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Hughes v. Oklahoma Case Brief

Summary of Hughes v. Oklahoma
441 U.S. 322 [1979]

Relevant Facts: Mr. Hughes held a Texas license to operate a commercial minnow business.  An OK game warden arrested him on a charge of transporting from OK to Texas minnows purchased from a licensed minnow dealer in OK.

Legal Issue(s): Whether Oklahoma’s Statute violates the Commerce Clause by restricting interstate commerce?

Court’s Holding: Yes

Procedure: Convicted and fined in D. Ct. then OK Ct of Criminal Appeals affirmed judgment against Def.   Reversed.

Law or Rule(s):  A1S8C3The Congress shall have Power to regulate Commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian Tribes.  A1S8C18 To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing powers.  “No person may transport or ship minnows for sale outside the state which were seined or procured with the waters of this state,” Oklahoma Statute.

Court Rationale: The state’s regulation of wild animals should be according to the same general rule applied to state regulations of other natural resources.  The regulation on its face discriminates against interstate commerce.  It blocks the flow of interstate goods at the state’s borders without an adequate nondiscriminatory alternative.  If conservation is the legitimate purpose the state cannot keep the property always within it jurisdiction for every purpose.  OK does not limit the number of minnows taken by dealers w/i OK, nor limit how they are disposed of, only the transportation out of the State.  When a wild animal is an article of commerce its use cannot be retained for residents of one state and excluded to citizens of other states.

Minority View – The Statute is evenhanded in its application: No person is allowed to export natural minnows for sale outside of OK.   Anyone may freely export as many minnows as he wishes, so long as the minnows are hatchery minnows and not naturally seined minnows. This does not block the flow of interstate commerce

Plaintiff’s Argument: (OK/applee) – the Statute serves a legitimate local purpose as a readily apparent conservation measure.

Defendant’s Argument:  (hughes/applant) – The Statute restricts the transportation of goods and the flow of interstate commerce out of one state in a discriminatory manner.

Fungible – goods which are identical with others of the same nature.

Geer The state had the power , as representatives of its citizens, to control the taking of game w/i its borders, but also determining the ownership of the game. “The common ownership imports the right to keep the property, if the sovereign chooses, always w/i its jurisdiction for every purpose.



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