Hughes v. Oklahoma

LOCATION:Galveston County Probate Court

DOCKET NO.: 77-1439
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals

CITATION: 441 US 322 (1979)
ARGUED: Jan 09, 1979
DECIDED: Apr 24, 1979

Bill J. Bruce – for the State
Robert M. Helton

Facts of the case


Media for Hughes v. Oklahoma

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – January 09, 1979 in Hughes v. Oklahoma

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – April 24, 1979 in Hughes v. Oklahoma

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion of the Court in Number 1439, Hughes against Oklahoma will be announced by Mr. Justice Brennan.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

This case is here on appeal from the Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma.

It concerns the constitutionality under the Commerce Clause of an Oklahoma statute that makes it a crime to transport or ship out of Oklahoma for sale natural minnows seined or procured from waters within the State.

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals rejected the Commerce Clause claim relying on a case decided by this Court some 83 years ago, Geer versus Connecticut.

Geer held that the citizens of a State owned all wild animals within the State and therefore that the State on behalf of its citizens could control the ownership of game that had been lawfully reduced to possession by prohibiting its removal from the State and that therefore, no question under the Commerce Clause could arise because no interstate commerce was affected by the prohibition.

But time has revealed the error of the rationale of Geer and many decisions since it was decided in 1896 have eroded away its presidential statute.

Accordingly, we, today, expressly overrule Geer v. Connecticut and hold that state regulations of wild animals must be tested by the general rule applied to state regulations of other natural resources, namely, whether the challenged statute regulates evenhandedly with only incidental effects on interstate commerce, or discriminates against interstate commerce either on its face or in practical effect, and if the statute serves some legitimate local purpose whether alternative means could promote that purpose without discriminating against interstate commerce.

And tested by that standard, we hold for reasons detailed in the opinion filed today that the Oklahoma statute is repugnant to the Commerce Clause.

The judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma is therefore reversed.

Mr. Justice Rehnquist joined by the Chief Justice dissents and has filed a dissenting opinion.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you, Mr. Justice Brennan.