Brief Fact Summary. The City of Madison, Wisconsin passed a law stating that milk had to be supplied from a producer located within twenty-five miles of the city and pasteurized within five miles of the city. Dean Milk sued when they were denied a license to sell their products within Madison because their pasteurization plants were more than five miles away.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Even if a statute is facially non-discriminatory, the court can find that it discriminates in practice by imposing a burden on interstate commerce which outweighs local benefits. Even if the state is acting in self-protection of health and safety within its borders it may not regulate interstate commerce unless such regulation is absolutely necessary to protect such health and safety. The court will often inquire into alternative means that are less restrictive on interstate commerce but allow the state to achieve the same goal.
Issue. Was the Madison statute regulating the sale of milk unconstitutional because it placed too great a burden on interstate commerce and was not the least restrictive means of meeting its safety goal?
Held. Justice Clark’s opinion: Yes. Supreme Court of Wisconsin judgment reversed as to the five mile radius limitation and vacated and remanded for the twenty five mile limitation.
The statute is facially non-discriminatory, so the question is whether the burdens on interstate commerce outweigh the local benefits. The local benefits are sanitary regulation of milk and milk products originating in remote areas. The Court agrees that this is an important purpose for the statute. However, the practical effect is to exclude milk produced and pasteurized in Illinois, and thus erecting an economic barrier that would protect local industry against competition.
Madison is not using the least restrictive means to achieve their safety goal. Reasonable and adequate alternatives are available. The City of Madison could charge companies who wish to import milk the cost of inspecting plants and farms outside the five and twenty five mile radius. Madison may also require milk produced outside the state to conform to the same standards as those enforced in the state.
The consequences of allowing Madison to prohibit milk that is not produced locally would invite other localities to do the same and create multiple trade barriers, thus stifling competition.
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