Citation. 27 U.S. (2 Pet.) 245 (1829)
Brief Fact Summary.
A state law empowered Plaintiff to build a dam in a creek, obstructing navigation of the creek by Defendants and others. Defendants broke the dam.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
A state law affecting interstate commerce does not conflict with Congress’ commerce power in its dormant state—that is, where Congress has not utilized its commerce power to regulate the activity at issue.
A state law allowed plaintiff Black Bird Creek Marsh Company to construct a dam across a creek, obstructing navigation of the dam. The shopowner defendants, who were licensed according to U.S. navigation laws, broke their dam. The plaintiff initiated a trespass action against the defendant.
Did New Jersey violate the Commerce Clause by allowing the Black BIrd Creek Marsh Company to construct a dam across a creek?
No, New Jersey did not violate the Commerce Clause by allowing the Black Bird Creek Marsh Company to construct a dam across a creek.
After establishing that it had jursidiction by citing Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee and other precedent, the Supreme Court held that the state law allowing the plaintiff to build a dam across a creek did not violate the Constitution. The defendants argued that the act conflicted with Congress’ commerce power, but the Supreme Court disagreed. According to the Supreme Court, even though the Commerce Clause might empower Congress to control state legislation over navigable creeks, Congress had not actually passed such an act. Because there was not Congressional exercise of the commerce power regulating the use of the creek, the state law allowing the dam did not conflict with Congress’ commerce power “in its dormant state . . . .”