as a precedent, as it then had has long since been exhausted. It should be and now is overruled.”887
The Commerce Clause as a Source of National Police Power
The Court has several times expressly noted that Congress’s exercise of power under the Commerce Clause is akin to the police power exercised by the states.888 It should follow, therefore, that Congress may achieve results unrelated to purely commercial aspects of commerce, and this result in fact has often been accomplished. Paralleling and contributing to this movement is the virtual disappearance of the distinction between interstate and intrastate commerce.
Is There an Intrastate Barrier to Congress’s Commerce Power?.
Not only has there been legislative advancement and ju- dicial acquiescence in Commerce Clause jurisprudence, but the melding of the Nation into one economic union has been more than a little responsible for the reach of Congress’s power. “The volume of interstate commerce and the range of commonly accepted objects of government regulation have . . . expanded considerably in the last 200 years, and the regulatory authority of Congress has expanded along with them. As interstate commerce has become ubiquitous, activities once considered purely local have come to have effects on the national economy, and have accordingly come within the scope of Congress’s commerce power.”889
Congress’s commerce power has been characterized as having three, or sometimes four, interrelated principles of decision, some old, some of recent vintage. The Court in 1995 described “three broad categories of activity that Congress may regulate under its commerce power. First, Congress may regulate the use of the channels of interstate commerce. Second, Congress is empowered to regulate and protect the instrumentalities of interstate commerce, or persons or things in interstate commerce, even though the threat may come only from intrastate activities. Finally, Congress’s commerce authority includes the power to regulate those activities having a substantial relation to interstate commerce, i.e., those activities that substantially affect interstate commerce.”890
An example of the first category, regulating to protect the channels and instrumentalities of interstate commerce, is Pierce County v. Guillen,891 in which the Court upheld a prohibition on the use in state or federal court proceedings of highway data required to be collected by states on the basis that “Congress could reasonably believe that adopting a measure eliminating an unforeseen side effect of the information-gathering requirement . . . would result in more diligent efforts [by states] to collect the relevant information.”
Under the second category, which attaches to instrumentalities
892 and persons crossing of state lines, Congress has validly legislated to protect interstate travelers from harm, to prevent such travelers from being deterred in the exercise of interstate traveling, and to prevent them from being burdened. Many of the 1964 public accommodations law applications have been premised on the point that larger establishments do serve interstate travelers and that even small stores, restaurants, and the like may serve interstate travelers, and, therefore, it is permissible to regulate them to prevent or deter racial discrimination.893
Commerce regulation under this second category is not limited to persons who cross state lines but can also extend to an object that will or has crossed state lines, and the regulation of a purely intrastate activity may be premised on the presence of such object. Thus, the public accommodations law reached small establishments that served food and other items that had been purchased from interstate channels.894 Congress has validly penalized convicted felons, who had no other connection to interstate commerce, for possession or receipt of firearms, which had been previously transported in interstate commerce independently of any activity by the two felons.895
This reach is not of recent origin. In United States v. Sullivan,896 the Court sustained a conviction of misbranding under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. Sullivan, a Columbus, Georgia druggist, had bought a properly labeled 1000-tablet bottle of sulfathiazole from an Atlanta wholesaler. The bottle had been shipped to the Atlanta wholesaler by a Chicago supplier six months earlier. Three months after Sullivan received the bottle, he made two retail sales of 12 tablets each, placing the tablets in boxes not labeled in strict accordance with the law. Upholding the conviction, the Court concluded that there was no question of “the constitutional power of Congress under the Commerce Clause to regulate the branding of articles that have completed an interstate shipment and are being held for future sales in purely local or intrastate commerce.”897
Under the third category, Congress’s power reaches not only transactions or actions that occasion the crossing of state or national boundaries but extends as well to activities that, though local, “affect” commerce; this power derives from the Commerce Clause enhanced by the Necessary and Proper Clause. The seminal case, of course, is Wickard v. Filburn,898 sustaining federal regulation of a crop of wheat grown on a farm and intended solely for home consumption. The premise was that if it were never marketed, it supplied a need otherwise to be satisfied only in the market, and that if prices rose it might be induced onto the market. “Even activity that is purely intrastate in character may be regulated by Congress, where the activity, combined with like conduct by others similarly situated, affects commerce among the States or with foreign nations.”899 Coverage under federal labor and wage-and-hour laws after the 1930s showed the reality of this doctrine.900
In upholding federal regulation of strip mining, the Court demonstrated the breadth of the “affects” standard. One case dealt with statutory provisions designed to preserve “prime farmland.” The trial court had determined that the amount of such land disturbed annually amounted to 0.006% of the total prime farmland acreage in the Nation and, thus, that the impact on commerce was “infinitesimal” or “trivial.” Disagreeing, the Court said: “A court may invalidate legislation enacted under the Commerce Clause only if it is clear that there is no rational basis for a congressional finding that the regulated activity affects interstate commerce, or that there is no reasonable connection between the regulatory means selected and the asserted ends.”901 Moreover, “[t]he pertinent inquiry therefore is not how much commerce is involved but whether Congress could rationally conclude that the regulated activity affects interstate commerce.”902
In a companion case, the Court reiterated that “[t]he denomination of an activity as a ‘local’ or ‘intrastate’ activity does not resolve the question whether Congress may regulate it under the Commerce Clause. As previously noted, the commerce power ‘extends to those activities intrastate which so affect interstate commerce, or the exertion of the power of Congress over it, as to make regulation of them appropriate means to the attainment of a legitimate end, the effective execution of the granted power to regulate interstate commerce.’ ”903 Judicial review is narrow. Congress’s determination of an “effect” must be deferred to if it is rational, and Congress must have acted reasonably in choosing the means.904
Fourth, a still more potent engine of regulation has been the expansion of the class-of-activities standard, which began in the “affecting” cases. In Perez v. United States,905 the Court sustained the application of a federal “loan-sharking” law to a local culprit. The Court held that, although individual loan-sharking activities might be intrastate in nature, still it was within Congress’s power to determine that the activity was within a class the activities of which did affect interstate commerce, thus affording Congress the opportunity to regulate the entire class. Although the Perez Court and the congressional findings emphasized that loan-sharking was generally part of organized crime operating on a national scale and that loan-sharking was commonly used to finance organized crime’s national operations, subsequent cases do not depend upon a defensible assumption of relatedness in the class.
Thus, the Court applied the federal arson statute to the attempted “torching” of a defendant’s two-unit apartment building. The Court merely pointed to the fact that the rental of real estate “unquestionably” affects interstate commerce and that “the local rental of an apartment unit is merely an element of a much broader commercial market in real estate.”906 The apparent test of whether aggregation of local activity can be said to affect commerce was made clear next in an antitrust context.907
In a case allowing the continuation of an antitrust suit challenging a hospital’s exclusion of a surgeon from practice in the hospital, the Court observed that in order to establish the required jurisdictional nexus with commerce, the appropriate focus is not on the actual effects of the conspiracy but instead is on the possible consequences for the affected market if the conspiracy is successful. The required nexus in this case was sufficient because competitive significance is to be measured by a general evaluation of the impact of the restraint on other participants and potential participants in the market from which the surgeon was being excluded.908
Requirement that Regulation be Economic.
In United States v. Lopez909 the Court, for the first time in almost sixty years,910 invalidated a federal law as exceeding Congress’s authority under the Commerce Clause. The statute made it a federal offense to possess a firearm within 1,000 feet of a school.911 The Court reviewed the doctrinal development of the Commerce Clause, especially the effects and aggregation tests, and reaffirmed that it is the Court’s responsibility to decide whether a rational basis exists for concluding that a regulated activity sufficiently affects interstate commerce when a law is challenged.912 As noted previously, the Court evaluation started with a consideration of whether the legislation fell within the three broad categories of activity that Congress may regulate or protect under its commerce power: (1) use of the channels of interstate commerce, (2) the use of instrumentalities of interstate commerce, or (3) activities that substantially affect interstate commerce.913
Clearly, the Court said, the criminalized activity did not implicate the first two categories.914 As for the third, the Court found an insufficient connection. First, a wide variety of regulations of “intrastate economic activity” has been sustained where an activity substantially affects interstate commerce. But the statute being challenged, the Court continued, was a criminal law that had nothing to do with “commerce” or with “any sort of economic enterprise.” Therefore, it could not be sustained under precedents “upholding regulations of activities that arise out of or are connected with a commercial transaction, which viewed in the aggregate, substantially affects interstate commerce.”915 The provision did not contain a “jurisdictional element which would ensure, through case-by-case inquiry, that the firearm possession in question affects interstate commerce.”916 The existence of such a section, the Court implied, would have saved the constitutionality of the provision by requiring a showing of some connection to commerce in each particular case.
Finally, the Court rejected the arguments of the government and of the dissent that there existed a sufficient connection between the offense and interstate commerce.917 At base, the Court’s concern was that accepting the attenuated connection arguments presented would result in the evisceration of federalism. “Under the theories that the government presents . . . it is difficult to perceive any limitation on federal power, even in areas such as criminal law enforcement or education where States historically have been sovereign. Thus, if we were to accept the Government’s arguments, we are hard pressed to posit any activity by an individual that Congress is without power to regulate.”918
Whether Lopez bespoke a Court determination to police more closely Congress’s exercise of its commerce power, so that it would be a noteworthy case,919 or whether it was rather a “warning shot” across the bow of Congress, urging more restraint in the exercise of power or more care in the drafting of laws, was not immediately clear. The Court’s decision five years later in United States v. Morrison,920 however, suggests that stricter scrutiny of Congress’s commerce power exercises is the chosen path, at least for legislation that falls outside the area of economic regulation.921 The Court will no longer defer, via rational basis review, to every congressional finding of substantial effects on interstate commerce, but instead will examine the nature of the asserted nexus to commerce, and will also consider whether a holding of constitutionality is consistent with its view of the commerce power as being a limited power that cannot be allowed to displace all exercise of state police powers.
In Morrison the Court applied Lopez principles to invalidate a provision of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that created a federal cause of action for victims of gender-motivated violence. Gender-motivated crimes of violence “are not, in any sense of the phrase, economic activity,”922 the Court explained, and there was allegedly no precedent for upholding commerce-power regulation of intrastate activity that was not economic in nature. The provision, like the invalidated provision of the Gun-Free School Zones Act, contained no jurisdictional element tying the regulated violence to interstate commerce. Unlike the Gun-Free School Zones Act, the VAWA did contain “numerous” congressional findings about the serious effects of gender-motivated crimes,923 but the Court rejected reliance on these findings. “The existence of congressional findings is not sufficient, by itself, to sustain the constitutionality of Commerce Clause legislation. . . . [The issue of constitutionality] is ultimately a judicial rather than a legislative question, and can be settled finally only by this Court.”924
The problem with the VAWA findings was that they “relied heavily” on the reasoning rejected in Lopez—the “but-for causal chain from the initial occurrence of crime . . . to every attenuated effect upon interstate commerce.” As the Court had explained in Lopez, acceptance of this reasoning would eliminate the distinction between what is truly national and what is truly local, and would allow Congress to regulate virtually any activity, and basically any crime.925 Accordingly, the Court “reject[ed] the argument that Congress may regulate noneconomic, violent criminal conduct based solely on that conduct’s aggregate effect on interstate commerce.” Resurrecting the dual federalism dichotomy, the Court could find “no better example of the police power, which the Founders denied the National Government and reposed in the States, than the suppression of violent crime and vindication of its victims.”926
Yet, the ultimate impact of these cases on Congress’s power over commerce may be limited. In Gonzales v. Raich,927 the Court reaffirmed an expansive application of Wickard v. Filburn, and signaled that its jurisprudence is unlikely to threaten the enforcement of broad regulatory schemes based on the Commerce Clause. In Raich, the Court considered whether the cultivation, distribution, or possession of marijuana for personal medical purposes pursuant to the California Compassionate Use Act of 1996 could be prosecuted under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA).928 The respondents argued that this class of activities should be considered as separate and distinct from the drug-trafficking that was the focus of the CSA, and that regulation of this limited non-commercial use of marijuana should be evaluated separately.
In Raich, the Court declined the invitation to apply Lopez and Morrison to select applications of a statute, holding that the Court would defer to Congress if there was a rational basis to believe that regulation of home-consumed marijuana would affect the market for marijuana generally. The Court found that there was a “rational basis” to believe that diversion of medicinal marijuana into the illegal market would depress the price on the latter market.929 The Court also had little trouble finding that, even in application to medicinal marijuana, the CSA was an economic regulation. Noting that the definition of “economics” includes “the production, distribution, and consumption of commodities,”930 the Court found that prohibiting the intrastate possession or manufacture of an article of commerce is a rational and commonly used means of regulating commerce in that product.931
The Court’s decision also contained an intertwined but potentially separate argument that Congress had ample authority under the Necessary and Proper Clause to regulate the intrastate manufacture and possession of controlled substances, because failure to regulate these activities would undercut the ability of the government to enforce the CSA generally.932 The Court quoted language from Lopez that appears to authorize the regulation of such activities on the basis that they are an essential part of a regulatory scheme.933 Justice Scalia, in concurrence, suggested that this latter category of activities could be regulated under the Necessary and Proper Clause regardless of whether the activity in question was economic or whether it substantially affected interstate commerce.934
Activity Versus Inactivity.
In National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) v. Sebelius,935 the Court held that Congress did not have the authority under the Commerce Clause to impose a requirement compelling certain individuals to maintain a minimum level of health insurance (although, as discussed previously, the Court found such power to exist under the taxing power). Under this “individual mandate,” failure to purchase health insurance may subject a person to a monetary penalty, administered through the tax code.936 By requiring that individuals purchase health insurance, the mandate prevents cost-shifting by those who would otherwise go without it. In addition, the mandate forces healthy individuals into the insurance risk pool, thus allowing insurers to subsidize the costs of covering the unhealthy individuals they are now required to accept.
Chief Justice Roberts, in a controlling opinion,937 suggested that Congress’s authority to regulate interstate commerce presupposes the existence of a commercial activity to regulate. Further, his opinion noted that the commerce power had been uniformly described in previous cases as involving the regulation of an “activity.”938 The individual mandate, on the other hand, compels an individual to become active in commerce on the theory that the individual’s inactivity affects interstate commerce. Justice Roberts suggested that regulation of individuals because they are doing nothing would result in an unprecedented expansion of congressional authority with few discernable limitations. While recognizing that most people are likely to seek health care at some point in their lives, Justice Roberts noted that there was no precedent for the argument that individuals who might engage in a commercial activity in the future could, on that basis, be regulated today.939 The Chief Justice similarly rejected the argument that the Necessary and Proper Clause could provide this additional authority. Rather than serving as a “incidental” adjunct to the Commerce Clause, reliance on the Necessary and Proper Clause in this instance would, according to the Chief Justice, create a substantial expansion of federal authority to regulate persons not otherwise subject to such regulation.940
It had been generally established some time ago that Congress had power under the Commerce Clause to prohibit racial discrimination in the use of the channels of commerce.941 The power under the clause to forbid discrimination within the states was firmly and unanimously sustained by the Court when Congress in 1964 enacted a comprehensive measure outlawing discrimination because of race or color in access to public accommodations with a requisite connection to interstate commerce.942 Hotels and motels were declared covered—that is, declared to “affect commerce”—if they provided lodging to transient guests; restaurants, cafeterias, and the like, were covered only if they served or offered to serve interstate travelers or if a substantial portion of the food which they served had moved in commerce.943 The Court sustained the Act as applied to a downtown Atlanta motel that did serve interstate travelers,944 to an out-of-the-way restaurant in Birmingham that catered to a local clientele but that had spent 46 percent of its previous year’s out-go on meat from a local supplier who had procured it from out-of-state,945 and to a rural amusement area operating a snack bar and other facilities, which advertised in a manner likely to attract an interstate clientele and that served food a substantial portion of which came from outside the state.946
Writing for the Court in Heart of Atlanta Motel and McClung, Justice Clark denied that Congress was disabled from regulating the operations of motels or restaurants because those operations may be, or may appear to be, “local” in character. “[T]he power of Congress to promote interstate commerce also includes the power to regulate the local incidents thereof, including local activities in both the States of origin and destination, which might have a substantial and harmful effect upon that commerce.”947
But, it was objected, Congress is regulating on the basis of moral judgments and not to facilitate commercial intercourse. “That Congress [may legislate] . . . against moral wrongs . . . rendered its enactments no less valid. In framing Title II of this Act Congress was also dealing with what it considered a moral problem. But that fact does not detract from the overwhelming evidence of the disruptive effect that racial discrimination has had on commercial intercourse. It was this burden which empowered Congress to enact appropriate legislation, and, given this basis for the exercise of its power, Congress was not restricted by the fact that the particular obstruction to interstate commerce with which it was dealing was also deemed a moral and social wrong.”948 The evidence did, in fact, noted the Justice, support Congress’s conclusion that racial discrimination impeded interstate travel by more than 20 million black citizens, which was an impairment Congress could legislate to remove.949
The Commerce Clause basis for civil rights legislation prohibiting private discrimination was important because of the understanding that Congress’s power to act under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments was limited to official discrimination.950 The Court’s subsequent determination that Congress is not necessarily so limited in its power reduces greatly the importance of the Commerce Clause in this area.951
Federal criminal jurisdiction based on the com- merce power, and frequently combined with the postal power, has historically been an auxiliary criminal jurisdiction. That is, Congress has made federal crimes of acts that constitute state crimes on the basis of some contact, however tangential, with a matter subject to congressional regulation even though the federal interest in the acts may be minimal.952 Examples of this type of federal criminal statute abound, including the Mann Act designed to outlaw interstate white slavery,953 the Dyer Act punishing interstate transportation of stolen automobiles,954 and the Lindbergh Law punishing interstate transportation of kidnapped persons.955 But, just as in other areas, Congress has passed beyond a proscription of the use of interstate facilities in the commission of a crime, it has in the criminal law area expanded the scope of its jurisdiction. Typical of this expansion is a statute making it a federal offense to “in any way or degree obstruct . . . delay . . . or affect . . . commerce . . . by robbery or extortion . . . .”956 Nonetheless, “Congress cannot punish felonies generally” and may enact only those criminal laws that are connected to one of its constitutionally enumerated powers, such as the commerce power.957 As a consequence, “most federal offenses include . . . a jurisdictional” element that ties the underlying offense to one of Congress’s constitutional powers.958
The most far-reaching measure the Court has sustained is the “loan-sharking” prohibition of the Consumer Credit Protection Act.959 The title affirmatively finds that extortionate credit transactions affect interstate commerce because loan sharks are in a class largely controlled by organized crime with a substantially adverse effect on interstate commerce. Upholding the statute, the Court found that though individual loan-sharking activities may be intrastate in nature, still it is within Congress’s power to determine that it was within a class the activities of which did affect interstate commerce, thus affording Congress power to regulate the entire class.960
- E. PRENTICE & J. EGAN, THE COMMERCE CLAUSE OF THE FEDERAL CONSTITUTION
- OED: “com– together, with, + merx, merci- merchandise, ware.”
- 22 U.S. (9 Wheat.) 1 (1824).
- Act of February 18, 1793, 1 Stat. 305, entitled “An Act for enrolling and licensing ships or vessels to be employed in the coasting trade and fisheries, and for regulating the same.”
- Gibbons v. Ogden, 22 U.S. (9 Wheat.) 1, 189 (1824).
- 22 U.S. at 190–94.
- 22 U.S. at 193.
- As we will see, however, in many later formulations the crossing of state lines is no longer the sine qua non; wholly intrastate transactions with substantial effects on interstate commerce may suffice.
- E.g., United States v. Simpson, 252 U.S. 465 (1920); Caminetti v. United States, 242 U.S. 470 (1917).
- “Not only, then, may transactions be commerce though non-commercial; they may be commerce though illegal and sporadic, and though they do not utilize common carriers or concern the flow of anything more tangible than electrons and information.” United States v. South-Eastern Underwriters Ass’n, 322 U.S. 533, 549–50 (1944).
- Kidd v. Pearson, 128 U.S. 1 (1888); Oliver Iron Co. v. Lord, 262 U.S. 172 (1923); United States v. E. C. Knight Co., 156 U.S. 1 (1895); see also Carter v. Carter Coal Co., 298 U.S. 238 (1936).
- Paul v. Virginia, 75 U.S. (8 Wall.) 168 (1869); see also the cases to this effect cited in United States v. South-Eastern Underwriters Ass’n, 322 U.S. 533, 543–545, 567–568, 578 (1944).
- Federal Baseball League v. National League of Professional Baseball Clubs, 259 U.S. 200 (1922). When called on to reconsider its decision, the Court declined, noting that Congress had not seen fit to bring the business under the antitrust laws by legislation having prospective effect and that the business had developed under the understanding that it was not subject to these laws, a reversal of which would have retroactive effect. Toolson v. New York Yankees, 346 U.S. 356 (1953). In Flood v. Kuhn, 407 U.S. 258 (1972), the Court recognized these decisions as aberrations, but it thought the doctrine entitled to the benefits of stare decisis, as Congress was free to change it at any time. The same considerations not being present, the Court has held that businesses conducted on a multistate basis, but built around local exhibitions, are in commerce and subject to, inter alia, the antitrust laws, in the instance of professional football, Radovich v. National Football League, 352 U.S. 445 (1957), professional boxing, United States v. International Boxing Club, 348 U.S. 236 (1955), and legitimate theatrical productions. United States v. Shubert, 348 U.S. 222 (1955).
- Blumenstock Bros. v. Curtis Pub. Co., 252 U.S. 436 (1920).
- Williams v. Fears, 179 U.S. 270 (1900). See also Diamond Glue Co. v. United States Glue Co., 187 U.S. 611 (1903); Browning v. City of Waycross, 233 U.S. 16 (1914); General Railway Signal Co. v. Virginia, 246 U.S. 500 (1918). But see York Manufacturing Co. v. Colley, 247 U.S. 21 (1918).
- Associated Press v. United States, 326 U.S. 1 (1945).
- American Medical Ass’n v. United States, 317 U.S. 519 (1943). Cf. United States v. Oregon Medical Society, 343 U.S. 326 (1952).
- United States v. South-Eastern Underwriters Ass’n, 322 U.S. 533 (1944).
- “It has been truly said, that commerce, as the word is used in the constitution, is a unit, every part of which is indicated by the term.” Gibbons v. Ogden, 22 U.S. (9 Wheat.) 1, 194 (1824). See also id. at 195–196.
- NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp., 301 U.S. 1 (1937).
- Sunshine Anthracite Coal Co. v. Adkins, 310 U.S. 381 (1940). See also Hodel v. Virginia Surface Mining & Recl. Ass’n, 452 U.S. 264, 275–283 (1981); Mulford v. Smith, 307 U.S. 38 (1939) (agricultural production).
- Swift & Co. v. United States, 196 U.S. 375 (1905); Stafford v. Wallace, 258 U.S. 495 (1922); Chicago Board of Trade v. Olsen, 262 U.S. 1 (1923).
- 22 U.S. (9 Wheat.) 1, 194, 195 (1824).
- New York v. Miln, 36 U.S. (11 Pet.) 102 (1837); License Cases, 46 U.S. (5 How.) 504 (1847); Passenger Cases, 48 U.S. (7 How.) 283 (1849); Patterson v. Kentucky, 97 U.S. 501 (1879); Trade-Mark Cases, 100 U.S. 82 (1879); Kidd v. Pearson, 128 U.S. 1 (1888); Illinois Central R.R. v. McKendree, 203 U.S. 514 (1906); Keller v. United States, 213 U.S. 138 (1909); Hammer v. Dagenhart, 247 U.S. 251 (1918); Oliver Iron Co. v. Lord, 262 U.S. 172 (1923).
- Swift & Co. v. United States, 196 U.S. 375 (1905); Stafford v. Wallace, 258 U.S. 495 (1922); Chicago Board of Trade v. Olsen, 262 U.S. 1 (1923).
- NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp., 301 U.S. 1 (1937).
- NLRB v. Fainblatt, 306 U.S. 601 (1939); Kirschbaum v. Walling, 316 U.S. 517 (1942); United States v. Wrightwood Dairy Co., 315 U.S. 110 (1942); Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111 (1942); NLRB v. Reliance Fuel Oil Co., 371 U.S. 224 (1963); Katzenbach v. McClung, 379 U.S. 294 (1964); Maryland v. Wirtz, 392 U.S. 183 (1968); McLain v. Real Estate Bd. of New Orleans, 444 U.S. 232, 241–243 (1980); Hodel v. Virginia Surface Mining & Reclamation Ass’n, 452 U.S. 264 (1981).
- United States v. Darby, 312 U.S. 100 (1941); Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States, 379 U.S. 241 (1964); Maryland v. Wirtz, 392 U.S. 183 (1968); Perez v. United States, 402 U.S. 146 (1971); Russell v. United States, 471 U.S. 858 (1985); Summit Health, Ltd. v. Pinhas, 500 U.S. 322 (1991).
- Gibbons v. Ogden, 22 U.S. (9 Wheat.) 1, 196 (1824). Commerce “among the several States” does not comprise commerce of the District of Columbia nor of the territories of the United States. Congress’s power over their commerce is an incident of its general power over them. Stoutenburgh v. Hennick, 129 U.S. 141 (1889); Atlantic Cleaners & Dyers v. United States, 286 U.S. 427 (1932); In re Bryant, 4 Fed. Cas. 514 (No. 2067) (D. Oreg. 1865). Transportation between two points in the same state, when a part of the route is a loop outside the state, is interstate commerce. Hanley v. Kansas City Southern Ry. Co., 187 U.S. 617 (1903); Western Union Tel. Co. v. Speight, 254 U.S. 17 (1920). But such a deviation cannot be solely for the purpose of evading a tax or regulation in order to be exempt from the state’s reach. Greyhound Lines v. Mealey, 334 U.S. 653, 660 (1948); Eichholz v. Public Service Comm’n, 306 U.S. 268, 274 (1939). Red cap services performed at a transfer point within the state of departure but in conjunction with an interstate trip are reachable. New York, N.H. & H. R.R. v. Nothnagle, 346 U.S. 128 (1953).
- Gibbons v. Ogden, 22 U.S. (9 Wheat.) 1, 196–197 (1824).
- Brooks v. United States, 267 U.S. 432, 436–37 (1925).
- United States v. Darby, 312 U.S. 100, 114 (1941).
- E.g., Caminetti v. United States, 242 U.S. 470 (1917) (transportation of female across state line for noncommercial sexual purposes); Cleveland v. United States, 329 U.S. 14 (1946) (transportation of plural wives across state lines by Mormons); United States v. Simpson, 252 U.S. 465 (1920) (transportation of five quarts of whiskey across state line for personal consumption).
- Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States, 379 U.S. 241 (1964); Katzenbach v. McClung, 379 U.S. 294 (1964); Daniel v. Paul, 395 U.S. 298 (1969).
- E.g., Reid v. Colorado, 187 U.S. 137 (1902) (transportation of diseased livestock across state line); Perez v. United States, 402 U.S. 146 (1971) (prohibition of all loansharking).
- Gibbons v. Ogden, 22 U.S. (9 Wheat.) 1, 195 (1824).
- E.g., Houston & Texas Ry. v. United States, 234 U.S. 342 (1914) (necessary for ICC to regulate rates of an intrastate train in order to effectuate its rate setting for a competing interstate train); Wisconsin R.R. Comm’n v. Chicago, B. & Q. R.R., 257 U.S. 563 (1922) (same); Southern Ry. v. United States, 222 U.S. 20 (1911) (upholding requirement of same safety equipment on intrastate as interstate trains). See also Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111 (1942); United States v. Wrightwood Dairy Co., 315 U.S. 110 (1942); Gonzales v. Raich, 545 U.S. 1 (2005).
- See, e.g., United States v. Darby, 312 U.S. 100, 115–16 (1941).
- E.g., United States v. E. C. Knight Co., 156 U.S. 1 (1895); Hammer v. Dagenhart, 247 U.S. 251 (1918). Of course, there existed much of this time a parallel doctrine under which federal power was not so limited. E.g., Houston & Texas Ry. v. United States (The Shreveport Rate Case), 234 U.S. 342 (1914).
- E.g., California v. United States, 320 U.S. 577 (1944); California v. Taylor, 353 U.S. 553 (1957).
- For example, federal regulation of the wages and hours of certain state and local governmental employees has alternatively been upheld and invalidated. See Maryland v. Wirtz, 392 U.S. 183 (1968), overruled in National League of Cities v. Usery, 426 U.S. 833 (1976), overruled in Garcia v. San Antonio Metro. Transit Auth., 469 U.S. 528 (1985).
- New York v. United States, 505 U.S. 144 (1992); Printz v. United States, 521 U.S. 898 (1997). For elaboration, see the discussions under the Supremacy Clause and under the Tenth Amendment.
- 250 U.S. 199 (1919).
- 250 U.S. at 203.
- E.g., Hoke v. United States, 227 U.S. 308 (1913) (transportation of women for purposes of prostitution); Gooch v. United States, 297 U.S. 124 (1936) (kidnaping); Brooks v. United States, 267 U.S. 432 (1925) (stolen autos). For example, in Scarborough v. United States, 431 U.S. 563 (1977), the Court upheld a conviction for possession of a firearm by a felon upon a mere showing that the gun had sometime previously traveled in interstate commerce, and Barrett v. United States, 423 U.S. 212 (1976), upheld a conviction for receipt of a firearm on the same showing. The Court does require Congress in these cases to speak plainly in order to reach such activity, inasmuch as historic state police powers are involved. United States v. Bass, 404 U.S. 336 (1971).
- Lottery Case (Champion v. Ames), 188 U.S. 321, 373 (1903).
- Brolan v. United States, 236 U.S. 216, 222 (1915). The most recent dicta to this effect appears in Japan Line v. County of Los Angeles, 441 U.S. 434, 448–51 (1979), a “dormant” commerce clause case involving state taxation with an impact on foreign commerce. In context, the distinction seems unexceptionable, but the language extends beyond context.
- License Cases, 46 U.S. (5 How.) 504, 578 (1847).
- Pittsburg & Southern Coal Co. v. Bates, 156 U.S. 577, 587 (1895).
- United States v. Carolene Products Co., 304 U.S. 144, 147–148 (1938).
- 22 U.S. (9 Wheat.) 1, 217, 221 (1824).
- 96 U.S. 1 (1878). See also Western Union Telegraph Co. v. Texas, 105 U.S. 460 (1882).
- 96 U.S. at 9. “Commerce embraces appliances necessarily employed in carrying on transportation by land and water.” Railroad Co. v. Fuller, 84 U.S. (17 Wall.) 560, 568 (1873).
- Act of March 28, 1927, 45 Stat. 373, superseded by the Communications Act of 1934, 48 Stat. 1064, 47 U.S.C. §§ 151 et seq.
- “No question is presented as to the power of the Congress, in its regulation of interstate commerce, to regulate radio communication.” Chief Justice Hughes speaking for the Court in Federal Radio Comm’n v. Nelson Bros. Bond & Mortgage Co., 289 U.S. 266, 279 (1933). See also Fisher’s Blend Station v. Tax Comm’n, 297 U.S. 650, 654–55 (1936).
- 54 U.S. (13 How.) 518 (1852).
- Ch. 111, § 6, 10 Stat 112 (1852).
- Pennsylvania v. Wheeling & Belmont Bridge Co., 59 U.S. (18 How.) 421, 430 (1856). “It is Congress, and not the Judicial Department, to which the Constitution has given the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the several States. The courts can never take the initiative on this subject.” Transportation Co. v. Parkersburg, 107 U.S. 691, 701 (1883). See also Prudential Ins. Co. v. Benjamin, 328 U.S. 408 (1946); Robertson v. California, 328 U.S. 440 (1946).
- But see In re Debs, 158 U.S. 564 (1895), in which the Court held that in the absence of legislative authorization the Executive had power to seek and federal courts to grant injunctive relief to remove obstructions to interstate commerce and the free flow of the mail.
- 70 U.S. (3 Wall.) 713 (1866).
- 70 U.S. at 724–25.
- Union Bridge Co. v. United States, 204 U.S. 364 (1907). See also Monongahela Bridge Co. v. United States, 216 U.S. 177 (1910); Wisconsin v. Illinois, 278 U.S. 367 (1929). The United States may seek injunctive or declaratory relief requiring the removal of obstructions to commerce by those negligently responsible for them or it may itself remove the obstructions and proceed against the responsible party for costs. United States v. Republic Steel Corp., 362 U.S. 482 (1960); Wyandotte Transportation Co. v. United States, 389 U.S. 191 (1967). Congress’s power in this area is newly demonstrated by legislation aimed at pollution and environmental degradation. In confirming the title of the states to certain waters under the Submerged Lands Act, 67 Stat. 29 (1953), 43 U.S.C. §§ 1301 et seq., Congress was careful to retain authority over the waters for purposes of commerce, navigation, and the like. United States v. Rands, 389 U.S. 121, 127 (1967).
- Gibson v. United States, 166 U.S. 269 (1897). See also Bridge Co. v. United States, 105 U.S. 470 (1882); United States v. Rio Grande Irrigation Co., 174 U.S. 690 (1899); United States v. Chandler-Dunbar Co., 229 U.S. 53 (1913); Seattle v. Oregon & W.R.R., 255 U.S. 56, 63 (1921); Economy Light Co. v. United States, 256 U.S. 113 (1921); United States v. River Rouge Co., 269 U.S. 411, 419 (1926); Ford & Son v. Little Falls Co., 280 U.S. 369 (1930); United States v. Commodore Park, Inc., 324 U.S. 386 (1945); United States v. Twin City Power Co., 350 U.S. 222 (1956); United States v. Rands, 389 U.S. 121 (1967).
- United States v. Cress, 243 U.S. 316 (1917).
- United States v. Chicago, M., St. P. & P. R.R., 312 U.S. 592, 597 (1941); United States v. Willow River Power Co., 324 U.S. 499 (1945).
- United States v. Rio Grande Irrigation Co., 174 U.S. 690 (1899).
- 77 U.S. (10 Wall.) 557 (1871).
- 77 U.S. at 565.
- 77 U.S. at 566. “The regulation of commerce implies as much control, as far-reaching power, over an artificial as over a natural highway.” Justice Brewer for the Court in Monongahela Navigation Co. v. United States, 148 U.S. 312, 342 (1893).
- Congress had the right to confer upon the Interstate Commerce Commission the power to regulate interstate ferry rates, N.Y. Central R.R. v. Hudson County, 227 U.S. 248 (1913), and to authorize the Commission to govern the towing of vessels between points in the same state but partly through waters of an adjoining state. Cornell Steamboat Co. v. United States, 321 U.S. 634 (1944). Congress’s power over navigation extends to persons furnishing wharfage, dock, warehouse, and other terminal facilities to a common carrier by water. Hence an order of the United States Maritime Commission banning certain allegedly “unreasonable practices” by terminals in the Port of San Francisco, and prescribing schedules of maximum free time periods and of minimum charges was constitutional. California v. United States, 320 U.S. 577 (1944). The same power also comprises regulation of the registry enrollment, license, and nationality of ships and vessels, the method of recording bills of sale and mortgages thereon, the rights and duties of seamen, the limitations of the responsibility of shipowners for the negligence and misconduct of their captains and crews, and many other things of a character truly maritime. See The Lottawanna, 88 U.S. (21 Wall.) 558, 577 (1875); Providence & N.Y. S.S. Co. v. Hill Mfg. Co., 109 U.S. 578, 589 (1883); The Hamilton, 207 U.S. 398 (1907); O’Donnell v. Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co., 318 U.S. 36 (1943).
- Pollard v. Hagan, 44 U.S. (3 How.) 212 (1845); Shively v. Bowlby, 152 U.S. 1 (1894).
- Green Bay & Miss. Canal Co. v. Patten Paper Co., 172 U.S. 58, 80 (1898).
- 229 U.S. 53 (1913).
- 229 U.S. at 73, citing Kaukauna Water Power Co. v. Green Bay & Miss. Canal Co., 142 U.S. 254 (1891).
- 283 U.S. 423 (1931).
- 311 U.S. 377 (1940).
- 283 U.S. at 455–56. See also United States v. Twin City Power Co., 350 U.S. 222, 224 (1956).
- 311 U.S. at 407, 409–10.
- 311 U.S. at 426.
- Oklahoma v. Atkinson Co., 313 U.S. 508, 523–33 (1941).
- Ashwander v. TVA, 297 U.S. 288 (1936).
- Cf. Indiana v. United States, 148 U.S. 148 (1893).
- 12 Stat. 489 (1862); 13 Stat. 356 (1864); 14 Stat. 79 (1866).
- The result then as well as now might have followed from Congress’s power of spending, independently of the Commerce Clause, as well as from its war and postal powers, which were also invoked by the Court in this connection.
- Thomson v. Pacific R.R., 76 U.S. (9 Wall.) 579 (1870); California v. Pacific R.R. Co. (Pacific Ry. Cases), 127 U.S. 1 (1888); Cherokee Nation v. Southern Kansas Ry., 135 U.S. 641 (1890); Luxton v. North River Bridge Co., 153 U.S. 525 (1894).
- 14 Stat. 66 (1866).
- 14 Stat. 221 (1866).
- 17 Stat. 353 (1873).
- Munn v. Illinois, 94 U.S. 113 (1877); Chicago B. & Q. R. Co. v. Iowa, 94 U.S. 155 (1877); Peik v. Chicago & N.W. Ry., 94 U.S. 164 (1877); Pickard v. Pullman Southern Car Co., 117 U.S. 34 (1886).
- Wabash, St. L. & P. Ry. Co. v. Illinois, 118 U.S. 557 (1886). A variety of state regulations have been struck down on the burdening-of-commerce rationale. E.g., Southern Pacific Co. v. Arizona ex rel. Sullivan, 325 U.S. 761 (1945) (train length); Napier v. Atlantic Coast Line R.R., 272 U.S. 605 (1926) (locomotive accessories); Pennsylvania R.R. v. Public Service Comm’n, 250 U.S. 566 (1919). But the Court has largely exempted regulations with a safety purpose, even a questionable one. Brotherhood of Firemen v. Chicago, R.I. & P. R.R., 393 U.S. 129 (1968).
- 24 Stat. 379 (1887).
- 154 U.S. 447, 470 (1894).
- ICC v. Alabama Midland Ry., 168 U.S. 144 (1897); Cincinnati, N.O. & Texas Pacific Ry. v. ICC, 162 U.S. 184 (1896).
- 34 Stat. 584.
- 36 Stat. 539.
- These regulatory powers are now vested, of course, in the Federal Communications Commission.
- 49 Stat. 543 (1935).
- 41 Stat. 474.
- 54 Stat. 898, U.S.C. §§ 1 et seq. The two acts were “intended . . . to provide a completely integrated interstate regulatory system over motor, railroad, and water carriers.” United States v. Pennsylvania R.R., 323 U.S. 612, 618–19 (1945). The ICC’s powers include authority to determine the reasonableness of a joint through international rate covering transportation in the United States and abroad and to order the domestic carriers to pay reparations in the amount by which the rate is unreasonable. Canada Packers v. Atchison, T. & S. F. Ry., 385 U.S. 182 (1966), and cases cited.
- Disputes between the ICC and other government agencies over mergers have occupied a good deal of the Court’s time. Cf. United States v. ICC, 396 U.S. 491 (1970). See also County of Marin v. United States, 356 U.S. 412 (1958); McLean Trucking Co. v. United States, 321 U.S. 67 (1944); Penn-Central Merger & N & W Inclusion Cases, 389 U.S. 486 (1968).
- Among the various provisions of the Interstate Commerce Act which have been upheld are: a section penalizing shippers for obtaining transportation at less than published rates, Armour Packing Co. v. United States, 209 U.S. 56 (1908); a section construed as prohibiting the hauling of commodities in which the carrier had at the time of haul a proprietary interest, United States v. Delaware & Hudson Co., 213 U.S. 366 (1909); a section abrogating life passes, Louisville & Nashville R.R. v. Mottley, 219 U.S. 467 (1911); a section authorizing the ICC to regulate the entire bookkeeping system of interstate carriers, including intrastate accounts, ICC v. Goodrich Transit Co., 224 U.S. 194 (1912); a clause affecting the charging of rates different for long and short hauls. Intermountain Rate Cases, 234 U.S. 476 (1914).
- Houston & Texas Ry. v. United States, 234 U.S. 342, 351–352 (1914). See also, American Express Co. v. Caldwell, 244 U.S. 617 (1917); Pacific Tel. & Tel. Co. v. Tax Comm’n, 297 U.S. 403 (1936); Weiss v. United States, 308 U.S. 321 (1939); Bethlehem Steel Co. v. State Board, 330 U.S. 767 (1947); United States v. Walsh, 331 U.S. 432 (1947).
- Wisconsin R.R. Comm’n v. Chicago, B. & Q. R. Co., 257 U.S. 563 (1922). Cf. Colorado v. United States, 271 U.S. 153 (1926), upholding an ICC order directing abandonment of an intrastate branch of an interstate railroad. But see North Carolina v. United States, 325 U.S. 507 (1945), setting aside an ICC disallowance of intrastate rates set by a state commission as unsupported by the evidence and findings.
- 27 Stat. 531, 45 U.S.C. §§ 1–7.
- 32 Stat. 943, 45 U.S.C. §§ 8–10.
- Southern Ry. v. United States, 222 U.S. 20 (1911). See also Texas & Pacific Ry. v. Rigsby, 241 U.S. 33 (1916); United States v. California, 297 U.S. 175 (1936); United States v. Seaboard Air Line R.R., 361 U.S. 78 (1959).
- 34 Stat. 1415, 45 U.S.C. §§ 61–64.
- Baltimore & Ohio R.R. v. ICC, 221 U.S. 612 (1911).
- 34 Stat. 232, held unconstitutional in part in the Employers’ Liability Cases, 207 U.S. 463 (1908).
- 35 Stat. 65, 45 U.S.C. §§ 51–60.
- The Second Employers’ Liability Cases, 223 U.S. 1 (1912). For a longer period, a Court majority reviewed a surprising large number of FELA cases, almost uniformly expanding the scope of recovery under the statute. Cf. Rogers v. Missouri Pacific R.R., 352 U.S. 500 (1957). This practice was criticized both within and without the Court, cf. Ferguson v. Moore-McCormack Lines, 352 U.S. 521, 524 (1957) (Justice Frankfurter dissenting); Hart, Foreword: The Time Chart of the Justices, 73 HARV. L. REV. 84, 96–98 (1959), and has been discontinued.
- See discussion under Railroad Retirement Act and National Labor Relations Act, infra.
- The Pipe Line Cases, 234 U.S. 548 (1914). See also State Comm’n v. Wichita Gas Co., 290 U.S. 561 (1934); Eureka Pipe Line Co. v. Hallanan, 257 U.S. 265 (1921); United Fuel Gas Co. v. Hallanan, 257 U.S. 277 (1921); Pennsylvania v. West Virginia, 262 U.S. 553 (1923); Missouri ex rel. Barrett v. Kansas Gas Co., 265 U.S. 298 (1924).
- Public Utilities Comm’n v. Attleboro Co., 273 U.S. 83 (1927). See also Utah Power & Light Co. v. Pfost, 286 U.S. 165 (1932); Pennsylvania Power Co. v. FPC, 343 U.S. 414 (1952).
- 49 Stat. 863, 16 U.S.C. §§ 791a–825u.
- 52 Stat. 821, 15 U.S.C. §§ 717–717w.
- FPC v. Natural Gas Pipeline Co., 315 U.S. 575 (1942).
- 315 U.S. at 582. Sales to distributors by a wholesaler of natural gas delivered to it from out-of-state sources are subject to FPC jurisdiction. Colorado-Wyoming Co. v. FPC, 324 U.S. 626 (1945). See also Illinois Gas Co. v. Public Service Co., 314 U.S. 498 (1942); FPC v. East Ohio Gas Co., 338 U.S. 464 (1950). In Phillips Petroleum Co. v. Wisconsin, 347 U.S. 672 (1954), the Court ruled that an independent company engaged in one state in production, gathering, and processing of natural gas, which it thereafter sells in the same state to pipelines that transport and sell the gas in other states is subject to FPC jurisdiction. See also California v. Lo-Vaca Gathering Co., 379 U.S. 366 (1965).
- 48 Stat. 1064, 47 U.S.C. §§ 151 et seq. Cf. United States v. Southwestern Cable Co., 392 U.S. 157 (1968), on the regulation of community antenna television systems (CATV).
- 52 Stat. 973, as amended. The CAB has now been abolished and its functions are exercised by the Federal Aviation Administration, 49 U.S.C. § 106, as part of the Department of Transportation.
- 26 Stat. 209 (1890); 15 U.S.C. §§ 1–7.
- 156 U.S. 1 (1895).
- 156 U.S. at 13.
- 156 U.S. at 13–16.
- 156 U.S. at 17. The doctrine of the case boiled down to the proposition that commerce was transportation only, a doctrine Justice Harlan undertook to refute in his notable dissenting opinion. “Interstate commerce does not, therefore, consist in transportation simply. It includes the purchase and sale of articles that are intended to be transported from one State to another—every species of commercial intercourse among the States and with foreign nations.” 156 U.S. at 22. “Any combination, therefore, that disturbs or unreasonably obstructs freedom in buying and selling articles manufactured to be sold to persons in other States or to be carried to other States—a freedom that cannot exist if the right to buy and sell is fettered by unlawful restraints that crush out competition—affects, not incidentally, but directly, the people of all the States; and the remedy for such an evil is found only in the exercise of powers confided to a government which, this court has said, was the government of all, exercising powers delegated by all, representing all, acting for all. McCulloch v. Maryland, 4 Wheat. 316, 405.” 156 U.S. at 33.
- 175 U.S. 211 (1899).
- 196 U.S. 375 (1905). The Sherman Act was applied to break up combinations of interstate carriers in United States v. Trans-Missouri Freight Ass’n, 166 U.S. 290 (1897); United States v. Joint-Traffic Ass’n, 171 U.S. 505 (1898); and Northern Securities Co. v. United States, 193 U.S. 197 (1904). In Mandeville Island Farms v. American Crystal Sugar Co., 334 U.S. 219, 229–39 (1948), Justice Rutledge, for the Court, critically reviewed the jurisprudence of the limitations on the Act and the deconstruction of the judicial constraints. In recent years, the Court’s decisions have permitted the reach of the Sherman Act to expand along with the expanding notions of congressional power. Gulf Oil Corp. v. Copp Paving Co., 419 U.S. 186 (1974); Hospital Building Co. v. Rex Hospital Trustees, 425 U.S. 738 (1976); McLain v. Real Estate Bd. of New Orleans, 444 U.S. 232 (1980); Summit Health, Ltd. v. Pinhas, 500 U.S. 322 (1991). The Court, however, does insist that plaintiffs alleging that an intrastate activity violates the Act prove the relationship to interstate commerce set forth in the Act. Gulf Oil Corp, 419 U.S. at 194–99.
- Swift & Co. v. United States, 196 U.S. 375, 396 (1905).
- 196 U.S. at 398–99.
- 196 U.S. at 399–401.
- 196 U.S. at 400.
- Loewe v. Lawlor (The Danbury Hatters Case), 208 U.S. 274 (1908); Duplex Printing Press Co. v. Deering, 254 U.S. 443 (1921); Coronado Co. v. United Mine Workers, 268 U.S. 295 (1925); United States v. Bruins, 272 U.S. 549 (1926); Bedford Co. v. Stone Cutters Ass’n, 274 U.S. 37 (1927); Local 167 v. United States, 291 U.S. 293 (1934); Allen Bradley Co. v. Union, 325 U.S. 797 (1945); United States v. Employing Plasterers Ass’n, 347 U.S. 186 (1954); United States v. Green, 350 U.S. 415 (1956); Callanan v. United States, 364 U.S. 587 (1961).
- 42 Stat. 159, 7 U.S.C. §§ 171–183, 191–195, 201–203.
- 42 Stat. 998 (1922), 7 U.S.C. §§ 1–9, 10a–17.
- 258 U.S. 495 (1922).
- 258 U.S. at 514.
- 258 U.S. at 515–16. See also Lemke v. Farmers Grain Co., 258 U.S. 50 (1922); Minnesota v. Blasius, 290 U.S. 1 (1933).
- 262 U.S. 1 (1923).
- 262 U.S. at 35.
- 262 U.S. at 40.
- 262 U.S. at 37, quoting Stafford v. Wallace, 258 U.S. 495, 521 (1922).
- 48 Stat. 881, 15 U.S.C. §§ 77b et seq.
- 49 Stat. 803, 15 U.S.C. §§ 79–79z–6.
- Electric Bond Co. v. SEC, 303 U.S. 419 (1938); North American Co. v. SEC, 327 U.S. 686 (1946); American Power & Light Co. v. SEC, 329 U.S. 90 (1946).
- Appalachian Coals, Inc. v. United States, 288 U.S. 344, 372 (1933).
- 48 Stat. 195.
- 295 U.S. 495 (1935).
- 295 U.S. at 548. See also id. at 546.
- In United States v. Sullivan, 332 U.S. 689 (1948), the Court interpreted the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938 as applying to the sale by a retailer of drugs purchased from his wholesaler within the State nine months after their interstate shipment had been completed. The Court, speaking by Justice Black, cited United States v. Walsh, 331 U.S. 432 (1947); Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111 (1942); United States v. Wrightwood Dairy Co., 315 U.S. 110 (1942); United States v. Darby, 312 U.S. 100 (1941). Justice Frankfurter dissented on the basis of FTC v. Bunte Bros., 312 U.S. 349 (1941). It is apparent that the Schechter case has been thoroughly repudiated so far as the distinction between “direct” and “indirect” effects is concerned. Cf. Perez v. United States, 402 U.S. 146 (1971). See also McDermott v. Wisconsin, 228 U.S. 115 (1913), which preceded Schechter by more than two decades. The NIRA, however, was found to have several other constitutional infirmities besides its disregard, as illustrated by the Live Poultry Code, of the “fundamental” distinction between “direct” and “indirect” effects, namely, the delegation of standard-less legislative power, the absence of any administrative procedural safeguards, the absence of judicial review, and the dominant role played by private groups in the general scheme of regulation.
- 48 Stat. 31.
- United States v. Butler, 297 U.S. 1, 63–64, 68 (1936).
- 49 Stat. 991.
- Carter v. Carter Coal Co., 298 U.S. 238 (1936).
- 298 U.S. at 308–09.
- 48 Stat. 1283.
- 295 U.S. 330 (1935).
- 295 U.S. at 374.
- 295 U.S. at 379, 384.
- 326 U.S. 446 (1946). Indeed, in a case decided in June 1948, Justice Rutledge, speaking for a majority of the Court, listed the Alton case as one “foredoomed to reversal,” though the formal reversal has never taken place. See Mandeville Island Farms v. American Crystal Sugar Co., 334 U.S. 219, 230 (1948). Cf. Usery v. Turner Elkhorn Mining Co., 428 U.S. 1, 19 (1976).
- 301 U.S. 1 (1937). A major political event had intervened between this decision and those described in the preceding pages. President Roosevelt, angered at the Court’s invalidation of much of his depression program, proposed a “reorganization” of the Court by which he would have been enabled to name one new Justice for each Justice on the Court who was more than 70 years old, in the name of “judicial efficiency.” The plan was defeated in the Senate, in part, perhaps, because in such cases as Jones & Laughlin a Court majority began to demonstrate sufficient “judicial efficiency.” See Leuchtenberg, The Origins of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s ‘Court-Packing’ Plan, 1966 SUP. CT. REV. 347 (P. Kurland ed.); Mason, Harlan Fiske Stone and FDR’s Court Plan, 61 YALE L. J. 791 (1952); 2 M. PUSEY, CHARLES EVANS HUGHES 759–765 (1951).
- 49 Stat. 449, as amended, 29 U.S.C. §§ 151 et seq.
- The NLRA was enacted against the backdrop of depression, although obviously it went far beyond being a mere antidepression measure, and Congress could find precedent in railway labor legislation. In 1898, Congress passed the Erdman Act, 30 Stat. 424, which attempted to influence the unionization of railroad workers and facilitate negotiations with employers through mediation. The statute fell largely into disuse because the railroads refused to mediate. Additionally, in Adair v. United States, 208 U.S. 161 (1908), the Court struck down a section of the law outlawing “yellow-dog contracts,” by which employers exacted promises of workers to quit or not to join unions as a condition of employment. The Court held the section not to be a regulation of commerce, there being no connection between an employee’s membership in a union and the carrying on of interstate commerce. Cf. Coppage v. Kansas, 236 U.S. 1 (1915). In Wilson v. New, 243 U.S. 332 (1917), the Court did uphold a congressional settlement of a threatened rail strike through the enactment of an eight-hour day and a time-and-a-half for overtime for all interstate railway employees. The national emergency confronting the Nation was cited by the Court, but with the implication that the power existed in more normal times, suggesting that Congress’s powers were not as limited as some judicial decisions had indicated. Congress’s enactment of the Railway Labor Act in 1926, 44 Stat. 577, as amended, 45 U.S.C. §§ 151 et seq., was sustained by a Court decision admitting the connection between interstate commerce and union membership as a substantial one. Texas & N.L.R. Co. v. Brotherhood of Railway Clerks, 281 U.S. 548 (1930). A subsequent decision sustained the application of the Act to “back shop” employees of an interstate carrier who engaged in making heavy repairs on locomotives and cars withdrawn from service for long periods, the Court finding that the activities of these employees were related to interstate commerce. Virginian Ry. v. System Federation No. 40, 300 U.S. 515 (1937).
- NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp., 301 U.S. 1, 38, 41–42 (1937).
- NLRB v. Fruehauf Trailer Co., 301 U.S. 49 (1937); NLRB v. Friedman-Harry Marks Clothing Co., 301 U.S. 58 (1937).
- NLRB v. Fainblatt, 306 U.S. 601, 606 (1939).
- Howell Chevrolet Co. v. NLRB, 346 U.S. 482 (1953).
- Journeymen Plumbers’ Union v. County of Door, 359 U.S. 354 (1959).
- NLRB v. Reliance Fuel Oil Co., 371 U.S. 224 (1963).
- 371 U.S. at 226. See also Guss v. Utah Labor Bd., 353 U.S. 1, 3 (1957); NLRB v. Fainblatt, 306 U.S. 601, 607 (1939).
- NLRB v. Reliance Fuel Oil Co., 371 U.S. 224, 225 n.2 (1963); Liner v. Jafco, 375 U.S. 301, 303 n.2 (1964).
- 52 Stat. 1060, as amended, 63 Stat. 910 (1949). The 1949 amendment substituted the phrase “in any process or occupation directly essential to the production thereof in any State” for the original phrase “in any process or occupation necessary to the production thereof in any State.” In Mitchell v. H.B. Zachry Co., 362 U.S. 310, 317 (1960), the Court noted that the change “manifests the view of Congress that on occasion courts . . . had found activities to be covered, which . . . [Congress now] deemed too remote from commerce or too incidental to it.” The 1961 amendments to the Act, 75 Stat. 65, departed from previous practices of extending coverage to employees individually connected to interstate commerce to cover all employees of any “enterprise” engaged in commerce or production of commerce; thus, there was an expansion of employees covered but not, of course, of employers, 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et seq. See 29 U.S.C. §§ 203(r), 203(s), 206(a), 207(a).
- United States v. Darby, 312 U.S. 100, 115 (1941).
- 312 U.S. at 113, 114, 118.
- 312 U.S. at 123–24.
- E.g., Kirschbaum v. Walling, 316 U.S. 517 (1942) (operating and maintenance employees of building, part of which was rented to business producing goods for interstate commerce); Walton v. Southern Package Corp., 320 U.S. 540 (1944) (night watchman in a plant the substantial portion of the production of which was shipped in interstate commerce); Armour & Co. v. Wantock, 323 U.S. 126 (1944) (employees on stand-by auxiliary fire-fighting service of an employer engaged in interstate commerce); Borden Co. v. Borella, 325 U.S. 679 (1945) (maintenance employees in building housing company’s central offices where management was located though the production of interstate commerce was elsewhere); Martino v. Michigan Window Cleaning Co., 327 U.S. 173 (1946) (employees of a window-cleaning company the principal business of which was performed on windows of industrial plants producing goods for interstate commerce); Mitchell v. Lublin, McGaughy & Associates, 358 U.S. 207 (1959) (nonprofessional employees of architectural firm working on plans for construction of air bases, bus terminals, and radio facilities).
- Cf. Mitchell v. H.B. Zachry Co., 362 U.S. 310, 316–318 (1960).
- 75 Stat. 65.
- 80 Stat. 830.
- 29 U.S.C. §§ 203(r), 203(s).
- 392 U.S. 183 (1968).
- Another aspect of this case was overruled in National League of Cities v. Usery, 426 U.S. 833 (1976), which itself was overruled in Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Auth., 469 U.S. 528 (1985).
- 50 Stat. 246, 7 U.S.C. §§ 601 et seq.
- 315 U.S. 110 (1942). The Court had previously upheld other legislation that regulated agricultural production through limitations on sales in or affecting interstate commerce. Currin v. Wallace, 306 U.S. 1 (1939); Mulford v. Smith, 307 U.S. 38 (1939).
- 315 U.S. at 118–19.
- 317 U.S. 111 (1942).
- 52 Stat. 31, 7 U.S.C. §§ 612c, 1281–1282 et seq.
- 317 U.S. at 128–29.
- 317 U.S. at 120, 123–24. In United States v. Rock Royal Co-operative, Inc., 307 U.S. 533 (1939), the Court sustained an order under the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937, 50 Stat. 246, regulating the price of milk in certain instances. Justice Reed wrote for the majority of the Court: “The challenge is to the regulation ‘of the price to be paid upon the sale by a dairy farmer who delivers his milk to some country plant.’ It is urged that the sale, a local transaction, is fully completed before any interstate commerce begins and that the attempt to fix the price or other elements of that incident violates the Tenth Amendment. But where commodities are bought for use beyond state lines, the sale is a part of interstate commerce. We have likewise held that where sales for interstate transportation were commingled with intrastate transactions, the existence of the local activity did not interfere with the federal power to regulate inspection of the whole. Activities conducted within state lines do not by this fact alone escape the sweep of the Commerce Clause. Interstate commerce may be dependent upon them. Power to establish quotas for interstate marketing gives power to name quotas for that which is to be left within the state of production. Where local and foreign milk alike are drawn into a general plan for protecting the interstate commerce in the commodity from the interferences, burdens and obstructions, arising from excessive surplus and the social and sanitary evils of low values, the power of the Congress extends also to the local sales.” Id. at 568–69.
- United States v. The William, 28 Fed. Cas. 614, 620–623 (No. 16,700) (D. Mass. 1808). See also Gibbons v. Ogden, 22 U.S. (9 Wheat.) 1, 191 (1824); United States v. Marigold, 50 U.S. (9 How.) 560 (1850).
- 289 U.S. 48 (1933).
- 289 U.S. at 57, 58.
- Ch. 270, § 28, 5 Stat. 566.
- 9 Stat. 237 (1848).
- 24 Stat. 409.
- 35 Stat. 614; 38 Stat. 275.
- 29 Stat. 605.
- 192 U.S. 470 (1904).
- 223 U.S. 166 (1912); cf. United States v. California, 332 U.S. 19 (1947).
- 239 U.S. 325 (1915).
- 239 U.S. at 329.
- 236 U.S. 216 (1915).
- Groves v. Slaughter, 40 U.S. (15 Pet.) 449, 488–89 (1841).
- 312 U.S. 100 (1941).
- The judicial history of the argument may be examined in the majority and dissenting opinions in Hammer v. Dagenhart, 247 U.S. 251 (1918), a five-to-four decision, in which the majority held Congress not to be empowered to ban from the channels of interstate commerce goods made with child labor, since Congress’s power was to prescribe the rule by which commerce was to be carried on and not to prohibit it, except with regard to those things the character of which—diseased cattle, lottery tickets—was inherently evil. With the majority opinion, compare Justice Stone’s unanimous opinion in United States v. Darby, 312 U.S. 100, 112–24 (1941), overruling Hammer v. Dagenhart. See also Corwin, The Power of Congress to Prohibit Commerce, 3 SELECTED ESSAYS ON CONSTITUTIONAL LAW 103 (1938).
- 23 Stat. 31.
- 32 Stat. 791.
- 33 Stat. 1264.
- 33 Stat. 1269.
- 37 Stat. 315.
- 39 Stat. 1165.
- Illinois Central R.R. v. McKendree, 203 U.S. 514 (1906). See also United States v. DeWitt, 76 U.S. (9 Wall.) 41 (1870).
- Lottery Case (Champion v. Ames), 188 U.S. 321 (1903).
- 28 Stat. 963.
- 143 U.S. 110 (1892).
- 22 U.S. (9 Wheat.) 1, 227 (1824).
- 114 U.S. 622, 630 (1885).
- Hoke v. United States, 227 U.S. 308, 322 (1913).
- United States v. Hill, 248 U.S. 420, 425 (1919).
- 267 U.S. 432 (1925).
- 41 Stat. 324 (1919), 18 U.S.C., §§ 2311–2313.
- 267 U.S. at 436–39. See also Kentucky Whip & Collar Co. v. Ill. Cent. R.R., 299 U.S. 334 (1937).
- 29 U.S.C. §§ 201–219.
- United States v. Darby, 312 U.S. 100 (1941).
- 247 U.S. 251 (1918).
- 312 U.S. at 116–17.
- E.g., Brooks v. United States, 267 U.S. 432, 436–437 (1925); United States v. Darby, 312 U.S. 100, 114 (1941). See Cushman, The National Police Power Under the Commerce Clause, 3 SELECTED ESSAYS ON CONSTITUTIONAL LAW 62 (1938).
- New York v. United States, 505 U.S. 144, 158 (1992).
- United States v. Lopez, 514 U.S. 549, 558–59 (1995) (citations omitted).
- 537 U.S. 129, 147 (2003).
- Examples of laws addressing instrumentalities of commerce include prohibitions on the destruction of an aircraft, 18 U.S.C. § 32, or on theft from interstate shipments. Accord Perez v. United States, 402 U.S. 146, 150 (1971).
- Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States, 379 U.S. 241 (1964); Katzenbach v. McClung, 379 U.S. 294 (1964); Daniel v. Paul, 395 U.S. 298 (1969).
- Katzenbach v. McClung, 379 U.S. 294, 298, 300–02 (1964); Daniel v. Paul, 395 U.S. 298, 305 (1969).
- Scarborough v. United States, 431 U.S. 563 (1977); Barrett v. United States, 423 U.S. 212 (1976). However, because such laws reach far into the traditional police powers of the states, the Court insists Congress clearly speak to its intent to cover such local activities. United States v. Bass, 404 U.S. 336 (1971). See also Rewis v. United States, 401 U.S. 808 (1971); United States v. Enmons, 410 U.S. 396 (1973). A similar tenet of construction has appeared in the Court’s recent treatment of federal prosecutions of state officers for official corruption under criminal laws of general applicability. E.g., McDonnell v. United States, 579 U.S. ___, No. 15–474, slip op. at 24 (2016) (narrowly interpreting the term “official act” to avoid a construction of the Hobbs Act and federal honest-services fraud statute that would “raise significant federalism concerns” by intruding on a state’s “prerogative to regulate the permissible scope of interactions between state officials and their constituents.”); McCormick v. United States, 500 U.S. 257 (1991); McNally v. United States, 483 U.S. 350 (1987). Congress has overturned the latter case. 102 Stat. 4508, § 7603, 18 U.S.C. § 1346.
- 332 U.S. 689 (1948).
- 332 U.S. at 698–99.
- 317 U.S. 111 (1942).
- Fry v. United States, 421 U.S. 542, 547 (1975).
- See Maryland v. Wirtz, 392 U.S. 183, 188–93 (1968).
- Hodel v. Indiana, 452 U.S. 314, 323–24 (1981).
- 452 U.S. at 324.
- Hodel v. Virginia Surface Mining & Recl. Ass’n, 452 U.S. 264 (1981) (quoting United States v. Wrightwood Dairy Co., 315 U.S. 110, 119 (1942)).
- 452 U.S. at 276, 277. The scope of review is restated in Preseault v. ICC, 494 U.S. 1, 17 (1990). Then-Justice Rehnquist, concurring in the two Hodel cases, objected that the Court was making it appear that no constitutional limits existed under the Commerce Clause, whereas in fact it was necessary that a regulated activity must have a substantial effect on interstate commerce, not just some effect. He thought it a close case that the statutory provisions here met those tests. 452 U.S. at 307–13.
- 402 U.S. 146 (1971).
- Russell v. United States, 471 U.S. 858, 862 (1985). In a later case the Court avoided the constitutional issue by holding the statute inapplicable to the arson of an owner-occupied private residence.
- Summit Health, Ltd. v. Pinhas, 500 U.S. 322 (1991). See also Jones v. United States, 529 U.S. 848 (2000) (an owner-occupied building is not “used” in interstate commerce within the meaning of the federal arson statute).
- 500 U.S. at 330–32. The decision was 5-to-4, with the dissenters of the view that, although Congress could reach the activity, it had not done so.
- 514 U.S. 549 (1995). The Court was divided 5-to-4, with Chief Justice Rehnquist writing the opinion of the Court, joined by Justices O’Connor, Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas, with dissents by Justices Stevens, Souter, Breyer, and Ginsburg.
- Carter v. Carter Coal Co., 298 U.S. 238 (1936) (striking down regulation of mining industry as outside of Commerce Clause).
- 18 U.S.C. § 922(q)(1)(A). Congress subsequently amended the section to make the offense jurisdictionally to turn on possession of “a firearm that has moved in or that otherwise affects interstate or foreign commerce.” Pub. L. 104–208, 110 Stat. 3009–370.
- 514 U.S. at 556–57, 559.
- 514 U.S. at 558–59. For an example of regulation of persons or things in interstate commerce, see Reno v. London, 528 U.S. 141 (2000) (information about motor vehicles and owners, regulated pursuant to the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, and sold by states and others, is an article of commerce)
- 514 U.S. at 559.
- 514 U.S. at 559–61.
- 514 U.S. at 561.
- 514 U.S. at 563–68.
- 514 U.S. at 564.
- “Not every epochal case has come in epochal trappings.” 514 U.S. at 615 (Justice Souter dissenting) (wondering whether the case is only a misapplication of established standards or is a veering in a new direction).
- 529 U.S. 598 (2000). Once again, the Justices were split 5–4, with Chief Justice Rehnquist’s opinion of the Court being joined by Justices O’Connor, Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas, and with Justices Souter, Stevens, Ginsburg, and Breyer dissenting.
- For an expansive interpretation in the area of economic regulation, decided during the same Term as Lopez, see Allied-Bruce Terminix Cos. v. Dobson, 513 U.S. 265 (1995). Lopez did not “purport to announce a new rule governing Congress’s Commerce Clause power over concededly economic activity.” Citizens Bank v. Alafabco, Inc., 539 U.S. 52, 58 (2003).
- 529 U.S. at 613.
- Dissenting Justice Souter pointed to a “mountain of data” assembled by Congress to show the effects of domestic violence on interstate commerce. 529 U.S. at 628–30. The Court has evidenced a similar willingness to look behind congressional findings purporting to justify exercise of enforcement power under section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment. See discussion under “enforcement,” infra. In Morrison itself, the Court determined that congressional findings were insufficient to justify the VAWA as an exercise of Fourteenth Amendment power. 529 U.S. at 619–20.
- 529 U.S. at 614.
- 529 U.S. at 615–16. Applying the principle of constitutional doubt, the Court in Jones v. United States, 529 U.S. 848 (2000), interpreted the federal arson statute as inapplicable to the arson of a private, owner-occupied residence. Were the statute interpreted to apply to such residences, the Court noted, “hardly a building in the land would fall outside [its] domain,” and the statute’s validity under Lopez would be squarely raised. 529 U.S. at 857.
- 529 U.S. at 618.
- 545 U.S. 1 (2005).
- 84 Stat. 1242, 21 U.S.C. §§ 801 et seq.
- 545 U.S. at 19.
- 545 U.S. at 25, quoting Webster’s Third New International Dictionary 720 (1966).
- See also Taylor v. United States, 579 U.S. ___, No. 14–6166, slip op. at 3 (2016) (rejecting the argument that the government, in prosecuting a defendant under the Hobbs Act for robbing drug dealers, must prove the interstate nature of the drug activity). The Taylor Court viewed this result as following necessarily from the Court’s earlier decision in Raich, because the Hobbs Act imposes criminal penalties on robberies that affect “all . . . commerce over which the United States has jurisdiction,” 18 U.S.C. § 1951(b)(3) (2012), and Raich established the precedent that the market for marijuana, “including its intrastate aspects,” is “commerce over which the United States has jurisdiction.” Taylor, slip op. at 6–7. Taylor was, however, expressly “limited to cases in which a defendant targets drug dealers for the purpose of stealing drugs or drug proceeds.” Id. at 9. The Court did not purport to resolve what federal prosecutors must prove in Hobbs Act robbery cases “where some other type of business or victim is targeted.” Id.
- 545 U.S. at 18, 22.
- 545 U.S. at 23–25.
- 545 U.S. at 34–35 (Scalia, J., concurring).
- 567 U.S. ___, No. 11–393, slip op. (2012).
- Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), Pub. L. 111–148, as amended. This mandate was necessitated by the Act’s “guaranteed-issue” and “community-rating” provisions, under which insurance companies are prohibited from denying coverage to those with such conditions or charging unhealthy individuals higher premiums than healthy individuals. Id. at §§ 300gg, 300gg–1, 300gg–3, 300gg–4. As these requirements provide an incentive for individuals to delay purchasing health insurance until they become sick, this would impose new costs on insurers, leading them to significantly increase premiums on everyone.
- Although no other Justice joined Chief Justice Robert’s opinion, four dissenting Justices reached similar conclusions regarding the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause. NFIB, No. 11–393, slip op. at 4–16 (joint opinion of Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas and Alito, dissenting).
- See, e.g., Lopez, 514 U.S. at 573 (“Where economic activity substantially affects interstate commerce, legislation regulating that activity will be sustained”).
- NFIB, No. 11–393, slip op. at 20, 26.
- NFIB, No. 11–393, slip op. at 30.
- Boynton v. Virginia, 364 U.S. 454 (1960); Henderson v. United States, 339 U.S. 816 (1950); Mitchell v. United States, 313 U.S. 80 (1941); Morgan v. Virginia, 328 U.S. 373 (1946).
- Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title II, 78 Stat. 241, 243, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000a et seq.
- 42 U.S.C. § 2000a(b).
- Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States, 379 U.S. 241 (1964).
- Katzenbach v. McClung, 379 U.S. 294 (1964).
- Daniel v. Paul, 395 U.S. 298 (1969).
- Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States, 379 U.S. 241, 258 (1964); Katzenbach v. McClung, 379 U.S. 294, 301–04 (1964).
- Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States, 379 U.S. 241, 257 (1964).
- 379 U.S. at 252–53; Katzenbach v. McClung, 379 U.S. 294, 299–301 (1964).
- Civil Rights Cases, 109 U.S. 3 (1883); United States v. Reese, 92 U.S. 214 (1876); Collins v. Hardyman, 341 U.S. 651 (1951).
- The Fair Housing Act (Title VIIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968), 82 Stat. 73, 81, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq., was based on the Commerce Clause, but, in Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer Co., 392 U.S. 409 (1968), the Court held that legislation that prohibited discrimination in housing could be based on the Thirteenth Amendment and made operative against private parties. Similarly, the Court has concluded that, although § 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment is judicially enforceable only against “state action,” Congress is not so limited under its enforcement authorization of § 5. United States v. Guest, 383 U.S. 745, 761, 774 (1966) (concurring opinions); Griffin v. Breckenridge, 403 U.S. 88 (1971).
- E.g., Barrett v. United States, 423 U.S. 212 (1976); Scarborough v. United States, 431 U.S. 563 (1977); Lewis v. United States, 445 U.S. 55 (1980); McElroy v. United States, 455 U.S. 642 (1982).
- 18 U.S.C. § 2421.
- 18 U.S.C. § 2312.
- 18 U.S.C. § 1201.
- 18 U.S.C. § 1951. See also 18 U.S.C. § 1952.
- See Cohens v. Virginia, 19 U.S. (6 Wheat.) 264, 428 (1821).
- See Luna Torres v. Lynch, 578 U.S. ___, No. 14–1096, slip op. at 4.
- Title II, 82 Stat. 159 (1968), 18 U.S.C. §§ 891 et seq.
- Perez v. United States, 402 U.S. 146 (1971). Taylor v. United States, 579 U.S. ___, No. 14–6166, slip op. at 3 (2016); Russell v. United States, 471 U.S. 858, 862 (1985).