Friday, November 15, 2013

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

South Carolina State Highway Dept. v. Barnwell Bros., Inc. case brief summary
303 U.S. 177 (1938)

Appellees, truckers and others, filed suit against appellants, state highway department and others, alleging that 1933 S.C. Acts 259 (Act) was an unconstitutional burden on interstate commerce. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of South Carolina enjoined the enforcement of certain provisions of the Act. The state highway department and others challenged that judgment.

The provisions of the Act that were at issue provided that trucks whose gross weight, including load, exceeded 20,000 pounds, and trucks whose total outside width exceeded 90 inches could not be operated on the state highways.

The truckers and others argued that the Act infringed the due process clause of the U.S. Constitutional amendment XIV, and unconstitutionally burdened interstate commerce.


  • The court found that while the constitutional grant to congress of power to regulate interstate commerce allowed it to curtail state power, it did not forestall all state action affecting interstate commerce. 
  • As long as the state action did not discriminate against interstate commerce, the burden on interstate commerce was one which the constitution permitted because it was an inseparable incident of the exercise of a legislative authority, which, under the constitution, had been left to the states. 
  • The court found that there was adequate support for the legislative judgement that led to the enactment of the Act and the measures taken by the state were within its legislative power.

The lower court's judgment that enjoined the enforcement of certain provisions of a state law was reversed.

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