H. P. Hood & Sons, Inc. v. Du Mond – Case Brief Summary
Summary of H. P. Hood & Sons, Inc. v. Du Mond, 336 U.S. 525, 69 S. Ct. 657, 93 L. Ed. 865 (1949).
H. P. Hood & Sons obtained milk from producers in New York for distribution in Massachusetts. Hood maintained three receiving depots in New York and applied to the New York Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets (Du Mond) for a license for another plant. Du Mond denied the license under Article 21 of the Agriculture and Markets Law of New York which stipulated that licenses for new plants could not be issued unless the Commissioner was satisfied that issue would serve the public interest and would not cause destructive competition in a market already adequately served.
Petitioner Hood argued on appeal that the law placed an unconstitutional burden on interstate commerce. The Court of Appeals affirmed and the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.
Can a restriction imposed under state law be valid if its statutory purpose and practical effect would be to curtail the volume of interstate commerce for the benefit of local economic interests?
Holding and Rule (Jackson)
No. A restriction imposed under state law is invalid in light of the Commerce Clause if its statutory purpose and practical effect would be to curtail the volume of interstate commerce for the benefit of local economic interests.
A State may not promote its own local economic advantages by curtailing the volume of interstate commerce. A local embargo is invalid under the Dormant Commerce Clause. The denial of the license to Hood is neither consistent with nor authorized by the Federal Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act.
There is a distinction deeply rooted in our history and law between the power of the States to shelter the people from menaces to their health or safety, and the States’ lack of power to burden interstate commerce for their own economic advantage. Our economic unit is the nation and the states are not separable economic units.
The majority sets up a new constitutional formula for invalidation of state laws regulating local phases of interstate commerce. I believe the New York law is invulnerable to constitutional attack under constitutional rules which the majority of this Court have long accepted. The new formula subjects state regulations of local business activities to greater constitutional hazards than they have ever had to meet before.
The consequences of the new formula will not merely leave a large area of local business activities free from state regulation. All local activities that fall within the scope of this new formula will be free from any regulatory control whatever. It is inconceivable that Congress could pass uniform national legislation capable of adjustment and application to all the local phases of interstate activities. It is equally inconceivable that Congress would attempt to control such diverse local activities through a swarm of statutes only locally applicable and utterly inconsistent.
The effect of the majority’s decision is that, no matter how important to the internal economy of a State may be the prevention of destructive competition, and no matter how unimportant the interstate commerce affected, a State cannot, as a means of preventing such competition, deny an applicant access to a market within the State if that applicant happens to intend the out-of-state shipment of the product that he buys. I cannot agree in treating what is essentially a problem of striking a balance between competing interests as an exercise in absolutes. Such a problem should not be disposed of on a record from which we cannot tell what weights to put in which side of the scales. This case should be remanded.
See NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp. for a constitutional law case brief addressing the power of Congress under the Commerce Clause to regulate labor relations.