Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, 504 U.S. 298, 2 (1992)

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Cite as: 504 U. S. 298 (1992)


(a) Bellas Hess was not rendered obsolete by this Court's subsequent decision in Complete Auto, supra, which set forth the four-part test that continues to govern the validity of state taxes under the Commerce Clause. Although Complete Auto renounced an analytical approach that looked to a statute's formal language rather than its practical effect in determining a state tax statute's validity, the Bellas Hess decision did not rely on such formalism. Nor is Bellas Hess inconsistent with Complete Auto. It concerns the first part of the Complete Auto test and stands for the proposition that a vendor whose only contacts with the taxing State are by mail or common carrier lacks the "substantial nexus" required by the Commerce Clause. Pp. 309-312. (b) Contrary to the State's argument, a mail-order house may have the "minimum contacts" with a taxing State as required by the Due Process Clause and yet lack the "substantial nexus" with the State required by the Commerce Clause. These requirements are not identical and are animated by different constitutional concerns and policies. Due process concerns the fundamental fairness of governmental activity, and the touchstone of due process nexus analysis is often identified as "notice" or "fair warning." In contrast, the Commerce Clause and its nexus requirement are informed by structural concerns about the effects of state regulation on the national economy. Pp. 312-313. (c) The evolution of this Court's Commerce Clause jurisprudence does not indicate repudiation of the Bellas Hess rule. While cases subsequent to Bellas Hess and concerning other types of taxes have not adopted a bright-line, physical-presence requirement similar to that in Bellas Hess, see, e. g., Standard Pressed Steel Co. v. Department of Revenue of Wash., 419 U. S. 560, their reasoning does not compel rejection of the Bellas Hess rule regarding sales and use taxes. To the contrary, the continuing value of a bright-line rule in this area and the doctrine and principles of stare decisis indicate that the rule remains good law. Pp. 314-318. (d) The underlying issue here is one that Congress may be better qualified to resolve and one that it has the ultimate power to resolve. Pp. 318-319. 470 N. W. 2d 203, reversed and remanded.

Stevens, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court with respect to Parts I, II, and III, and the opinion of the Court with respect to Part IV, in which Rehnquist, C. J., and Blackmun, O'Connor, and Souter, JJ., joined. Scalia, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, in which Kennedy and Thomas, JJ., joined, post, p. 319. White, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, post, p. 321.


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