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Law School Case Brief

Missouri v. Holland - 252 U.S. 416, 40 S. Ct. 382 (1920)


By U.S. Const. art. II, § 2, the power to make treaties is delegated expressly, and by U.S. Const. art. VI treaties made under the authority of the United States, along with the Constitution and laws of the United States made in pursuance thereof, are declared the supreme law of the land. If the treaty is valid there can be no dispute about the validity of the statute implementing the treaty under U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, as a necessary and proper means to execute the powers of the government.


The State of Missouri brought a bill in equity, which challenged the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of July 3, 1918, and the regulations made by the Secretary of Agriculture in pursuance of this Treaty, claiming that the Treaty was an unconstitutional interference with the State’s sovereign rights under the Tenth Amendment, which included absolute control of wild game and birds within the State's borders. The State also alleged a pecuniary interest, as owner of the wild birds within its borders. The district court dismissed the action on the ground that the act of Congress was constitutional.


Was Migratory Bird Treaty Act of July 3, 1918 unconstitutional?




The Court held that the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of July 3, 1918 did not contravene any prohibitory words found in the federal constitution, nor was the subject matter, the regulation of migratory birds, forbidden by some invisible radiation from the general terms of the Tenth Amendment. Rejecting the State's claim upon title, the Court stated that the wild birds were not in the possession of anyone. The Court further noted that the power to make the treaty had been expressly delegated to the United States under U.S. Const. art. II, § 2 and art. VI, and as such, the government could constitutionally regulate the killing of migratory birds. The court affirmed the judgment dismissing the action.

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