Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Daniel Ball case brief

The Daniel Ball case brief summary
77 U.S. (10 Wall.) 557 (1871)

The United States filed a libel to recover from a vessel a penalty for transportation of merchandise and passengers on Grand River, between two Michigan cities, without having been inspected or licensed under the laws of the United States. A district court dismissed the libel. The vessel challenged a judgment from the Circuit Court for the Western District of Michigan that reversed the district court decision and imposed the penalty.

The libel described Grand River as a navigable water of the United States and alleged that the steamer vessel transported goods destined for ports and places in states other than the State of Michigan, and was thus engaged in commerce between the States. In opposition, it was contended that the river was not a navigable water and that the steamer was only engaged in the internal commerce of the State, and was not, therefore, required to be inspected or licensed. In upholding the judgment of the circuit court, the Court held that Broad River was a navigable water of the United States. The stream was capable of bearing a steamer of 123 tons burden as far as 40 miles from its mouth in Lake Michigan. By its junction with the lake, it formed a continued highway for commerce, both with other states and foreign countries.

  • The Court applied a new test of navigability, rather than the common law test, and concluded that Broad River was under the commercial power and control of Congress. 
  • Also, because it was admitted that the steamer was employed in transporting goods destined for other states or goods brought from without the State's limits, it was subject to the regulation of Congress.
The Court affirmed the decree of the circuit court.

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