Wisconsin v. Tennessee

LOCATION: Pittsburgh Party Headquarters

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1955-1956)

CITATION: 350 US 955 (1956)
ARGUED: Jan 23, 1956
DECIDED: Jan 30, 1956

Facts of the case


Media for Wisconsin v. Tennessee

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 23, 1956 in Wisconsin v. Tennessee

Earl Warren:

Number 13 Original, State of Wisconsin versus the State of Tennessee.

Attorney General Thomson.

Vernon W. Thomson:

May it please the Court.

This is a motion by the State of Wisconsin for leave to file a complaint in an original action against the State of Tennessee.

The motion proposed complaint and brief were served upon the proper officials in the State of Tennessee.

The Governor and the Attorney General of that State on the 14th, of October 1955.

No answer or other pleading has been served by the State of Tennessee except a brief, which was served and filed and which we construe in the nature of a demurrer to our proposed complaint.

We believe the jurisdiction is conferred on this Court by Article 3 Section 2, Clause 2 because it is an action in which one of the sovereign states is a party.

In this action, both parties are sovereign states and we believe that Section 1251 (a) of Title 28 of the United States Code gives exclusive jurisdiction of this proposed action to this honorable body.

The principal question involved in this proposed action is, does a Tennessee statute which allows residence of a marketing area in Tennessee to sell milk and milk products below a prevailing price without restriction, but subjects the residence of a -- of the State of Wisconsin to a thread of prosecution if they make sales below said prevailing price constitute a direct and undue burden upon interstate commerce?

It is our position that it does.

We believe that it is discriminatory against interstate commerce and hence violative of the Commerce Clause, Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3, and also violative of the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution, Article 14, Section 1.

The controversy arose as a result of the passage in the State of Tennessee of Public Law 74 of 1955.

In this Act, it provides in substance that any person who shall sell milk or milk products in any marketing area for a less than the wholesale or retail price at the place of sale, when such milk has been prepared or processed for resale and transported into the marketing area from any point outside of the marketing area has committed a proscribed act.

A shortened quotation from paragraph A of Public Act 74 describes the unlawful act as follows" To sell within any marketing area at wholesale or retail for less than the prevailing wholesale or retail price at the place of sale any of the following named products, market milk.

And then they enumerate all various kinds of fluid milk, butter milk and cream that have been prepared or processed for resale and have been transported in the said marketing area from any point outside of said marketing area".

Anyone violating the provisions of Public Law 74 will be subjected to penalties up to $300 or by imprisonment not to exceed three months or by both, such imprisonment and fine.

It is the position of the State of Wisconsin that this law, the mere passage of this law creates a barrier to the free flow of milk from the State of Wisconsin into the State of Tennessee.

And additional prescription in this Act permits an injunctional proceeding by the Commissioner of Agriculture.

So, with the passage of this Act, the milk producers in Wisconsin are faced with injunction and prosecution if they transport milk into the State of Tennessee and attempt to sell it competitively in that State.

This --

Felix Frankfurter:

Are there any relief for such a milk producer of Wisconsin?

Vernon W. Thomson:

Apparently, there is no relief except to comply with the law or engage in the expensive litigation in that particular jurisdiction.

Felix Frankfurter:

Is it filed into the Commerce Clause, it would (Inaudible) that in light of this not to be in the penalty.

Vernon W. Thomson:

Mr. Justice, that is why we are in this Court.

This is a matter of great importance, this free interstate commerce in milk to the State of Wisconsin and to the thousands of milk producers in the State of Wisconsin.

The second greatest industry in Wisconsin is the dairy industry.

We produce tremendous quantities of milk in the State of Wisconsin.

Prior to the passage of this law, substantial quantities of milk produced have been sold in the State of Tennessee.

In the State of Wisconsin, there are 107,000 farm families engaged in the production of milk, and in 1954, the State of Wisconsin produced 16.5 billion pounds of milk.