The Interstate Commerce Clause Series

Article excerpt

Art. I, [section] 8, Clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution grants Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce. What you can regulate when you regulate commerce is largely political. Do the economic effects of domestic violence justify Federal intervention? What about cultivation of medical marijuana for personal consumption? Each of these images depicts a seminal moment in the Supreme Court's evolving understanding of the clause.


Gibbons v. Ogden, 22 U.S. 1 (1824). Gibbons v. Ogden was the first interstate commerce case. The Court, led by Chief Justice Marshall, held that Congress's power to regulate interstate commerce included the power to regulate interstate navigation. This laid the groundwork for a broad conception of the clause.

Hammer v. Dagenhart, 247 U.S. 251 (1918). In this case the court overturned a Congressional ban on interstate commerce of products made by children under the age of fourteen. Writing for the Court, Justice Day stated, "The commerce clause was not intended to give to Congress a general authority to equalize [disparate economic] conditions." Justice Holmes issued a famous dissent, that was explicitly followed by a majority in United States v. Darby Lumber Co., 312 U.S. 100 (1941).


Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States, 295 U.S. 495 (1935). Often referred to as the sick chicken case, Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States marked the height of the conflict between Roosevelt's New Deal administration and the conservative Court of the time. …