Alaska v. Arctic Maid

LOCATION: Annette Islands, Alaska

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 366 US 199 (1961)
ARGUED: Mar 23, 1961
DECIDED: May 01, 1961

Facts of the case


Media for Alaska v. Arctic Maid

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 23, 1961 (Part 1) in Alaska v. Arctic Maid

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 23, 1961 (Part 2) in Alaska v. Arctic Maid

Earl Warren:

-- you may continue.

Gary Thurlow:

May it please the Court.

I had only one last point to make.

One of the respondents' contentions is that the taking and the processing of this fish or at least the processing of this fish should not be taxed in Alaska because this fish will later be taxed in Seattle or in the State of Washington.

Now, I don't think that's a good argument because you have a local activity in Alaska and that local activity is not going to be repeated in any other State, so there's no harm in taxing this one local activity occurring in Alaska.

It makes no difference whether a different activity which occurs in Seattle is taxed or whether it isn't taxed.

It's simply irrelevant.

In conclusion --

Charles E. Whittaker:

Mr. Thurlow.

Gary Thurlow:


Charles E. Whittaker:

(Inaudible) -- Did you urge your District Judge -- Judge Hodge to construe your statute as you now urge upon us?

Gary Thurlow:

It -- no, sir.

No, sir.

Our briefs -- I don't think that I've seen any briefs in the record and I don't know exactly what we did argue to Judge Hodge.

But apparently, Judge Hodge was led to the -- to the view that the tax should be on the taking and I suppose, one of the reasons he ruled that way is that under the view which I am asserting here today, some of the freezer ship operations are likely to be immune from any Alaska taxes whatsoever.

If a freezer ship lays outside of Alaska's taxing -- taxing jurisdiction and if it buys all of its fish from independent fishermen, then, I do not believe that freezer ships would be liable to any taxes, whatsoever.

Under Judge Hodge's ruling, freezer ships would have to take the tax responsibility for all fish which had -- had come from Alaska waters.

Charles E. Whittaker:

But if the interpretation of your statute which you now urge upon us was not presented to nor urged upon him, should it not be -- is it not commonly true that the best Court to interpret a state statute is the Court of the State and its reasonable construction or interpretation is binding on all?

Gary Thurlow:

Well, it's difficult to answer because Alaska was a territory at that time and the -- the appellate court for the Federal District Courts was the Ninth Court of Appeals.

So, if you can consider that the Ninth Court of Appeals as being the territorial Supreme Court of the State of Alaska, you at least have two opinions from that Court to go on.

You have the opinion of the three-man panel which I think is correct and the opinion of the entire Court, their final opinion which I think is wrong.

Earl Warren:

Very well.

Felix Frankfurter:

Mr. Thurlow, before you --

Earl Warren:

Yes, sir.

Felix Frankfurter:

-- proceed, along the lines or in connection with the question we've just put to you, in agreeing with my brother Douglas that certainly, it is relevant for the construction placed by a state court as to what it is on which the State purported to impose a tax not conclusive but it's something to be considered at all, taking those to -- taking that into account.

I want to ask you this question.

You -- you maintained or the part which is involving your position that the manner in which the statute is construed in relation to what it is that is being taxed, what it is that if you're validating taxed?

It may make a difference how you construe the statute as to what it is on which a tax is sought to be imposed using that it may make a difference in construing the statute?

Gary Thurlow:


Long standing administrative inter -- interpretation of a statute is -- of relevance in -- in construing the statute.