Commerce Clause


Before the New Deal

1824 - 1934

During the New Deal

1935 - 1936

The Switch


Turning Point

1937 - 1940

Post New Deal

1941 - 1994

Switch from Indirect to Substantial Effects Test


Modern Interpretation

1995 - 2045

Affordable Care Act



Gibbons v. Ogden


A New York state law gave to individuals the exclusive right to operate steamboats on waters within state jurisdiction. The unanimous Court found that New York's licensing requirement for out-of-state operators was inconsistent with a congressional act regulating the coasting trade.

hief Justice John Marshall developed a clear definition of the word commerce, which included navigation on interstate waterways. He also gave meaning to the phrase "among the several states" in the Commerce Clause.

The regulation of navigation by steamboat operators and others for purposes of conducting interstate commerce was a power reserved to and exercised by the Congress.

US v. EC Knight


Manufacturing cannot be regulated by the commerce clause. This was a case of monopoly manufacturing.

Narrowest reading of the commerce clause

Direct vs. Indirect test

Champion v. Ames


Lottery Tickets Case

The lottery tickets were subject to traffic so they are in commerce

Broad reading of the commerce clause

Swift & Co. v. U.S.


Stream of Commerce Test: "some local activities can be regulated by congress because they viewed themselves 'in commerce' or an integral part of 'current commerce'"

This was a monopoly of sales in a direct attempt by the meat trust to higher prices.

Houston East and West Texas Railway v. US


Substantial Economics Effect Test

Congress cannot possess the authority to regulate the interstate commerce although it may be necessary to control intrastate transition of interstate carriers.

Hammer v. Dagenhart


Child Labor case where competition was arising due to the low wages some manufacturers were able to pay children

The court decided this was a local issue because once the goods were shipped, they were harmless.

Again, congress cannot regulate the manufacturing of goods.

Railroad Retirement Board v. Alton Railroad


This case was the first major test of the new deal.

The power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce at the expense of the carriers cannot be extended to regulations related merely to the social welfare of the worker upon the theory that, by engendering contentment and a sense of personal security, they will induce more efficient service.

Schecter Poultry v. US


The court held that controlling wages of employees engaged in production is too far of a reach

Stream of commerce test- these chickens don't effect intrastate commerce

Deemed only a local activity

Carter v. Carter Coal


A case regarding the regulation of maximum hours/ minimum wages.

Court held that production is only a local activity.

Broad reading of the commerce clause.

NLRB v. Jones v. Laughlin Steel Corp.


The first case where to court ruled differently.

Congress can regulate interstate commerce due to its flow of interstate commerce.

Direct and Indirect distinction used.

"Ability of employees to engage in collective bargaining is an essential condition of industrial peace"

US v. Darby


This decision allowed congress to regulate interstate commerce through the "substantial effects test"

Congress outlawed substandard work conditions in this case.

This case overturns Hamer v. Dagenhartt

Wicked v. Filburn


Case regarding an attempt to stabilize wheat prices.

Aggregation Principle: "if all farmers grew an extra 16 bushels, there would be a substantial economic effect"

The limit on congressional commerce powers is the rational basis test for the activity.

Heart of Atlanta Motel v. US


Case regarding a hotel's discrimination of African Americans on interstate commerce.

Using the rational basis test, the court held that the hotel was effecting commerce and congress could regulate.

Katzenbach v. McClung


Discrimination case for a bbq restaurant in Alabama.

Using the rational basis test: "Racial discrimination in restaurants has a direct and adverse effect on the flow of interstate commerce"

US v. Lopez


Invalidation of federal regulation of gun control on school grounds by holding that it falls outside of congress' powers.

Non economic activity cannot have the aggregation principle applied

Limit of substantial effect test is the rational basis.

US. v. Morrison


Virginia Tech sexual assault.

Violence is not an economic activity

14th amendment only allows regulation of discriminatory activity by state officials and not private actors

Attenuation Test: Is the link between {regulated activity} and substantial effect on interstate commerce {is/isn't} attenuated.

Gonzales v. Raich


the Court held that the commerce clause gave Congress authority to prohibit the local cultivation and use of marijuana, despite state law to the contrary. Stevens argued that the Court's precedent "firmly established" Congress' commerce clause power to regulate purely local activities that are part of a "class of activities" with a substantial effect on interstate commerce.

Very important distinction of facial and as applied challenges. This is an as applied case.

Facial: Challenge to statute which plaintiff alleges that he legislation is always unconstitutional

As Applied: Challenge which alleges that particular application of a statute.

This case is distinguishable from lopez because all parts of this case is economical.

NFIB v. Sebelius


Affordable care act case that held that congress cannot force people to participate in commercial activity.

Individual mandate held to be not a use of congressional power but a tax.