Munn v. Illinois

94 U.S. 113 (1876)



A mere common law regulation of trade or business may be changed by statute. A person has no property, no vested interest, in any rule of the common law. That is only one of the forms of municipal law, and is no more sacred than any other. Rights of property which have been created by the common law cannot be taken away without due process; but the law itself, as a rule of conduct, may be changed at the will, or even at the whim, of the legislature, unless prevented by constitutional limitations.


Defendants were charged with operating a public warehouse in Chicago in which they unlawfully transacted business without procuring a license under An Act to Regulate Public Warehouses and the Warehousing and Inspection of Grain, and to Give Effect to Ill. Const. art. XIII (Grain Act). The lower court held that defendants had complied except in two respects: first, they had not complied with licensing requirements; second, they had charged rates higher than those fixed by § 15 of the Grain Act. Defendants appealed, and the state supreme court affirmed. Defendants appealed to the United States Supreme Court, arguing that the Grain Act was unconstitutional. The Court held that the statute was a legitimate regulation of business under state law as the state was free to regulate commerce within its own boundaries even if it might incidentally become connected with interstate commerce. The Court affirmed the lower court's ruling.


Is the contested statute repugnant to the Constitution of the United States?




The Court held that the statute in question was not unconstitutional because defendants were engaged in a public business to such an extent that the state was permitted to regulate, and the statute did not impermissibly interfere with the Commerce Clause of Constitution because the state's regulation of commerce was within its own boundaries.

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