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Constitutional Law I
Cases for Con Law I

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Gade v. National Solid Waste Management Association


(Test for Preemption)


Facts: Illinois safety statute sets occupational safety standards for solid waste management.  OSHA sets different occupational safety standards.




Issue: Whether Illinois standards for safety are preempted by federal law for occupational safety standards.


Holding: OSHA preempts state laws in that area because state laws would stand as an obstacle to the purpose of federal regulations.


Reasoning: 1) Federal Law/Constitution is supreme law of the land. (Supremacy clause).  2) State law cannot trump Federal Laws on point.




1) Express: Federal statutes and regulations on point.


2) Implied:


a) Field Preemption (pervasive leaving no room for states)


b) Conflict preemption (physical impossibility, or obstacle to achieving Federal goals)*


South Carolina State Highway Dept. v. Barnwell Bros., Inc.


(Dormant Commer Clause - Pre Balancing Test)


Facts: State law imposes truck spec requirements X.  Most other states have truck spec requirements Y. No federal law on point.


Issue: Whether the state act imposes an unconstitutional burden on interstate commerce.


Holding: The regulatory measures taken by South Carolina are within its legislative power.




1) Commerce Clause purpose was to a) prohibit state self-favoritism and protectionism, and b) prevent burdens on interstate commerce.

2)  Nondiscriminatory state regulations promoting safety are valid police powers.

3) Legislatures choose the means of promoting police powers - not Courts.






Southern Pacific Co. v. Arizona


(Dormant Commerce Clause - Balancing Test)


Facts: Arizon law imposes train spec requirements X.  Standard practice of other states have train spec requirements Y. No federal law on point.


Issue: Whether nondiscriminatory train spec requirements burden due process.


Holding: Yes. The burdens on interstate transportation were greater than the safety benefit to the state from its law.




When state law regulates a) local concerns, b) does not seriously interfere with interstate commerce, the law is valid.




- Burden on interstate commerce

- Importance of local interests v. national interests


1) Burden on interstate commerce is $1M additional costs to comply with Arizona law.

2) Arizona law was not proven to practically promote safety

3) National interest: efficient railroad systems.


Philadelphia v. New Jersey


(Dormant Commerce Clause - Determining Discriminatory Law)


Facts: New Jersey law prohibits trash importation from other states.


Issue: Whether NJ law is basically a protectionist measure, or whether it can fairly be viewed as a law directed to legitimate local concerns, with incidental effects on interstate commerce.


Holding: NJ law that effectively kept landfills in the state exclusively for NJ use was protectionist.




1) Economic protectionism creates a presumption of invalidity.  

2) Laws discriminating against other states are considered protectionist.

3) Local state interests may not be achieved through discrimating against other states without independent reason, apart from origin, to treat them differently.

4) NJ must either prohibit all landfill operations, or accept waste from every portion of the United States.


Hughes v. Oklahoma


(Dormant Commerce Clause - Determining Discriminatory Law)


Facts: Oklahoma Statute prohibits exporting fishies for purposes of sale.


Issue: Whether state statute violates commerce clause when it provides that "no person may transport or ship minnows for sale outside the state which were seined or procured within the waters of the state."


Holding: Yes - discriminatory laws are an invalid means to achieve a legitimate local purpose.



1) Evil of protectionism can reside in legislative means.


2) TEST:


i) Burden to show discrimination rests of challenging party

ii) Once demonstrated, burden shifts to the state to show

a) Local benefit

b) unavailability of nondiscriminatory alternatives

3) Oklahoma law is facially discriminatory.

4) Conserving wild animals is legit local benefit.

5) Nondiscriminatory alternative: limiting the number of minnows exported.


Dean Milk v. Madison


(Dormant Commerce Clause - Analysis for a Discriminatory Law)


Facts: City ordinance prohibits sale of milk processed by plants outside 5 miles of the city.


Issue: Whether the five mile limit on pasteurization plants violates the commerce clause.


Holding: Yes. Ordinance imposes an undue burden on interstate commerce where reasonable and adequate alternatives are available.



1)Errecting an economic barrier protecting a major local industry against competition from without the state, Madison plainly discriminates against interstate commerce.

2) The Hughes v. Oklahoma "unavailable nondiscriminatory alternatives" apply.

3) One state in its dealings with another may not place itself in a position of economic isolation.

4) Nondiscriminatory alternatives: Uniform milk rating system Madison determines extent of enforcement of sanitary standards.




Maine v. Taylor


(Dormant Commerce Clause - Analysis for a Discriminatory Laws)


Facts: Maine statute prohibits import, export, of fish.


Issue: Whether Maine overstepped its role in regulating interstate commerce.


Held: No - Maine has a legitimate interest in guarding against environmental risks, despite that they may ultimately prove to be negligible.



1) Protecting the environment is legitimate local interest.

2) Introduction of other fish with parasites disrupted local ecology, harming environment.

3) Parasites prevelant in out-of-state fish.

4) Nondiscriminatory alternative was unavailable.


Pike v. Bruce Church


(Dormant Commerce Clause - Analysis for a Non-Discriminatory Law)


Facts: Arizona law requires cantaloupes packed in special containers.  Arizona Official prohibited company from exporting Arizona uncrated cantaloupes to CA without building packing plant in Arizona.


Issue: Whether the Arizona law violates dormant commerce clause.


Held: Arizona law imposes a straitjacket on the company where the state's interest is minimal at best and is thus unconstitutional.






Where the statute regulates even-handedly to effectuate a legitimate local interest, and its effects on interstate commerce are incidental, it will be upheld unless the burden imposed on such commerice is clearly excessive in relation to the putative local benefits.


2) Local interest was legit: Arizona's local interest was to ehance reputation of growers.

3) Law did not discriminate on its face...somehow. 

4) Burden was great on company: $700,000 loss, required $200,000 instate plant.

5)Degree of burden determined by importance of local interest.

6) Local interest was minimal compared to interestate burden.


Bibb v. Navajo Freight Lines


(Dormant Commerce Clause - Analysis of a Nondiscriminatory Law)


Facts: Illinois law imposed mudflap requirements X.  National standards for mudflaps were Y.


Issue: Whether Illinois mudflap regulation was substantial burden on interstate commerce.


Held: Yes - The burden of compliance with the regulation outweighed the local state interest.



1) Local interest: safety.

a) Safety: Total effect of the law as a safety measure: Slight. (Degree)

- Safety carries presumption of validity.

2) Burden of compliance: More dangerous.  Exepnsive.  Effects a large market share. 


Kassel v. Consolidated Freightways


(Dormant Commerce Clause - Analysis of a Nondiscriminatory Law)


Issue: Whether the non-discriminatory state regulation on truck size unduely burdened interstate commerce.


Held: Yes.



1) State failed to present any persuasive evidence that 65-foot doubles are less safe than 55-foot singles.  

2) Substantially burdens interstate commerce by forcing these trucks to avoid Iowa or to detach trailers and ship separately.


Western & Southern Life Insurance v. California


(Dormant Commerce Clause - Congressional Approval)


Facts: California law imposing retaliatory tax on out of state insurance.  Federal McCarran-Ferguson Act on point.


Issue: Whether the California retaliatory tax regulation vioaltes the dormant commerce clause.


Held: No - The McCarran-Ferguson Act removes entirely any commerce clause restriction upon California's power to tax the insurance business.


Reasoning: In the absence of congressional plenary authority, congress may confer upon the states an ability to restrict the flow of interstate commerce.  Congress removed all Commerce Clause limitations on the authority of the States to regulate and tax business of insurance when it passed the McCarran-Ferguson Act.  Public-interest policy.  Silence on the part of Congress shall not be construed to impose any barriers.


Reeves v. William Stake


(Dormant Commerce Clause - Exceptions)


Facts: South Dakota makes cement and sells to its residents.


Facts: South Dakota makes cement for its residents.


Issue: Whether South Dakota may confine the sale of the cement it produces soley to its residents consistent with the Commerce Clause.


Held: Yes - South Dakota as a seller of cement unquestionably fits the "market participant" label than a State subsidizing local scrap processors.



1) The basic distinction between States as market participants and States as market regulators makes good sense and sound law.  

2) Nothing in the Commerce Clause forbids a state from participating in the market and exercising the right to favor its own citizens over others.


Barron v. Mayor & City Council of Baltimore


(Civil Rights)


Facts: City took P's property without just compensation.



Issue: Whether the bill of rights apply to the city.


Holding: The bill of rights only applies to the federal government:



1) The constitution was ordained and established by the people of the united states for themselves, for their own government, and not for states' governments.  

2) States have their own constitutions and ways to restrict power of their particular governments.


The Civil Rights Cases

U.S. v. Stanley


1883 - Cases regarding privileges of citizens for accomodations at public lodgings, restaurants and theaters.


Issue: Whether the federal government has the power to enact the Civil Rights Act and apply it to the states.


Civil Rights Act


Section 1: Individual invasion of individual rights is not subject-matter of the amendment.  Correcting the effects of prohibited state laws and acts.  Congress passed Civil Rights Act and for this purpose and is within its power.


Legislation must necessarily be predicated upon prohibited state laws and be directed to the correction of their operation and effect.  Cannot authorize congress to create a code of municipal law to regulate private rights.

Marsh v. Alabama

Facts: Jehova's Witness in Corporateville.


Issue: Whether a private-run town is subject to the First Amendment.


Held: Constitutional protections of free speech are still applicable to a corporate-owned town.


Reasoning: Ownership is not absolute dominion.  The more an owner opens his property to the public, the more his rights are circumscribed by the statutory and constitutional rights of those who use it.


Public functions.  Balance Constitutional rights of owners of property against those of the people to enjoy freedom of press and religion.  The latter is favored.

Jackson v. Metropolitan Edison Co.

Facts: Disconnected power without notice.


Issue: Whether there is a sufficiently close nexus between the State and the State regulated power company to render the latter as an agent of the State.


Held: The termination of service by a regulated public utility does not constitute state action.


Reasoning: The mere fact that a business is subject to state regulation does not by itself convert its action into that of the State.


The furnishing of utility services is neither state function or a municipal duty.


It is immaterial whether something is affected with a public interest to determine state action of private entities.

Terry v. Adams

Facts: White power political party in Texas doesn't want black members.  (Go figure)


Issue: Whether a private entity need comply with equal protection of the Constitution.


Held: Running an election for government office is a public function and must accord with the Constitution.


Reasoning: Government cannot avoid the Constitution by delagating tasks to private entities.  It is immaterial that the state does not control that part of the elective process which it leaves for the Jaybirds to manage.

Evans v. Newton

Facts: Augustus O. Bacon deeds determinable estate in a public park for racism.




Shelley v. Kraemer





Facts: Restrictive covenant excluding blacks from purchasing home.


Issue: Whether judicial enforcement of terms of a private agreement is outside the scope of the 14th Amendment.


Held: No - state action exists.


Reasoning: State action includes action of state courts and state judicial officials.


Action of state courts enforcing substantive common-law rule may result in the denial of rights.


Q: What degree of entanglement? 

A: The difference between enforcement and nonenforcement is the difference betweeen being denied rights and according full enjoyment.


Burton v. Wilmington Parking Authority




Facts: Racist Coffee Shop leasing government-owned property.


Issue: Whether a private business leasing commercial property from the government to generate public revenue is outside the scope of 14th Amendment.


Held: No - when State leases public property in the manner and for the purpose here, 14th Amendment must be complied with.



Manner and purpose: Attracting business to generate revenue for the parking space in order to combat parking crises.


Moose Lodge No. 107 v. Irvis




Facts: Racist private club denies black people membership.


Issue: Whether issuing a private club license to serve alcoholic beverages is sufficient state action to apply 14th Amendment.


Held: No - operation of the regulatory scheme enforced by State does not sufficiently implicated the State in discriminatory private policies to constitute "state action."


Reasoning: "Where the impetus for the discrimination is private, the State must have significantly involved itself with invidious discrimination."


State regulation - played no part in establishing or enforcing guest policies of the club.


Dissent: The private club's existence relies on revenues of alcoholic beverages.  Cannot sell alcohol without license.  Cannot get license without complying to State regulation.  Complying with state regulation requires club adheres to club's by-laws.  The by-laws a racist.


"State is responsible for the discriminatory act of a private party when the State, by its law, has compelled the act."


Allgeyer v. Louisiana


(Pre-Lochner Due Process)


Facts: Foreign insurance companies banned from doing business with state absent in-state place of business and agent of service. (Louisiana law)


Issue: Whether a statute depriving freedom of contract violates due process.


 Held: Yes - statutes depriving freedom of contract violates due process.


Reasoning: 1. Contracting is necessary and proper to pursue happiness. 2. Due process protects pursuit of happiness. 3. Statutes cannot violate due process.


Lochnver v. New York


(Lochner Era Due Process)



Facts: State law regulating hours for Bakeries/Bakers.


Issue: Whether a state has the power to regualte hours of business pursuant to police powers.


Held: No - the power to pass such law is not accorded to the states.


Reasoning: Regulating labor for Bakeries does not reasonably relate to police powers (health). Regulating labor interferes with freedom of contract.  Due process requires that regulations may not unreasonably interfere with fundamental freedom (here: contract).


West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish


(End of Lochner Due Process)


Facts: Law regulating minimum wage for Women.


Issue: Whether state regulation of minimum wage violates Due Process.


Held: No - state has the power to regulate contracts pursuant to police powers.


Reasoning: 1) Constitution does not speak of freedom of contract (not necessary for "Liberty"). 2) "Liberty" isn't absolute freedom - it is freedom in Protected Society.  3) Protected Society requires laws granting state police power. 4) Thus liberty is subject to REASONABLE constraints on due process pursuant to police power.  5) Minimum wage regulation protects health. 6) Protecting health is a police power. 7) THUS Minimum wage regulation is valid police power.


U.S. v. Carolene Products


(Post Lochner Due Process)


Facts: Federal law prohibits shipment of filled milk in interstate commerce.


Issue: Whether a federal law prohibiting shipments of filled milk in interstate commerce violates due process.


Held: No - the federal government's concern for health is a legitimate interest.



1) The government has a rational basis for prohibiting filled milk (health).

2) When the government has a rational basis for passing a law it is presumed to be constitutional. (Footnote 4)


Williamson v. Lee Optical


(Post Lochner Due Process)


Facts: Oklahoma law prohibits unlicensed opthamologists from replacing lenses for glasses.


Issue: Whether the Oklahoma law violates due process.


Held: No - Courts will not use Due Rrocess Clause to strike down a laws regulating business as unconstitutional.



1) Judicial deference is given to laws regulating business as Congress has a rational basis to enact it.

2) Applied to the states via 14th Amendment.




Romer v. Evans


(Equal Protection - Rational Basis)


Facts: Colorado law repeals and prohibits laws protecting the rights of LGBTs.


Issue: Whether removing laws protecting the rights of LGBTs is rationally related to a legitimate state interest.


Held: No - disadvantaging insular minorities cannot achieve any legitimate state purpose.



1) Requiring that classifications bear a rational relationship to achieving a legitimate government purpose ensures that those classifications are not drawn to disadvantage those burdened by the law.

2) This law is too narrow and too broad.

3) This can only be explained as animus toward the affected class.

4) Desire to harm an unpopular group cannot constitute a legitimate purpose.


U.S. Railroad v. Fritz


(Equal Protection - Legitimate Purpose)


Facts: Federal law for retirement windfall benefits of railroad workers favors employees with a "current connection" while disfavoring employees without the "current connection."



Issue: Whether the federal law favoring certain employees for windfaill benefits must serve a legitimate actual purpose.


Held: No - where there are plausible reasons for Congress' action, the Judge will defer to the legislature.



1) Whether the reasoning in fact underlay the legislative decision is irrelevant.

2) Courts do not require Congress to articulate their reasons for enacting statutes.

3) Emphasis is placed on the political process.


Railway Express Agency, Inc. v. New York


(Equal Protection - Reasonable Relationship)


Facts: New York law prohibits advertising vehicles to promote traffic safety.


Issue: Whether prohibiting the use of vehicles for the sole purpose of advertising is rationally related to promoting traffic safety.


Held: Yes - Equal Protection does not require all or nothing effect for legislative means to be considered rationally related to achieving a legit government purposes.



1) Legislatures may achieve a legit government purposes step by step.


2) Underinclusive effect isn't dispositive in regard to reasonable legislative means.


New York Transit v. Beazer


(Equal Protection - Reasonable Relationship)


Facts: New York Transit policy discharges or dismisses persons who participated in a methadone maintenance program.


Issue: Whether NY Transit policy is reasonably related to promoting safety and efficiency.


Held: Yes - Overinclusiveness is a matter of personnel policy that does not implicate the principle safeguarded by Equal Protection.



1) The special classification served the general objectives of safety and efficiency.

2) Independent basis for classification is policy made by the Executive branch of NY.

3) Separation of powers - this kind of policy is unreviewable when it is part of state police powers.


U.S. Department of Agriculture v. Moreno


(Equal Protection - Arbitrary and Unreasonable)


Facts: Federal Food Stamp Act 1964 prohibits participation with hippie communes.


Issue: Whether prohibiting households with unrelated individuals from participating in food stamp program is rationally related to minimizing fraud in the administration of food stamp program.


Held: No - the classification is not only "imprecise" it is wholy without any rational basis



1) Little legislative history to the 1971 Amendment

2) A congressional desire to harm a politically unpopular group is not a legit government purpose.

3) Government's claim that households with one or more unrelated members are more likely to abuse the program through fraud.

4) Government's claims were seen as wholly unsubstantiated assumptions.

5) The 1971 Amendment already has independent provisions regarding fraud.


City of Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Center


(Equal Protection - Arbitrary and Unreasonable)


Facts: City Council denied special use permit to house mentally retarded group home.


Issue: Whether City's Denial of special use permit was rationally related to avoiding concentration population and overcrowding streets.


Held: No - Requiring special use permit rests on irrational prejudice against mentally retarded.



1) Mentally retarded not quasi suspect class


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