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  • US Supreme Court decisions: RSS and email subscriptions: LII / Legal Information Institute
    law cornell edu supct rss supct today rss Recent decisions http www law cornell edu supct rss supct recent rss liibulletin by e mail opinion syllabi and oral argument previews The liibulletin publishes syllabi of Supreme Court decisions It also issues previews of cases pending oral argument which are authored by second and third year Cornell Law School students as a journal subscribe Supreme Court Toolbox Become an LII sponsor

    Original URL path: http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/subscribe.html (2012-11-09)
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    Status 1 result VANCE MAETTA v BALL STATE UNIVERSITY ET AL 138418 Order dated 02 21 12 Docket number 11 556 Action case expressing the views of the United States Supreme Court Toolbox Donations cover only 20 of our costs Become an LII sponsor Stay Involved LII Announce Blog LII Supreme Court Bulletin Make a donation Contribute content Become a sponsor Give feedback All lawyers Donations cover only 20 of

    Original URL path: http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/orderinquiry2.php?caseid=138418 (2012-11-09)
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  • LII: Case info
    Case Status 1 result HENDERSON ARMARCION D v UNITED STATES 141256 Order dated 10 01 12 Docket number 11 9307 Action is appointed to serve as counsel for the petitioner Supreme Court Toolbox Donations cover only 20 of our costs Become an LII sponsor Stay Involved LII Announce Blog LII Supreme Court Bulletin Make a donation Contribute content Become a sponsor Give feedback All lawyers Donations cover only 20 of

    Original URL path: http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/orderinquiry2.php?caseid=141256 (2012-11-09)
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  • LII: Case info
    result GEORGIA PACIFIC WEST ET AL v NORTHWEST ENVTL DEFENSE CENTER 137855 Order dated 12 12 11 Docket number 11 347 Action took no part in the consideration or decision of these petitions Supreme Court Toolbox Donations cover only 20 of our costs Become an LII sponsor Stay Involved LII Announce Blog LII Supreme Court Bulletin Make a donation Contribute content Become a sponsor Give feedback All lawyers Donations cover

    Original URL path: http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/orderinquiry2.php?caseid=137855 (2012-11-09)
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  • LII: Case info
    1 result LOS ANGELES CTY FLOOD CONTROL v NATURAL RESOURCES ET AL 137996 Order dated 01 17 12 Docket number 11 460 Action case expressing the views of the United States Supreme Court Toolbox Donations cover only 20 of our costs Become an LII sponsor Stay Involved LII Announce Blog LII Supreme Court Bulletin Make a donation Contribute content Become a sponsor Give feedback All lawyers Donations cover only 20

    Original URL path: http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/orderinquiry2.php?caseid=137996 (2012-11-09)
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  • LII: Case info
    Status 1 result CHAFIN JEFFREY L v CHAFIN LYNN H 141170 Order dated 08 13 12 Docket number 11 1347 Action The petition for a writ of certiorari is granted Supreme Court Toolbox Donations cover only 20 of our costs Become an LII sponsor Stay Involved LII Announce Blog LII Supreme Court Bulletin Make a donation Contribute content Become a sponsor Give feedback All lawyers Donations cover only 20 of

    Original URL path: http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/orderinquiry2.php?caseid=141170 (2012-11-09)
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  • UNITED STATES, , v. DETROIT TIMBER & LUMBER COMPANY NO 106. MARTIN?ALEXANDER LUMBER COMPANY , v. UNITED STATES. NO 165. | Supreme Court | LII / Legal Information Institute
    not unimportant The headquarters of the Detroit Company were in St Louis of the Martin Alexander Company in southwest Arkansas They dealt at arm s length On December 20 1900 Alexander of the Martin Alexander Company applied to U L Clark presidernt of the Detroit Company at St Louis to purchase Martin s interest in the Martin Alexander Company Clark declined stating that the Detroit Company would make no purchase of a fractional interest in the property Thereupon it was arranged that he should make an examination with a view to the purchase of the entire property The Detroit Company s inspector was sent to Arkansas to examine the lands Clark himself went down in the January following and after receiving the report of the inspector terms of sale were on January 14 agreed upon 60 000 cash and the assumption of the Martin Alexander Company s debts The 60 000 by agreement between the stock holders of the Martin Alexander Company were divided 34 850 to Martin 24 850 to Mrs Alexander 150 to A V Alexander and 150 to J O Means Martin and Means were paid at once the debts were also promptly paid Alexander desired to take stock in the Detroit Lumber Company in lieu of the money coming to his wife and himself Clark was not then authorized to make such arrangement but subsequently the stock of the Detroit Lumber Company was increased and the Alexanders were paid in full in that stock The entire property of the Martin Alexander Company included in which were the sawmill tram and logging roads these timber contracts and other like contracts and also all stock on hand was at the time of the purchase January 14 turned over to the Detroit Lumber Company which thereafter continued the business The Martin Alexander Company had no deeds of the lands in controversy but simply contracts for the timber thereon and in order to be relieved from the necessity of keeping accounts with respect to the different tracts the Detroit Company proceeded to obtain deeds from twenty seven of the patentees paying on an average 25 apiece therefor which was a fair price for the lands after the timber had been cut off It had no knowledge or intimation that there was anything wrong in the titles until the last of September or the first of October 1901 more than four months after the government had issued its patents for all the lands when it received a notice to that effect from a government inspector Now we remark that there is no intimation in the testimony that the purchase price was not paid by the Detroit Company in cash and stock as agreed upon no suggestion that the price was an unreasonable one There was nothing strange or unnatural in the contract between the companies on the contrary it was one which might well be entered into by parties situated as these were But it is contended by the government that if the Detroit Company had examined with care the books of the Martin Alexander Company and the papers which it turned over as evidences of its titles it would have perceived that the timber contracts were made shortly after the issue of the final receiver s receipts that the parties making the contracts were all or nearly all employees of the Martin Alexander Company to whom moneys had been advanced and with each of whom an account was being kept that it was its duty to critically examine these matters in order to be sure that the titles which it was acquiring were good In their brief counsel for the government say We claim that the law as laid down in Hawley v Diller 178 U S 476 44 L ed 1157 20 Sup Ct Rep 986 that one who takes title before the issuance of patent cannot claim to be a bona fide purchaser made it the duty of the Detroit Company to make the most searching inquiry at least as to all of the timber contracts except the thirteen for which patents to the land had issued We do not understand the law to be as stated or that one who enters into an ordinary and reasonable contract for the purchase of property from another is bound to presume that the vendor is a wrongdoer and that therefore he must make a searching inquiry as to the validity of his claim to the property The rule of law in respect to purchases of land or timber is the same as that which obtains in other commercial transactions and such a rule as is claimed by counsel would shake the foundations of commercial business No one is bound to assume that the party with whom he deals is a wrongdoer and if he presents property the title to which is apparently valid and there are no circumstances disclosed which cast suspicion upon the title he may rightfully deal with him and paying full value for the same acquire the rights of a purchaser in good faith Jones v Simpson 116 U S 609 615 29 L ed 742 744 6 Sup Ct Rep 538 He is not bound to make a searching examination of all the account books of the vendor nor to hunt for something to cast a suspicion upon the integrity of the title It is further said that the written contract of sale from the Martin Alexander Company to the Detroit Company was not executed till March 1 1901 and that on the 14th of January 1901 Martin resigned his position as president of the Martin Alexander Company and Clark the president of the Detroit Company was elected president of the former company that as the chief executive of that company he was charged with knowledge of all that the company knew and that therefore before the written contract was entered into he and the Detroit Company had constructive notice of the wrongful character of these timber contracts But that is a mere evasive technicality The bill charges and the answer admits the sale on January 14 and the facts as disclosed by the testimony are that Martin desired to leave at once on receipt of his money and return to his home in Illinois that Clark was put in his place as president to enable the Martin Alexander Company to close up its outstanding affairs The real contract between the parties was entered into before Clark became president and all that was afterwards done was simply to put in writing the terms of the contract which had been agreed upon Equity looks at the substance and not at the mere form in which a transaction takes place The rule in respect to constructive notice was thus stated in Wilson v Wall 6 Wall 83 91 18 L ed 727 730 A chancellor will not be astute to charge a constructive trust upon one who has acted honestly and paid a full and fair consideration without notice or knowledge On this point we need only refer to Sugden on Vendors p 622 where he says In Ware v Egmont 4 De G M G 460 the Lord Chancellor Cranworth expressed his entire concurrence in what on many occasions of late years had fallen from judges of great eminence on the subject of constructive notice namely that it was highly inexpedient for courts of equity to extend the doctrine When a person has not actual notice he ought not to be treated as if he had notice unless the circumstances are such as enable the court to say not only that he might have acquired but also that he ought to have acquired it but for his gross negligence in the conduct of the business in question The question then when it is sought to affect a purchaser with constructive notice is not whether he had the neans of obtaining and might by prudent caution have obtained the knowledge in question but whether not obtaining was an act of gross or culpable negligence And again in Townsend v Little 109 U S 504 511 27 L ed 1012 1014 3 Sup Ct Rep 357 Constructive notice is defined to be in its nature no more than evidence of notice the presumption of which is so violent that the court will not even allow of its being controverted Plumb v Fluitt 2 Anstr 432 Kennedy v Green 3 Myl K 699 As said by Strong J in Meehan v Williams 48 Pa 238 what makes inquiry a duty is such a visible state of things as is inconsistent with a perfect right in him who proposes to sell See also Holmes v Stout 4 N J Eq 492 M Mechan v Griffing 3 Pick 149 15 Am Dec 198 Hanrick v Thompson 9 Ala 409 In the light of these authorities we see nothing which casts any imputation on the conduct of the Detroit Company or that tends to show that it was not a purchaser in absolute good faith Now what is the law conrolling under these circumstances Much reliance is placed by the government on Hawley v Diller 178 U S 476 44 L ed 1157 20 Sup Ct Rep 986 which affirming prior cases holds that an entryman under the timber act acquires only an equity and that a purchaser from him cannot be regarded as a bona fide purchaser within the meaning of the act But the Detroit Company purchased 27 tracts after the issue of the patents therefor And in making these purchases it dealt not with the Martin Alexander Company but directly with the patentees While the amounts paid were small yet as counsel for the government admit in their brief that the land without the timber is of no value there can be no suggestion of inadequacy of price As also it had no knowledge or suspicion of wrong in the titles it is as to these tracts strictly and technically within the language of the act a bona fide purchaser If it be contended that by virtue of the contracts for the sale of timber it had acquired some interest in the lands prior to the issue of patents it is sufficient to say that by the doctrine of relation the patents when issued became operative as of the dates of the entries It is true that this doctrine is but a fiction of law but it is a fiction resorted to whenever justice requires It is that principle by which an act done at one time is considered to have been done at some antecedent time It is a doctrine of frequent application designed to promote justice Thus a sheriff s deed takes effect not of its date but of the time when the lien of the judgment attached The ordinary railroad land grants have been grants in proesenti and under them the title has been adjudged to pass not at the completion of the road but at the date of the grant Leavenworth L G R Co v United States 92 U S 733 23 L ed 634 St Paul M M R Co v Phelps 137 U S 528 34 L ed 767 11 Sup Ct Rep 168 St Paul P R Co v Northern P R Co 139 U S 1 35 L ed 77 11 Sup Ct Rep 389 United States v Southern P R Co 146 U S 570 36 L ed 1091 13 Sup Ct Rep 152 A patent from the United States operates to transfer the title not merely from the date of the patent but from the inception of the equitable right upon which it is based Shepley v Cowan 91 U S 330 23 L ed 424 Indeed this is generally true in case of the merging of an equitable right into a legal title Although the patents in this case were not issued until after the sales of the timber yet when issued they became operative as of the date of the original entries This doctrine has frequently been recognized by this and other courts Landes v Brant 10 How 348 13 L ed 449 French v Spencer 21 How 228 16 L ed 97 Stark v Starr 6 Wall 402 18 L ed 925 Lynch v Bernal 9 Wall 315 19 L ed 714 Gibson v Chouteau 13 Wall 92 20 L ed 534 Simmons v Wagner 101 U S 260 25 L ed 910 Jackson ex dem De Forest v Ramsay 3 Cow 75 15 Am Dec 242 Welch v Dutton 79 Ill 465 Ormiston v Trumbo 77 Mo App 310 In the first of these cases it was said p 372 L ed p 459 To protect purchasers the rule applies that where there are divers acts concurrent to make a conveyance esate or other thing the original act shall be preferred and to this the other acts shall have relation as stated in Viner s Abr title Relating 290 Cruise on Real Property vol 5 pp 510 511 lays down the doctrine with great distinctness He says There is no rule better founded in law reason and convenience than this that all the several parts and ceremonies necessary to complete a conveyance shall be taken together as one act and operate from the substantial part by relation Applying the doctrine of relation and taking all the several parts and ceremonies necessary to complete the title together as one act then the confirmation of 1811 and the patent of 1845 must be taken to relate to the first act that of filing the claim in 1805 In Simmons v Wagner p 261 L ed p 911 Where the right to a patent has once become vested in a purchaser of public lands it is equivalent so far as the government is concerned to a patent actually issued The execution and delivery of the patent after the right to it has become complete are the mere ministerial acts of the officers charged with that duty Barney v Dolph 97 U S 652 24 L ed 1063 See also United States v Freyberg 32 Fed 195 a case in the circuit court for the eastern district of Wisconsin in which it was held by Judge Dyer that an action brought by the government to recover for timber cut from land which had been entered as a homestead but the full equitable title of which had not then passed to the entryman either by the required occupation of the premises or by a commuting of the homestead to a pre emption entry an action maintainable at the time it was commenced was defeated by the issue of the final receiver s receipt and the consequent perfection of a full equitable title Counsel for the government deny the application of this principle in the present case on the ground first that it gives vitality and validity to a wrongful acquisition of title from the government They say that equity is never founded on a wrong and that because the original entries were wrongful the doctrine of relation will not be applied But this is a clear misunderstatnding of the purpose and scope of the doctrine of relation If the original entries were rightful there is no need of its application for the patents would pass perfect titles The equity is founded on the rightful conduct of the purchaser and not on the wrongful conduct of the entrymen It upholds the purchaser in his honest purchase notwithstanding the wrongful character of the entries This is akin to the ordinary rule in respect to a bona find purchaser Equity sustains the title in spite of the fact that his grantor may have wrongfully obtained it and upholds it because of his rightful conduct Counsel also say that the question is settled by the decision in Hawley v Diller supra relying upon the second paragraph in the headnotes An entryman under this act acquires only an equity and a purchaser from him cannot be regarded as a bona fide purchaser within the meaning of the act of Congress unless he become such after the government by issuing a patent has parted with the legal title There are two or three answers to this contention In the first place the headnote is not the work of the court nor does it state its decision though a different rule it is true is prescribed by statute in some states It is simply the work of the reporter gives his understanding of the decision and is prepared for the convenience of the profession in the examination of the reports In the second place if the patent referred to in that headnote is a patent issued upon a wrongful entry no such fact appeared in the case because no patent was issued upon the entry charged to have been wrongful but after that entry had been canceled a patent was issued to Diller on a new entry If it refers to some other patent than one issued upon a wrongful entry it has no pertinency for the doctrine of relation never carries a patent back to the date of any other entry than that upon which it is issued And finally the headnote is a misinterpretation of the scope of the decision With reference to the other tracts and the denial of any relief by accounting or otherwise against the Detroit Company it is contended that as prior to the issue of a patent the Land Department could have set aside the entries on account of the fraudulent contracts the courts will now grant the same relief and further that inasmuch as the patents are by this decree canceled and the title restored to the government the Detroit Company must be regarded as a wrongdoer in respect to the timber which it took from the lands prior to the decree and an accounting should have been ordered

    Original URL path: http://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt//text/200/321 (2012-11-09)
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  • UNITED STATES, Petitioner v. Alfonso LOPEZ, Jr. | Supreme Court | LII / Legal Information Institute
    port over another the more natural reading is that the Clause prohibits Congress from using its commerce power to channel commerce through certain favored ports The Constitution not only uses the word commerce in a narrower sense than our case law might suggest it also does not support the proposition that Congress has authority over all activities that substantially affect interstate commerce The Commerce Clause 2 does not state that Congress may regulate matters that substantially affect commerce with foreign Nations and among the several States and with the Indian Tribes In contrast the Constitution itself temporarily prohibited amendments that would affect Congress lack of authority to prohibit or restrict the slave trade or to enact unproportioned direct taxation U S Const Art V Clearly the Framers could have drafted a Constitution that contained a substantially affects interstate commerce clause had that been their objective In addition to its powers under the Commerce Clause Congress has the authority to enact such laws as are necessary and proper to carry into execution its power to regulate commerce among the several States U S Const Art I 8 cl 18 But on this Court s understanding of congressional power under these two Clauses many of Congress other enumerated powers under Art I 8 are wholly superfluous After all if Congress may regulate all matters that substantially affect commerce there is no need for the Constitution to specify that Congress may enact bankruptcy laws cl 4 or coin money and fix the standard of weights and measures cl 5 or punish counterfeiters of United States coin and securities cl 6 Likewise Congress would not need the separate authority to establish post offices and post roads cl 7 or to grant patents and copyrights cl 8 or to punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas cl 10 It might not even need the power to raise and support an Army and Navy cls 12 and 13 for fewer people would engage in commercial shipping if they thought that a foreign power could expropriate their property with ease Indeed if Congress could regulate matters that substantially affect interstate commerce there would have been no need to specify that Congress can regulate international trade and commerce with the Indians As the Framers surely understood these other branches of trade substantially affect interstate commerce Put simply much if not all of Art I 8 including portions of the Commerce Clause itself would be surplusage if Congress had been given authority over matters that substantially affect interstate commerce An interpretation of cl 3 that makes the rest of 8 superfluous simply cannot be correct Yet this Court s Commerce Clause jurisprudence has endorsed just such an interpretation the power we have accorded Congress has swallowed Art I 8 3 Indeed if a substantial effects test can be appended to the Commerce Clause why not to every other power of the Federal Government There is no reason for singling out the Commerce Clause for special treatment Accordingly Congress could regulate all matters that substantially affect the Army and Navy bankruptcies tax collection expenditures and so on In that case the clauses of 8 all mutually overlap something we can assume the Founding Fathers never intended Our construction of the scope of congressional authority has the additional problem of coming close to turning the Tenth Amendment on its head Our case law could be read to reserve to the United States all powers not expressly prohibited by the Constitution Taken together these fundamental textual problems should at the very least convince us that the substantial effects test should be reexamined II The exchanges during the ratification campaign reveal the relatively limited reach of the Commerce Clause and of federal power generally The Founding Fathers confirmed that most areas of life even many matters that would have substantial effects on commerce would remain outside the reach of the Federal Government Such affairs would continue to be under the exclusive control of the States Early Americans understood that commerce manufacturing and agriculture while distinct activities were intimately related and dependent on each other that each substantially affected the others After all items produced by farmers and manufacturers were the primary articles of commerce at the time If commerce was more robust as a result of federal superintendence farmers and manufacturers could benefit Thus Oliver Ellsworth of Connecticut attempted to convince farmers of the benefits of regulating commerce Your property and riches depend on a ready demand and generous price for the produce you can annually spare he wrote and these conditions exist where trade flourishes and when the merchant can freely export the produce of the country to nations that will pay the highest price A Landholder No 1 Connecticut Courant Nov 5 1787 in 3 Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution 399 M Jensen ed 1978 hereinafter Documentary History See also The Federalist No 35 at 219 A Hamilton Discerning citizens are well aware that the mechanic and manufacturing arts furnish the materials of mercantile enterprise and industry Many of them indeed are immediately connected with the operations of commerce They know that the merchant is their natural patron and friend id at 221 Will not the merchant be disposed to cultivate the interests of the mechanic and manufacturing arts to which his commerce is so nearly allied A Jerseyman To the Citizens of New Jersey Trenton Mercury Nov 6 1787 in 3 Documentary History 147 noting that agriculture will serve as a source of commerce Marcus The New Jersey Journal Nov 14 1787 id at 152 both the mechanic and the farmer benefit from the prosperity of commerce William Davie a delegate to the North Carolina Convention illustrated the close link best Commerce sir is the nurse of agriculture and manufacturing The merchant furnishes the planter with such articles as he cannot manufacture himself and finds him a market for his produce Agriculture cannot flourish if commerce languishes they are mutually dependent on each other 4 Debates 20 Yet despite being well aware that agriculture manufacturing and other matters substantially affected commerce the founding generation did not cede authority over all these activities to Congress Hamilton for instance acknowledged that the Federal Government could not regulate agriculture and like concerns The administration of private justice between the citizens of the same State the supervision of agriculture and of other concerns of a similar nature all those things in short which are proper to be provided for by local legislation can never be desirable cares of a general jurisdiction The Federalist No 17 at 106 In the unlikely event that the Federal Government would attempt to exercise authority over such matters its effort would be as troublesome as it would be nugatory Ibid 4 The comments of Hamilton and others about federal power reflected the well known truth that the new Government would have only the limited and enumerated powers found in the Constitution See e g 2 Debates 267 268 A Hamilton at New York convention noting that there would be just cause for rejecting the Constitution if it would enable the Federal Government to alter or abrogate a state s civil and criminal institutions or penetrate the recesses of domestic life and control in all respects the private conduct of individuals The Federalist No 45 at 313 J Madison 3 Debates 259 J Madison Virginia convention R Sherman O Ellsworth Letter to Governor Huntington Sept 26 1787 in 3 Documentary History 352 J Wilson Speech in the State House Yard Oct 6 1787 in 2 id at 167 168 Agriculture and manufacture since they were not surrendered to the Federal Government were state concerns See The Federalist No 34 at 212 213 A Hamilton observing that the internal encouragement of agriculture and manufactures was an object of state expenditure Even before the passage of the Tenth Amendment it was apparent that Congress would possess only those powers herein granted by the rest of the Constitution U S Const Art I 1 Where the Constitution was meant to grant federal authority over an activity substantially affecting interstate commerce the Constitution contains an enumerated power over that particular activity Indeed the Framers knew that many of the other enumerated powers in 8 dealt with matters that substantially affected interstate commerce Madison for instance spoke of the bankruptcy power as being intimately connected with the regulation of commerce The Federalist No 42 at 287 Likewise Hamilton urged that if we mean to be a commercial people or even to be secure on our Atlantic side we must endeavour as soon as possible to have a navy Id No 24 at 157 A Hamilton In short the Founding Fathers were well aware of what the principal dissent calls economic realities See post at BREYER J citing North American Co v SEC 327 U S 686 705 66 S Ct 785 796 90 L Ed 945 1946 Even though the boundary between commerce and other matters may ignore economic reality and thus seem arbitrary or artificial to some we must nevertheless respect a constitutional line that does not grant Congress power over all that substantially affects interstate commerce III If the principal dissent s understanding of our early case law were correct there might be some reason to doubt this view of the original understanding of the Constitution According to that dissent Chief Justice Marshall s opinion in Gibbons v Ogden 9 Wheat 1 6 L Ed 23 1824 established that Congress may control all local activities that significantly affect interstate commerce post at And with the exception of one wrong turn subsequently corrected this has been the traditional method of interpreting the Commerce Clause Post at citing Gibbons and United States v Darby 312 U S 100 116 117 61 S Ct 451 458 459 85 L Ed 609 1941 In my view the dissent is wrong about the holding and reasoning of Gibbons Because this error leads the dissent to characterize the first 150 years of this Court s case law as a wrong turn I feel compelled to put the last 50 years in proper perspective In Gibbons the Court examined whether a federal law that licensed ships to engage in the coasting trade preempted a New York law granting a 30 year monopoly to Robert Livingston and Robert Fulton to navigate the State s waterways by steamship In concluding that it did the Court noted that Congress could regulate navigation because all America has uniformly understood the word commerce to comprehend navigation It was so unde rstood and must have been so understood when the constitution was framed 9 Wheat at 190 The Court also observed that federal power over commerce among the several States meant that Congress could regulate commerce conducted partly within a State Because a portion of interstate commerce and foreign commerce would almost always take place within one or more States federal power over interstate and foreign commerce necessarily would extend into the States Id at 194 196 At the same time the Court took great pains to make clear that Congress could not regulate commerce which is completely internal which is carried on between man and man in a State or between different parts of the same State and which does not extend to or affect other States Id at 194 Moreover while suggesting that the Constitution might not permit States to regulate interstate or foreign commerce the Court observed that inspection laws quarantine laws health laws of every description as well as laws for regulating the internal commerce of a State were but a small part of that immense mass of legislation not surrendered to a general government Id at 203 From an early moment the Court rejected the notion that Congress can regulate everything that affects interstate commerce That the internal commerce of the States and the numerous state inspection quarantine and health laws had substantial effects on interstate commerce cannot be doubted Nevertheless they were not surrendered to the general government Of course the principal dissent is not the first to misconstrue Gibbons For instance the Court has stated that Gibbons described the federal commerce power with a breadth never yet exceeded Wickard v Filburn 317 U S 111 120 63 S Ct 82 87 87 L Ed 122 1942 See also Perez v United States 402 U S 146 151 91 S Ct 1357 1360 28 L Ed 2d 686 1971 claiming that with Darby and Wickard the broader view of the Commerce Clause announced by Chief Justice Marshall had been restored I believe that this misreading stems from two statements in Gibbons First the Court made the uncontroversial claim that federal power does not encompass commerce that does not extend to or affect other States 9 Wheat at 194 emphasis added From this statement the principal dissent infers that whenever an activity affects interstate commerce it necessarily follows that Congress can regulate such activities Of course Chief Justice Marshall said no such thing and the inference the dissent makes cannot be drawn There is a much better interpretation of the affects language because the Court had earlier noted that the commerce power did not extend to wholly intrastate commerce the Court was acknowledging that although the line between intrastate and interstate foreign commerce would be difficult to draw federal authority could not be construed to cover purely intrastate commerce Commerce that did not affect another State could never be said to be commerce among the several States But even if one were to adopt the dissent s reading the affects language at most permits Congress to regulate only intrastate commerce that substantially affects interstate and foreign commerce There is no reason to believe that Chief Justice Marshall was asserting that Congress could regulate all activities that affect interstate commerce See Ibid The second source of confusion stems from the Court s praise for the Constitution s division of power between the States and the Federal Government 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 Id at 195 In this passage the Court merely was making the well understood point that the Constitution commits matters of national concern to Congress and leaves local matters to the States The Court was not saying that whatever Congress believes is a national matter becomes an object of federal control The matters of national concern are enumerated in the Constitution war taxes patents and copyrights uniform rules of naturalization and bankruptcy types of commerce and so on See generally U S Const Art I 8 Gibbons emphatic statements that Congress could not regulate many matters that affect commerce confirm that the Court did not read the Commerce Clause as granting Congress control over matters that affect the States generally 5 Gibbons simply cannot be construed as the principal dissent would have it B I am aware of no cases prior to the New Deal that characterized the power flowing from the Commerce Clause as sweepingly as does our substantial effects test My review of the case law indicates that the substantial effects test is but an innovation of the 20th century Even before Gibbons Chief Justice Marshall writing for the Court in Cohens v Virginia 6 Wheat 264 5 L Ed 257 1821 noted that Congress had no general right to punish murder committed within any of the States id at 426 and that it was clear that congress cannot punish felonies generally id at 428 The Court s only qualification was that Congress could enact such laws for places where it enjoyed plenary powers for instance over the District of Columbia Id at 426 Thus whatever effect ordinary murders or robbery or gun possession might have on interstate commerce or on any other subject of federal concern was irrelevant to the question of congressional power 6 United States v Dewitt 9 Wall 41 19 L Ed 593 1870 marked the first time the Court struck down a federal law as exceeding the power conveyed by the Commerce Clause In a two page opinion the Court invalidated a nationwide law prohibiting all sales of naphtha and illuminating oils In so doing the Court remarked that the Commerce Clause has always been understood as limited by its terms and as a virtual denial of any power to interfere with the internal trade and business of the separate States Id at 44 The law in question was plainly a regulation of police which could have constitutional application only where Congress had exclusive authority such as the territories Id at 44 45 See also License Tax Cases 5 Wall 462 470 471 18 L Ed 497 1867 Congress cannot interfere with the internal commerce and business of a State Trade Mark Cases 100 U S 82 25 L Ed 550 1879 Congress cannot regulate internal commerce and thus may not establish national trademark registration In United States v E C Knight Co 156 U S 1 15 S Ct 249 39 L Ed 325 1895 this Court held that mere attempts to monopolize the manufacture of sugar could not be regulated pursuant to the Commerce Clause Raising echoes of the discussions of the Framers regarding the intimate relationship between commerce and manufacturing the Court declared that commerce succeeds to manufacture and is not a part of it Id at 12 15 S Ct at 253 The Court also approvingly quoted from Kidd v Pearson 128 U S 1 20 9 S Ct 6 9 10 32 L Ed 346 1888 No distinction is more popular to the common mind or more clearly expressed in economic and political literature than that between manufacture and commerce If it be held that the term commerce includes the regulation of all such manufactures as are intended to be the subject of commercial transactions in the future it is impossible to deny that it would also include all productive industries that contemplate the same thing The result would be that Congress would be invested with the power to regulate not only manufactures but also agriculture horticulture stock raising domestic fisheries mining in short every branch of human industry E C Knight 156 U S at 14 15 S Ct at 254 If federal power extended to these types of production comparatively little of business operations and affairs would be left for state control Id at 16 15 S Ct at 255 See also Newberry v United States 256 U S 232 257 41 S Ct 469 474 65 L Ed 913 1921 It is settled that the power to regulate interstate and foreign commerce does not reach whatever is essential thereto Without agriculture manufacturing mining etc commerce could not exist but this fact does not suffice to subject them to the control of Congress Whether or not manufacturing agriculture or other matters substantially affected interstate commerce was irrelevant As recently as 1936 the Court continued to insist that the Commerce Clause did not reach the wholly internal business of the States See Carter v Carter Coal Co 298 U S 238 308 56 S Ct 855 871 872 80 L Ed 1160 1936 Congress may not regulate mine labor because the relation of employer and employee is a local relation see also A L A Schechter Poultry Corp v United States 295 U S 495 543 550 55 S Ct 837 848 852 79 L Ed 1570 1935 holding that Congress may not regulate intrastate sales of sick chickens or the labor of employees involved in intrastate poultry sales The Federal Government simply could not reach such subjects regardless of their effects on interstate commerce These cases all establish a simple point from the time of the ratification of the Constitution to the mid 1930 s it was widely understood that the Constitution granted Congress only limited powers notwithstanding the Commerce Clause 7 Moreover there was no question that activities wholly separated from business such as gun possession were beyond the reach of the commerce power If anything the wrong turn was the Court s dramatic departure in the 1930 s from a century and a half of precedent IV Apart from its recent vintage and its corresponding lack of any grounding in the original understanding of the Constitution the substantial effects test suffers from the further flaw that it appears to grant Congress a police power over the Nation When asked at oral argument if there were any limits to the Commerce Clause the Government was at a loss for words Tr of Oral Arg 5 Likewise the principal dissent insists that there are limits but it cannot muster even one example Post at Indeed the dissent implicitly concedes that its reading has no limits when it criticizes the Court for threatening legal uncertainty in an area of law that seemed reasonably well settled Post at The one advantage of the dissent s standard is certainty it is certain that under its analysis everything may be regulated under the guise of the Commerce Clause The substantial effects test suffers from this flaw in part because of its aggregation principle Under so called class of activities statutes Congress can regulate whole categories of activities that are not themselves either interstate or commerce In applying the effects test we ask whether the class of activities as a whole substantially affects interstate commerce not whether any specific activity within the class has such effects when considered in isolation See Maryland v Wirtz 392 U S at 192 193 88 S Ct at 2021 2022 if class of activities is within the reach of federal power courts may not excise individual applications as trivial quoting Darby 312 U S at 120 121 61 S Ct at 460 461 The aggregation principle is clever but has no stopping point Suppose all would agree that gun possession within 1 000 feet of a school does not substantially affect commerce but that possession of weapons generally knives brass knuckles nunchakus etc does Under our substantial effects doctrine even though Congress cannot single out gun possession it can prohibit weapon possession generally But one always can draw the circle broadly enough to cover an activity that when taken in isolation would not have substantial effects on commerce Under our jurisprudence if Congress passed an omnibus substantially affects interstate commerce statute purporting to regulate every aspect of human existence the Act apparently would be constitutional Even though particular sections may govern only trivial activities the statute in the aggregate regulates matters that substantially affect commerce V This extended discussion of the original understanding and our first century and a half of case law does not necessarily require a wholesale abandonment of our more recent opinions 8 It simply reveals that our substantial effects test is far removed from both the Constitution and from our early case law and that the Court s opinion should not be viewed as radical or another wrong turn that must be corrected in the future 9 The analysis also suggests that we ought to temper our Commerce Clause jurisprudence Unless the dissenting Justices are willing to repudiate our long held understanding of the limited nature of federal power I would think that they too must be willing to reconsider the substantial effects test in a future case If we wish to be true to a Constitution that does not cede a police power to the Federal Government our Commerce Clause s boundaries simply cannot be defined as being commensurate with the national needs or self consciously intended to let the Federal Government defend itself against economic forces that Congress decrees inimical or destructive of the national economy See post at BREYER J dissenting quoting North American Co v SEC 327 U S 686 705 66 S Ct 785 796 90 L Ed 945 1946 Such a formulation of federal power is no test at all it is a blank check At an appropriate juncture I think we must modify our Commerce Clause jurisprudence Today it is easy enough to say that the Clause certainly does not empower Congress to ban gun possession within 1 000 feet of a school TOP Justice STEVENS dissenting The welfare of our future Commerce with foreign Nations and among the several States U S Const Art I 8 cl 3 is vitally dependent on the character of the education of our children I therefore agree entirely with Justice BREYER s explanation of why Congress has ample power to prohibit the possession of firearms in or near schools just as it may protect the school environment from harms posed by controlled substances such as asbestos or alcohol I also agree with Justice SOUTER s exposition of the radical character of the Court s holding and its kinship with the discredited pre Depression version of substantive due process Cf Dolan v Tigard 512 U S 114 S Ct 2309 2326 2329 129 L Ed 2d 304 1994 STEVENS J dissenting I believe however that the Court s extraordinary decision merits this additional comment Guns are both articles of commerce and articles that can be used to restrain commerce Their possession is the consequence either directly or indirectly of commercial activity In my judgment Congress power to regulate commerce in firearms includes the power to prohibit possession of guns at any location because of their potentially harmful use it necessarily follows that Congress may also prohibit their possession in particular markets The market for the possession of handguns by school age children is distressingly substantial Whether or not the national interest in eliminating that market would have justified federal legislation in 1789 it surely does today TOP Justice SOUTER dissenting In reviewing congressional legislation under the Commerce Clause we defer to what is often a merely implicit congressional judgment that its regulation addresses a subject substantially affecting interstate commerce if there is any rational basis for such a finding Hodel v Virginia Surface Mining Reclamation Assn Inc 452 U S 264 276 101 S Ct 2352 2360 69 L Ed 2d 1 1981 Preseault v ICC 494 U S 1 17 110 S Ct 914 924 925 108 L Ed 2d 1 1990 see Maryland v Wirtz 392 U S 183 190 88 S Ct 2017 2020 2021 20 L Ed 2d 1020 1968 quoting Katzenbach v McClung 379 U S 294 303 304 85 S Ct 377 383 384 13 L Ed 2d 290 1964 If that congressional determination is within the realm of reason the only remaining question for judicial inquiry is whether the means chosen by Congress are reasonably adapted to the end permitted by the Constitution Hodel v Virginia Surface Mining Reclamation Assn Inc supra at 276 101 S Ct at 2360 quoting Heart of Atlanta Motel Inc v United States 379 U S 241 262 85 S Ct 348 360 13 L Ed 2d 258 1964 see also Preseault v ICC supra 494 U S at 17 110 S Ct at 924 925 1 The practice of deferring to rationally based legislative judgments is a paradigm of judicial restraint FCC v Beach Communications Inc 508 U S 113 S Ct 2096 2101 124 L Ed 2d 211 1993 In judicial review under the Commerce Clause it reflects our respect for the institutional competence of the Congress on a subject expressly assigned to it by the Constitution and our appreciation of the legitimacy that comes from Congress s political accountability in dealing with matters open to a wide range of possible choices See id at 113 S Ct at 2101 2102 Hodel v Virginia Surface Mining Reclamation Assn Inc supra 452 U S at 276 101 S Ct at 2360 United States v Carolene Products Co 304 U S 144 147 151 154 58 S Ct 778 783 784 82 L Ed 1234 1938 cf Williamson v Lee Optical of Okla Inc 348 U S 483 488 75 S Ct 461 464 99 L Ed 563 1955 It was not ever thus however as even a brief overview of Commerce Clause history during the past century reminds us The modern respect for the competence and primacy of Congress in matters affecting commerce developed only after one of this Court s most chastening experiences when it perforce repudiated an earlier and untenably expansive conception of judicial review in derogation of congressional commerce power A look at history s sequence will serve to show how today s decision tugs the Court off course leading it to suggest opportunities for further developments that would be at odds with the rule of restraint to which the Court still wisely states adherence Notwithstanding the Court s recognition of a broad commerce power in Gibbons v Ogden 9 Wheat 1 196 197 6 L Ed 23 1824 Marshall C J Congress saw few occasions to exercise that power prior to Reconstruction see generally 2 C Warren The Supreme Court in United States History 729 739 rev ed 1935 and it was really the passage of the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887 that opened a new age of congressional reliance on the Commerce Clause for authority to exercise general police powers at the national level see id at 729 730 Although the Court upheld a fair amount of the ensuing legislation as being within the commerce power see e g Stafford v Wallace 258 U S 495 42 S Ct 397 66 L Ed 735 1922 upholding an Act regulating trade practices in the meat packing industry The Shreveport Rate Cases 234 U S 342 34 S Ct 833 58 L Ed 1341 1914 upholding ICC order to equalize inter and intrastate rail rates see generally Warren supra at 729 739 the period from the turn of the century to 1937 is better noted for a series of cases applying highly formalistic notions of commerce to invalidate federal social and economic legislation see e g Carter v Carter Coal Co 298 U S 238 303 304 56 S Ct 855 869 870 80 L Ed 1160 1936 striking Act prohibiting unfair labor practices in coal industry as regulation of mining and production not commerce A L A Schechter Poultry Corp v United States 295 U S 495 545 548 55 S Ct 837 849 851 79 L Ed 1570 1935 striking congressional regulation of activities affecting interstate commerce only indirectly Hammer v Dagenhart 247 U S 251 38 S Ct 529 62 L Ed 1101 1918 striking Act prohibiting shipment in interstate commerce of goods manufactured at factories using child labor because the Act regulated manufacturing not commerce Adair v United States 208 U S 161 28 S Ct 277 52 L Ed 436 1908 striking protection of labor union membership as outside commerce These restrictive views of commerce subject to congressional power complemented the Court s activism in limiting the enforceable scope of state economic regulation It is most familiar history that during this same period the Court routinely invalidated state social and economic legislation under an expansive conception of Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process See e g Louis K Liggett Co v Baldridge 278 U S 105 49 S Ct 57 73 L Ed 204 1928 striking state law requiring pharmacy owners to be licensed as pharmacists Coppage v Kansas 236 U S 1 35 S Ct 240 59 L Ed 441 1915 striking state law prohibiting employers from requiring their employees to agree not to join labor organizations Lochner v New York 198 U S 45 25 S Ct 539 49 L Ed 937 1905 striking state law establishing maximum working hours for bakers See generally L Tribe American Constitutional Law 568 574 2d ed 1988 The fulcrums of judicial review in these cases were the notions of liberty and property characteristic of laissez faire economics whereas the Commerce Clause cases turned on what was ostensibly a structural limit of federal power but under each conception of judicial review the Court s character for the first third of the century showed itself in exacting judicial scrutiny of a legislature s choice of economic ends and of the legislative means selected to reach them It was not merely coincidental then that sea changes in the Court s conceptions of its authority under the Due Process and Commerce Clauses occurred virtually together in 1937 with West Coast Hotel Co v Parrish 300 U S 379 57 S Ct 578 81 L Ed 703 and NLRB v Jones Laughlin Steel Corp 301 U S 1 57 S Ct 615 81 L Ed 893 See Stern The Commerce Clause and the National Economy 1933 1946 59 Harv L Rev 645 674 682 1946 In West Coast Hotel the Court s rejection of a due process challenge to a state law fixing minimum wages for women and children marked the abandonment of its expansive protection of contractual freedom Two weeks later Jones Laughlin affirmed congressional commerce power to authorize NLRB injunctions against unfair labor practices The Court s finding that the regulated activity had a direct enough effect on commerce has since been seen as beginning the abandonment for practical purposes of the formalistic distinction between direct and indirect effects In the years following these decisions deference to legislative policy judgments on commercial regulation became the powerful theme under both the Due Process and Commerce Clauses see United States v Carolene Products Co 304 U S at 147 148 152 58 S Ct at 780 781 783 United States v Darby 312 U S 100 119 121 61 S Ct 451 459 460 85 L Ed 609 1941 United States v Wrightwood Dairy Co 315 U S 110 118 119 62 S Ct 523 525 526 86 L Ed 726 1942 and in due course that deference became articulate in the standard of rationality review In due process litigation the Court s statement of a rational basis test came quickly See United States v Carolene Products Co supra 304 U S at 152 58 S Ct at 783 see also Williamson v Lee Optical Co 348 U S at 489 490 75 S Ct at 465 466 The parallel formulation of the Commerce Clause test came later only because complete elimination of the direct indirect effects dichotomy and acceptance of the cumulative effects doctrine Wickard v Filburn 317 U S 111 125 127 129 63 S Ct 82 89 90 91 87 L Ed 122 1942 United States v Wrightwood Dairy Co supra 315 U S at 124 126 62 S Ct at 528 529 so far settled the pressing issues of congressional power over commerce as to leave the Court for years without any need to phrase a test explicitly deferring to rational legislative judgments The moment came however with the challenge to congressional Commerce Clause authority to prohibit racial discrimination in places of public accommodation when the Court simply made explicit what the earlier cases had implied where we find that the legislators in light of the facts and testimony before them have a rational basis for finding a chosen regulatory scheme necessary to the protection of commerce our investigation is at an end Katzenbach v McClung 379 U S 294 303 304 85 S Ct 377 383 384 13 L Ed 2d 290 1964 discussing United States v Darby supra see Heart of Atlanta Motel Inc v United States 379 U S 241 258 259 85 S Ct 348 358 359 13 L Ed 2d 258 1964 Thus under commerce as under due process adoption of rational basis review expressed the recognition that the Court had no sustainable basis for subjecting economic regulation as such to judicial policy judgments and for the past half century

    Original URL path: http://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt//text/514/549 (2012-11-09)
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