Cooley v. Board of Wardens (Philadelphia) Case Brief

Summary of Cooley v. Board of Wardens (Philadelphia)
S. Ct. 1851

Facts: Cooley a consignee of two vessels that sailed to and fro Philadelphia via the Delaware River with out the required local pilots. Pennsylvania passed a statute requiring owners or consignees to accept local pilots to navigate the Delaware River. Half of the pilotage fee was the penalty upon the owners or consignees who failed to adhere.

Issue: Whether Congress, having the exclusive power to regulate commerce, by omitting the regulation of pilots, conferred that aspect of the commerce clause upon the individual States, namely Pennsylvania in this case?

Holding: Yes

Procedure: Def brought writs of error under the 25th Section of the Judiciary Act. Judgment for the Plaintiff by S. Ct. Penn. Reversed

Rule: All pilots in the bays, inlets, rivers, harbors, and ports of the United States shall continue to be regulated in conformity with the existing laws of the States, until further legislative provision shall be made in Congress. Act of 1789, enacted 1803[same year as Penn’s statute].

Ct. Rationale: The act of 1789 contains a clear and authoritative declaration by Congress, that the nature of this subject is such , that until Congress should find it necessary to exert its power, it should be left to the legislation of the States. The act declares that pilots shall continue to be regulated by such laws as the States may respectively hereafter enact. The nature of the power and the nature of the subject on which that power was intended to operate are indifferent. Congress legislated an exception to commerce Beginning in this country the subject of the power has different requirements for regulation. The systems to manage the regulations are dependent upon local knowledge, experience, and conforming with local wants.

PL A: Mere Grant of power to Congress compatible with existence of similar power in states does not imply prohibition. The Act of 1789 confers power to pilot upon the states.

Def A: Whatever subjects come under the regulation of commerce and are in their nature national requires exclusive control by Congress.

Cooley was a balancing act between the State’s interest and the National Government’s powers.



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