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Willson v. Black-Bird Creek Marsh Co

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Bloomberg Law

Citation. 27 U.S. 245, 7 L. Ed. 412, 1829 U.S.

Brief Fact Summary. The Supreme Court of the United States uses the state’s police power to uphold a Delaware law that restricts federal navigation in a small navigable creek.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. A state law is valid if it has a legitimate purpose, that purpose is consistent with the police power to regulate, and it does not violate a federal law on the subject.


Facts. The state of Delaware authorized Plaintiff, Black-Bird Creek Marsh Company to build a dam in Black-Bird Creek. The dam obstructed navigation of the creek. Defendant, Mr. Wilson, an owner of a sloop licensed under federal navigation laws, “broke and injured” the dam in order to pass through the creek. The state court awarded damages to the Plaintiff. Defendant contends that the law authorizing the dam violates the commerce clause.

Issue. Whether the state law allowing restriction of federal navigation of Black-Bird Creek violates the commerce clause.

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