Lexis Nexis - Case Brief

Not a Lexis+ subscriber? Try it out for free.

Law School Case Brief

Toomer v. Witsell - 334 U.S. 385, 68 S. Ct. 1156 (1948)


Like many other constitutional provisions, the Privileges and Immunities Clause, U.S. Const. art. IV, § 2, is not an absolute. It does bar discrimination against citizens of other states where there is no substantial reason for the discrimination beyond the mere fact that they are citizens of other states. It does not preclude disparity of treatment in the many situations where there are perfectly valid independent reasons for it. Thus the inquiry in each case must be concerned with whether such reasons do exist and whether the degree of discrimination bears a close relation to them. The inquiry must also be conducted with due regard for the principle that the states should have considerable leeway in analyzing local evils and in prescribing appropriate cures.


Fishermen who were citizens and residents of Georgia, and an incorporated fish dealers' association, sued in a federal court in South Carolina to enjoin state officials from enforcing statutes of that State regulating commercial shrimp fishing in the three-mile maritime belt off the coast; they challenged the statutes as violating the Federal Constitution. The district court denied an injunction and dismissed the suit in favor of the state officials.


Did the district court err in refusing equitable relief with respect to the state tax shrimp taken in the waters in the three-mile belt?




The United States Supreme Court reversed the trial court's decision as to S.C. Code Ann. §§ 3379, 3414 and affirmed the decision as to S.C. Code Ann. § 3374. The state was allowed to require nonresidents to pay state income taxes on profits made for operations off its waters. S.C. Code Ann. § 3379, which required nonresidents to pay a shrimp boat licensing fees 100 times greater than what residents were required to pay, was unconstitutional because it violated the Privileges and Immunities Clause, U.S. Const. art. IV, § 2. The purpose of S.C. Code Ann. § 3379 was not the permissible conservation of shrimp but the discriminatory exclusion of nonresidents and the creation of a commercial monopoly for residents. S.C. Code Ann. § 3414, which imposed a tax stamp on shipments of shrimp out of state, violated the Commerce Clause. By permitting its shrimp to be sold in interstate commerce, the state terminated its control. However, S.C. Code Ann. § 3374, imposing a tax on shrimp taken from the belt, did not unduly burden interstate commerce. The state had the power to regulate fishing in the belt, and the fish caught were not "imports."

Access the full text case Not a Lexis+ subscriber? Try it out for free.
Be Sure You're Prepared for Class