Friday, November 15, 2013

Toomer v. Witsell case brief

Toomer v. Witsell case brief summary
334 U.S. 385 (1948)

Appellants, nonresident fishermen and a fish dealers' organization, sought review of a judgment of the District Court of the United States for the Eastern District of South Carolina, which denied an injunction and dismissed the suit in favor of appellee state officials. Appellants sought to enjoin the enforcement of S.C. Code Ann. §§ 3300, 3379, 3414, statutes governing commercial shrimp fishing in the maritime belt off the state's coast.


  • Appellants sought to have the state statutes declared unconstitutional. 
  • The Court reversed the trial court's decision as to S.C. Code Ann. §§ 3379, 3414 and affirmed the decision as to S.C. Code Ann. § 3374. 
  • The state was allowed to require nonresidents to pay state income taxes on profits made for operations off its waters.
  • The statute required nonresidents to pay a shrimp boat licensing fees 100 times greater than what residents were required to pay.  
  • The court said that this statute was unconstitutional because it violated the Privileges and Immunities Clause, U.S. Constitutional Article IV, § 2
  • The purpose of the statute was not the permissible conservation of shrimp but the discriminatory exclusion of nonresidents and the creation of a commercial monopoly for residents. 
  • S.C. Code Ann. § 3414, which imposed a tax stamp on shipments of shrimp out of state, violated the Commerce Clause. 
  • By permitting its shrimp to be sold in interstate commerce, the state terminated its control. 
  • However, S.C. Code Ann. § 3374, imposing a tax on shrimp taken from the belt, did not unduly burden interstate commerce. 
  • The state had the power to regulate fishing in the belt, and the fish caught were not "imports."

The Court affirmed the district court's judgment refusing equitable relief with respect to the state tax shrimp taken in the waters in the three-mile belt. The court reversed the refusal to grant relief with respect to shrimp boat licenses and tax stamps on shrimp shipments.

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