Minnesota v. Clover Leaf Creamery Co.

449 U.S. 456, 101 S. Ct. 715 (1981)



Where a statute does not discriminate between interstate and intrastate commerce, the controlling question is whether the incidental burden imposed on interstate commerce by the statute is clearly excessive in relation to the putative local benefits. 


Business interests involved in the manufacture and utilization of plastic milk containers filed suit in a Minnesota district court seeking to enjoin enforcement of a Minnesota statute banning the retail sale of milk in plastic nonreturnable, nonrefillable containers, but permitting such sale in other nonreturnable, nonrefillable containers, such as paperboard milk cartons. After conducting extensive evidentiary hearings, the Minnesota court enjoined enforcement of the statute, finding that it violated the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Federal Constitution, due process provisions of the state constitution, and the commerce clause of the Federal Constitution (Art I, 8, cl 3). The Supreme Court of Minnesota affirmed on the federal equal protection and due process grounds, without reaching the commerce clause or state law issues, holding that the discrimination against plastic nonrefillables was not rationally related to the statute's stated objectives of promoting resource conservation, easing solid waste disposal problems, and conserving energy (289 NW2d 79).


Did the Minnesota statute violate the commerce clause?




On certiorari, the United States Supreme Court reversed.  The Court held that the statute did not violate the commerce clause, since it regulated even-handedly by prohibiting all milk retailers from selling their products in plastic, nonreturnable milk containers, without regard to whether the milk, the containers, or the sellers are from out of state, the burden imposed on interstate commerce was relatively minor and was not clearly excessive in light of the substantial state interest in promoting conservation of energy and other natural resources and easing solid waste disposal problems, and no approach with a lesser impact on interstate activities was available.

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