Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Missouri v. Holland Case Brief

Missouri v. Holland, 252 US 416 (1920);

  • Missouri wanted to stop enforcement of laws written by Congress to implement a treaty in which the United States agreed not to capture, sell or kill endangered migratory birds
    • Missouri’s objection was that this law violated the Tenth Amendment (that the powers not granted to the federal government were reserved to the states)
    • Missouri argued that the bids were in their territory and thus they were entitled to regulate treatment of the birds
  • The Court found that the treaty and statute implementing it must be upheld
  • How could a law of Congress become constitutionally valid by the fact that it is made to implement a treaty when that very same law would be invalid under the Tenth Amendment if it were not implementing a treaty?
    • Article II gives treaty-making power, and Article VI says that the Constitution and treaties are the supreme law of the land
      • If there is a treaty in force in the US that is inconsistent with state law, the treaty will prevail over the state law
    • Necessary and Proper clause: Art. I, Section 8, cl. 18
      • Congress has the power to enact legislation which is necessary and proper to execute all powers vested in the government by the Constitution, including the laws of treaties made by the government
  • Holding
    • “Acts of Congress are the supreme law of the land only when made in pursuance of the Constitution, while treaties are declared to be so when made under the authority of the United States.”
    • This language raises the possibility that the exercise of the treatymaking power is not subject to the same constitutional limitations as acts of Congress
    • Thus, this case indicates the possibility that an act of Congress which would otherwise be unconstitutional can become constitutional when made pursuant to a treaty
    • However, this case does not resolve this question

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