Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Cooley v. Board of Wardens case brief summary


Cooley v. Board of Wardens case brief summary 
53 U.S. 299 (1852)
 
Facts
Pennsylvania had enacted a law requiring ships navigating its waterways to employ local pilots. The rationale of the law was to improve the safety of navigation. Failure to comply with the law resulted in a fine. When Cooley failed to hire a local pilot for one of ships and subsequently refused to pay the fine, the Board of Wardens sued. 


Issue
Does the Pennsylvania law amount to an unconstitutional regulation of interstate commerce by a state?

Holding
The law does not amount to an unconstitutional regulation of commerce. 

Reasoning

Curtis, J. Although the Commerce Clause authorizes Congress to regulate interstate com- merce, one should not blindly construe the Clause to mean that the Constitution leaves no regulatory power to the states. In some cases, it is advisable that one uniform system should be established throughout the country. In such cases, the regulatory power devolves upon Congress. In other cases, however, local regulation would be more advisable. Since Congress has taken no action to regulate the particular aspects of navigation currently in question, the regulatory power should be allocated to the state. 

McLean, J., dissenting. The Court’s decision opens the door to rampant interference with interstate commerce by the states. There is nothing to stop every state along a river from regulating its portion of the river as it sees fit.

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