Baldwin v. Fish and Game Commission of Montana

RESPONDENT: Fish and Game Commission of Montana
LOCATION: Fish and Game Commission of Montana

DOCKET NO.: 76-1150
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)

CITATION: 436 US 371 (1978)
ARGUED: Oct 05, 1977
DECIDED: May 23, 1978

James H. Goetz - Argued the cause for the appellants
Paul A. Lenzini - Argued the cause for the appellees

Facts of the case

In its licensing system for elk-hunters, the state of Montana required nonresidents to pay a substantially higher fee than residents for a hunting permit.


Did the Montana law violate the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the Constitution as delineated in Article IV, Section 2?

Media for Baldwin v. Fish and Game Commission of Montana

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 05, 1977 in Baldwin v. Fish and Game Commission of Montana

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - May 23, 1978 in Baldwin v. Fish and Game Commission of Montana

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion of the Court in Baldwin against Fish & Game Commission of Montana will be announced by Mr. Justice Blackmun.

Harry A. Blackmun:

This case comes to us by way of a direct appeal from a three-judge federal district court in the district of Montana.

It's the oldest case in our docket having being argued way back on October 5th and has been delayed here for one reason or another.

One of the reasons being the fact that the case involves the privileges and immunities clause of Article IV of the Constitution.

This is a clause that has not had extended treatment in this Court heretofore although there are some cases about it.

The appellants are a Montana outfitter and four Minnesota residents who in the past have hunted elk in the Rocky Mountains in Montana.

The state of Montana as almost every other state issues hunting licenses and favors residents over non-residents.

It's system imposes license fees on non-residents that are approximately seven-and-a-half times higher than those on residents.

And in addition when a non-resident wants to buy a hunting license for elk, he has to purchase a combination license, that is one to hunt other animals, the bear and to fish as well an order to obtain a single elk.

A Montana resident does not have to do that and so the appellants challenged this system and claimed that it violates their rights guaranteed by the privileges and immunities clause of Article IV and by the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

A three-judge federal district court by a divided vote denied relief. Privileges and immunities clause reads that the citizens of each state shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states.

And so, so far as that issue is concerned the question is what is a privilege or what is an immunity to which non-residents are entitled.

In an opinion filed with the clerk today we hold that access by non-residents to recreational big game hunting does not fall within the category of rights protected by the privileges and immunities clause.

It is only with respect to those privileges and immunities that bear upon the vitality of the nation as an entity that a state must treat all citizens resident and non-resident equally.

And here equality on access to Montana elk is not basic to maintenance or well being of the Union and that whatever the privileges and immunities clause means it doesn't apply to recreational big game hunting in the Rocky Mountains of Montana.

So far as the equal protection attack is concerned, we hold that the states statutory scheme is an economic means not unreasonably related to the preservation of a finite resource, namely elk and to a substantial regulatory interest on the part of a state.

It follows that the system does not violate the Equal Protection Clause and hence the judgment of the three-judge federal district court is affirmed.

The Chief Justice while joining the opinion has filed a separate concurring opinion.

Mr. Justice Brennan has filed a dissenting opinion and is joined therein by Mr. Justice White and Mr. Justice Marshall.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you, Mr. Justice Blackmun.