Brief Fact Summary. The Plaintiff, Dean Milk (Plaintiff), upon being denied a license to sell milk in the Defendant City, the City of Madison, Wisconsin (Defendant) because its pasteurization plants were more than five miles away, challenged the Defendant’s milk plant ordinance on grounds that it violated the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution (Constitution).
Synopsis of Rule of Law. If there are reasonable alternatives available, a local health ordinance that places a discriminatory burden on interstate commerce violates the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.
An ordinance of a Wisconsin municipality forbids the sale of milk in the city as pasteurized unless it has been pasteurized and bottled at an approved pasteurization plant within five miles of the center of the city.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Does a local health ordinance that places a discriminatory burden on interstate commerce violate the Commerce Clause when reasonable and adequate alternatives are available?
Held. Yes, states must consider reasonable alternatives when enacting laws intended to protect public health, but which also burden commerce. The Defendant city’s ordinance protects the in-state milk production business from out of state competition. The Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) observes that the ordinance plainly discriminates against interstate commerce. The Supreme Court observed that the Defendant city could have sent its inspectors to plants that were more than five miles away or could exclude from its borders milk not produced in accordance with the Defendant city’s standards. Moreover, the local ratings could be checked by the United States Public Health Service in order to enforce the provision.
Discussion. The practical effect of the ordinance is that it excludes milk pasteurized in Illinois. “[O]ne state, in its dealings with another, may not place itself in a position of economic isolation.”