Law School Case Brief
Am. Trucking Ass'ns v. Whitman - 437 F.3d 313 (3d Cir. 2006)
The level of scrutiny to be applied to a statute or regulation that affects interstate commerce is contingent upon whether the court finds that the statute or regulation is discriminatory. There are two ways in which a statute could discriminate against interstate commerce and thus be subject to heightened scrutiny: on its face (interchangeably referred to as having a discriminatory purpose) or in effect. If a regulation discriminates against interstate commerce on its face or in effect, then heightened scrutiny applies. Under the heightened scrutiny standard, the state must demonstrate 1) that the statute serves a legitimate local interest, and 2) that this purpose could not be served as well by available non-discriminatory means. If the statute at issue does not discriminate against interstate commerce, it is subjected to a balancing test whereby the statute must be upheld unless the burden imposed on interstate commerce is clearly excessive in relation to the putative local benefits. Non-discriminatory highway safety statutes must be given a more deferential treatment, and may not be overturned absent a showing that the safety benefits are slight, problematic, or illusory
Plaintiffs, including a trucking trade association, filed suit against defendant state officials, alleging that New Jersey's trucking regulations violated the Commerce Clause. The regulations required certain trucks traveling through the state with neither an origin nor a destination in the state, to use the national network of interstate highways rather than New Jersey state highways and local roads. The United States District Court for the District of New Jersey found that the regulations were discriminatory in effect and enjoined enforcement of certain regulations restricting out-of-state trucks in their routes through the state of New Jersey, N.J. Admin. Code § 16:32-1.1 et seq., concluding that the regulations violated the dormant Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution. U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 3.
Did the New Jersey’s Regulations discriminate against interstate commerce in violation of the dormant Commerce Clause?
On review, the court found that the regulations were discriminatory both on their face and in effect, and that the district court therefore did not err in applying heightened scrutiny. Because the regulations favored instate businesses over those out-of-state businesses that were neither buying nor selling goods in New Jersey by imposing economic burdens on the out-of-state interests while not imposing similar burdens on the instate interests, the regulations discriminated against interstate commerce. Furthermore, as there existed an available nondiscriminatory alternative of applying the same restrictions on both instate and out-of-state trucks, the regulations violated the Commerce Clause. The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court.
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