Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, 504 U.S. 298, 12 (1992)

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

Opinion of the Court


Article I, 8, cl. 3, of the Constitution expressly authorizes Congress to "regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States." It says nothing about the protection of interstate commerce in the absence of any action by Congress. Nevertheless, as Justice Johnson suggested in his concurring opinion in Gibbons v. Ogden, 9 Wheat. 1, 231-232, 239 (1824), the Commerce Clause is more than an affirmative grant of power; it has a negative sweep as well. The Clause, in Justice Stone's phrasing, "by its own force" prohibits certain state actions that interfere with interstate commerce. South Carolina State Highway Dept. v. Barn-well Brothers, Inc., 303 U. S. 177, 185 (1938).

Our interpretation of the "negative" or "dormant" Commerce Clause has evolved substantially over the years, particularly as that Clause concerns limitations on state taxation powers. See generally P. Hartman, Federal Limitations on State and Local Taxation 2:9-2:17 (1981). Our early cases, beginning with Brown v. Maryland, 12 Wheat. 419 (1827), swept broadly, and in Leloup v. Port of Mobile, 127 U. S. 640, 648 (1888), we declared that "no State has the right to lay a tax on interstate commerce in any form." We later narrowed that rule and distinguished between direct burdens on interstate commerce, which were prohibited, and indirect burdens, which generally were not. See, e. g., Sanford v. Poe, 69 F. 546 (CA6 1895), aff'd sub nom. Adams Express Co. v. Ohio State Auditor, 165 U. S. 194, 220 (1897). Western Live Stock v. Bureau of Revenue, 303 U. S. 250, 256- 258 (1938), and subsequent decisions rejected this formal, categorical analysis and adopted a "multiple-taxation doctrine" that focused not on whether a tax was "direct" or "indirect" but rather on whether a tax subjected interstate commerce to a risk of multiple taxation. However, in Freeman v. Hewit, 329 U. S. 249, 256 (1946), we embraced again the formal distinction between direct and indirect taxation, invalidating Indiana's imposition of a gross receipts tax on a


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