Maine v. Taylor

LOCATION: Maine State Legislature

DOCKET NO.: 85-62
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

CITATION: 477 US 131 (1986)
ARGUED: Mar 24, 1986
DECIDED: Jun 24, 1986

Cabanne Howard - Argued the cause for the appellant
E. Paul Eggert - Argued the cause for appellee Taylor
Jerrold J. Ganzfried - Argued the cause for the United States, as appellee under the Court's Rule 10.4, in support of appellant

Facts of the case

In order to protect its fisheries from parasites and non-native species, the state of Maine prohibited the importation of live baitfish. Robert J. Taylor, the owner of a bait business, violated the law and was prosecuted by Maine authorities.


Did the Maine law unconstitutionally burden interstate commerce, violating the Commerce Clause?

Media for Maine v. Taylor

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 24, 1986 in Maine v. Taylor

Warren E. Burger:

Mr. Howard, I think you may proceed whenever you are ready.

Cabanne Howard:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

The issue in this case is whether the State of Maine, consistent with the Commerce Clause, may prohibit the importation of live baitfish for the purpose of protecting its environment.

The case is here on the State's appeal from a decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit which declared the state statute unconstitutional for failing to survive the strict scrutiny test required by this Court in Hughes versus Oklahoma.

This Court subsequently postponed jurisdiction over the appeal until this hearing.

After a brief summary of the relevant facts and a statement of why this Court has jurisdiction, I would like to explain why the Court of Appeals misapplied the proper standard for appellate review of factual findings in district court set forth in Rule 52(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and why the Court also subjected the Maine statute to an unnecessarily strict standard of constitutional scrutiny.

The State of Maine has a small and unique freshwater fishery.

It is available to all residents and non-residents alike.

To protect that fishery, in 1959 the State's legislature passed a statute which is at issue in this case to protect the fishery against the importation of diseased fish.

In 1981, Congress passed the Lacey Act Amendment of that year, making it a federal crime to engage in interstate commerce in violation of statutes such as Maine's.

In February of 1983, the Defendant in this case was indicted for importing and 158,000 baitfish, some of which contained various diseases about which the state was concerned.

The Defendant moved to dismiss the indictment on the grounds of the unconstitutionality of the underlying state statute.

The state was permitted to intervene pursuant to Title 28 United States Code, Section 2403(b) in order to defend its statute.

An evidentiary hearing was held before a United States magistrate and the state and federal government introduced substantial expert testimony showing that its statute satisfied both prongs of the Hughes versus Oklahoma test, those being that the statute was needed to protect the state against various parasites and exotic species which could come in through a shipment of live bait, and, secondly, that there was no alternative to an absolute ban on the importation.

The district court and... The magistrate and subsequently the district court agreed with the state and sustained the statute, but the Court of Appeals, asserting its freedom to re-evaluate the evidence completely, reversed.

The state then appealed to this Court, although the United States government did not.

The state believes that this case is covered by the plain language 28 United State Code, Section 1254(2) which gives this Court jurisdiction, and I am quoting,

"by appeal by a party relying on a state statute held by a court of appeals to be invalid. "

On the merits, on the question of the adequacy of the evidence to support the district court's finding, the state believes that with regard to the... that the principle error created by the Court of Appeals in this case was a decision in effect to retry the case.

The state's evidence here was overwhelming that the statute met both prongs of the Hughes test.

With regard to the legitimate purpose behind the statute, the state fish pathologist and two other expert... academic experts testified that the statute was needed to guard against both three specific parasites which could establish themselves in Maine's sport fish such as trout, bass, and salmon, and also that the statute was needed to protect against the introduction of exotic species such as, for example, the common carp, which might successfully compete with indigenous species for habitat.

The same witnesses, as well as the Defendant's own expert, testified as to the second prong of the Hughes test; that the scientific community has not established a testing program of any kind for baitfish.

And, since that is the case, since there is no possibility of inspecting fish or testing fish--

General Howard, can I interrupt you for just a second?

Cabanne Howard:


Warren E. Burger:

As I understand your brief, you take the position that the Court of Appeals acted as a trial de novo in effect and you are giving your version of the evidence.

You are not giving us the findings that you think the Court of Appeals ignored.

Do we have to look at the original underlying evidence ourselves or can we content ourselves to look at the district court's findings?

Cabanne Howard:

What I am reciting is what the district court found to be the facts in the case.

I thought you were reciting what witnesses testified to.