Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Mayor of New York v. Miln case brief summary

Mayor of New York v. Miln case brief summary
36 U.S. 102 (1837) 

Miln challenged the constitutionality of a New York law regulating the entry of persons into the state. 

To combat the flood of poor immigrants arriving in New York, the New York legislature had enacted a statute imposing financial burdens and other responsibilities upon the captains of ships bringing passengers to New York. The captains of such ships were required, among other things, to post security for passengers who might become dependent on the state. Miln sued to recover a substantial fine incurred after a violation of the statute. 

Is the New York law an unconstitutional attempt to regulate interstate commerce? 

The law is not an unconstitutional attempt to regulate interstate commerce. 


Barbour, J. The New York statute is plainly an exercise of police power that does not interfere with the congressional power to regulate interstate commerce. The statute does not concern itself with the interstate transportation of people. To the contrary, its provisions take effect only after the passengers of a ship have debarked in the state. It was passed for the benefit of the people of New York. The statute therefore resembles inspection and quarantine laws, which the courts have consistently regarded as legitimate exercises of the police power. The facts make it plain that New York has a pressing interest in controlling the arrival of immigrants in its cities, which are already swelling with the poor. More importantly, the statute addresses a right that falls within the category of those that have not been granted to  Congress. Since the Constitution has not re- strained the states’ power to regulate the matter currently under consideration, New York should be accorded full discretion in this case. 

Thompson, J. Since Congress has not acted to restrict state legislation on the issue under consideration, there is no need to decide the extent to which Congress and the states may concomitantly exercise the power to regulate commerce. Such a decision need not be made until a con- flict arises. 

Story, J., dissenting. The effects of the statute show that it indeed amounts to a regulation of interstate commerce. New York does not merely attempt to regulate the presence of persons within its own territory; it imposes a bur- den on ships leaving from foreign ports by requiring their captains to gather and provide in- formation on the passengers. Indeed, it has already been conceded that the same statute, if enacted by Congress, would undoubtedly qualify as a regulation of interstate commerce. The argument in favor of the statute seems to be that its additional existence as an exercise of police power allows it to comport with the Constitution. If this argument were upheld, then states would be free to supplement federal regulations with their own laws. This, in turn, would bring about the unacceptable result of subjecting interstate commerce to regulation by dual sovereignties.

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