United States v. Howard

PETITIONER: United States
RESPONDENT: Ludenia Howard, trading as Stokes Fish Company
LOCATION: Seminole County

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1956-1957)

CITATION: 352 US 212 (1957)
ARGUED: Dec 06, 1956
DECIDED: Jan 14, 1957
GRANTED: Jun 11, 1956

Clarence L. Thacker - for the appellee
Leonard B. Sand - for the appellant

Facts of the case

Federal criminal information was filed in district court against Ludenia Howard, representing Stokes Fish Company, for violating the Federal Black Bass Act. The Act forbids any person to transport black bass or other fish across state lines if doing so is prohibited by the laws of the state. In Florida, such issues are governed by the regulations of the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission. The district court held that the regulations were not “laws” of Florida under the meaning of the Black Bass Act and quashed the information. The United States appealed directly to the Supreme Court.


Are the regulations of the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission considered “laws” of the state of Florida as the word is construed in a federal act?

Media for United States v. Howard

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 06, 1956 in United States v. Howard

Earl Warren:

Number 52, United States of America, Appellant, versus, Ludenia Howard, Trading as Stokes Fish Company.

Mr. Sand.

Leonard B. Sand:

May it please the Court.

This is a direct appeal from an order of the District Court of the Southern District of Florida dismissing an information which was brought under Title 16, Section 852, commonly known as the Black Bass Act, although that statute now applies to all fish.

The information set forth on pages 1 and 2 of the record charged that when Ludenia Howard trading as the Stokes Fish Company delivered to the Railway Express Agency in the State of Florida for transportation to the State of Georgia, 150 pounds of freshwater bream, freshwater crappie and freshwater black bass.

And that such transportation was then contrary to the laws of the State of Florida and in violations of the Black Bass Act.

The Black Bass Act, set forth at page 39 of the Government's brief, provides that it should be unlawful for any person to deliver for transportation from one State to another any black bass or other fish if such transportation is contrary to -- to the law of the State from which the black bass or other fish is or is to be transported.

The defendant moved in the lower court to dismiss the information on the grounds that it failed to state the cause of action and this motion was granted.

The order dismissing the information appears on page 3 of the record and the judge there said that the only prohibition against the out-of-state transportation of the fish, set forth in the information, was found in the regulations of the Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission of the State of Florida.

And being of the opinion that the rules and regulations of this Commission do not constitute the law of Florida as described by and contemplated by the Black Bass Act, the information was dismissed.


Leonard B. Sand:

He meant that you have to have a statute, yes, Your Honor.

As this was a decision dismissing an information based on the construction of the statute upon which the information was founded, the Government took a direct appeal and this Court noted probable jurisdiction.

We -- we look then at the outset to the status of these rules and regulations as they exist in the State of Florida.

In the 1942, general election, Florida amended its constitution by enacting Article IV, Section 30, set forth at page 43 of the Government's brief.

This constitutional amendment created the fresh water fish commissions and conferred upon it, the power to regulate the manner and method of taking, transporting, storing and using fresh water fish among other things.

It was also provided in this constitutional amendment, Section 7 on page 44 of the Government's brief that the legislature may enact any laws in the aid of but not inconsistent with the provisions of this amendment and all existing laws inconsistent herewith shall no longer remain in force and effect.

All laws fixing penalties for the violation of the provisions of this amendment --

William O. Douglas:

What -- where are you reading?

Leonard B. Sand:

I'm on page 44 of the Government's brief.

All laws fixing penalties for the violation of the provisions of this amendment and all laws imposing license taxes shall be enacted by the legislature from time to time.

In other words, Florida by constitutional amendment vested in this Commission supreme authority over the regulation of fresh water fish and left to the legislature only the power to act -- to enact consistent laws and laws fixing penalties and license taxes.

The Florida Game Commission pursuant to this constitutional authority enacted a rule, Rule 1401, cited at page 48 of the Government's brief.

And that rule provided that no person should transport out of the State Florida any black bass, bringing some fish and other enumerated fishes.

The --

Imposed in the Constitution by (Inaudible)

Leonard B. Sand:

Yes, Your Honor.

The Florida legislature enacted Section 372.83, cited at page 46 of the Government's brief, and that statute provides that any person who violates any rule or regulation of the Commission adopted pursuant to the constitutional amendment shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

Therefore, there existed in Florida at the time of the alleged defense, a rule promulgated by the Commission acting pursuant to constitutional authority prohibiting this transportation and a Florida statute enacted by the legislature providing that any violation of that rule would be a misdemeanor.

There is no question in this case as to the validity of the rules or regulations in the State of Florida.