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Hughes v. Oklahoma

    Citation. 441 U.S. 322, 99 S. Ct. 1727, 60 L. Ed. 2d 250, 1979 U.S.

    Brief Fact Summary. A state law that prohibited the transportation of minnows outside the state violated the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution (Constitution).

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. It is a violation of the Commerce Clause for states to enact laws that attempt to conserve natural resources for use by their own residents.

    Facts. The Plaintiff, Oklahoma (Plaintiff) enacted a statute that provided “no person may transport to ship minnows for the sale outside the State which were seined or procured within the waters of this State.” The Defendant, William Hughes (Defendant) who operated a Texas commercial minnow business, challenged the law because it violated the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.

    Issue. Did the Plaintiff’s law violate the Commerce Clause?

    Held. Yes, the Plaintiff’s law prohibiting the taking of minnows for sale outside the state violates the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. The Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) disregarded the rule that a state owns all the wildlife within it and has the right to qualify ownership. Now, a state’s regulation of wild animals should be analyzed in the same manner as a state’s regulation of natural resources. The rule requires inquiries into (1) whether the statute regulates evenhandedly or discriminates against interstate commerce; (2) whether it serves a legitimate local purpose and (3) whether alternative means could promote the local purpose as well without discriminating against interstate commerce. The Supreme Court determined that the state’s legitimate interest in conservation was not advanced by the least discriminatory means possible.

    Discussion. The statute overtly blocks the flow of interstate commerce at the State’s border, on its face.


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